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Safe — And Easier — Breastfeeding While Traveling

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

If you are a breastfeeding mom who has had to travel, you likely remember the struggle of finding a safe and clean location to nurse your baby or pump. But moms rejoice: new U.S. legislation passed this month - the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act (FAM) of 2017 - will now require major commercial airports to provide lactation rooms at each passenger terminal building of the airport.

“Many breastfeeding mothers face a lot of challenges while traveling for work or pleasure. This is an important step in providing mothers with a private, clean and supportive environment to feed their babies while traveling,” says Vicki Robbins, BSN, RN, IBCLC, lactation consultant for Florida Hospital.

She continues, “Airports are full of germs, and if a mother can pump or feed her baby in a safe place, her milk can produce antibodies to what she was exposed to so her baby is protected. Furthermore, if mothers are more relaxed and babies are satisfied and content, everyone in the airport and plane benefits.”

Milk Supply Tips While Traveling

Traveling can make it more difficult to stick with a mother’s breastfeeding and pumping routine. To maintain adequate milk supply, it’s important for mothers to express milk at the frequency and same amount that aligns with her child’s nursing schedule. This is usually about two to eight ounces for infants less than six months old. Generally, pumping at least one ounce an hour is adequate for the first few months.

“So many women work and have to travel, so they are separated from their babies. This makes pumping important, and having a safe place to pump while in an airport is crucial because it’s required to keep milk supply up while away from baby. It also helps keep mom healthy by preventing mastitis and becoming engorged. Having lactation rooms in airports will help women feel more comfortable and prevent barriers for healthier behaviors,” Robbins explains.

If separated for a week or under, a mother’s supply is usually unaffected if pumping at appropriate intervals. Once mother and baby are reunited, the baby’s nursing will help bring the mother’s supply back up. As a child gets older and begins to eat solid foods, time away from mom can grow longer.

Safe Milk Storage and Handling

Expressed breastmilk should be stored in clean, sealed containers or infant feeding bottles with caps. “Breastmilk may be stored and transported while traveling in a frozen cooler pack for up to 24 hours,” says Robbins.

However, freshly expressed breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to six to eight hours. More difficult while traveling is storing breastmilk in a refrigerator, but if available, freshly expressed breastmilk can be stored for five to seven days, on average.
“These are general guidelines though because some mothers’ milk can’t be stored for as long depending on if it has high lipase, which digests the fat in the breastmilk. Breastmilk is very individual,” Robbins explains.

If frozen breastmilk is thawed in the refrigerator, it can continue to be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. If brought to room temperature after thawed in the refrigerator, the milk should be used within the hour. With this in mind, some mothers may need to dispose of milk depending on travel time and limited access to cooling and refrigeration.

“Even if you have to dispose of the milk, it’s important to pump or express breastmilk to keep a mother’s supply up,” says Robbins. If pumping while away from home it’s also important to wash pump parts with warm, soapy water after each use. Also, pack extra pump parts and think about back-up power source options, like extra power plugs and/or batteries if needed.

“While traveling, you can purchase wipes that can easily help disinfect your pumping equipment,” recommends Robbins. She adds, “Interestingly, breastmilk does have immune properties that are naturally protective to prevent contamination, but it’s still important to have clean environment to pump and clean pump attachments.”

Promoting the Best Health for Mom and Baby

“There’s scientific evidence that breastfeeding has long-term health benefits for children and mothers, so this legislation is very positive in promoting a healthier society as a whole,” says Robbins.

“I want mothers to know that they have resources available at Florida Hospital at any time. Anyone can call us and ask a question or come in for a consult, where we can do a full assessment and present a personalized breastfeeding plan. If you have upcoming travel and have some questions, reach out, or for any reason at all, like questions about medications while breastfeeding (which is a popular and important topic). We are here to be your and your baby’s advocate and help make your breastfeeding experience successful,” concludes Robbins.

Learn more information about lactation services at Florida Hospital or call a lactation consultant at 407-303-7650.