Let me just say first off that I found breastfeeding to be the easiest thing to do while traveling, compared with dealing with bottles and formula and washing and sterilizing. That being said, I understand that for some women it’s a choice, for others it’s not an option and for many more, being able to pump while on the go is a necessity, particularly when you are traveling for work.
The reality is that while airports are getting better about providing changing and play facilities for children, the whole nursing thing is treated like the unwanted step-child. Most airport nursing rooms are hard to find, and the ones that have them are negligent in publicizing it. So where does that leave you, the lactating, traveling mum?
First of all, remember that breastfeeding your child is your right, and that includes pumping. Nobody pumps for fun so there must be a pretty good reason for your doing it and anyone who looks at you like you are inconveniencing them should try the equipment on themselves to experience real inconvenience.
Still, philosophical argument aside, your best bet is to inquire at the information counter if there is a facility for nursing mothers. Other alternatives would be a family or changing room, which may at least have a chair and a microwave, a handicapped bathroom (more space), and your last resort, a regular bathroom (gross I know but with enough paper towels, you can keep your stuff from touching the counters). If you are lucky enough to have access to a business class lounge, your situation is a lot easier. You could even find a quiet gate to pump at, they usually have electrical outlets along the walls. I find this harder to do with a double electrical pump and much easier with a single hand pump but it can (and has) been done. You can just pretend the weird pumping noise isn’t coming from you. It’s always a good idea to have a large shawl or nursing cover-up in case your only option is a crowded airport thoroughfare or gate.
How Do Women Pump While Traveling?
Blair Cromwell says: “I traveled for work quite a bit while I was nursing my first child in 2008. I pumped in various airport bathrooms including O’Hare, Omaha, Atlanta, Memphis, and Dallas. If these airports had lactation rooms, they were poorly marked because I never found them.
But, the nicest one I found was actually in the airport in Knoxville, TN. While it was in the women’s restroom, they had a nice area sectioned off with rocking chairs looking out a privacy window onto the tarmac so you could either nurse if you had your baby or you could pump.
It’s not on the Knoxville airport website but they should brag about it”
(Unwanted stepchild syndrome)
Dana Marlowe of Accessibility Partners pumped several times in Austin Texas ABIA airport. She says: “I used their lower level private family restrooms that had individual restrooms, towels, large counters for all my pumping supplies, big room for my other travel luggage, electrical outlets, and the regular sink/commode combo. While it wasn’t glamorous by any means, it was secure, private, and easy to do.”
(Hey, that’s all we’re asking for, right?)
Carrie Crompton of Cultural Care Au Pair speaks of the lactation room at Minneapolis international in the Delta Concourse C. She says: ”It is clean and nice. It is a little hard because you have to know where to go and get the person to unlock it for you, but it is worth it.”
Remember airport websites may not always reflect the presence of a lactation room nor does regular airport signage because they assume that anyone with leaky breasts is telepathically connected to the universal sign for breastfeeding. So you need to ask at an information counter. Not everyone is as proud or as advanced as Amsterdam or Hong Kong of the relief and comfort they are offering lactating mums.
Resources for Nursing Moms:
A great resource for seeking out nursing rooms at airports and outside is the Nursing Room Locator (US only unfortunately) and Breastfeeding Anywhere’s Blog which offers a list of global international airports with nursing rooms. Kudos to Changi for having as many nursing rooms as it does gates (ok, almost).
Other worthwhile reads are The Center for Disease Control’s recommendations for breastfeeding and traveling, and the TSA’S guidelines on traveling with breast milk. While both these sites fall under US jurisdiction, they still provide relevant information and tips on how to best travel with breasts that milk and breast milk. Finally, Beth Israel Medical Center offers tips on traveling overseas, vaccinations and milk storage in a concise and lucid article.
The tone of this article is intentionally light to mask the bleakness of the situation and the fact that nursing/pumping at airports or in transit is far from easy. Still, I want to reiterate that feeding your child is your right and your responsibility, so don’t ever feel apologetic or embarrassed about it, wherever you are in the world.