Monday, June 18, 2012

Flying While Breastfeeding

I don't tend to fly much when I travel, so I'm not quite up to date on all the TSA rules and regulations. I just got back from Cedar Rapids, IA where I was a bridesmaid for my best friend's wedding. Unfortunately my 10 week old baby who is breastfed could not make the trip with me. This meant I was going to have a few extra items to pack for this trip (along with all the wedding items!). The main thing was my breast pump, this trip was about three and a half days and there is no way I could go that long without either my baby or the pump. I did several searches about traveling with a breast pump and milk without having your little one and came up with very little information. The TSA website does have info, but I wanted more first hand information rather just a blurb on it.  Hopefully this will help someone in the same situation I was in.

We flew out of the Orlando/Sanford Airport in Florida. On the way up I only had to worry about my pump and its pieces. I have a Medela Pump in Style Advance with the metro bag, (i also have the same pump with the shoulder bag, but because it was doubling as my carry on, and the pump is separate from the bag i took the metro bag) it's a pretty discreet bag, black with creme piping and interior, and held everything I needed and it wasn't too big to carry on. The one thing I was able to find was to alert the TSA agents at the scanner that you have a pump and/or milk BEFORE it gets scanned. When I went through the TSA line the agent was great and asked to take the pump out of my metro bag and set it in the tray with the metro bag. Nothing too different than what I have with my netbook. Because the pump comes out of the bag and is portable, it has a little cover with a carrying handle, in a nondescript black.

The pump in it's carrying case.
On the way home we flew out of the Moline/Quad Cities Airport. This time it was going to be a little more complicated because I was going to be gone so long, there was no way I was going to waste all that milk (I did dump anything from the rehearsal dinner and wedding day/morning after because there was drinking involved & I was running out of room in my cooler bag) so I would be bringing pumped milk home; which, obviously, is a liquid. Pumped milk is part of a special category (it's considered liquid medication) so you don't have to adhere to the 3.4 oz liquids rule; included are the ice packs needed to keep it cold.  This time I was ready with my pump out of the metro bag and in the tray next to my metro bag. When I told the TSA agent, he asked for me to remove the cooler bag of milk and put it with the pump in a separate tray and put it in front of any other trays I had as the liquid takes longer to process through the scanner. When my items were out of the scanner one of the agents handed me the pump back and explained that he was going to do to a swab over the outside of the cooler bag (similar to what they do on the handles of suitcases) and after that was checked he would do a swab of my hands. It added a few extra minutes to the process but it wasn't too bad.
Small cooler pack
The worst part was repacking the metro bag so that everything fit correctly. I had the pump at the bottom of my bag because it's a compact square and helped keep the bottom of the bag open/not squished. The cooler bag with the milk and freezer packs is rectangular so it was at the bottom too, and I had the mesh bag with the breastshields and bottles on top of them along with my wristlet. Basically little things that fell to the bottom and got in the way of repacking.
My fully packed Pump in Style Advance metro bag

All in all it was an easy process both times and all the agents I encountered at both airports were knowledgeable, helpful and friendly about everything. My helpful tips would be:

-let the agents know you have a pump and/or pumped milk
-when you pack, keep your pump and milk towards the top of your bag were it is easier to get to
-put them in their own tray, at the beginning of your items
-relax and don't worry about it, the agents are helpful :)

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