Ever since becoming a mum, I realised there are so many issues that mothers face or situations that we put up with, that don’t ever get discussed or highlighted, be it in the workplace or in society. And I’m sure fellow mums can attest that there is very limited time mums can spend whining and complaining about problems while trying our best to multitask between work/housework, taking care of our kids etc. In the end, we just make the best out of things, like pumping in the storeroom/toilet because there just isn’t a nursing room in the office. That’s a story for another day though.
Today, I hope my little blog post here can make travelling nursing mothers’ lives a little easier. The info here will probably be a little limited but I think you’ll take whatever you can get. Just to set the scene right, I travelled Singapore to Taipei via Scoot and I was travelling without my 4-month old. I am still exclusively breastfeeding the little one and wanted to ensure my supply wouldn’t drop while I was away from him. Also, I wanted to save as much of what I pumped as possible. Pumping and dumping is a horrible, horrible feeling which I hope you won’t ever have to experience.
In the US, there’s apparently no restriction on the amount of BM you can bring on board. It’s considered under a ‘special medication’ category so you’re not even restricted to the limitations of 100ml x 10 packs/bottles. When I called Scoot to check, they said I had to stick to the 100 x 10 limits. Also, absolutely no one could confirm with me that bringing an ice pack on was allowed. [Side note: Scoot’s customer service is really crappy. It takes forever to get to any of their customer service staff via the phone and I sent an email asking about icepacks and expressing BM which was NEVER replied to]
1. Bringing ice packs/gel packs and breastmilk (BM) on board
On my way to Taipei, I had frozen my ice pack that came with my Medela breast pump in anticipation that I would pump and store my BM during the flight. However, at the very last minute, I called a friend and she suggested I check it in since I had no milk (before boarding) to prove that I was indeed chilling milk. An alternative was to pump a little milk before boarding so at least I could justify the icepack. I didn’t quite want to risk it, so I checked the icepack in. As a result, I had to dump all the BM expressed on route to Taipei. Heartaching.
In retrospect, I think I should and could have done that because I didn’t face any issues at all at Taipei airport. I had 2 bottles of BM less than 100ml each and also a Medela ice pack. I packed it all in my Medela Breastpump bag and the entire bag went through security with no issues. This allowed me to store all the milk I pumped on board.
Learning: Ice packs shdn’t be an issue but to play safe, make sure you have some expressed BM in the bottles.
2. Pumping in Taipei city
Before heading to Taipei, I did some research on my own and realised that actually the Taiwanese are quite pro-nursing. They have nursing rooms in the airport, in some key metro stations (useful map here) and also in major departmental stores.
I used the one at Breeze Centre and was really impressed with it. A pity I forgot to take pictures. There was a receptionist who could help with any questions you have. The room was equipped with two changing stations, two very comfy cubicles for pumping, a sink for washing, pump accessories detergent (!), child-safe soap (!), paper cups, hot and cold water dispenser and even a waiting area for family members. Cleanliness and hygiene was 5/5. Best ever nursing room I’ve seen. I was really impressed.
Another useful resource is Madeline’s blog here. She’s visited a couple other nursing rooms in Taipei and reviewed them. Madeline was super helpful too. I had some questions before I left and she promptly helped me as best as she could.
As a side note, there are nursing rooms in Changi Airport as well but just be aware that you won’t be the only one looking for a nursing room.
3. Storing and shipping back your precious BM
I was lucky to stay in a room with a small fridge (note: not a bar fridge) with its own freezer compartment cold enough to freeze my BM solid. Any decent hotel should be able to accommodate your request to use their freezers though, so don’t be afraid to ask. I would email them to confirm before booking the hotel though.
I also brought along a fridge-to-go, numerous large ziploc bags and a couple more ice packs. Night before we left, I chucked the fridge-to-go plus my ice packs in the freezer. Just before we checked out of the hotel, we managed to put all the packets of milk into the fridge-to-go together with a few ice packs (just to be safe). We then put the entire fridge-to-go into one large ziploc bag, so that condensation wouldn’t wet other items in your luggage.
The entire journey took about 8 hours door to door and I’m very lucky the packs were still frozen solid when we got home.
4. Pumping on board
I never imagined I would express on board, right where I sat. But a mother’s got to do what a mother’s got to do. Bring your trusty nursing apron along, put your pump on your lap and pump away. Bring loads of tissue and wet wipes, and it definitely helps to have family sit on your left and right to pass you stuff under the apron. Better yet, if you can get a window seat, you’ll probably have more privacy. Remember you’ll never bump into your fellow passengers again, so just heck it and pump.
There, I hope this very long post on travelling as a breastfeeding mother without baby helps someone out there. Please do feel free to drop me a note if you have further questions and I’ll be happy to help if I can. 🙂