Summer is here, and while we’re in no hurry to get our kids on an airplane for that summer vacation we had planned, road trips can be an alternative. As some states open back up, it’s important to remember that the virus is not gone, so we all still need to be extra diligent about hand-washing, sanitizing, maintaining social-distancing protocols, wearing masks, and taking other recommended precautions.
For a breastfeeding mom, adding pumping on-the-road to this list is overwhelming. The good news is that while it is challenging, it doesn’t have to be impossible. If you’re thinking about road tripping and wondering how in the world to make it work with pumping, there’s good news—it is possible.
You’ll just want to invest in the right gear and plan ahead to make it go as smoothly as possible.
Read on for 10 tips to make road-trip pumping a success.
1. Wear Pumping-Friendly Clothes
This seems obvious, but it goes beyond having a hands-free pumping bra, which will be your best pumping friend on-the-road and at home. Your second-best friend for on-the-go pumping will be an oversized cardigan. Why? If you’re looking for a little privacy–at least, as much as you can get while pumping in a car–an oversized cardigan is the perfect thing to pull around yourself to shield the view.
2. Pack a Mini Cooler—For Milk Only
Keep your milk, and only your milk, in an easily-reachable mini cooler. Having learned from experience, keeping it in the same cooler with other drinks and snacks for the kids is not a good idea. People are constantly opening that cooler and in the worst-case scenario, improperly closing it so that when you go to get your milk, it hasn’t been kept cold at all. Don’t let that happen to you.
3. Buy a Car Adapter
Another lesson learned the hard way: make sure your pump is fully charged, but also have an adapter on hand just in case. Even if you have a rechargeable pump that doesn’t have to be connected to a power source to work, plan on needing to recharge it. Even if it’s fully charged, and you don’t expect to need to charge it again … expect the unexpected. Trust me.
4. Bring Sanitizing Supplies and Gear
As a mom, you probably already have a solid stash of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes on hand, but if not, make sure to get some. Don’t forget to add masks for you and your family, as well as disposable gloves for whoever is driving to wear while pumping gas and then discard. For your pump parts, pack wipes or spray specifically designed for this purpose.
5. Time It Right
If you can, plan your trip so that you’ve just fed the baby before you get on the road. This will give you some time for everyone to get settled and (fingers crossed) the kids to maybe fall asleep while you pump in peace.
6. Bring Extras
Of what? Everything. Extra pump parts, extra bottles, extra storage bags, extra nursing bra, extra cardigan. Just. Bring. Extra. Something will happen, and you will be glad to have a spare whatever-it-is. Another lesson I learned the hard way: the drive there might be perfectly smooth, but things (like hands-free pumping bras) can go missing during the trip itself, leaving you with a long road home.
7. Bring a Hand Pump
This is truly for worst-case scenarios only, but if the unimaginable happens, and your pump goes kaput, at least you’ll have a backup option. Thankfully, I’ve never had to resort to this, but the peace of mind I get just from having one on hand makes it beyond worth it.
8. Don’t Forget About Your Needs
Breastfeeding makes you both hungrier and thirstier because of all the extra calories required of your body to make milk. Pack your own stash of snacks and water to keep you hydrated–and hide it from all of your travel companions–including the kids.
9. Bring Two Bags to Separate Clean and Dirty Pump Parts
You’ll want to keep your clean parts separate from the used ones if you’re going to need to pump more than once on the drive. Have one bag with everything stored and one bag where you can keep what needs to be washed when you get to your destination separately. I like reusable Stasher bags for the dirty pump supplies.
Another option–if you have enough room in your cooler–is to store the flanges/valves/shields you just used in the cooler with the milk you’re storing. The idea is that as long as the milk that’s accumulated on those stays cool, it’s still sanitary to pump with them again.
10. Pump Directly Into Storage Bags
This will eliminate some of the clean up needed, but more importantly, it will help prevent you from spilling any of that liquid gold. Do some googling beforehand to find out what kind of storage bags will fit directly onto your flanges so that you can simply pump, seal, and store in the cooler. Even if you plan to put that milk in a bottle to feed your little one (after you’ve safely stopped somewhere, of course), you don’t have to transfer milk from bag to bottle. Just put the bag directly into the bottle, fold the opening over the sides of the bottle, and tighten the lid as you normally would. Voila, now you don’t have an extra bottle to clean either.