Milk Thyself – traveler’s edition!

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[Photo credit: Nextors via Creative Commons]

I’ve rattled on before about the strangeness of pumping at work – and pumping in general. I’ve even talked about pumping while traveling – by car. (I don’t know if I reported back on my actual road pumping, though – I kind of loved it. So efficient! Only time pumping didn’t feel like it got in the way of my day. Extra bonus points for awkward exchanges with truckers. But I digress.)

I have not however talked about pumping while traveling by plane. I haven’t done it. In fact, I’ve made a general plan not to travel apart from O until he’s 6 months old (when he will not be exclusively breast fed any longer). Not out of some motherly altruism or a latent commitment to attachment parenting. No, it’s because i. just. cant. deal. with. the. milk.

Yes, it’s true that I don’t want to be apart from O. Going to work every day is plenty for my taste. But I bet I could deal with a short trip here or there.

Let’s break down my milk anxiety: First, I’d have to have enough milk for O before leaving — not an easy task these days that he’s eating upwards of 25-30 oz a day. I’m barely keeping up! Then, I’d have to pack a pump – that’s an extra bag right there and a heavy one at that (so much for carry-on only travel!) I’d then have to bring enough bottles/bags to get through the day. In my case that’d be somewhere around 6-8 bottles or bags/day. THEN I’d have to have enough cooler cases to store said bottles (2 cases per day) AND have consistent access to a refrigerator to somehow bring all this milk back to O.

And all of that is to assume there were places to pump along the way! A place with an outlet for the pump, with privacy, with a seat and a clean surface where one could wipe down the pump parts (if not a facility to actually wash them). When traveling, especially by plane, this is not easy to come by.

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[Photo Credit: Cory Doctorow via Creative Commons]

Until – maybe – now. Last week I read this bit about a Burlington, VT company that has created these freestanding pumping stations for not only airports but malls, college campuses and other public spaces where a nursing lady might be in need of a private, yet equipped space to express. New York airports are now outfitted with these stalls, which I hope are as clean inside as they appear in the photos. But what about other airports?

This brings me to the latest — Tammy Duckworth, a congresswoman from IL and new mom herself is raising this issue in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her job has her traveling more than most – to and from DC every week! So she has a thing or two to say about the needs of and options for nursing moms in airports. She recently opined the following:

“Finding a clean and private space to breastfeed or pump breast milk in an airport can be burdensome and stressful, if not impossible. It’s not uncommon for moms to be directed to a bathroom. We would never ask our fellow travelers to eat their meals in bathrooms stalls, yet we ask new mothers to feed their children while sitting on a toilet seat.”

PREACH!

She goes on to say –

“A recent survey of 100 airports found that only 8 percent met the minimum requirements for a lactation room. Even more troubling, 62 percent of the airports still self-reported that they were breastfeeding-friendly even though they did not meet the minimum standards.”

She is developing legislation to require airports to offer appropriate spaces for nursing. I love this! So practical. Even though the situation will unlikely change in time to impact my own nursing experience.

And there’s more — the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is collecting stories about the experience of travelers trying to nurse in airports to inform the legislation. While I am never one to shy away from offering my opinion on a matter at hand, in this case I don’t have an experience to share! Do you?

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