Breast Pumping on Airplane Flight

Updated on November 08, 2010
K.K. asks from Bellevue, WA
11 answers

I am taking a trip across country soon and I am concerned about breast pumping on the long plane ride. Until recently I didn't even know breast pumping on the airplane was a option. I am currently using the Medela Symphony pump and solely pumping about every 3 to 4 hours at home.

The first leg of the flight is 5 hours and the second leg is 3 hours. This does not include extra time to be at the airport and I am unable to pump during the layover in Atlanta. (I hear you have to run to the gate to transfer flights).

I am worried about plugging the pump in, where to pump and the awkwardness of the noisy pump. I am not too concerned with traveling with breast-milk. I have resided to dump the extra milk produced on the travel days that we would normally need to refrigerate.(that's assuming I will be able to pump extra milk with the traveling stress of pumping on a airplane)

Has anyone had to use a breast pump on a airplane flight? Any tips/suggestions would be much appreciated.

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T.S.

answers from Dallas on

Although I have not pumped while on a flight, I do understand the need to pump even in an uncomfortable or awkward situation. My thoughts are these-- maybe dicuss this with the flight attendant when you get on board so he/she knows you have this need. Do you know if the flight is booked? If not, try to request to sit where the seat next to you is not occupied. That way you'll have more room. Is your pump charge-able or battery operated? Mine was, which helped when I needed to pump somewhere that I could not plug it in... This may sound strange, but scope out the other people on the flight and try to "find" another mom who you can assume has gone through this in one way or another. Someone like that would be easier to sit next to while pumping, ya know? If you do find someone like that, see if you can switch seats. Good luck to you!!! I hope it goes well and that you have a good trip!

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J.P.

answers from Boise on

First off, have the breast pump separate through security. I just traveled for the first time with my medela, and even though it doesn't come out of the bag, I had to run the bag separate.

I would suggest a poncho type cover if you are in the middle or aisle seat, but if you are in the window, a hooter hider should be fine. Also, a nursing tank, or a blush topless shirt helps for the belly. Get the battery adapter, and just pump there. The thought of having to pump in the airplane bathroom gives me the willies!! It might also be easier if you get a hands free pumping bra from LLL, but that is optional. You shouldn't have to dump your milk. Either bring a cheap freezer pack in your milk tote with the empty bottles and tell security what it is for, or bring a ziploc and get some ice from the flight attendant. I saw cheap, because an individual TSA person may say no, but I haven't had a problem yet. Have the ziploc as a back up. Your milk should be just fine.

Also, drink LOTS of water! Flying is really dehydrating. This is my first work trip away from my daughter, and the first night I ended up in a lot of pain because the pump just doesn't pull like nursing. If you are solely pumping, you may not have this issue, but I would suggest some Tylenol, just in case.

And you are allowed to carry on your pumped milk on the way home too, just declare it and have it in a separate bag.

Oh, and read a book, or occupy yourself in someway while pumping to help yourself relax. Ignore everyone else.

Good luck!

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S.T.

answers from New York on

I had to do this many years ago - before 9/11 and the many restrictions - so I can't help with that aspect. But once on the plane I talked to a flight attendent during a more quiet period of the flight and told her that I needed to use one of the lavoratories for an extended period to use a breast pump. I began by telling her I was a little embaressed but I'd been away from my 4 mos old baby for about 8-9 hours by that time. She was so totally great about it. She suggested the best lavoratory to use, she gave me anticeptic wipes to use for the "counter" in the lav. I had brought a small thin towel (actually I think it was a half towel / rag) to spread on the counter. She kept people away from the lav for the approx 20 minutes I needed to use it. People did knock on the door - but when another lav became available they used the other one. I think you'd need to tell the flight attendents these days or they'll assume you're a terrorist!

BTW - I happened to be on this trip with my boss - who was about 10 years younger than me. Since he knew I had blinds in my office for lactation purposes he knew it was a daily neccessity. When we got on the plane I told him at some point I was going to have to take care of overdue lactation needs. He looked a little puzzled initially - but figured it out.

Clearly, the bathroom of a place is not the best option - but what else can you do? There was a time when it got a little bumpy - but I had braced myself in, was sitting on the potty. There was an elecrical outlet in the lav - I guess for a shaver?

It wasn't the ideal situation but it worked. I recall other times when after a long day of meetings I had to pull over on the curb of the highway in heavy traffic and use my pump when I realized it could wait no longer. A state trooper pulled over and asked if everything was OK. He looked like a deer in the headlights whwen I told him what I was doing. ;o) The things we mamas will do for love!

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S.L.

answers from Portland on

How old is your baby? Is it possible to extend the time without pumping so you could just pump during your layover? You could contact the airport you'll be in and see if they have a nursing room...

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J.B.

answers from Atlanta on

I vote for using the battery option if possible and pumping on that long leg -close to the end of the flight. Use a nursing blanket/cover if you need to.

It depends on how long your layover is in Atlanta and if you're connecting to the same airline or a different one. If you have a few hours and you're flying the same airline domestically, you should be in pretty good shape and not too far from your gate. However, if you're switching airlines or switching to an international flight, you'll probably have to get on the train and this can take some time. Hartsfield is enormous!

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C.B.

answers from El Paso on

I have pumped on a plane a couple of times. I had a medela and I purchased the battery pack for it so there was no plugging into an outlet. I either used one of those nursing covers or a blanket to cover my chest and underneath I would hook up. Both times I pumped into bottles so there so little to no spillage. I just used wipes to clean out all of the parts.
Now every time I did this I was in a window seat with my husband sitting next to me so I felt somewhat blocked by other passengers seeing me. I thought it was a good use of flying time and it prevented me from getting engorged and I even felt more discreet on the plane than I would have in the airport.
Good luck!

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E.T.

answers from Portland on

I haven't done this, but since I might in the future I took a look at the answers. I agree that using batteries at your seat is what I would do, especially if your sitting near family. Before boarding I would talk to airline employees about how full they expect the flight to be, and if I could be placed in a spot with empty seats around me except for my family, of course. Since a breast pump is classified as medical equipment, nobody should give you any hassle about the when and how. I am interested in knowing how pumping on the plane works for you after your flight, since as I mentioned it could be in my future, too. Thanks for sharing your question.

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L.S.

answers from Seattle on

The easiest way is to get the inexpensive manual pump. Medela makes one that I think is about $20-$30. It is the only pump I ever used and would be perfect for travel. Light weight, no electric or battery, no security issues, no noise.

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M.M.

answers from Chicago on

I pumped on the plane. I do not remember about plugging it or running it on the battery, sorry. I did it in the bathroom. Medella is quiet so I do not think it was louder than the plane engines. I waited until everyone was settled down and the bathrooms not so much in use.... The only thing, may be, because of pressure changes, it was harder to get the milk going up in the air. This made me panic a bit (I was worried that I lost milk, but my breasts were full, so I was confused and scared) , when we landed I pumped - and no problem, everything was back to normal.
Good luck !

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J.O.

answers from Corvallis on

Hi,
I haven't pumped on a plane, but I have several suggestions. I would call your airline before you go and find out if you can if there is even plugs in the lavoratory. Secondly I would look into getting a battery pack for your pump (most have them) or to borrow one that has that option. Additionally, I would get a little cooler with ice to put the breast milk in so you don't have to waste it. Then, before you need to pump, I would let the flight attendants know that you will need to use the lavoratory for an extended period of time to pump so they won't become worried and they can deflect any concerns from the other patients wanting to use it. Good luck on your trip!

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R.B.

answers from New York on

Just wanted to say that you might not need to dump the milk. You can keep newly pumped milk at room temp for up to 6 hours or in a cooler with ice packs for 24 hours.
My pump has the ability to run on batteries maybe yours does too.
I would talk to the airline attendants and let them know you will be in the bathroom and if you do it in your seat then just don't let other people bother you and let the attendants know.