Tips for Pumping While Traveling Away from Your Breastfed Baby

March 8, 2017·

One of THE most common questions I got when I went to Kenya in January was, “But what about Amos? Aren’t you still breastfeeding him? Are you going to pump while you’re abroad? How does that even work?” 

The answer to all of that is and was: YES. When I went abroad to Kenya in January, I was still nursing Amos. In fact, Amos was breastfeeding four to five times a day AND at night… So, needless to say, I was nervous to leave him, but I knew the trip was meant to be and I knew that he would be fine. I planned to pump while I was gone, but I was definitely unsure how it was all going to work! That’s a lot of time on a plane, a lot of time away, and I had no idea what my access to power would be and how / when / where I would even get to pump. It’s not everyday that you’re in a developing country using a breast pump.

This wasn’t exactly something I could ask a lot of people how there experience was.

In fact, I was preparing to leave, I Googled everything I could think of:

  • “Using a breast pump while traveling to a third-world country”
  • “Pumping while visiting a developing country” 
  • “How to use a breast pump on a plane”
  • “Tips for pumping when traveling abroad”
  • “Tips for pumping and not losing your mind when you’re going to be away from your breastfed baby for what feels like forever”

Yeah, my searches did not return me great results.

Kenyan roads be BUMPY

In the end, it all worked out. I went away for eight days. 24 hours of travel each way. Hours spent in a van on bumpy (READ: very bumpy) Kenyan roads. A night in a tent in the middle of a safari. I mean, you name it when it comes to pumping situations, and I pretty much experienced it while I was gone.

munchkin-latch-breastfeeding-bottle-photo_0153And Amos? Amos did awesome. I had mostly enough breastmilk pumped in advanced that got him through… (although my husband actually did run out of milk towards the end of the trip but I’ll give you my tip on what we did with that!) 

Anyway, I thought I would just share with you guys a few tips for what to do if you’re traveling abroad and you plan to be away from your breastfed baby… (basically I’m just going to share with you what I did because it worked for me. :)) 

Before you leave:

  • Plan your pumping sessions on “off” times from when your baby eats to build up a stash. I spent about a month pumping two or three times a day (I don’t actually get all that much when I pump while I’m nursing) so it took me about a month to build up an eight day stash. You know your baby and you know your supply… but the more you can pump the better. Yes, it is a pain… but it is what it is. I stored my milk in these bags and laid them flat in the freezer so they store easier.
  • Have a backup plan. In case you run out of milk, be sure to have a backup plan. Luckily, I have awesome friends who are also breastfeeding and so I actually reached out to them and they offered up some of their frozen breastmilk stash if we were to run out. John actually did run out of my pumped milk on the sixth day I was gone and so he coordinated with my friends and were able to get some of their breastmilk stash to use for Amos. I realize some people might be weirded out by this, but it’s totally normal! If you don’t have a friend who has extra frozen breastmilk, find a brand of formula and have some on hand just in case! Whatever works best for you.

What about pre-trip vaccines and anti-malaria pills?

did take anti-malarials while I was traveling. I will always take anti-malarials when traveling to Kenya, but since this time of year is Kenya’s summer, I definitely made sure to stay on top of my malaria medicine. As far as what malaria medication is safe to use while breastfeeding, I consulted my doctor (also, it’s pretty well known) and we determined that Doxycycline was the best option for me to take. You can read more about that here… but definitely ask your doctor if you have questions!

Most of the vaccines needed for Kenya I had before my first trip. However, I still needed four shots this time, all of which are safe for breastfeeding. I HIGHLY recommend going to a Passport Health. They are really knowledgable, you are able to get all you need, and they can answer any of your questions.

What to pack: 

About the pump I used:

When I was nursing Lilly, I used a Medela Pump in Style breast pump. It is a great breast pump and really served me well… however it isn’t exactly small. It does have a battery pack, but for this trip in particular, I was really worried about lugging it around, carrying it on, finding a reliable outlet, etc.

When the team at Medela learned that I was going to be traveling to Kenya and pumping the whole time I was gone, they sent me a Medela Freestyle breast pump to try out. You guys, no lie, this literally blessed me in a way I can’t even begin to tell you how much I appreciated it…  For this particular experience, it was a game changer. What to Do When Traveling to a Third World Country / Developing Nation and You're Still Breastfeeding - Tips for Pumping While Traveling - Medela Freestyle Breast Pump Review

The Medela Freestyle breast pump is rechargeable (I was able to get about three hours out of one charge… probably more. But let’s just say that I only needed to recharge my pump every couple of days while in Kenya, so I was able to recharge it in the hotel room at night.) 

I also love how portable it is. It has a CLIP on it so I can just clip it on my pants and, while using a free-hand pumping bra, I can literally walk around and do anything while also pumping. I don’t have to be tied to a giant pump with a bag or anything like that.

Seriously, I pumped EVERYWHERE with this thing and it was so easy. I only wish I had the Freestyle pump the whole time! The Freestyle is 100000000000% percent worth the extra cost over the Pump In Style. Trust. Me. 

If you’re also looking for an AWESOME and portable breast pump, Medela launched the Sonata recently which is super quiet, rechargeable, connects to an APP on your phone, and is basically like a hospital grade pump. It’s amazing! I love that all these things are now available to help make breastfeeding easier for mamas of all kinds!

OKAY, here was my basic pumping schedule and how I did it…


  • I made sure to nurse Amos before I left
  • I packed all of my pumping stuff in my carry on bag
  • Since the first leg of our flight was a red-eye, I pumped about halfway through (at about the four hour mark)
  • I pumped on the layover
  • I pumped twice on the flight from London to Nairobi (towards the beginning and towards the end)
  • I pumped before bed once we got settled in at our hotel (when we arrived it was nighttime) 

Coming home, I followed basically this exact time frame but tried to pay attention to what time it was at home and pump according to Amos’s normal eating schedule in order to start the process of getting back to normal.

I just pumped right in my seat and used a nursing cover overtop while I pumped. No one was the wiser (except my friend Pam sitting next to me, but that was because we were traveling together and she knew what I was doing!). In fact, I sat next to a man on one flight and he had zero clue what was going on. Once I was done pumping, I would just go to the bathroom on the plane to wash my bottles.

Did I save my breastmilk? For this trip, no.

Can you travel on a plane with breastmilk? Yes!! I have done pumped and saved milk before while traveling (within the US)! You can do it! You are legally allowed to carry breastmilk on the plane. I just packed a small, flexible cooler (like this one), some portable, instant ice packs (like these), and was good to go.

However, just due to the amount of time I was going to be gone this trip, coupled with the fact that it was 24 hours of travel time and since there was basically zero chance I’d have access to a fridge. Not to mention I just wasn’t sure what could possibly be transmitted from Kenya to the US via my milk, I opted to pump and dump this time. Trust me, I cried a little bit on the inside every time I poured out that precious liquid gold. But, it is what it is. What to Do When Traveling to a Third World Country / Developing Nation and You're Still Breastfeeding - Tips for Pumping While Traveling - Medela Freestyle Breast Pump Review


  • My most consistent pumping times were morning and night. I always made sure to get a good twenty-minute pumping session in when I woke up, and at least twenty-minutes before bed.
  • I gave myself grace and allowed some room for flexibility during the day because I just didn’t know what the days were going to look like or what situations we would be in.
  • Since a few of the places we were going to were at least 45 minutes to an hour apart, I tried to plan pumping sessions for the long van-rides. Now, if you’ve ever been to Kenya (or really any developing nation), there are A LOT of bumpy roads. And they aren’t bumpy like we know bumpy here in the US. They are b-u-m-p-y.  Pumping on these roads in the back of a church bus was no small feat. I always used my nursing cover to at least attempt to pump somewhat discreetly and I almost always spilled on myself which ended in us laughing. You gotta do what you gotta do.
  • I usually would wait until wherever we arrived and then just dump the milk once we arrived.
  • I was not able to wash my pump in between sessions during the day… it just wasn’t feasible. Therefore, I would wash my pump at the end of the day before bed each night.
  • I did not wash my pump with bottled water as I felt that would be wasteful. I used sink water in the bathrooms or in the hotel where we were staying. When I returned home, I made sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize my pump before using it again.

Once I returned home, Amos picked right back up with nursing. I was so thankful! I’ll definitely be sharing more about my breastfeeding journey with both kiddos soon… as the experiences were SO different with Lilly than with Amos. If you have any questions, I’d love to be sure to answer them in an upcoming post!

PHEW. I know this was a long post, but I really hope this is helpful! PLEASE feel free to ask questions in the comments as I would LOVE to help!

Now, the AMAZING team at Medela has been so, so, so generous to giveaway a BUNDLE to one of you guys!! That includes a Medela Freestyle Breastpump Deluxe (MSRP $379.99), a Easy Expression Bustier (MSRP – $39.99), an a trip of Medela’s Quick Clean Products (MSRP $23.97). How amazing is that?!?!?!?! Use the Rafflecopter tool below and be sure to share this giveaway with any expecting mamas or nursing mamas!!
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What to Do When Traveling to a Third World Country / Developing Nation and You're Still Breastfeeding - Tips for Pumping While Traveling - Medela Freestyle Breast Pump Review