How to Road Trip with a Breast Pump

The holidays are coming up, which for many families inevitably means travel. If you’re planning on going over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house this year AND you’re currently breast pumping, this may seem more daunting than usual. Fear not, with a little planning and the right tools you can get to and from most places with your breast pump and milk supply intact.

While road trips come with their own set of difficulties, from a strictly pumping perspective it’s an easy way to travel. If you don’t plan on pumping during the road trip itself, put the pump in it’s bag with all needed accessories, stick it in the trunk, and don’t worry about it until your destination. Easy peasy. If you’re planning on pumping in the car, there are a few more considerations to think of.

The first thing to concern yourself with is power. Do you have a car charger or a battery pack to use with your pump? All three brands of breast pumps we carry in-store sell a car adapter or battery pack for their pumps.

Once you’ve gotten your power situation taken care of, the next thing to worry about is cleaning. Milk is fatty and full of good sugars, which is excellent for your baby but very hard to get off bottles and breast flanges once it dries. Plus, you know, the FDA suggests that you clean breast pump parts after every use. So do most pump manufacturers including Medela and Ameda.

If you’re used to cleaning these in a sink, microwave or dishwasher, you’re going to need to find a new way to clean in-car. We suggest using a product similar to Medela Quick Wipes, that is specially formulated to clean and sanitize breast milk. That said, you don’t have to clean the parts directly after use in the car. You can wait until you get to your destination, but keep in mind that the good things in breastmilk also make it very sticky and difficult to get off products once it has dried on. There’s help for that too with Medela’s Breastmilk Removal Soap.

Ameda Cool 'N Carry Milk Storage Tote
Ameda Cool ‘N Carry Milk Storage Tote

So by this point we’ve got your pump powered and your parts clean, the final thing you need to prepare for is milk storage. There are a few ways to travel in a car with breast milk; the main choice here is whether you want to keep your milk cold or frozen. If you’re just trying to keep your milk safe until you reach your destination (and a real freezer/refrigerator) you can store your milk in bottles  and stick them in a cooler bag with ice packs. According to the CDC this will keep your milk good for up to 24 hours, an ample time for the majority of road trips.

If you’re looking to freeze your milk or keep frozen milk from thawing, the best option is to pack it in dry ice. Remember to slap on some eye protection and gloves before handling it, or worrying about storing breast milk is going to be the least of your problems. While dry ice will keep your breast milk frozen for long distances, it too has a short shelf life. You can expect your dry ice to completely sublimate within a 24 hour time period, sooner if you didn’t pack it well.

Once you’ve nailed down this final piece of pump planning, you can turn your attention to important matters, like arranging your children in the optimal car configuration for the least amount of fighting, or prepping toddlers on how not to make fun of Aunt Hilda’s new mole. All joking aside, try to have fun throughout your travels and enjoy your children, friends, and extended family to the best of your ability. Providing for your kids can be a hassle, but you wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love them.

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