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Making It Work

Business Travel: Make It Work for You and Your Baby

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 4, July-August 2000, pp. 140-142

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am excited about continuing to breastfeed my son when I return to work soon. However, I am worried about my travel schedule which is sporadic but intense (three to four days away from home about once a month). Have others successfully continued to breastfeed their babies with this kind of separation? I'd love to hear stories and suggestions about continuing to nurse and about helping my baby during my absence.

Response

Traveling for work while you have a nursing baby can be very challenging, but it is definitely worth the effort. When I had to travel for work the biggest challenge I faced was pumping enough milk for the period of time that I would be gone. The way I was able to pump enough milk was by adding an extra pumping session early in the morning before my baby woke up for his normal feeding. While I was away on my trip, I continued to pump to avoid engorgement. Upon returning from my travels, I was able to resume nursing as before. For all of this to work, you will need a supportive partner and a baby who is willing to put up with your absence. While I was traveling for my work, it sometimes seemed overwhelming to continue with all of the pumping. But pumping was definitely worth it, because I was able to continue to nurse my son as long as he and I wanted to. In addition, my husband gained a new respect for breastfeeding after he had to get up in the middle of the night, warm the bottle of breast milk, and feed our son for a couple of nights. Preparing for and going on a trip without your baby can be difficult. However, if you focus on the fact that you will be able to reconnect with your baby through breastfeeding upon your return, it can help. Good luck!

Ann Hansen
Boulder CO USA

Response

I have recently returned to a consulting job that requires me to travel every three to four weeks after not traveling for a year after my daughter Sophie was born. I thought that I would never travel again, but now it seems to fit into my balance of life. I work out of the home on a very limited basis, so the majority of my time is dedicated to my family.

I am still breastfeeding and will continue to do so until the time is right for baby. I pump three times a day while traveling. The morning and evening pumping sessions are not an issue at all. I just have to take the extra 20 minutes or so to give myself adequate time. The lunchtime pumping session can be a bit challenging. In the past, I have used lunch times to plan afternoon work with clients, check in with them, and build our business relationship. Now I count on the fact that most people can understand my need to nourish my baby while I am away. I explain my situation up front so they know that will be unavailable for 30 minutes and plan a 45 minute lunch break just in case. I find I can joke with my clients about having to take care of the important business first—pumping milk for my baby. This arrangement has worked out very well. By the time I return home, I have a nice supply to add to the freezer, and my daughter nurses again as if I have never left. Good luck and remember you can do it!

Laura Stone
Cohasset MA USA

Response

Shortly after I returned to work, when my first son was around three or four months old, I attended an out-of-town seminar that was to last about four days. We arranged for my mother-in-law to take care of the baby at the hotel during the seminar. I pumped during my breaks and nursed Kim at lunch and throughout the night. I couldn't bear to be separated at night when the closeness meant so much to both of us.

In addition, my job required some regular travel. Although I enjoyed my job immensely I knew that my son's needs were short-term and basic to our relationship. With my boss and co-workers, who were very understanding, we were able to temporarily shift assignments and take the opportunity to cross-train co-workers by having them do the travel while I remained in the office. When travel could no longer be avoided, I considered hiring a nanny to travel with me or finding a temporary caregiver through the hotel's services. However, at this time my husband's time commitment to his job was also increasing. This left parental involvement with our child to one parent during the week for a hectic, rushed, high-stress routine of "pick-up child after work, fast dinner, bath and bed." We felt that our son needed more from us than this, and he was growing so quickly. When our son was nine months old, I made the decision to stay home and put my work zeal into raising our son "our way." At the time, I thought it was a difficult decision. I was losing a great job that paid well and letting go of what I thought of as dedication to a work ethic. But I have never regretted staying home. Four and a half years later, as I watch our son's younger brother grow through this brief portion of life and development, I only wish I had made this decision sooner.

Eugenia Garcia
Houston TX USA

Response

Here is how I managed to survive taking business trips and breastfeeding my son who is now 15 months and still nursing! He was fed on breast milk until he was seven months old, so the trips that I took during that time were a bit more stressful. I have a good, small, electric pump that I use in the hotel room in the morning, evening, and late at night. In the beginning, I even got up in the middle of the night to pump—which was no fun, but the threat of a plugged duct was enough to motivate me to wake up. I store the milk in a refrigerator in the room. If I can't get a refrigerator, I use plastic bags full of ice in a small cooler and replenish the ice as needed. You can use plastic bottles to store the milk as some plastic storage bags can and will leak.

Planes, meetings, dinners, and workshops are not conducive to using my electric pump, so I take short breaks, go to the restroom, and use a hand-held "piston" pump. This pump is very streamlined and fits into the side pocket of my laptop case. These quick pumping sessions (five to ten minutes total) relieve the pressure, prevent leaks, and help to avoid plugged ducts. I have also used some other strategies: get a co-worker to go instead of you and/or make sure that the trip is really essential to your job performance. Phone, email, or video conferencing can take care of many things. Also, I have taken my family with me on several trips. This can be stressful and expensive, but well worth it to not worry about my son's food supply. I hope these ideas help!

Koni Stone
Turlock CA USA

Response

I have had to travel for business many times since the birth of my children. For anyone who travels for work and has children, planning is very important, but for breastfeeding mothers it's essential! After the birth of my second daughter, Brianna, I spoke to my supervisor and explained that while I would still be able to travel, I would need to keep my trips to as short as possible, particularly at first. She was very understanding.

About six weeks after I returned to work, my first trip was scheduled. My husband and I were very nervous. He had the extra pumped milk in the refrigerator and lots of freezer stash ready to go! Since I usually put the children to bed, we wondered how Brianna would react to my not being there, especially at bedtime. We also wondered what would happen when I returned. I was committed to nursing for at least the first year and afraid that traveling would cause a nursing strike. On my end, I wondered if my supply would decrease. As you can see, I envisioned all sorts of problems!

Things went very well on both my end and on the home front! I packed my double electric pump and added a manual pump, just in case. I pumped both my regular pumping sessions plus when I would normally nurse Brianna. I even saved some of the milk and transported it home!

Brianna did terrifically too! She and my husband spent some wonderful evenings together. When I returned, Brianna immediately wanted to nurse. She nursed a few extra times that first day back and then seemed to settle back into her regular routine.

Since that first time, I have had to travel about once every six weeks usually for three days. At 16 months, Brianna continues to nurse several times per day. I no longer pump, except when I am away traveling.

Cindy Newberg
Rockville MD USA

Response

Yes, you can travel for work and continue to breastfeed your baby! I returned to a travel-intensive job when my son Sam was four months old. Six months and several overnight business trips later, we are still a happy nursing couple. Here are some ideas that helped me keep breastfeeding when my job took me out of town.

Pump ahead and freeze milk. Pump every day, even when you spend the whole day with your baby. Take this surplus milk and freeze it to use when you're out of town. Then take home the milk you expressed when you traveled and save it for your next trip.

Work your travel schedule to optimize your time at home. Instead of catching a 6:00 AM flight to your destination, schedule a later flight (if possible), so that you can nurse your baby before you leave.

Build nursing breaks into your travel schedule. For example, if you're out of town for several meetings, ensure that you have enough time to pump between meetings.

Carry a car adapter for your breast pump. This enables you to pump in your rental car. If you're wearing a jacket, no one will know what you're doing.

Locate a "Family Bathroom" for pumping. This is a single-stall bathroom with an outlet and a door that locks. You can find them in offices, airports, and restaurants.

Request a hotel room with a refrigerator. Most hotels will supply one free. This enables you to store your milk safely. It also lets you keep beverages and snacks (which every nursing mother needs) cold.

Stay hydrated to help maintain your milk supply. Airplanes, offices, and hotels are dry places. Carry a water bottle with you since you can't always find it when you need it the most.

Try to take your baby with you on longer trips. This way, you can nurse your baby in the morning and through the night. Your company may even reimburse you for the extra travel expenses you incur!

As you can see, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I congratulate you on thinking ahead.

Jill Houk
Glenview IL USA

Response

My work also involved extensive (two to three days at a time) travel away from my baby, starting when he was 13 weeks old and continuing until he was 15 months old. On average, I was away once a month, but sometimes it was twice a month. It can be done! My son is now 19 months old and still happily nursing. In all that time, he never once had formula.

You will have to help your son learn to take a bottle or cup preferably when he is still young (4-6 weeks is when I started mine). In the months before you go on your first trip, you will need to pump to save up a supply of stored frozen breast milk appropriate for your son's appetite and the length of your trip. It can be really difficult to get the first cache of breast milk saved up (those hungry babies want it all now!), but it's much easier after your first trip, because the milk you pump while you are away will become the milk your baby drinks on the next trip. I recommend you buy the absolute best breast pump you can afford. They are expensive, but at 11 o'clock at night when you are pumping for the sixth time that day, you'll really be glad about it.

When you are away, it is very important you pump about as often as your baby nurses. With such long trips, you have to remember you are not just pumping to save up milk. You are also pumping to maintain your milk supply. If you don't pump enough, it could lead to a real drop in milk supply and one angry baby when you get home. In the early months, I pumped as often as every three hours—and yes, that really does mean six or seven times a day when you are away. You will have to get creative about where you pump. People are usually quite helpful if you explain, but you can't be shy. I have pumped milk in cars, catering kitchen bathrooms, strange offices, hotel ballrooms, hotel rooms, airports, and who knows where else!

Storage of the milk you have pumped on a trip becomes another issue. Not only do you have to keep it cold; you also have to travel with it. Almost all hotels have refrigerators that can be put in your room for the duration of your stay. Even if the hotel doesn't have a refrigerator to put in your room, you can often explain your situation to someone who may be willing to let you share refrigerator space somewhere. My baby's milk has even been stored in meat lockers! Make sure to mark the container clearly if your milk is being stored in an out-of-the-ordinary spot.

I traveled with a small cooler that I would use to pack the milk on ice for the plane flight home. I would never pass the cooler through the metal detector at the airport. I always asked for a hand inspection. You can get some good laughs from the look on some people's faces when they try to inspect your cooler full of breast milk for explosive materials!

All of my response has focused on the "technical" details, but your baby will obviously need a lot of nurturing while you are away. My husband would stay with my son and had to develop competence in caring for him. They have a great, unique relationship, and I think it's partly because they had to develop it when it wasn't around. Lastly, I would always try to schedule my trips so I could have a day off right after the trip, and I would spend that day totally focused on my son, letting him nurse whenever he wanted and for however long.

I won't pretend it wasn't hard—there were days when I just wanted to never look at that breast pump ever again, and my pump looks very worn. The reward is in knowing you are doing the absolute best for your child that you can. Good luck!

Lara Burky
Austin TX USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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