Flying with a breastfeeding baby for the first time can be stressful! You may be wondering – what do you need to bring for breastfeeding on a plane? What are the rules about bringing a breast pump or breast milk on a plane? What if someone gives you a hard time about breastfeeding your baby on the plane in your seat?
We’ve all read horror stories of airline or TSA representatives not being familiar with the rules and asking a breastfeeding mother to nurse in the lavatory or check her pump. While I can’t promise that no one will hassle you, here’s how to prepare as best you can so you have the smoothest experience pumping and breastfeeding while flying with a baby.
Breastfeeding on a Plane – Can you Nurse in your Seat?
In the vast majority of cases, yes, you can nurse your baby in your seat on a flight, at any time during the flight.
However, each airline has their own policy. Before you leave, Google the same of your airline + “breastfeeding policy.” Usually, it will be posted on their website, and you can print it out to bring with you. For example, here is United’s breastfeeding policy, which clearly states that you can nurse in your seat or the lavatory, whichever you prefer.
What if I Need to Pump on a Plane? Can I Pump in My Seat?
In most cases, yes. The easiest place to pump is in your seat, and most airlines will allow it. (Again, it’s a good idea to print out their policy before you leave).
Most of the time, because the plane is so loud and everyone is facing forward, most people won’t notice you or know what you’re doing. If it’s possible to arrange it so that you’re in a window seat, that will give you the most privacy, but that’s obviously not always possible.
Tips for Pumping on a Plane
- Before you leave, when you’re packing your pumping gear, pack everything you need for each pumping session in its own ziploc bag.
- Put all the breast pump parts together as much as you can (connect everything, attach the bottles, etc.). This will make it easier and faster to get hooked up, and it also helps ensure that you don’t forget (for example) a valve or the bottles you’ll pump into.
- When it’s time to pump, put your nursing cover on and then, if you have one, your hands-free pumping bra and hook yourself up to pump. Then just go about your business and “fake it until you make it” – act like you know what you’re doing, even if you feel weird.
- You probably won’t be allowed to pump during take-off and landing, as your pump will need to be stowed at that time.
- If you have an electric breast pump, make sure that it’s fully charged before you get on the plane.
- The other option is to pump in the restroom. If you’d rather do this, I would wait until the seat belt sign has been off for a bit (so people have time to use it after takeoff).
- You may want to let the flight attendant know what you’re doing so in case they need to know why one of the restrooms is occupied for awhile, or in case the seat belt sign suddenly comes on again and you need a few minutes to get unhooked before returning to your seat.
What Breastfeeding Stuff Should You Carry on and What Should You Check?
Carry on – Breast Pump
Even if you’re not planning to use it on the plane, you should always carry on your breast pump – it’s a medical device, it’s expensive, and for many women it’s not something that you can go days with if it gets lost. Additionally, you never know if your flight will be delayed and you’ll be on the plane longer than you planned.
Since it’s a medical device, most airlines will not count a breast pump as a carry-on, but again, make sure to check the policy.
Flying with Breast Milk
How many ounces can you take on a plane? Breast milk is a “medical liquid” that you are allowed to bring on flights in “reasonable quantities.” It’s a good idea to print out the TSA rules from the website before you leave (you can get them here), and just make sure to tell your screener that you have breast milk with you.
If you have a long flight, the flight attendant may be able to provide you with ice to put in your breast milk cooler bag to keep the milk cool, but usually won’t be able to store it for you.
However, if you’re traveling with a large quantity of frozen breast milk, some moms have had success checking breast milk in a cooler like this one.
Other Pumping & Breastfeeding Gear
You should also carry on anything that you’ll need to nurse or pump during the flight. Some of these things might include:
Again, the key for flying when you’re breastfeeding is to be prepared! Make sure to print off your airline’s breastfeeding policy along with that of the TSA, and double check to make sure you’ve packed everything you need for pumping and breastfeeding while flying in your carry on bag and in your checked luggage. And have a great trip with your baby!
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