Travel abroad, milk storage, mastitis
I’m posting because as I prepared for this trip, I found very little helpful information! Hope you find this informative!! First are some logistics of my trip, then comes a warning so you don’t end up with mastitis like I did!
I am a full time mom who breastfeeds, and my DD was exclusively breastfed for the first six months. However, before getting pregnant, I began planning a trip abroad with students (I taught foreign languages). I made the decision to follow through with my students and go abroad with them, since DD would be 12.5 months.
Please note, I have always had ample milk supply and even block fed for a while to reduce. When DD was 5 months, I bought a double electric breastpump (Medela Pump In Style) and began using it infrequently, maybe just once a month. When she was 7.5 months old, I began pumping once a week or so, because I began tutoring students and would be gone between her afternoon nap and dinner. From 9.5 to 10.5 months, pumping was infrequent since tutoring tapered off.
Starting 6-7 weeks before the trip abroad, I began pumping every night before bed. This was about 9:30pm, or 3 hours after putting her to bed. Yeah, not the best time for volume of milk, but DD’s sleep patterns changed (sleeping all the way through the night) and that had been a nursing time. So it seemed logical to keep the demand up at that time of day.
I’m glad I started pumping 6-7 weeks prior. Each night averaged 4-5 oz total, and the last 3 days before the trip were barely 3 oz. Again, if pumping in the morning, I could have had more milk; just a choice I made: I’m more relaxed when I can pump alone and not chase a toddler!! I had about 20 oz frozen milk leftover after the trip. DD nurses about 4-5 times a day: when waking, before her AM nap and before her PM nap, and before bed. Sometimes she wakes and prefers to nurse in the middle of the night, but not usually anymore. I had not introduced cows milk prior the trip, but did give water at 1-2 meals a day.
The trip was 9 days total: 2 travel days and 7 on the ground days. It involved 8-9 hours in a plane, plus a layover, then another 2 hour flight. Our group traveled on the ground in coach buses, none came equipped with bathrooms. We kept busy seeing sites until 10pm or 12am most nights, and left our hotels by 8am.
Those are a lot of travel complications for a BF mama who is away from her toddler!
I bought a battery powered single electric breast pump (Medela Swing) used from Craigslist. Since the US is on 100 volts and Europe is on 220 volts, one cannot plug in Medela pumps; the adapters cannot handle the higher voltage and converters don’t do a great job. I didn’t care if it had been previously used, because I would pump and dump... not save the milk for consumption. I did use it with the plug in adapter 3 times before the trip, to make sure I knew how it worked with my body. The trip would be stressful, and I didn’t want be figuring out the pump under stress. The pump worked fine with 4 AA batteries. There did not seem to be a large difference in suction. 4 batteries lasted through 6 days of pumping.
Okay, logistics of milk banking and choosing a pump aside, I would like to advise traveling mamas so they don’t get mastitis like I did!!
1. You must thoroughly rinse at least the cone after every use.
Being on a coach bus and in an airplane are no excuse: find a way of cleaning the parts that come in contact with your breast.
2. You must disinfect all parts at least once a day (morning before use, or evening after last use). See #1.
3. When you return from your trip, pump to empty your breasts before bed for a week or so.
Even if it seems like your child is nursing well, chances could be that your body stepped up production while you were exclusively pumping. Emptying both breasts will just help keep milk flowing and not backing up.
4. Know the signs of mastitis: it’s like flu in your breast(s).
I had thought that I was still suffering jet lag, battling a reduced immune system, or that I had contracted the flu the last days of the trip. Nope, those were early warning signs of mastitis. Everything came to a head about 6 days after my return: high fever with chills and sweats, muscle aches, red swollen breast, and pain nursing. Had I known the early signs, I could have stopped the further development of mastitis. Feel like the flu after a fast paced trip away from your child? Could well be mastitis!!
Any other breastfeeding mamas out there have experience with long international travel?