Editor's Note: Katy Richards-Hrdlicka is one of our fabulous clients at Emerald Doulas, and a busy on-the-go mama and professional. She has a quite a bit of experience pumping and working and we asked her to share a bit about her process of pumping and traveling and what works for her. Thank you Katy!
Could you let us know what you do in your profession and how frequently do you travel?
I am a Field Application Scientist for a molecular biology tools company (biotech) based out of San Fran. For my job, I either work in my home office or am flying around the country to work in labs spanning academic, pharma, biotech, hospitals and everything in between. I've been back from maternity leave for about 3 months now and have only had 4 trips, each for just two nights away.
How did you feel about pumping and logistics when you went on your first trip away?
It was really stressful! The trip ended up getting cancelled due to a nor'easter and I was relieved! It gave me a few more weeks to plan and I ended up ordering a much smaller pump, as my then-current pump was taking up so much room in my bag.
What is your current setup for pumping?
At home, my setup is a Spectra S1 and their horns (flanges) with plenty of lubricant and a hands-free bra. When I travel I leave my S1 at home and use an S9. I bring the horns and will use those in my hotel room or when onsite, but certainly when I'm flying or driving, I use the Freemie Collection cups. Both of these pumps have rechargeable batteries, so I am mobile! Using the Freemie cups allows me to simply pop those into my nursing tank and wind the "wires" through my baggy, snap-close shirt.
I also bought some LED keychain lights and use that to look down my shirt while on the plane; the first time I flew I used my cell phone's light, but that honestly was a little too obvious and could feel my seat-mate get lightly anxious!
How do you manage the milk you pump while away?
I have a Sarah Wells bag with her "Cold Gold" cooler and 4, 8oz Medela bottles for daily expressions. I'll pop the blue ice pack into the cooler as I'm leaving for the day or flight and it'll go through security.
While I'm out of the home or at the lab, I'll pump and store the freshly expressed milk in bottles inside the cooler bag. When I get to my hotel room, I'll pour the milk into milk storage bags. I worked very hard to rescue my initial supply and won't waste an ounce, even though my supply exceeds my son's needs. Because I produce a heafty amount, I use Milk Stork to get my milk home (my company reimburses me). Before returning to work from my maternity leave, I made a freezer stash, so my husband pulls from that while I'm gone.
What product is a lifesaver? Or important for your success?
A portable refrigerator thermometer! I use that in all my hotel rooms to make sure the fridge is getting as cold as I need. I've found one defective fridge so far, and so glad this gizmo saved my milk!
Besides that, I'd have to say a rechargeable pump (Spectra S9) and Freemie cups make pumping on the go way easier. Oh...and a sense of humor and duty to harness the fortitude to do this while on the road, at labs, and in airplanes. Don't forget a bottle cleaning brush and detergent for washing parts at night.
Any crazy stories to share that help normalize the "glamour" of pumping?
Pumping on the plane is awkward! Reaching down your shirt to lube your nips is pretty bizarre, but what's stranger is to take the Freemies out and pour that milk into a bottle sitting atop the plane's tray table. It's got to be one of the strangest things for anyone on the plane to see! Related: why is it all the flights I have to pump on, I'm next to like a 60 year-old man, whereas all the flights I don't, I'm next to a woman?!
Anything you would like to add to make this interview complete?
Sure: when I flew to the West Coast for two nights, I decided to keep my boobs on east coast time. That was hard! But it made the return trip easier.
I've heard some lactating people are successful asking the flight attendant to essentially use their "back room" to pump - such as during beverage service. This hasn't worked for me and there's no way I'll use a plane's bathroom to pump (for 30 min!)! I recommend practicing the setup before your first pump-flight, if only to make sure your elbows don't have to wing out for some application (er, no way could I use a hands-free bra on the plane - how to get that on?) and knock out your neighbor. And bring back ups of just about everything: sharpie markers, milk bags, horns, backflow protector, duck valves, tubing, and a manual pump.