The sisterhood of the traveling breastpump

(Q: How many times will I use the word "breast" in this post?

A: Many, many times more than I had to actually say the word to strangers during this past weekend's trip, thank goodness as I tend to stumble and blush when doing so.)

I am proud and grateful that I am breast(1!)feeding, that it is possible, even easy, for me to do so. I read about women not being allowed to nurse in public or being hassled for needing to pump at work and I feel grateful to have had a relatively easy road (especially if you don't count my ridiculously poor public nursing skillz: I always either flash several people, leak all over my shirt or both).

But I was extra nervous for my solo flight to a friend's wedding this past weekend (Woohoo! A whole bag of peanut M&Ms THAT I DON'T HAVE TO SNEAK OR SHARE!). I would be carrying on my breast(3!)pump and, on the way back, a small cooler full of breast(2!)milk. I made the mistake of Googling "carrying on breast(4!)milk" and read horror stories. Specifically, it seems many women are hassled by TSA for carrying on breast(5!)milk without a baby, which, DUH, why would I have all this breast(6, oh, forget it)milk if I had the baby with me?? Others had posted that TSA gave them a hard time for the pump itself, especially since many don't come apart easily so it looks suspicious on the xray.

So, me being me, I worked myself into quite a lather about how this would all go down.

What actually happened? I carried on my breastpump with no problem, not even a question.

I cried like a fool at the wedding (OF COURSE),
(I think she gave me a corsage for the dedicated pumping that was required to get me there.)

cried when I saw the garden where CG and I were married

(I walked down the aisle to relive the glory, of course.)

and pumped like a fiend and stored the milk in a refrigerator at the place I was staying.
(Must have pumping accessory: vital cultural reading)

When I left NY yesterday I packed some bags of ice into a little insulated cooler with the breastmilk bags stuffed in. I didn't even bother to measure them into 3 oz bottles or put them in a quart sized ziploc. I figured if they gave me a problem I would just dump them. I am cursed/blessed with an oversupply problem so even though throwing away pumped breastmilk would feel like a colossal waste of my hard earned effort and time, I would rather do that then get even more worked up about it.

I got into the security line with my pump and my wad of full breastmilk bags and sweated a bit as they went through the xray machine. And then the TSA folks did.... nothing. NOT. A. THING.

So there you have it, my friends.

Now if only I had thought ahead to how exactly I would pump in the airport after getting through security. I should have known there was a battery pack for my pump. Then I could have at least pumped in the relative privacy of a bathroom stall.

But instead, I sat on the floor of the United terminal bathroom, draped my coat over my shoulders and pumped away much to my embarrassment and the amusement/shock of my fellow bathroom visitors. (There was one lady who tapped me on the shoulder -making me jump out of my skin and drop my pump pieces- and said "right on!")

The things you learn...


Fran said...

Good for you!! I am one of the breast(!)feeding challenged. All three of my children were unable to latch on properly so I pumped exclusively for them. I stopped at about 4 months and had enough in the freezer for a couple more months beyond that. It is awesome that you didn't let the fact that you are breast feeding stop you from attending the wedding and that you didn't let the horror stories you read scare into pumping and dumping which does feel like a wrong thing no matter how much you are producing.

Marianne said...

What a great trip, and what a nice memory!

I have pumped in my seat on the plane before, using a hand pump. I had covered myself up and thought I was being pretty discrete. And then the flight attendand that was doing the head count (very loudly) questioned what I was doing. Evidently she thought I was hiding a baby under there and messing up her count.

Erica said...

I do so hope that I'll be able to breastfeed my second child. I don't feel guilty for not breastfeeding Maddie, because I honestly tried and I exclusively pumped for 6 weeks for her. But, I feel like I missed out on a wonderful bonding experience with her.

Michelle said...

Oh good for you! I wouldn't even attempt feeding in public. It made me a nervous wreck. I planned everything around feedings or just brought a bottle of extra. I envy people who can feed in public easily.

And that garden? Gorgeous. Unbelievable.

desperate housewife said...

Pumping is annoying and potentially embarassing, but oh! The freedom it allows an otherwise tied to the house breastfeeding mother!
I think the electric pump is one of the best inventions ever.

Eleanor Q. said...

I agree with the lady, right on!

I nursed Fussbot on many flights and ALWAYS flashed the people next to me as well as leaked all over my shirt. In the begining I was embarassed but after awhile I said screw it, I'm feeding my child, this is what it takes.

Swistle said...

OMG. Flashback to using a pump in the bathroom of a hotel room I was sharing with my Family of Origin (mom, dad, brother) and of course it was making these LOUD PUMPING SOUNDS. Ack.

belinda said...

Oh, you are just too awesome. I have nothing but respect and awe for moms doing ANYthing child related in public. Damn people need to just leave you all alone until they have to carry a person inside of their body and push it out of an orafice that is 10x too small, and then tote it around everywhere when it may (1) cry/scream or (2) barf at the drop of a pin. @Marianne, I might have just whipped off my coat and shouted, "no I'm pumping breastmilk, SEE???"

And while I am very pleased that you got through security without issue, I don't know what to think about the fact that they did nothing and a couple of years ago at O'Hare I end up getting wanded because I forgot about a bottle of sunscreen that was >3oz.

Erin said...

Great news! I have pumped in many, varied strange places, including a number of airports. I even went through customs on the way home from Puerto Rico (when Brett was working there while Cal was a baby... I flew down there with Cal when he was four months old), and NOT ONE QUESTION. It was a relief.

TOOTHPASTE or DEODERANT, on the other hand...

You look gorgeous at the wedding!

Ice Machine Pump said...

really a great news for you. I appreciate with you.

grammalouie said...

I am inspired to write because your wonderful story reminds me of my trip to a wedding nearly forty years ago during which I pumped my milk using an Ortho hand pump that, trust me, did not work well. Your brother, age 8 months, was in the care of Granny and did better than I did, I think. Because the pump was so ineffective, my breasts were always full and sore, as in painful. I suspect there isn't a nursing mother in the world,no matter the age, who does not have stories to tell. I love the victory in your story. Here's to the power of mothers everywhere!

Whimsy said...

That is so awesome. The trip! The pumping! The airport! The flashing! The right on! Love it.

I totally flashed a dude when I was nursing Bean on a flight home from Philadelphia when Bean was just six weeks old. She was upset and screaming, and even though I did have some pumped milk to give her, she didn't want it. So there you go. It had to be done, didn't matter that I was sitting in the middle seat with a stranger to my right. I wore the nursing cover thing, but being pretty short, anyone who is taller in stature and sits next to me can get a nice little view of what's going on there underneath the cover. Chip says the guy's eyes were GLUED to the window so that he didn't have to get any glimpses. Ha!

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