Before my trip, I was trying to research the web for tips for pumping and bringing back my milk and it was quite difficult to find what I was looking for. So, since I was successful with my experiment, I will share what worked for me!
On my trip I pumped every 4 hours, except through the night—generally 4 times a day. I didn’t realize how bad I was at pumping, until it was my only option. I was engorged the first day and not getting much milk and it was taking me 45 minutes to pump! Soon realized I could be more effective and efficient if 1) I paid attention (before I was multitasking and then 20 minutes later I would look down to see little or nothing), 2) audio of a baby crying helped my milk flow, 3) I realized I could go a lot higher on the pump setting than I realized. The hand pump saved me as it was easier for me to get the milk flowing from this engorged state and soon I realized that I milk could be coming a lot faster than it had been (this was my clue to increase the suction power). I even used the hand pump on the tuk-tuk once. By the end I was pumping in 10-25 minutes and getting between 7.5 (morning)—2 on the low end (usually evening). I got about 16-22 ounces a day – while my baby at home consumed between 24-31 ounces each day! What a cruel little trick. At home, I had saved up a little over 200 frozen ounces and she drank all of it over an 7.5 day period. She literally had the last little bit the morning that I arrived.
On my trip, each day I would put the pumped milk in with ice in my travel cooler if I was out and about and then I would store it in the little hotel fridge with the ice because I don’t think it was getting cold enough. Then at the end of the day or whenever I had a little extra time I would take that cooler to the hotel staff who kindly let me store it in their freezer (along with my 8 freezer packs).
When packing the cooler for the trip home, I had to take the frozen milk bags out of the ziplocks and intersperse them through the cooler with the ice packs. I barely fit all 8 ice packs and all 130 ounces of milk. I did pre-cool the cooler by placing ice in it a couple hours before I packed it. I put some orange ductape on the bag and wrote frozen breastmilk on it (I’m not sure if that affected anything). I checked the bag at the counter and told them it was frozen breast milk. I asked if there was anything I could do to help protect it and the JetStar staff weren’t super helpful, but they did place a fragile sticker on it. We had an 8 hr layover in Singapore before catching a United flight to SFO. The milk stayed arrived home completely frozen 29 hours from door-to-door.
To build up my store before my trip I was pumping once in the morning usually after I fed her and once at night between her last feeding and her dream feed. I started pumping about a month and a half before I left, averaging about 3 oz in the morning and 2 at night. I labeled AM and PM along with the date because breastmilk in the evening has some melatonin in it to help signal its time for sleep. Now to prepare for upcoming trips, I only pump once a day (usually in the morning) so I don’t worry about the AM/PM labels anymore. I use the Elvie to pump while she feeds on the other side in the morning or if I wake up before her I will pump before she eats and I easily get over 5 ounces in 10-15 minutes.
WELP! This is what I have learned over the last few months! Please share your experiences, tips, and any feedback in the comments (even if It’s conflicting or that you hate my writing style!). I love knowing if what I’m doing is helpful or if there are ways for me to improve! Thanks for reading.