February 26, 2020

BLOG: Pumping in Cambodia

Per Rup temple at sunset

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!

The goods:

  • Polar bear soft sided cooler 24 pack – I was able to check about 130 ounces of frozen breastmilk with 8 freezer packs
  • Travel cooler – I like this small REI one.
  • Cooler shock freezer packs – I brought 2 packs of 4 medium sized. Note: do not buy the ones you have to add water and iron the edges! This was a pain in the butt!
  • Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump wipes – if the water was safe to drink I would’ve brought my own bottle soap (I like this one by Attitude with a 1 EWG rating—I use it for all my dishes at home)
  • Spectra S2 (which I attached a portable battery pack with Velcro to make portable. If you do this, don’t forget this piece)
  • an extra set of every pump accessory (I never had to use these, but most pumps won’t work w/o each piece, so pretty crucial to have a back-up in my opinion
  • Lansinoh hand pump – this saved me in the beginning. I was getting engorged and the milk just wasn’t flowing with the Spectra at first
  • Elvie pump– I used this pump when I wanted to be up and about doing things and still needed to pump. The suction is slightly less than the Spectra, but the freedom of movement makes it so worthwhile to have. Who wants to be tied to a machine for 20-30 minutes, 4 times a day?
  • A good pumping bra
  • Travel bottle brush and drying rack – bottle brush made it easier to manuever the wipes into the little accessory crevices
  • Plastic Milk bags – I want to find a more eco-friendly way to do this conveniently
  • Ziplock bags – for ice, for storing milk bags in hotel freezer – I want to do Silicone bags next time
  • Recording of baby crying- this was very effective for me to get my milk flowing)
  • Something that smells like her (not sure how effective this was)
  • Sharpie
  • Small thermometer
  • Pumping bag – to keep everything together, none of the airlines gave me any trouble for bringing an extra carry-on for my pumping equipment

Just pumping in a tuk-tuk–no big.

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).

How it looked upon my arrival home — It didn’t look pretty but it got the job done!

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.

Things that helped me enjoy my time away:

  • Seeing her happy –  Facetime, videos, pics are all is great for this. I’m sure it would’ve been much harder if she was sick or missing me more.
  • Baby Tracker – my mom and husband kept track of her sleep and feedings on this app, so I could wake up and see that she had slept and ate well and that was comforting
  • Nest Cam – similarly, if she was sleeping while I was awake I could take a peek at her in her crib sleeping and see if she had slept through the night with their sound and motion log.
  • Freedom! – haha, I love my baby and I definitely missed her but it was also nice to have extended time to myself for the first time in since before she was born.

I love the ease of pumping while feeding her with the Elvie — no tubes or bottles she can grab!

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.