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Pumping on the Road Mom to Mom
Mothers’ Letters
Photo: Deidre McBride

Mother’s situation: Pumping on the road

I work three days (sometimes four days) a week as a traveling sales representative and during that time I’m on the road or visiting different stores. I am breastfeeding my five-month-old son and need to pump during the day. I’m having to use my car or public bathrooms to pump my milk. Can other mothers who have had similar challenges suggest ways to best organize how to keep doing this? I really do not want to switch to formula milk but am finding things difficult, particularly with regard to my lack of privacy for pumping, milk storage, and general sanity!


Keli Keely

Keli Keely

I work four or five days per week too, ten-hour shifts. I returned to work after three months following the birth of each of my children. I have three children so I went back to this crazy schedule on three separate occasions. I am a social worker who does the majority of my work out of the office. I had no real pumping schedule since I never really knew where my job would take me throughout the day. I also travel on airplanes at least once a month for work. I became pretty efficient at pumping at airports and getting milk through security.

I had my pump bag loaded with sanitizing wipes to clean my pump parts, lots of bags to store my milk, and pens to write a date and amount on those bags. Don’t ever forget the car charger attachment as that is essential to an on-the-go working/pumping mama! Great preparation allows you to be ready for any pumping situation or location. I always had my nursing cover and a great bra I could hands free pump while wearing. I made sure to have my ice packs in my mini cooler bag so my milk would be fine depending on how long I would be out and about. If I had a long drive ahead of me and I knew I would need to pump, I would hook everything up before I took off and have my pump on the passenger seat so I could easily turn it on and off. I never hooked up or unhooked while driving a car but I frequently pumped to and from appointments. I had it down to an art how to unhook and bag up milk quickly. I found it better to park a little further away if that gave me more privacy.

For this kind of situation it is vital that you have a good bra that keeps the pump tight against your areola so you don’t get sore from the pump. I used a nursing sports bra and they worked great. Obviously this is for a professional pumper, which is what I consider myself now to be! It was the way I was able to continue nursing my children for two+ years each.

With regard to airport traveling, make sure your ice packs are fully frozen as that is more of an issue. Make sure to get a hotel room that has a fridge with a freezer. Always ask if they have a business area or even a pumping room when you have a layover somewhere as a business area has partitions between desks and plugs. Some airports even have special rooms for pumping. Be confident in stating your rights going through security at the airport as how the Transport Security Administration (TSA) handles the situation differs greatly from airport to airport and person to person. I always have a printed copy of the TSA guidelines with me just in case (find them online).

It takes great dedication to be a working/nursing mom. Stay focused on your nursing goal or it’s easy to give up. One day you will even miss the pumping breaks.

Anna D., Stockton, CA, USA



Courtesy Lena Ostroff

Every breastfeeding/working mom can find tips in Work, Pump, Repeat by Jessica Shortall.  There are a lot of great ideas for moms who travel for work in there. Use a solar cover for the windshield and roll up the front windows with towels hanging down to provide a shield. In hotels, tell the staff you need the fridge “for medicine.”

Katie Sparks, MA, USA.


Get a good cordless pump. Mine is great. Another mother at work is also pumping and she has to drag an extension cord with her. I just charge mine once a week.

Janelle Racine, Leominster, Massachusetts, USA


Pump in the car and cover up. For storage, use dry ice and commercial ice packs. Most hotels can rent you a tiny fridge.

Jessi Jaime, San Diego, USA


For storage of milk, you can buy a mini fridge that plugs in to the car charger, and keep your milk cool in it while you are on the go.

I understand the lack of privacy! You can resolve that to some extent by wearing a poncho or scarves and large pullover so you can pump your milk undisturbed. These are just simple tips, but I think it might help you to know that all of us mothers who exclusively breastfed stumbled more or less with our difficulties. Have courage, you’re making a priceless gift to your son with your milk, worth every sacrifice that you make.

Rossella, Genova, Italy


Freemies can help with the privacy issue. The milk collection cups fit inside your nursing bra, and your shirt can be pulled down over them to minimize your exposure. I use them regularly in my office, but I have used them in the car and in public restrooms at various airports around the country, too. If you freeze the milk, you can pour it directly into freezer bags from the Freemies, or into the bottles if you want to use it fresh the next day.

When I have to pump while I’m out and about, I use a thermal cooler to store both expressed milk and pump parts in between sessions, so I don’t have to run to find some place to wash them straightaway. Depending on the size of the thermal, you can also throw some bottled water and snacks in there before you leave for work. That way you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips!

Sharon D. Yeatts, PhD, South Carolina, USA


A cooler like those you take to the beach is useful.

It is tiring to be a working/pumping mother. I refuse to express my milk in public bathrooms. Dressing rooms of big clothing stores sometimes came in useful, especially at times of day when they were not crowded. The car is fine if you have sun blinds that give you decent privacy. Not ideal is it!

Ginevra Hepburn, Italy



Courtesy of Lena Ostroff

I struggled with a similar situation and pumping just wasn’t working for me. I decided eventually to change direction and work from home so I could just breastfeed my baby instead. I was lucky to have that option. Since joining La Leche League I’ve met a few mothers who have rethought their career plans to stay home, too. Nothing is ever easy for mothers, but this is a short time in our lives and I want to make the most of it.

Anita Brannigan, FL, USA

You can add your tips in the comments box below.


Back to Work

Working & Breastfeeding

Mother’s new situation: Do I need to cover up?

I am breastfeeding my baby and, after a challenging start, it’s going really well and I’m so glad I kept going. Sadly, not all my friends and family are on board with my decision. While I feel really proud of my achievement and pleased at how well my baby is growing, as well as at how close it makes us, members of my family (my mother, sister, father-in-law) and one of my friends have made negative remarks. They say I should take a bottle with me instead of breastfeeding when we are in restaurants or even at relatives’ houses. My husband does not want to upset them and talks about how my breastfeeding makes people feel uncomfortable. I am always discreet and feel hurt that they think responding to my baby by meeting his needs could ever be a bad thing. But, I do not want to alienate anybody either. I feel very confused! What have other mothers done when they have met with these sorts of reactions from family and friends?

Please send your responses to Barbara at by February 27th or comment in the box below. Thank you!

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  1. […] in our Mom to Mom letters column working mothers share how they best organized the task of pumping their milk while on the road traveling for work. Another mother asks, “Do I need to cover up?” Please send in your […]

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