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Monday, May 4, 2009

Traveling Tales of a Nursing Mother

Before leaving for Paris I researched all I could about pumping milk and being able to bring it home with me. While I still felt guilty leaving Kye, I felt okay about it at the same time because I knew I'd still be giving him nourishment while I was away by being able to bring home all the milk I pumped for him to drink sometime in the future. TSA allows you to carry on more than 3 oz of breast milk so I planned on pumping all I could, storing it in our fridge in our room, then bringing it home in a cooler. I had three coolers ready to go with several freezer packs for each of them. The rule with breast milk is that it is good for 5-7 days in the fridge and 24 hours in a cooler with ice packs. I figured I'd keep it all in the fridge during the trip, then the trip home it'd be in the coolers, then freeze it asap when we got back (it's good for up to 6 months in a deep freezer).

Before the trip I mapped out our flight schedule and worked out how often I'd need to pump while traveling to Paris and home from Paris. I planned to pump seven times a day because, in order to keep up your milk supply, you HAVE to pump as often as he eats! My original plan was to pump WHILE he was eating, but I ended up just working out a way to get in the 7 pump sessions!


As we were about to leave for the airport I pumped so I could leave that milk at home. Well when I got out my pump it has an error message on it saying I needed to charge the battery for 24 hours! I read the manual and it said that this message blinking meant if I didn't let the battery charge for the full 24 hours that it would only last for ONE 20 min pump session! I had to pump THREE times (which takes at least 10 min per session) before we got to Paris! I was very worried that I'd have to use my manual pumps, which are a pain. So right when we got to the Valdosta Airport I plugged up the pump and did it again when we got to the Atlanta airport!

It was funny to see people walk by and look at this strange contraption plugged in the wall!
My first pump session was to take place in the bathroom of the Atlanta airport during our lay over there. As one of our carry on bags we packed an old book bag with all my pumping supplies: the pump, the stuff to attach from the pump to my breasts, the bra I always wear when pumping, rags to clean up any leaked milk, bags to store it in, and a little notebook to keep track of when I pumped. Zach waited at our terminal and I grabbed the book bag and got set up in the bathroom. I got super angry when I realized Zach hadn't packed the cooler in the book bag! The cooler was ready to go with freezer packs to keep the milk good on the way there and I loaded it with all the bottles I needed to attach to my pump in order to catch all the milk as it came out. I got re-dressed and re-packed the book bag and headed back to where Zach was sitting.

I opened up our big carry on to get out the cooler and BAM..it hit me. We had stuck the cooler in the freezer at the house to keep it extra cold until we left and it was still there. I immediately started crying. And I don't just cry, I sob (Zach says I cry like Ron Burgundy on Anchorman when he sees Baxter die). Zach said I was embarrassing! I thought quickly though and called Mom then Mrs. Charlotte. I told Mrs. Charlotte to go by my house and get the cooler then have it overnighted to our hotel. Until then, I was just going to have to pump and dump.

I made my way back to the bathroom in tears. Without the bottles, I had no way to catch the milk as I pumped it out of me. Without the cooler, I had no way to save the milk even if I could somehow keep it. I was forced to position myself over the toilet and literally watch my milk go down it. I was BAWLING the whole time. Like BAWLING. I cried to Mom, to Mrs. Charlotte, and even to Ashley who texted me to tell me to have a good trip so I called her and cried to her too! It was devastating to me to have to do that. I know it seems silly but it made all my guilt about leaving my baby come to the surface since I literally wasn't doing anything for him! If I couldn't keep the milk, wasn't I a bad mother for leaving him? I cried so hard that someone knocked on my door and asked if I needed help. I told them I didn't know how they could help me and she said, "I can get you a doctor." It's pretty funny now but was horrible then!

Here's the bathroom that I'll never forget....
Zach called me and told me the plane was about to bored so I finished up and headed back. I didn't even pause to look in the mirror. When I saw him his jaw dropped and he was like, "you look horrible." Zach has never said that to me before so it must have been pretty rough!!! He said I needed to go fix up b/c I looked awful! haha! While waiting on me to come out he did come up with a temporary solution until the cooler would reach us. He got some Coke Cups that I could hold and pump into then I could transfer the milk to the storage bags I brought and we could get the airline people to hook us up with some ice to keep it in until we could put it in the fridge at the hotel. A pain...but a good plan.

When we got on the plane Mrs. Charlotte called from the UPS store and said it would cost $175 to ship the cooler AND it wouldn't get there until Wednesday (we would leave early Thur morning). We told her not to worry about it and that we would have to find freezer packs and a cooler while in Paris.

I was blessed with SUCH sweet flight attendants, most of whom had experienced traveling and having to pump, so they all helped me out. They gave me a bucket with tons of ice (and refilled it with fresh for me every 3 hours) and put my bags into another plastic bag to protect it from the water AND gave me a TON of the delta plastic cups to use instead of the big paper ones Zach had gotten.Here's me pumping in the airplane bathroom
Of course when I had to pump it was AWFUL turbulence! I had to have both hands on the cups so I was rocking back and forth and shaking with the plane...not fun...especially since I get easily motion sickness! I also got lucky that the bathroom had a plug in it so I was able to keep the pump plugged in so it wouldn't die on me...

Here's the pumped plugged up and the warning telling me to go back to my seat!
The small bathroom I called home for 2 pump sessions, each lasting around 30 min (turns out it takes a LOT longer to pump when you are away from your baby!)
Once arriving in Paris I again was blessed...the people who worked at our hotel were SO accommodating! They offered to keep my milk in the hotel fridge for me! Once we got checked in I checked out the minibar fridge and realized I could just store my milk in there because it was plenty cold. I did unload the one cooler I had with the few freezer packs it had left in it (not big enough for all the milk I'd be pumping and not enough packs to keep it cold) and had them keep the cooler in their fridge and the freezer packs in their freezer.

I spy some breast milk! I wonder how much they would charge for that from the mini bar?
Once we got settled in the room we made a plan of action for how to handle the pumping situation. Zach would just carry the book bag with us where ever we went and when it was time to pump we'd find a bathroom and I'd do my duty!

My first place to pump in "public" was the public toilet next to Notre Dame...a lot of public toilets charge you to use them, but this one was free. How nice...really they should have been paying US to use it! So nasty!!!
I realized once I got in there that the toilet paper was the same thing as the paper towels and then I noticed this sign...
Um gross. I had to stand to pump the whole session (was NOT going to sit on that toliet to do it) and I was basically standing over the trashcan filled with used toilet paper. So glad I can't smell! The session took a long time because I was so uncomfortable and it didn't help that the bathroom worker (they have people who work in the bathrooms to manage the lines) kept yelling in French...so I wasn't sure if she was yelling at me to hurry up or to the people in line!!!

After that experience we pretty much decided to try to work things out so I'd be able to pump in the hotel room!

We both had breastfeeding on the brain when we walked around Notre Dame so of course this picture made us laugh! I wonder how women back in the day dealt with such issues?
We spent half the day on Monday finding a cooler. Luckily we found one for only 18 Euros (which is like $22) and had to buy freezer packs for 1.8 Euros each (we got four). An expensive little trip to the store, but still MUCH cheaper than having it all shipped to us!

We worked out the pumping schedule so we could hit up the Lourve without me having to worry about pumping there (of course it turns out they have a pretty nice, free, clean bathroom I could have done it in). I saw this picture and realize after all the baby sucking and pump pumping my boobs probably won't take too long to look like this...especially once I get done with all four kids!
The only other time on the trip that timing wasn't on our side was when we went to the Moulin Rouge because the dinner and show lasted longer than 4 hours and we quickly discovered that 4-4 1/2 hours was as long as I could go between pump sessions. We brought the book bag along and while everyone else was waiting on food and can-can I was in the bathroom. It was really funny coming out with the milk and of course Zach had filled in everyone at our table about the whole situation.

I'm shocked that sooo many people do what I did! Zach and I were on a tour with the Aflac group and I mentioned something about pumping to him (it was pretty much on my brain 24/7) and a lady came over and interrupted us and asked if I was talking about breast milk and that she had been there, done that. Pretty much every table we sat at for dinner during the Aflac functions someone at our table has experienced pumping while on vacation! Of course most of them said they pumped and dumped so they could drink alcohol (I'm sorry but to me that seems soo selfish...you've already dumped your baby with someone so you can go on the trip, shouldn't you at least try to provide them with extra milk for the future?). But it was still nice to have other women who could relate to my experience!

I was so thankful to be able to pump in the room and had a pretty good routine down! I had to wake up every night to pump (so yes, 7 weeks of no sleep all night and then I didn't even get a full nights sleep while on vacation!). The people who did the wake up calls laughed at me every night when I'd call. I'd ask for two wake up calls...one for like 2 in the morning and the other for around 6 in the morning. Seeing that we never got to bed before 11 and never slept later than 7 you can tell I didn't get much sleep AT ALL.

Here's my little pumping corner of the room
I was very nervous when we left. I did one last pump around 5 am (had to be down, ready to go, at 6 am) and had room service come up with my two coolers (that had been kept in the fridge), my bag of freezer packs, and all the milk (I ran out of room in the mini fridge so I ended up filling the cooler with milk and having them keep it).

We decided to just use the one big cooler we bought in Paris and filled with with ALL the milk and ALL the freezer packs. Zach weighed it and it weighed 26 pounds!!! Luckily we brought an extra duffel bag in case we needed it so we had four checked bags for the plane instead of just the three we arrived with. I was SO nervous checking the bag but even though TSA said I could carry the breast milk on the plane I had a bad feeling with the language barrier that it could be an issue and if they didn't let me have it I'd have to DUMP it which would be HORRIBLE.

I know customs checks the inside of the bags so I wrote a note both in the top of the cooler and right inside the luggage that said it contained human breast milk and needed to remain closed tightly in the cooler. We also told the luggage guy about the situation and he marked the bag as fragile for me.

On the plane I had to pump three times (longer flight on the way home) plus again in Atlanta. This time I was already prepared with all my plastic cups (I still had plenty left from the trip) and the ice bucket. I just asked the lady for some ice (not NEARLY as nice as a flight attendant on the way home).

Once we reached Atlanta we actually picked up our luggage and had to re-check it to send to Valdosta. I didn't declare it at all on customs (the flight attendant told me I didn't have to) and once we picked up the luggage I was SO thankful that my big bag was the first one I saw on the carousel! I opened it up right away and could FEEL the cold of the cooler from the outside of it! I felt so relieved! I added my milk from the plane to the milk in the cooler and we re-checked the bag to Valdosta. I had one last pump session before getting home and I pumped in the Atlanta airport bathroom. This time I didn't have any tears to shed as I was overjoyed that I made it home with my milk! Since we'd be home in less than four hours and breast milk is good at room temperature for four hours I just left the milk in the bag and carried it on the plane!

As soon as we got home and got settled Mom and I went through all the milk and re-bagged it. Since I didn't have the little bottles while over there I couldn't measure out exact amounts to store and it's best to store breast milk in 2 to 3 oz quantities when freezing it. It took us almost an hour to re-sort all the bags and get them labeled!
Here is all the milk, safe and sound!
When I first started pumping about 5 weeks before we left for Paris I saved every pump session for Kye to have while we were gone. In 5 weeks time I saved around 250 oz. While we were gone Kye drank under 150 oz. In just FIVE days in Paris I pumped around 280 oz!!!! I MORE than made up for what Kye ate while we were away and doubled the amount I had saved for five weeks! I'm really hoping to be able to have enough milk saved for him (I pump for one session everyday) so when I quit breastfeeding he'll have enough to last him awhile without having to have formula.

I'm SO thankful the luggage had made it but if it had gotten lost breast milk is valued at $2 per Ounce! So we would have banked $560!!!! I'll bet once Zach realizes that he'll probably wish it would have gotten lost haha

This is the BEST souvenir I could have asked for!
While pumping was SUCH a pain while on a trip (having to plan to be back at the hotel every 4 hours cost us time and money) it was all worth it to have so much milk for my baby boy!!! Even though he'll never appreciate all that I did for him I feel good knowing that while I was away I was still providing for him :)

2 comments:

  1. hey imagine all the calories you must have burned!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am laughing so hard...not at you but just imagining you in Paris running around with the breast pump...you are such a dedicated mom!

    ReplyDelete

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