Friday, September 12, 2014

Traveling without baby: How I pumped & brought my milk home from Korea

I just got back from Korea where I tagged along with hubby on his work-related trip. Like I said in my previous post, my main concern was leaving my 8-month old baby Skyler since he is still exclusively breastfeeding. I definitely had a lot of worries - will the expressed milk I left for him be enough until I get home? Will he drink my expressed milk in the bottle the whole time I was gone? Will my milk supply go down on this trip? Will I be able to bring home my pumped milk? Will he still want to nurse from me when I get back?

I read a lot of articles about traveling without your baby, and I was greatly reassured by other moms that YES it can be done! I was initially thinking of just pumping and dumping my milk, but after more research, I made up my mind to bring home my breastmilk. I was thinking of getting a Fridge-to-Go, but then I asked Jenny of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom and she said that an insulated cooler and frozen ice packs would be enough since Korea is just 4 hours away.

Our entire trip lasted 6 days, so I didn't have to freeze my milk since freshly pumped milk is good for about 7 days in the refrigerator. Of course, I had to double check if our hotel room had a fridge and thankfully they had one.

Before we left, I actually tested how long my ice packs would stay cold inside my cooler. I placed the bag inside our bathroom (so no air-con) and was happy to find the ice packs had thawed but was still slightly frozen after 8 hours. I checked again after 12 hours to be sure and although they had completely melted, it was still cool.

The flight to Korea is only 4 hours, but you have to take into account the total duration from the time you leave the hotel to go to the airport until you get to your house - in our case, about 9 hours.

I use the Medela Swing Pump which is really convenient to carry around inside my bag because of its size. It's an electric pump but can still be battery operated when you're using it outside. I hand carried this with me so that I could pump in the airport and also on the plane.

Other things I brought:
- 2 storage bottles
- breastmilk storage bags (ziplock type)
- rechargeable batteries (Eneloop) for my pump
- nursing cover / shawl
- liquid detergent for cleaning the bottles & pump parts (then I'd sterilize by pouring boiling water using the electric kettle in the room)
- plastic container / tupperware to store the bottles & pump after washing

Since this was a working trip for hubby, we didn't really have the whole day to go around sightseeing and shopping. We would spend about 6-8 hours a day exploring, which was fine with me since that meant I only had to pump once or twice outside. I would pump right before we would leave the hotel, then usually when we'd take a break and eat. I'd just cover myself with a shawl and pump away. I don't think naman it was noticeable e, parang nilalamig lang ako haha! ;p

pumping in Hongdae
pumping while eating in Myeongdong

But there will be times na alanganin talaga and I'd really have to stop wherever, whenever. Even if just for 15 minutes coz I'd feel really uncomfortable with my boobs so full. Parang breastfeeding lang, strike anywhere hehe. So of course I had to make sure to wear clothes that were easy access for pumping too. ;p

in Dongdaemun Park

My limit for taking the pumped milk back to the hotel was 3-4 hours. I didn't have a cooler so if I felt it was out for too long (it was also summer in Korea so it was pretty hot outside), I'd just have to throw the milk away to be on the safe side. I didn't want to risk it din if the milk was spoiled already.

And even though I'd be so tired from walking the whole day and would just love to sleep in, I'd still get up twice at night so I could pump every 3-4 hours. It was more important for me that my milk supply wouldn't decrease on this trip.

Hand-Carry or Check-in?

I had a hard time deciding if I should hand-carry or check-in my milk. Based on forums I read, most moms prefer to hand-carry their milk since they feel it will be hot in the airplane's cargo. And I guess they feel safer having their breastmilk close where they can continuously check on the temperature. Maybe you can even ask for ice from the flight attendants or ask them to place your milk in their chiller (if it fits).

My main concern with hand-carry was that I didn't want to get hassled at the security checkpoint if ever. Although based on this TSA article, you can definitely bring breastmilk on board the aircraft. If you're planning to do so, I guess just print the document and have a doctor's certificate that states you're a breastfeeding mom to be sure.

I talked to my friend who's a flight attendant and although she never had an experience dealing with breastmilk on a flight, she recommended that it would be better in her opinion to check it in. Apparently, it's cold in the plane's cargo which I didn't know about. The hottest it can get is 21°C, which is the temperature when there's pets/animals on board. But if there's none, temperature is 7°C! 

After hearing that, I finally decided to check-in my milk. We asked the hotel a day before our return flight if they could put my ice packs in their freezer, which was no problem. Getting my frozen ice packs from the concierge and packing my milk was the last thing I did right before we left for the airport. I placed the milk storage bags inside big ziplocks as well, just in case any of them burst (none did). We had a hard case luggage and I placed the cooler on the very top of our things. To be on the safe side, we also put a sign on the outside of the luggage that said "THIS SIDE UP".

my liquid gold

Total duration from the time I packed my breastmilk at the hotel in Korea until we arrived at our house was 8.5 hours. And when I got home, I was delighted to find the ice packs still 75% frozen which meant my precious milk had made the trip safe and sound. When I placed everything in the freezer, I was happy to find 3 remaining packs of breastmilk from the stash I had left for Skyler. Super sakto!

Now I was worried Skyler might not want to breastfeed anymore when I got home since he might have gotten used to the bottle. I nursed him immediately, and he seemed hesitant at first since he kept stopping and looking at my face! It was as if he was thinking "Mommy, is that really you?" Awww... Well, I'm so pleased to say that we're back to regular programming folks. He's back to nursing on demand and it's like I never left. :)

I'm glad everything worked out in the end and I was able to bring home the best pasalubong for Skyler. Since we're direct feeding, I don't know if he'll be able to drink all of the milk I brought home. But at least I didn't lose my milk supply and I'm now back with my babies who I missed so much! :)


  1. You are so blessed with gold mik Ms. Helene! I envy you/..

  2. congrats sa wonderful breastfeeding journey!! hehe. You have so much milk! I am still breastfeeding my 1 yr old and 1 month baby but I do not have na that much though good p din!

    1. Thank you! And congrats din for your continued breastfeeding. Cheers! :)



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...