April 25, 2007

Travelling and breastfeeding

I don't classify myself as a frequent traveler but all the same, I've traveled quite a bit throughout these 15 months of exclusively nursing Yiu Yiu. My first trip was to Bangkok for six days. Yiu Yiu was only slightly more than four months then. I learnt from MMB how some moms successfully bring home expressed breast milk (EBM) while traveling and I wanted to do the same. Having trawled through the information in MMB, there were still many practical questions unanswered and I'm grateful that Suzette, the expert "cart home breast milk from overseas mom", gave me lots of tips and encouragement. That first trip to Bangkok, I managed to cart home almost 150oz of EBM.

Since then, I've been to short few days trip to Seoul, Cebu, Singapore, Hong Kong, and various domestic destinations and I'm glad to say that I successfully brought home EBM each time. This contributed to me successfully breastfed Yiu Yiu exclusively for 15 months as these EBM replenished the depleted stocks in my freezer.

This is an account on how I expressed while traveling. Hopefully someone will find this useful and will help them to do the same.

Things I normally bring
• Breast pump and bottle
• Breast milk storage bags (I used cheap ice-cream tube bags instead of those expensive milk storage bags)
• Accessories for labeling (I used marker pen, scissors and sticker labels)
• Sterilizing tablets (I find this easiest to do. Sometimes if the hotel jug kettle is big enough, I'd sterilize by boiling inside the kettle)
• Containers to keep EBM upright in freezer/fridge (I used those transparent plastic bags that hawkers use for take aways. Keep about 6-8 tubes of EBM upright)
• Small cooler box & soft cooler bag (depending on the volume you expect to cart home. From experience, if you plan to bring home frozen EBM, it's best to keep in cooler box as those soft cooler bags are not as well insulated and frozen EBM can thaw)
• Hand carry traveling bag to put in both cooler box and bag (I normally do this to avoid having to carry too many bags)
• Techni Ice sheets (2 large sheets cut into 4 smaller pieces - 2 pieces each for the cooler box and cooler bag)
• Thick towels

What to bring home – frozen or chilled EBM?
My first trip to Bangkok, I brought back frozen EBM and those kept in the soft cooler bag had thawed by the time I reached home. I ended up throwing quite a bit away as Yiu Yiu couldn't consume all those thawed EBM within 2 days (yup...I kept for 2 days instead of the recommended 24 hours). That was a painful experience as each single drop of breast milk is to me, too precious to waste and here I was throwing loads away. Subsequently I brought home only chilled EBM if my trips were 5 days or less. This meant that by the time Yiu Yiu consumed the chilled EBM, it would be about 6-7 days old. The general recommendation is to keep chilled EBM only for 48-72 hours but I've kept chilled EBM for up to a week and Yiu Yiu was fine with them. It really depends on your comfort level. I'd normally just keep the EBM chilled in the hotel room minibar and would get the concierge to freeze the Techni Ice sheets for me. In my trip to Cebu, my Techni Ice sheets were not completely frozen so most of my chilled EBM turned bad after the 12-hour journey home. Another terrible experience, but another learnt so subsequently I made sure I spoke to someone who understood English well to ensure my request was completely understood.

Sterilizing the breast pump while traveling
Most times, I used sterilizing tablet and soak the pump & accessories in the small cooler box.

Transporting the EBM from foreign country back to home
Before checking out, I'd line the cooler box with Techni Ice sheets, followed by a thick cloth towel around the ice sheets, before putting in the chilled EBM. I then cover the EBM with another layer of thick towel and add more ice on top of the towel to fill in the space. The ice can be easily obtained from housekeeping/restaurant.

I carried the cooler box and soft cooler bag as hand luggage. This way, I could remove the ice water and add more ice to the box while flying. But with the additional security measures, some airlines may not allow EBM to be carried on board.

I would normally check in my entire luggage and carried only the traveling bag with EBM, and my laptop backpack on board. Most of my colleagues and customers whom I traveled with frequently knew what's inside my hand luggage. Now that I'm no longer expressing, can't say I missed lugging all those things on my trips!


zara's mama said...

I freeze mine totally.. and use big ice box to cart them back (wrap them in newspaper prior to puting in the box). But then, it was just a Singapore to KL trip, total turn around time was about 4hrs. The milk didn't defrost.

Btw, I can never bring myself to use those ice cream bag to freeze my milk. Prefering to shop around for cheap milk bags (in US, can get about 50 bags for RM35+). Just doesn't give me the comfort level that it's safe enough.

esther said...

wow! you are incredible super mom! with that so much work and stuff to do, i don't think i can do it.

A Mom's Diary said...

Zara's mama, I had no problem with frozen EBM in the cooler box. Those that thawed were kept in the soft cooler bag, which is not as well insulated. As for those ice-cream bag...hehehe...you're looking at one kiam siap mummy here. Anyway, I bought those better quality ones and got the OK from my paed, who's also a lactation consultant.

Esther, I guess you just get used to it after a while and all those become part of what I normally pack for travelling.

chanelwong said...

Bravo to you Wai Leng...give yourself a big big pat

A Mom's Diary said...

Thanks to you Chanel, for introducing me to all those online resources on breastfeeding. That's really a great help.