By Pam Moore of Whatevs….
When choosing whether to bring your breast pump or your baby on your next trip, please consider this comprehensive meta-analysis outlining the merits and pitfalls of each option. It is based on my personal experience and all that I can remember about it, which is limited due to reasons including, but not limited to: mom brain, milk brain, and brain probably being right next to keys, wherever they are. Also, it is a scientific fact that eyewitness accounts are almost always false.
Your carry-on is a diaper bag filled with squeeze pouches, teething toys, washable books, baby wipes, diapers, and spare clothes. Your wallet and Kindle make it in by the skin of their teeth. Your Kindle is more likely to be puked on than read, but hope is essential as you embark on your journey. Do you know how many wannabe Pilgrims died on their way across the Atlantic before they made it to America? A lot. Do you think they were all like, “Probably we’ll die of scurvy or our ship will sink, but we should go for it!”? No, they were not. Hope is what built this great nation, and it’s the reason your e-reader makes into the diaper bag.
Your carry-on is the largest, most fashionable bag you own, and it is stuffed with your water bottle, a PBJ sandwich, carrot sticks, and trail mix, because no hunger burns hotter than the hunger of a nursing mom. It also holds bottles, breastmilk-specific ziplock bags, a soft-sided cooler, all the pump parts, and the battery adapter. Don’t forget your nursing cover (it’s like a super hero cape, worn backwards) and your pumping bra. For the uninitiated, the latter fashion crime is a strapless number that zips up the front and has holes for your nipples. It could be totally sexy in a 50 Shades way if only it were black leather instead of white cotton, ringed with yellowing milk stains. You’re lucky if you can fit your Kindle in along with all of your accoutrements, but without a baby on your lap, you are at least guaranteed a chance to read it.
When you nurse your baby, she’s happy. No matter how much the people around you hate the fact that you are using your breasts to (gasp!) feed a baby, they hate the sound of a crying baby even more. If anyone so much as gives you a crooked glance when you whip out your boob, tell them it’s that or a chloroform-soaked pacifier. Don’t worry, the Child Protective Services can come after you for saying that, but the airport only has the TSA.
When you turn on your breast pump, it’s all, “Wee-WAH!” at the top of its lungs. Unless it’s mantra for the day is “Do IT. Do IT. Do IT.” or “COME on COME on COME on.” I swear my pump speaks to me. Connecting clear plastic, medical grade tubing to a talking, battery operated black box that turns your nipples into party wieners with the press of a button shouldn’t be awkward at all, whether you do it at the gate before takeoff, in flight, or in the relative privacy of a public restroom (because that is not gross at all).
If you are a plebian like myself, you fly economy class, where personal space is limited. Babies don’t help. I have asked a stranger to hold my baby many times in flight. If you’ve ever attempted to access anything stored in the carry-on stowed beneath the seat in front of you while a human being sits in your lap, then you know why I do not hesitate to ask any random seatmate to hold my baby. Except the time my seatmate had a phobia about flying. My baby and I might have accidentally brushed her arm a couple times, but that was it. I’ve heard it’s not soothing when someone hands you a baby mid-panic attack.
Your pump requires more parts and set-up than a piece of Ikea furniture, which must be contained on a tray table no bigger than a lumberjack’s thumbnail. If you’re seated next to a businessman, he’ll be clueless initially, but once he catches on, he will keep his eyes glued to his laptop. Ideally, you’re next to a Millenial who is too pissed it’s taking so long to upload her selfies to Instagram to even notice you’re there, let alone attached to a talking milk extraction device. Since there’s nothing remotely cute or socially acceptable about involving strangers in your pumping endeavors, you can’t ask your seatmate to hold your milk-soaked breast shields for just a sec. You can only pray there’s no turbulence as you pour your liquid gold from your bottles to the Ziploc storage baggie. When you’re done, you can stow your pump under the seat in front of you. Instead of your hands and lap being hijacked by your baby, you can read your Kindle, drink a cup of coffee, or maybe — luxury of all luxuries — both at once.
The pump has emerged as a clear winner, ahead of the baby as a travel companion in two of three categories. “But that’s not fair!” you say. “The pump has the added complexity of requiring you to find childcare for the baby that you didn’t bring! And what about all the milk you have to pump in advance so the baby won’t starve in your absence? You didn’t even mention that!”
Don’t worry about all that, ladies. This is science, and we ran out of funding to test that hypothesis.
About the Author
Pam Moore is a writer, occupational therapist, mother, and runner. Her writing has also been featured in Colorado Runner Magazine, as well as websites including Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode, In The Powder Room, and BonBon Break. She blogs about parenting, fitness, and life in Boulder, CO with her two daughters, husband, and backyard chickens at Whatevs…. She dreams of completing everything on her to do list and qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.