My youngest son will be 10.5 months old on Tuesday. His first year is going by far faster than my older son’s did. This is probably mostly in part to the fact that I am now responsible for two lives instead of one and do not get the luxury of basking in his every second. I am currently sitting at the Philadelphia airport on an almost 3 hour lay over and am reminiscing about this same trip I made once before. The only difference was that I was pregnant with that second baby and soon he will be a year old.
My oldest son was 14 months when he finally stopped nursing and we came to the end of my massive stores of frozen milk. He was not a good nurser in the sense that he had a bit of a reflux problem so would only nurse from one side at a time and then spit most of it back up and then need to try again about an hour later. I spent a large amount of my time feeding him. Because he was born prior to my husband and I getting married, we left him with my in-laws for a week when he was 4.5 months old and went off to seal the deal. I knew that this was going to happen, so I started pumping and storing milk from the moment he was born. I was terrified (as a first time mom and first time breastfeeder) that my milk supply would give out while I was gone. So, at the advisement of my midwife and lactation consultant I took the herbal supplement fenugreek for a few weeks before the trip and throughout the entire trip. I reeked of pancakes, but my husband didn’t mind. He got his first two teeth the day we left and while we were driving to New York City. When we returned he latched right back on, happy to be returned to his safe, warm, natural nursing spot.
Because of that successful experience, I was not worried about traveling while nursing this time.
On my first adventure in pumping I traveled for a conference, just over night, to New Orleans when my oldest was 2.5 months old. I lugged my “carry-on” that was mostly consumed with a breast pump and cooler both there and back and nervously pumped on schedule every 3 hours, storing my liquid gold in the mini fridge I rented from the Hilton. When I was at the airport, I hid in a bathroom stall and quietly filled bottles using a hand pump. When we drove from North Carolina to Maine and back in a week for our wedding trip we also lugged a full size 5-day cooler in the back seat of my Honda Civic Hybrid. It was loaded with dry ice to help freeze the milk as I pumped it. I would ride in the front seat of the car as my then fiance drove down the interstate with the sound of the pump chugging us along. I had purchased a car adapter for it and every three hours we’d change seats and the milk factory would open for business. My husband joked a lot because the fenugreek had me producing up to 16oz at each pumping session. I looked fantastically busty in my wedding photos. It was wonderful.
I’ve had to pump in strange places as well as feed my children in weird places. Over this past Christmas holiday we drove to Iowa to visit my family. DROVE…..like in a car….with an almost 3 year old and a 6.5 month old. It took us 23 hours to get to my mom’s house from our house, including stops and sleeping in the car for a short while at a rest stop during a freezing rain/snow storm that I didn’t feel comfortable driving through at 2am. I have perfected my in the car seat feeding technique. I now know how to balance just perfectly in the back seat of a Honda Pilot and still adequately change sides as my little boy has his meal still fully strapped in.
Of all the crazy places and ways that I have encountered with breastfeeding and pumping, the one thing I’ve never become comfortable with is performing the act in public. I think this has a little to do with the fact that neither of my kids would ever leave a cover on, so I’d have to do it bare breast for all to see. And part of it is because I really enjoy that that is a special, private, bonding moment for my child and I. I treasure those moments and the sweet look on their faces when they meet me eye to eye with a smile and some milk dripping out of the side of their mouth.
When I travel this way the pump and cooler take up a lot of space in my carry-on and it’s not practical for me to check it as I need to have access to it on these long lay-overs. However, it gets awkward asking for a private space to pump in during a workshop. It is a little odd to have the pump and cooler sitting up front with me as I present. It’s a unique situation to explain to the TSA people why I have three carrying items coming through security and one of them being a cooler full of liquid. And it’s frustrating when I am forced to check my bag with the pump inside through to my final destination with no resolve for how I am supposed to pump for the next 7 hours. So, here I am in Philly with a cooler full of pumped milk and slowly filling breasts waiting to go home and take care of my kids again. I’ve missed them. And I’m sure we’ll make pancakes in the morning because Mama smells like them already.
A special THANK YOU to the very understanding mom at Logan Airport in Boston who didn’t bite my head off for commandeering the family/assisted care bathroom for 20 minutes before my flight so I could pump. As I was packing up my stuff I had a knock at the door and felt really bad when I opened it to find a mom with her young son who was in a wheel chair waiting on me. I apologized and explained what I, a single healthy female, was doing in the bathroom. She looked annoyed before my apology, but afterward gave me praises and understanding as she had nursed all of her children for at least 2 years each.
This is where I leave this post tonight. A little laugh for the times that I had funny moments while breastfeeding like when my children, furniture, and everything in sight were sprayed by my powerful let down.
A little joy for the ability to provide my children with this great start in life. A little acceptance that airline policies are airline policies and sometimes I will just have to suffer from some rock hard melons while I travel. And a lot of grace and appreciation for moms everywhere.
Thank you too if you read this. I would love to hear your weirdest moment in breastfeeding. Namaste.