As a work-from-home breastfeeding mom whose job requires frequent travel, Heather Bahorich has developed a suite of on-the-road strategies--from navigating TSA lines to keeping milk cold in hotel refrigerators.
Heather works in talent management for a national consulting company, which means every couple of weeks she hops on a plane to meet up with her team—all of whom work remotely. But finding a private place to pump in airports is not easy. “I have seen a few Mother's Rooms that were almost like a spa,” Heather says. “But too many airports still don't support nursing mothers who have to travel for work.” She’s pumped in the corner of a restaurant (hoping not to bump into coworkers traveling to the same destination). Once she even joined a group of other women pumping on the floor at LaGuardia Airport. But she always makes it work. Here’s how.
Control what you can.
Heather deliberately books flights with long layovers so she has enough time to find a designated lactation space and pump between flights. And, whenever possible, she picks airports with the best space. One of the airports she finds herself in the most, St. Louis Lambert International Airport, doesn’t have any lactation accommodations. So when she can, she arranges to fly out of Columbus, Ohio, because there’s a Mother’s Room right past security.
Track your milk stash.
Traveling can take a toll on a mom’s milk supply, but Heather finds that she’s actually better about maintaining a pumping schedule when she’s away from home. But it also means that Heather needs to maintain—and keep close track of—her milk stash. At night while she nurses her daughter, she uses a silicone pump on the other breast to collect milk to freeze. Before leaving for a trip, she transfers a bunch of milk bags from the deep freezer in the basement to the kitchen freezer for her husband to use in bottles. Her husband keeps a tally of the bags he goes through on a card posted on front of the fridge. When Heather gets home, she can quickly see how much milk she needs to pump to replenish her stash. “I never want to be in the negative,” she says.
Prioritize pumping essentials when you pack.
Heather never leaves home without a nursing cover and her Young Living Essential Oils products: Thieves Wipes, Thieves Spray, and Thieves Waterless Hand Sanitizer, to keep things clean—and smelling great! (Check out Heather’s referral link). Because you just never know where you’ll have to pump. And while pro-travelers like Heather generally suggest limiting what you pack, Heather doesn’t skimp when it comes to milk storage bags and recommends packing more than you think you’ll need. “I store and freeze my milk in 3 ounce increments, so I go through these suckers fast.” Luckily, they’re easy to pack and don’t take up a lot of space.
Streamline your day.
Heather’s team meets in hotels around the county, so she’s developed a few strategies to simplify. First, she relies on a comfortable, pump-friendly uniform: a nursing tank and high waisted-leggings. She prioritizes her pumping sessions, no matter what. “When I’m in a meeting, I have no shame walking out of a meeting to go pump,” she says. Finally, Heather requests a late check-out to extend the use of her room. And when her hotel fridge doesn’t have an adequate freezer for her ice packs, she asks the front desk to help out and freeze them for her.
Stay calm and carry on your breast milk like a pro.
Airport TSA agents aren’t always consistent when it comes to the guidelines for traveling with breast milk. Be sure to know your rights and stay calm. “Don’t let them throw away your milk, and always ask for a supervisor if you disagree,” says Heather. “It’s honestly not as scary as all of that sounds, but as long as you are nice and polite, they will be too."
Educate everyone. Even your parents.
Heather’s on a mission to educate people about what breastfeeding entails. “I’ve had to raise a lot of awareness about breastfeeding in my own family,” she says. “My parents grew up thinking formula was the best and a lot of bosses today are of that same generation. So it’s about educating everybody—the people in our companies, the people I sit next to in church—that just because I’m a mother doesn’t mean I need to leave the room every time my baby needs to eat. You have to educate.” Heather sparks conversations about the support working breastfeeding moms need in person and on social media. “I want to use my breastfeeding journey to show all mothers that it’s possible to do a job you love while breastfeeding, no matter the obstacle or challenge. And I want to show my children that being a mother does not have to define your career choices. They can run parallel.”