Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MFO Paris Series: Pumping in Paris

My pumping essentials*, well half of it: ( __ ) Spectra 9 Plus breast pump kit, ( __ ) Honeysuckle milk bags, ( __ ) Sharpie for labeling, ( __ ) Lysol wipes and spray for disinfecting hands and surfaces, and ( __ ) Cradle baby bottle cleanser. Not seen here are ( __ ) disposable breast pads, ( __ ) extra breast pump parts, ( __ ) adapter, ( __ ) nursing cover and ( __ ) paper towels

The Situation

Prior to my Paris trip, the longest I've been away on a trip and having to pump breast milk was 5 days and 4 nights, and only to Singapore.

That didn't require much planning as I had enough milk stored, Xavi was over a year old and was mixed feeding with cow's milk, and travel time took no more than 6 hours from our hotel to the doorstep of our home.

Planning for this 12 day trip was soooo much more difficult. At 10 months old, Tepper is still purely breast fed. I had to start storing milk weeks before my trip, while still exclusively feeding directly.

With the added pressure of having to have lots of milk stored for him, it affected my milk supply. Thankfully, my friend Didi Tang introduced me to her friend Jackie Lim, who agreed to donate milk to supplement my stash. That took a load off my boobs and my sanity. Thanks Didi and Jackie!

Next, travel time from Paris to Manila, including getting to the airport to have enough time to scan our tax refund forms, waiting in the lounge while transiting, and waiting for our luggage practically meant 24 hours of travel time. I did not know if my breast milk would survive.

The Checklist*

What was for certain though was I was resolute in the idea of pumping breast milk while traveling, and I was going to bring it home.

My friend Chris Daez said she has brought home milk from long haul trips abroad, all I needed was a ( __ ) Fridge-to-Go and ( __ ) Techni Ice, and I'd be fine.

Staying at an Airbnb apartment also proved beneficial to my cause. When staying at hotels, I had to get the bell boy to come and get the milk I've pumped, to be kept in the communal freezer.

This time around, I had a dedicated ( __ ) freezer for my breast milk.

I managed to pump anywhere from 18 to 24 ounces a day, less towards the end because Tepper was not around to keep on feeding heehee. I think I went home with about 30 6 oz bags of breastmilk. I can't even remember anymore exactly. I blame it on three epidurals.

While searching on how to pack French butter for bringing home, I read that wrapping it in newspaper keeps it from melting faster. Figured it would be the same for frozen breast milk. I didn't have newspaper though so I just re-purposed two La Grande Epicerie ( __ ) paper bags into a breast milk wrapper. I then slid packs of brown paper wrapped breast milk bags in ( __ ) Ziploc gallon bags.

I didn't have time to buy the Techni Ice that Chris recommended, but I had some ( __ ) Silver Ice from Babymama.ph to take with me to Paris and boy was I glad I brought some along! When I got there, the Monoprix nearest us didn't have any, and I didn't have enough time to look for a store selling  these, so I strongly suggest to bring ice packs for your expressed breast milk.

This Silver Ice packs flat, you'd just have to fill it with water and freeze prior to using it

Tips for Pumping and Packing Breast Milk

1) Pack your breast pump, extra bottles and parts, Ziploc bags and the first half of essentials (see topmost photograph for reference) in your carry on luggage with the insulated bag. I also packed one manual breast pump kit, just as a back up. I was never questioned about my pumping equipment as my luggage went through the baggage scan, even when I had bags of expressed breast milk added through the course of the trip.

2) Estimate how often you will be pumping to ensure you have enough supplies. In my case, I could space my pumping to every 8 hours at the longest, so I only had to pump 3 times while in transit. This meant I had to bring 3 clean bottles so that I use a sterilized one each time I pumped. The used bottles I kept in a Ziploc bag. Pumping for the entire trip amounted to 6 six ounce bags. The expressed breast milk I also kept in a separate Ziploc bag. I also packed disposable breast pads to change with.

3) While on the plane, I asked the flight attendant to keep the expressed breast milk for me in the freezer. She was happy to help me out, and gave me a claim tag so I could ask for the milk back prior to landing.

4) While in the lounge, they didn't keep my milk for me, but they gave me some ice to put in my Ziploc bag. I kept the milk inside the Ziploc bag and only took it out when I handed the bags again to the flight attendant in my connecting flight to Paris.

5) While in Paris, I made sure to pump before leaving the apartment. This allowed me to have enough time to not have to worry about pumping while out. I would resume pumping when we got back to the apartment. The same is the case when we are traveling in Singapore and Hongkong, where I could go back to the hotel to pump. But if you absolutely have to bring your pump with you, make sure to bring a frozen ice pack along to keep your milk cooled.

6) I waited until the last minute to pack my insulated bag with the frozen breast milk in my suit case, just to prolong the time it was frozen. I kept the entire bag in the freezer prior to packing.

7) As much as possible, use a super lightweight suitcase so you don't waste precious kilos. I packed the entire insulated bag in my check-in. Didn't have any trouble with it.

Inside the insulated bag, wedged between the milk bags were ice packs and four bars of Bordier and Echire butter, hahaha. The perks of traveling with what is practically a freezer.

7) Because I made it my priority to bring home about 9 kilos of frozen breast milk and French butter, everything else that took up precious space in my luggage had to go into this balikbayan box. 

My French pharmacy stash, half-empty bottles of toiletries and remaining kitchen paper towels, non-perishable food items, and my used shoes and clothes that I had no immediate use for like jackets, capes, jeans, sweaters, scarves and booties, they all went into a balikbayan box.

I learned of this balikbayan box service by Eliza Travel from my friend Kat Dy, who shared with me this tip years ago. I finally put this information to good use. Heehee. If ever you are in Paris, and need stuff shipped home, contact Liza or Boualem of Eliza Travel at +33-0140506074 or text +33-609182432. We just had to pick up the boxes at their address, on 20 Rue Bois le Vent, 75016 in Paris (Metro: La Muette).

8) Because the frozen breast milk was packed well, it survived the grueling long haul flight. While most of the milk remained rock hard, some had melted a bit. According to my cousin, Dr. Jamie Isip Cumpas, who is an International Board Certified Lactation consultant, as long as the core of the milk bag is still frozen, it is still safe to ingest.

I am happy to report that Tepper drank all of the milk I brought home, he was fine, and there were no issues at all. So yes, pumping while traveling, it can be done!

*I've taken the liberty to put ( __ ) on items you'd have to pack so you can literally tick them off your list

For more tips on pumping while traveling, read THIS and THIS.

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