Kate Torgersen, Founder & CEO of Milk Stork
As we embark on a new post-pandemic reality, business travel is rebounding quickly, which means pumping moms will once again be taking flight. Of course, COVID has left an indelible mark on how business travelers will navigate their itineraries - this is especially true for jet-setting, pumping moms.
Here’s your need-to-know guide for supporting new parents during their travels.
#1. Start Supporting Moms Before They Take Flight
First, Let It Be a Choice
Recognizing that children under the age of 12 are still unvaccinated, many parents may be reluctant to travel until they know their children are safe. Let them take the lead on when, and if, they are ready to travel.
Additionally, for women who gave birth during the pandemic, it is possible that their breastfeeding experience has not yet included pumping. With that in mind, they may need some time to get accustomed to a pumping routine. Providing virtual lactation support, such as Pacify, to employees can help smooth the transition from breastfeeding at home to pumping at work.
Make Sure Your Company’s Hotel Options Offer Practical Amenities
For pumping moms who are ready to travel, they need -- at a bare minimum -- a hotel room that has a non-bathroom sink and a fridge with empty space for storage (i.e. not just a minibar). Even better is a hotel that includes a kitchenette with both a refrigerator and freezer for guest use. With travel reemerging, hotels are competing for guests and providing just-like-home amenities.
Element Hotels are geared towards female business travelers. Featuring 78 locations across North America, Element Hotels feature amenities such as a full kitchenette, healthy food options, and commuter bikes for getting around town.
Other hotels that offer kitchenettes include:
Marriott Executive Apartments
Extended Stay Hotels
For Travel to a Company-Sponsored Event
For business travel to company-sponsored activities and events, such as annual meetings, sales conferences, or offsites, it is important to ensure that breastfeeding employees have adequate time and facilities to express breast milk. Here’s what they will need for successful pumping:
An agenda with adequate break time - at least 20 minutes every 3 hours
A private, comfortable location with a locking door and electrical outlets
Access to refrigeration
Access to a kitchen sink, where they can clean and sterilize their pump parts.
We recommend proactively communicating this information to all attendees so pumping parents don’t have to ask around for support. This also has the added benefit of normalizing pumping and creating an inclusive culture.
#2. Understand the Rules and Realities of Traveling with Pumped Breast Milk
Airport Security Is Still A Scary Place for Pumping Moms
Despite legislation to improve the screening process for pumped breast milk, airport security remains an unpredictable, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating experience for breastfeeding women. Now, in the wake of the pandemic, women face an added concern of having their breast milk opened, exposed, and handled by airport security.
For moms flying with breast milk domestically, we highly recommend printing out TSA’s policy for traveling with children including the section on “Screening Formula, Breast Milk, and Juice”. For international flights, every country has its own policies and regulations to look into. Having these policies in hand helps moms advocate for their rights.
What is Allowed When It Comes to Carrying-On Breast Milk?
Breast milk, formula, and juice are allowed in carry-on bags within reasonable quantities. Additionally, “ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on.” However, it is important to note that these items may be subject to additional screenings — especially if ice or gel packs are slushy.
What is Allowed During the Screening Process?
When traveling with breast milk, it’s always a good idea to arrive early and allow some extra time for (what will inevitably be) a lengthier inspection process. At the inspection point, moms should let the TSA agent know that they are traveling with breast milk (and/or formula or juice) and remove the liquids from their bags so they can be screened separately.
From there, they will likely be instructed to put the milk through the X-ray, which according to the FDA, is safe and has no known adverse effects. At their discretion, TSA agents are also permitted to open breast milk containers for an explosives inspection (this is more likely to happen when traveling with thawed or liquid breast milk). It is within the passenger’s rights to opt-out of the X-ray and/or an open container inspection, but she will be subject to additional screening procedures which may include a pat-down and a thorough inspection of all of her belongings.
When crossing international borders with breast milk, moms will need to check each country’s policies and regulations for carrying on breast milk — they are all different! For international travel, sometimes the easiest solution is to “check” breast milk as luggage (note: it will be X-rayed).
#3. Consider Milk Stork to Help Moms Bypass TSA & Ship Their Milk Home
Whether they are traveling domestically or internationally, and whether they need to ship frozen or refrigerated milk, a day’s supply, or an entire stash, Milk Stork helps moms overcome the hassles of traveling with breast milk and enables them to safely and easily ship breast milk home. With New Moms’ Healthy Returns, you can add breast milk shipping services to your employee benefits, along with other important breastfeeding support.
Pumping in the Airport and On-the-Go Thanks to the FAM Act (Friendly Airports for Mothers), all large and medium hub airports are required to provide a private, non-bathroom lactation space in each terminal building. These areas may be “nursing mother rooms” or one of Mamava’s amazing pumping pods. Mamava pods are free to use and widely available for moms when they are out and about during their trip. From conference centers and event venues to office spaces, the Mamava app can direct moms to thousands of pumping pods and lactation rooms.
Unfortunately, in smaller airports, pumping moms may still be relegated to the bathroom. However, the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Improvement Act will require all small hub airports to provide non-bathroom lactation spaces as well in the coming years. This legislation was signed into law in 2020 and the requirements go into effect in 2023.
As the pandemic recedes and business activity - including work-related travel - begins to resume in earnest, it is more important than ever to ensure your new parent employees have what they need to feel supported in achieving their breastfeeding goals. Offering milk shipping and other lactation benefits is a great step toward welcoming these employees back and showing them you understand and support their family needs and priorities.
To learn more about the comprehensive New Moms’ Healthy Returns program -- which can include breast milk shipping from Milk Stork -- visit NewMomsHealthyReturns.com/contact and get in touch with an employer expert today!