Planes, Trains, and Lactation Rooms: Pumping While Traveling

This past Christmas my husband surprised me with a summer getaway to Italy for our 6th anniversary. It would be a “kid-free” vacation and the first time leaving our 9-month-old and the second time leaving our 5-year-old in the care of family members. In addition to the usual worries (and guilt) about leaving my two girls behind for 10 days, I also had the added stress of solving a problem I had never faced: pumping my breast milk overseas.

Nursing in public has become such a controversial domestic issue that I was distressed about how breastfeeding, let alone pumping, would be viewed abroad.  Furthermore, I was not well-versed in traveling with a large supply of breastmilk. Initially, I hoped to be able to store and transport my milk as my husband and I travelled.

My research began shortly after Christmas; I came across articles and YouTube videos about how to transport my milk while I was in Italy. It was so overwhelming that I actually had minor anxiety attacks for a few days. There were forms to be filled out and proper storage that needed approval from both airlines we were going to be flying. Specific coolers needed to be purchased, and I would have to contact our hotels to ensure that there would be a fridge at my disposal. Lastly, and most importantly, I would need access to dry ice. I applaud the super mommies that do this. In fact, Babycenter, a great online source for both new and experienced moms, has an article titled, Breastfeeding and Pumping While Traveling” that gives some great advice on this matter if you’d like to check it out.

Yet, for me, this was too much.

My Pumping Abroad Story

So what did I do? Well, my daughter was nine months old; she was at the age where she was eating finger foods, and for the most part, she really only nursed in the morning and at night. It seemed the ideal time to wean her from breastfeeding. Well, perhaps the convenient time.

However, my body had a plan of it’s own. In the days leading up to our trip my supply nearly doubled. It was as if my body was saying, “Nope. Not yet.”  I had to bring a breast pump with me, and luckily I had the foresight to pack a manual pump, because in the upcoming days I would be pumping in planes, trains, parks, and bathrooms. Nearly all of these did not have access to electricity.


During the nine-and-a-half-hour flight, I pumped twice while my husband held an airline blanket over me. Upon arrival, I pumped on the train to our bed and breakfast. I didn’t have any way to cover up, so my husband had to re-position himself in order to shield me from the view of other passengers. During tours of the Colosseum, Parthenon, and the Sistine Chapel, we had to either cut our tours short or desperately find a private area to pump because I had let-down. If I wasn’t pumping in a small bathroom stall, I was pumping on a park bench in 90 degree weather. I was dumping what breastfeeding moms consider to be “liquid gold” down the drain. I think I shed a tear with each flush I made.

If you are away from home and need to find a good place to pump, consider the following options to help you be comfortable and successful:

Online Nursing Room Locators

Fortunately we live in a day and age where technology is at our fingertips, and we have access to knowledge that appeals to our needs. “Moms Pump Here” is my favorite nursing room locator app, and can be found in the App Store, on their Facebook page, or their website.

I’ve used this app in Iowa City, Des Moines, Minneapolis, and Chicago. It has proven to be astoundingly helpful when I want privacy while nursing or pumping.  I don’t have to play a twisted version of “Where’s Waldo?” in my hunt for a suitable lactation room. The majority of these kinds of apps are free and often include reviews and ratings from other mothers.

If you are planning to travel, try using a nursing room locator app to find a comfortable, accessible place. For those who do not have access to a phone or the internet, there are a few great places in and around Iowa City that provide lactation rooms while you are out and about.

Lactation Rooms near Iowa City:

Coralville Public Library

Coral Ridge Mall – located off the food court on the way to the restrooms.  Has a large family area with a couch, tables, and changing table.  Also has a private (locked) room with a glider chair for more privacy.

Von Maur

HyVee – located by the restrooms and typically include a glider chair, table, television, and toys.

Iowa Children’s museum –  has a family room with couch, sink, microwave and toys.

University of Iowa Campus and Recreation Center

The University of Iowa also has 30+ locations listed at this sight for students and non students.  Many of which have access to a medula pump, sink, and chair.

These locations can be found on their HR page at

These of course are only a few of areas that provide these rooms, but it is always nice to know that acceptance and support is on the rise.

Do you know of any other lactation rooms in the area? Please share!

Mary, a native of Rockford, Illinois, attended DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois where she received her BA in Secondary Art Education. In 2007, she moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa after accepting a position as a high school visual arts teacher with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She and her husband, Collin, who is a teacher in the Iowa City Community School District, reside in Cedar Rapids with their daughters, Zoey and Munroe. Zoey is five and Munroe will be turning one in October 2016. In addition to being a full time mommy, full time teacher, and writer for the mom’s blog, she is also a professional artist who has shown and published works both nationally and internationally. Mary enjoys traveling, painting, and most of all, spending time with her family.



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