It was the end of a fun weekend with some of my best friends from college. We met up in New York City and shopped, ate, reminisced, and laughed our way through two nights and three way-too-fast days. The four of us met our freshman year, when we were 18, wild, and pretty much free to do whatever we wanted, but almost 20 years later, with 10 children ages 7 and under now between us, the weekend was a rare chance to to revisit a time when we could have one too many drinks, sleep in, and schedule the rest of the days with nary a school pickup or play date among us. At least three of us could; my other friend is still breastfeeding, and when it comes to getting away, well, breastfeeding moms just can't escape the tiny factory attached to their chests.
She actually met us a day late, unsure about leaving her bottle-averse 9-month-old daughter for longer than one night. By the time she landed, it was already time to pump, and she spent a good chunk of her 24 hours of "free" time scheduling pump breaks and finding appropriate locations. She said goodbye to us early so she had plenty of time to get one last pumping session in before heading to the airport then almost missed her flight, mostly because security decided her breast pump could likely be concealing some sort of weapon. First they wanted to confiscate it, and when she argued, they conceded that she could keep it, as long as she checked her bag. Twenty-four hours later, her luggage still hadn't shown up, forcing her to missing meetings so she could stay home and feed her child or working while suffering from milk-engorged boobs and a hungry baby.
I wish I could say my friend's was an isolated incident of on-the-road pumping misery, but as most breastfeeding moms know, traveling without your baby can actually be harder than traveling with them (and that's saying a lot). I breastfed my two babies for a combined 26 months and took a few short trips away from them during that two-year span. Like my friend, most of my time away was spent thinking about when I needed to pump, finding a place to actually pump, deciding whether I should save or toss my pumped milk, then cleaning my pumping supplies for the next session. Add in two vacations when I landed in different cities and quickly discovered that I had forgotten a key piece of my pump, once packing only one breast shield, making each dreaded pumping session twice as long, another time forgetting the tubing all together. A $30 cab ride to a specialty store and a $37 replacement kit made that milk extra golden. I won't even get into the time I had to buy a hand pump and use it for 24 hours.
Sure, our New York trip, like the majority of trips I took while breastfeeding, were merely for pleasure. My friend and I could have chosen to reschedule them to a time after our babies were weaned. But I so feel for the moms who have to travel constantly for work, leaving their babies behind while taking that same child's main source of food with them. It shouldn't have to be so difficult. My friend shouldn't have to fight a losing battle to keep her breast pump with her on a plane. I shouldn't have had to spend hours in a Mexican hotel room because it was the only place I felt was appropriate to pump while on my vacation. Neither of us should have had to dump precious ounces of breastmilk down the sink because we knew getting it home was going to be a headache and most likely a security issue. After all, who deserves a vacation more than a breastfeeding mom?