Saturday, May 24, 2008

International Travel Part 2

As promised here is my second post about international travel and breast feeding (see Part 1).

This time I went a lot further - to Australia. That's basically a 24 hour trip from where I live, meaning I had to pump enroute. I planned to use the airport facilities during a connection at SFO, but it ended up being a rush to make the connection so instead I pumped in an airplane toilet.... On the way back I was able to use the facilities at SFO. They have a nursery which is available to pumping mothers so I used that. There were two wierd things about it though - the first was the big sign saying it was only for use by parents with children (leading to some odd looks from the family coming out as I went in), the other was that the door wasn't completely opaque (glass window with opaque strips). Anyway I put my back to the door and sat in a comfy chair in a room which wasn't a bathroom to pump. Not too bad! Thanks SFO.

One thing I didn't find out last time is that Medela does not recommend using power converters for international travel (something about putting two transformers in serial? I should know this having a Physics degree!) so what I did in the UK was technically wrong. Instead you should either buy a new Medela plug for the appropriate country, or use the battery pack. The positive things about this - you can pump anywhere (eg an airplane toilet) as you don't need an electrical supply. The negative - well it uses a lot of batteries. Although for my week away, pumping twice a day, I used only 1 set of 10 AA batteries, so not so bad.

Anyway I pumped enroute - leading to one big question.... Could I bring this milk in Australia? They have fairly strict customs rules, and I could not find any reference to breast milk except if your baby was with you. In the end it turned out to be fine. I declared it and had a funny moment with a customs officer who asked where it came from... me..?! What he meant was where did I pump it.., although I can't see why that matters. As in the UK, there was much confusion at this point as to why I would have breast milk but no baby - I don't understand why this is such a difficult concept...

The other question of course is if for the return can I go through airport security with breast milk in Australia? Turns out they have two kinds of security. For domestic travel all liquids are allowed, and in fact boarding at the small regional airport there was no security at all! For international travel they have similar liquid rules as the US, except that (like the UK) the exception for breast milk only applies if you are traveling with your baby... Lucky for me I saw some friends with a baby early on in my trip so I left them 2 days worth of milk, and the milk from the remaining 4 days was little enough to meet the regulations. So no problem....

Sadly all this travel is dwindling my milk supply. I pumped about half as much each time on this trip as I did in the UK. Of course the fact that I was working 12+ hours a day (night?), had to pump twice while observing in the control room with no privacy (at 3am I didn't expect any visitors, but that would be just my luck!), and the huge time difference/sleep deprivation probably didn't help. I'm home now for a while which is great.

(Little One's contribution to this blog - apart from making it take about 3 hours to write: "```````````", got to go - we're having one of "those" mornings.)


ScienceMama said...

Wow, it sounds like quite a hectic schedule. I'm going to a conference later this month and I'm nervous about whether the trip will sap my dwindling milk supply as well... I'm enjoying nursing after 1 year, and I want to keep it going.

Astronomum said...

Me too - I'm not ready to give up - at 15 months I'm still going strong breastfeeding morning and night, but I don't think little one is getting much. I managed a week away (the Australia), 2 days home, then 3 days away again without totally having to stop though, so I'm sure you can make it. Just remember to pump regularly.