27 March 2015

Expressing Breastmilk During Traveling

My daughter was about 7 months old when I traveled to India and Singapore recently for 9 days. It was the first time I left her. The first 3-4 days I was OK and really excited for the journey; it's been a year I didn't travel since Bangkok trip. But after several days, I missed my daughter so badly and I wanted to go home. I tried not to think about her, but it's hard especially when I saw babies around me. One time I had video chat with my husband and my daughter, I couldn't hold my tears T_T

The thought about her made me want to bring home expressed breastmilk as much as I could. This was more valuable than any souvenirs, right? It's not easy, but yeah I could do it!

Items To Bring
  1. Breastpump. I was using electric breastpump from Crown. On the third day of my trip, this breastpump was suddenly not working! I was so panic and pissed off. I'd been using it for months but why oh why this thing must stopped working while I was away from home, in Hyderabad! Where to buy? I'm not even sure if it's common for Hyderabadi women to breastpump. If it was in Singapore, I might buy a new one easily. For the first time I then tried to breastpump manually using my hands, and I was used to it until now! So now I do not need to bring the whole set of breastpump everywhere, only the bottle, decreasing the weight of my bag.
  2. Extra 2 packs of 4-batteries for my electric breastpump.
  3. A small travel size bottle of Sleek Bottle Cleanser and a brush for cleaning the bottle and breastpump tools.
  4. Two packs of Natur Breastmilk Storage Plastic Bag 30pcs (total 60pcs). Storage bag is lighter and consumed less space than glass bottle. Depends on pumping frequency, 60pcs of plastic bag is more than enough for me who pumped only 4 times a day.
  5. Few zipper plastic bags. For more safety, I thought I would put the milk plastic bag inside this zipper bag. But in the end I didn't use it much. It's not really necessary.
  6. Cooler Bag. This was my usual to go Gabag Cooler Bag to store fresh breastmilk for few hours before storing them inside freezer. During flights, I carried this bag with me on the cabin.
  7. Cooler Box. I borrowed Claris Cooler Box from my best friend (thank you so much, Neni!), but it can be found easily in big supermarket such as Carrefour. It's not that big, enough to store my whole expressed breastmilk during the trip, and fit inside my middle size luggage. Yes, I put this box safely in the baggage not cabin.
  8. Ice Gel. I brought 2 big ice gels and 2 small ice packs. One of them I brought along inside my cooler bag, the rest were put inside cooler box.
  9. Pen Marker to write down the date and amount of the milk on the plastic bag, also to write name and hotel room number on Cooler Box. Big cellophane tape and scissors to wrap and seal Cooler Box before putting it inside the luggage.
Cooler Box and Cooler Bag

Breastmilk Storage Plastic Bag


Checking Hotels

As you know, usually rooms in hotel aren't equipped with freezer. Budget hotels would not have fridge at all, and star hotels might have small fridge without freezer. I would need to put my expressed breastmilk in the hotel's kitchen/restaurant, if any.

My hotel in Hyderabad was quite luxurious. I booked them directly without checking the freezer first because I believed they would be able and allow me to put my expressed breastmilk inside their kitchen's freezer. Few days prior to my trip, I sent them email anyway to notify them that I would need this facility during my 5 nights stay there. They replied me confirming that this request was possible, and the head chef would meet me in the lobby when I checked-in the hotel to ask more information on how to handle my request well. Whoaa what a good service!

Meanwhile, for my 2 nights in Singapore, I wanted to find a budget hotel that could cater my freezer request. It's not easy because budget hotels usually do not have kitchen. I sent email for about 10 hotels, only 3 of them could fulfill my request, and finally settled with the cheapest one, a 2-stars hotel that was more expensive than the 4-stars hotel I stayed in Hyderabad. So expensive Singapore! But this hotel had a big plus point for me because.. they even had freezer inside the room! Not big tho, I still needed to put my breastmilk I got from India in the hotel's kitchen, but it's enough to freeze my breastmilk during 3 days in Singapore. Before the trip, I printed out their email to prove that they said they could store my breastmilk in their kitchen, in case they rejected me. Hehe I was so paranoid ya. In fact they took my cooler box without too much asking, as if it's a common thing.

On The Flight

Fortunately I didn't get any difficulties when passing immigration or boarding gate screening: Jakarta - Singapore, Singapore - Hyderabad, Hyderabad - Singapore, Singapore - Jakarta. No one questioned me about the cooler bag (with ice gel and expressed breastmilk) inside my bag, except when I was about to fly from Singapore back to Jakarta. The security girl stopped my bag and asked me about the liquid inside my bag, I said to her it's for my expressed breastmilk, and she let me go right away. In all of the flights, my cooler bag could keep the coolness of my expressed breastmilk, except when flying from Hyderabad to Singapore (4,5 hours with Silk Air). At that time the ice gel inside my cooler bag was no longer cool, so I gave them to a flight attendance to keep them in the airplane's chiller, and she very welcomed.

Storing

So how is it working? On the first day I checked-in Hyderabad hotel, I gave my cooler box (filled with only 1 breastmilk storage bag at that time) to the kitchen staff to store it in freezer. My daily expressed breastmilk from noon to the next morning was stored inside my room's fridge. Every morning while breakfast in the restaurant, I asked the staff to get me my cooler box from the freezer so I could add on the new breastmilk to the cooler box, then gave it back to them to store it again in the freezer.

In Singapore it's a little bit different. Since I had my own freezer in the room, I didn't have to add it to the cooler box in kitchen's freezer every morning. I stored it in the room's freezer then just before checked-out, I finally asked my cooler box back. I moved the remaining expressed breastmilk from the room's freezer into the cooler box then wrapped it safely with cellophane tape. I also put 3 ice gels inside cooler box, so by the time I arrived in Jakarta, the expressed breastmilk was still cool and frozen.

Actually the expressed breastmilk shouldn't be stored inside cooler box when storing it inside freezer. I should have put it in plastic bag or container instead. Cooler box is so thick and blocked the air to come inside the box (that's why frozen milk can last frozen in the cooler box after few hours, right). Some of my expressed breastmilk was not completely frozen even though it's stored in the freezer.

However, fortunately all my expressed breastmilk was saved back home and could be consumed by my daughter. It might take a lot of effort to prepare and do expressing milk during traveling oversea, but it's possible and really worth it. Anything for my baby!

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