As an exclusively pumping mommy of a then-four-month-old baby, I cannot tell you how nervous I was about taking an international flight all the way from California to Japan. The fact that I exclusively pump greatly added to my stress. However, it’s most definitely doable and now that I have one flight tucked under my belt as a mommy, I’d like to share the experience and hopefully give some insight to other parents who are also pumping and needing to fly a long duration with a baby. Here’s how we survived.
** Disclaimer: Please note that everyone’s situation is different and there are countless variables that can contribute to a drastically different turnout for everyone. This is just our experience when Mason was four months old.**
In summer of 2017, we wanted to bring Mason to Japan to meet Kevin’s family so we booked our tickets for the beginning of the summer and took our first family flight as three. When booking tickets, we were deciding between choosing business seats or economy seats, thinking business would be more comfortable with a baby. Ultimately we were given advice that we, as parents, would feel less stressed in the economy cabin since loud noises and disruptions were more commonplace and people would be more tolerant. I’m very glad we went this route because I later came across stories about people getting kicked out of their business and first-class seats due to complaints of noises from other passengers in their vicinity.
After booking our tickets, we called the airlines to ensure that we got special bassinet seating for Mason. The airlines arranged everything for us, and we were seated at the front of the economy cabin (with plenty of leg room) and a baby bassinet was mounted onto the wall in front of us. Mason slept in it without any trouble and it was a wonderful changing station as well. I believe the bassinet carries babies up to 10kg without issue.
I brought along some frozen breastmilk with me on board the plane and asked the stewardesses if they could help me store it in the freezer, which they kindly did without complaint. When I sensed that it was getting close to feeding time, I’d ask one of the crew members to help me warm up a sachet of the milk, which they did. Honestly, China Airlines and Air China both were so wonderful and accommodating. I have zero complaints about their service.
At the time, I was still pumping milk around the clock to ensure that my supply didn’t drop, and this was what gave me the biggest anxiety of all: Going into the lavatory to pump for 10-15 minutes per session. I had all these images in my head of people lining up outside and getting angry over the long wait, but it never happened. Not once did people seem angry or upset, and there wasn’t even a line when I came out (perhaps they left to use another lavatory). With each pumping session, I became more and more relaxed.
A quick note to mothers who plan to pump aboard the plane, make sure you get a pump that has batteries in case the lavatory does not have an electric outlet for you to plug in the device. We were told that certain lavatories do have an outlet, but our plane did not so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Throughout the plane ride, Mason only cried for maybe 15-20 minutes. Hubbie was such a wonderful father and stood up to walk around with him anytime he felt fussy. We also brought toys to distract him, and a pacifier to help relieve the pressure in his ears upon takeoff and landing.
The plane ride back was largely the same. We were completely exhausted, but I successfully kept my supply up the whole way there and back. Mason had breastmilk the whole time, which was the big goal for me. It is definitely more difficult than giving formula (which is also totally fine), but if it’s your priority to pump, then just know that it is doable. That being said, I had my husband helping me the whole duration of the flight, and would not have been able to do it if it were not for him. Love you, hubbie~
I hope my experience has helped some of you out there with similar predicaments. Thank you for reading and have a safe trip!~