I had a really hard time taking care of my needs after the birth of my first child. So, when our second kiddo joined our family, taking time for myself to get out and do things that I loved was really important to me. I have been a better parent to both my children the second time around because I have done things like take a few weekends away in the wilderness or even just day hikes without the kiddos. But, like other breastfeeding or pumping mamas, I had to figure out how to pump on trail. Here’s my journey and four tips I’ve learned for pumping on trail.
Pumping at 10,363 feet
When my second child was nine months old, I set out on an intense day hike to climb South Sister Mountain in Oregon with two good mamma friends of mine – and we made it. Because I was still breastfeeding exclusively, the journey required me to pump a few times at camp and twice during my climb.
During the 10-hour hike, I had to take two 15-minute breaks to pump. I decided to pump at the peak of the mountain because it was gorgeous and I wanted to enjoy the view. Also, after about 6-ish hours of toiling up the mountainside, our group needed a well-deserved break. There was no place to hide but I tried to be fairly discreet and put my shirt over my pumping set-up. However, I’m of the mindset that pumping is breastfeeding and I don’t believe that any woman anywhere needs to be ashamed of feeding their child.
Unfortunately, the reality of living in the United States is that breasts are sexualized to the point that I am sure it is not always safe for women to pump or breastfeed in public. I advocate people pumping or feeding in places where they personally feel safe. I probably would not have felt comfortable pumping on that peak if I had not had my friends with me.
As it was, as I looked out across the stunning 360-degree view of Oregon, I felt proud of my mountain climbing accomplishment. But I was also proud that I was taking care of my mental and emotional needs in such a way that I could be the parent I want to be for my kiddos.
4 Tips for pumping on trail
It’s all about the right equipment! I use a hands-free pumping bra when I pump, so I can be efficient and make my pumping breaks a chance to eat, drink and maybe snap a few pictures.
1. Electric pump
My Medela Freestyle pump is such a lifesaver for little getaways. It doesn’t need to be plugged in and holds a charge for quite a long time (close to 36 hours or so depending on how often you use it). It also helped me feed my first baby for 13 months because I never could get him to latch. It’s a tough little pump and worked well for me, but nothing gets milk out quite like a baby though. But even if you have a great pump, you’ll likely need to do some breast compressions if you’re pumping away from baby for any period longer than two pump sessions or you may get a bit engorged.
2. Manual pump
For longer backwoods trips away from baby, a manual pump might be necessary. There are a lot of very simple ones available and these are great. I’ve spoken with friends who have them and can pump on trail, in a bathroom stall or wherever they need to pump anytime, so consider looking into one of these.
I bought a little thermal soft lunch bag that had an ice pack. On the day of my hike, I kept my pump bottles and the milk I pumped in the lunch cooler so I didn’t have to pump and dump. I am a working mom and every drop of milk is liquid gold for me! I had a big cooler with lots of ice waiting in the parking lot to transport the milk home.
There are wipes that you can buy if you need to clean your pump parts on the go. Because I kept my pump parts cold, I was able to use them twice without needing to do a cleaning in between. But while attending a wedding with my first child, I didn’t always have access to a sink or cooler for my pump parts, so I really utilized the wipes. From what I’ve read and learned, it’s probably safe to reuse parts for about 24 hours as long as they’re kept refrigerated in between pumps.
Like Leslie, do you also pump on trail? Add your own tips – or ask a question – in the comments below.
Photos courtesy of Leslie Talarico.