Any working/pumping mom will tell you that the struggle is REAL. Maintaining your milk supply while separated from your baby can be stressful AF—not to mention having to hook yourself up to that ghastly pump multiple times a day, finding a comfortable place to do it, schlepping all your milk home to your baby…the list goes on.
But things get complicated beyond belief when you have to travel for work as a breastfeeding mama. Not only do you need to make sure to plan in advance, pumping and stockpiling enough milk for your baby’s needs while you are gone, but you have to pack your hefty pump, along with storage and transporting materials for the milk you will pump. Then, you have to make sure you have a way to store all that milk—i.e., a fridge or freezer large and reliable enough to hold the milk you’ll need to store.
Then, on top of all that, you have to bring all that milk home to your baby. And depending on how long you’ve been gone, and how much you’ve pumped, that can be a lot of milk to keep cold enough and transport through airport security. (Side note: airlines are required by law to let you bring your milk on the plane, but we all know that airlines don’t always make these sorts of things easy, as some mothers have reported).
SIGH. I swear, just writing out all the planning required of traveling, breastfeeding moms practically gave me an anxiety attack—and I am well past the years of having to even consider anything like this. Can you imagine the stress a mom has to face in order to pull something like this off?
Well, one mom who found herself in exactly this position realized that there had to be a better way, and she took it upon herself to solve it. Meet Kate Torgersen, a mom of three, who struggled with this very scenario back in 2014, when her twins were 8-months-old (yes, she was nursing and pumping 8-month-old twins, which already makes her a hero in my book).
Torgerson found herself facing a 4-day business trip—and hoping against hope that she would be able to make it through while maintaining the milk supply she had worked so hard to establish when she first started nursing her boys.
“I was committed to breastfeeding the twins for at least 12 months (as I had done for my first child),” Torgersen tells Scary Mommy. “For me, the business trip introduced some difficult trade-offs. To ensure that the twins continued to get breast milk (since they had never had formula), it would’ve been easier for me not to take the trip,” she explains.
But she wanted to take the trip—both professionally, and personally. She just needed to make sure that her boys would get the breastmilk they needed while she was gone, which would amount to about two whole gallons of milk (wow!).
Torgerson soon learned that pulling this off was going to be no easy feat.
“I started troubleshooting the logistics of shipping my breast milk home and quickly learned that there were no turnkey services to help,” she says. “To do it, I would need to find a way to freeze two gallons of milk in my hotel room — which was next to impossible in a hotel mini fridge. Then, I was going to have to cobble together daily shipments by sourcing shipping materials and a daily supply of dry ice to my hotel room without a rental car. It was just too much to do on top of the conference and all of the pumping I was doing!”
You can say that again. Torgerson eventually found a way to get through the trip—pumping like crazy before she left so she could leave enough milk for her twins; pumping while she was traveling; cramming her pumped milk into the tiny hotel fridge; and also managing to transport those two plus gallons of milk onto the plane (yes, really!).
But she thought long and hard about how ridiculous it was that she had to go through all that—and realized that there had to be a better way. That’s when the idea for her business was born.
“I got back from the trip and was determined to create a simple solution to this complex problem,” Torgerson said. “Over the next year, I worked on Milk Stork whenever I got a chance. Since I was working full time, that usually meant working on it during my pumping sessions, or at night when the kids were asleep.”
This woman is a hero.
Milk Stork, the company Torgerson founded, officially launched in August of 2015. It’s the first of its kind—a company that helps working/traveling breastfeeding moms ship their milk home for their babies. And it’s totally awesome.
Here’s how it works. The company provides the mom with everything she’ll need while she’s away to ship her milk home (except the boobs and the pump, of course). This includes boxes that come in two different sizes based on the mother’s needs, as well as milk storage bags, shipping seals, and instructions. The boxes include a cooling system, and are pre-labeled with overnight FedEx shipping labels. The mom can either drop the box off at a FedEx shipping center or arrange for a pick-up at her location.
This video explains it all in more detail:
Yes, it’s true that this system may not work for every traveling/pumping mom (the lowest priced box is $79, plus shipping, which is pretty reasonable, but not within budget for everyone). But it’s a start, for sure. Sometimes employers even pay for the cost of the service, although clearly not all employers are willing to do this.
And yes, in a general sense, there is a whole lot more work to be done to make the life of a working/pumping/sometimes traveling working mom that much more manageable. That is the understatement of the year, actually! Still, it’s heartening to see moms like Torgerson who are taking matters into their owns hands, and coming up with real-life solutions that make it possible for moms to reach their breastfeeding goals while working their asses off like the badass goddesses they are.