Pumping during interviews?

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    Hi ladies,

    I just gave birth to baby #2 and have the majority of my residency interviews scheduled over the next month and a half. I am breastfeeding/pumping and am curious how others may have handled pumping during interview days. I will really just need to work in one pump session, probably at lunchtime. I’m concerned about missing any time during the day, but I really don’t think it’s a good idea to go the interview day without a pump session either. Thoughts? Advice? Thanks!


    If you don’t desperately need the milk, a timesaver option I used to use is to skip the pump and just take a few bathroom breaks during which you hand express into the toilet. This saves having to drag the pump around, set up and take down. It’s faster and much less obtrusive. The downside is the milk is wasted; so depends on where you are with your freezer stash.


    I’m in the same position (just had baby #2 10 weeks ago, started interviewing around 5 weeks pp, all while breastfeeding/pumping). I’ve had a number of scenarios unfold including:
    – not pumping (shorter interview day)
    – pumping just before lunch (after a hospital tour; pumped very quick so I wouldn’t miss the time with the residents)
    – waiting so long to pump that I actually leaked through my breast pads onto my shirt (luckily no one else knew but I was very uncomfortable until I could pump & had to change shirts)
    – using an attending’s office to pump (who had just returned from maternity leave and was also pumping- she recognized my bag 🙂 ).

    That said, I contact the coordinator/admin assistant before to let them know that I would need time and a space during the day to pump. And when I get to the interview, I look at the day’s schedule and try to figure out when there might be a natural break for me to be away and not really miss anything. Everyone has been very accommodating and has been able to rearrange time slots, if needed, so I can pump and not miss anything.

    I have driven to most of my interviews so far, so I’ve pumped in the car (while driving) just before arriving. This buys me some time when I first get there. And since this is my 2nd go around with baby/pumping/medicine, I know that I can push myself up to ~5-6 hours without being completely incapacitated with discomfort; I try to pump within 4 hours if possible.

    I like the idea of hand expressing just enough to not be uncomfortable if you can spare to waste the milk or are in a bind. I cut my pumping sessions short, usually pumping for 10-15 mins max, enough to fill the bottles and empty the breasts mostly, but not completely. So between set up/storage I can be finished in about 20 mins. I could do less time if needed but I have a good milk supply and I’m not currently doing rotations, so if I don’t pump exactly the amount of milk as my LO eats that day, it’s fine because the next day I’m home with her. I’m not sure what your situation is in terms of supply, schedule, etc.

    I’m going to have to travel soon for a few interviews and besides the anxiety about being away from my babies overnight, I’m preparing myself for pumping while traveling. It all just seems so daunting.

    Good luck!


    Thank you both for your suggestions! westcoastmd, glad to hear I’m not alone! 😉 Honestly, I have way more anxiety at this point about the pumping and the travel away from baby than I do about the interviews. Hah! Anyways, I got a power converter for the car and will pump on the way in and way home – great idea. I have emailed the program coordinators for my upcoming interviews to work in a 20-min time slot. So far, they’ve been very accommodating. I am going to shoot for the same – a shortened 20-min session. At home, it would take longer between set-up, etc., but it is what it is! 20 mins should at least prevent the engorgement.

    Anyways, thank you both! I appreciate the support. westcoastmd – good luck to you too and congratulations!



    One thing I do to help with timing is keep my pump parts assembled (including attached to the bottles). Milk can technically be kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. But with my cooler block, my bag is even cooler than room temp. So, I figure even used pump parts should be ok for a few hours without being cleaned (although I sometimes wipe off the breast shields/phalanges).

    I keep them assembled and attached to the bottles, wrapped in a paper towel, placed in a gallon ziplock bag (so they don’t touch other things & any residual milk doesn’t drip into my bag). Another thing you could do, if you have access to a refrigerator, is to refrigerate the pre-assembled parts after use. I did a combination of this while on rotations and it worked great. You could also pack extra pre-assembled parts (if you have spare parts) if the day is going to be longer (again, already in their own ziplock bag so all you have to do is pull them out & plug in). I hope that makes sense.


    I have pumped at all my interviews. I email or call the contact person in the week before the interview, then remind them when I see them in the morning. They usually have me step out during a resident teaching time, and many have down time while we all sit in a room waiting for our interviewers to retrieve us. I usually get an office or an empty conference room to use. The coordinators have generally been very supportive and accommodating. I have a little cooler bag (like the shape of a lunch bag with gel stuff built in) that I stick in my purse for the milk, and I just wash the pump after I leave.


    To expand on this (and sorry to potentially hijack the thread), what about pumping while (air) traveling? I’ve only had to drive to my interviews so far and will be taking a flight/be away overnight soon. Besides the fact that everything in me is screaming that I do not want to travel & be away from my baby, I am facing the fact that I should go on some “away” interviews and I don’t have an option to bring the baby/have anyone to accompany me. Alas, I have to figure out all the logistics about pumping & transporting milk while going through airport security, the hotel, the day of interview details, potentially pumping in a terminal or my airplane seat, etc.

    I read a blog post (on another site) that detailed one mom-applicant’s experience with exactly this topic. But, I wanted know what advice and/or tips any of my fellow MomMDs had?

    As of now, I’ll probably be going to about 3-5 away interviews, which will all take place as separate trips (it’s the way timing worked out). So, I’ll be basically gone 30-40 hours at a time (day before travel, overnight stay, interview, fly home after interview). Which means I won’t need to transport a large quantity of milk. I also don’t want to just pump for comfort or throw away the milk, since I’ll freeze whatever I have when I get home & use it for the next interview.

    Another thing is that I’ve been home with the baby and basically nurse on-demand with no real schedule (baby is still a newborn technically). I’ve had interviews where I was away for the day, but I haven’t been away for more than 10 hours. I’m not sure if I should start some sort of “schedule” or just a general outline? And based on what I’ve read, I’m thinking that if I leave about 30-32 oz per 24 hour period, I should be fine but I really don’t know. I was never away this long when my first was this young & was nursing so often and so much. I’m slowly building a freezer supply & plan to have “extra” of course, but I’m trying to make this as easy for my husband & MIL as possible.

    Any help, tips, words of encouragement 😉 are all appreciated


    I’ll go for the easier one first. 🙂 I have two kids. One scheduled herself, the other is resisting terribly. Still, even with my stubborn little guy, I can jot down when he eats, and it works out to a moderately predictable range as far as number of times/amount of milk in a day. Jotting down a range works well for my mother, who can go with the flow, and less well for my husband, who just ends up feeding him a ton. Oh well.

    As far as flying – that has been quite the adventure, and I have learned a lot.

    1) They will let you fly with a lot of breast milk. Most people don’t hassle me about it. Some people will test the outside of the bottles if they are larger than 3 oz. I try not to have liquid milk in larger containers for that reason.

    2) I freeze most of it, and fly with freezer packs. If I can check it, that is a non-issue. However, I usually interview with no checked bags. In that case, I freeze everything from the night before, stack it in a freezer bag, and ask the hotel to keep it in their freezer for me during the interview day. They have always done this so far. Then I take what I pumped during the interview day, add it to the freezer pack in my little 2.5 oz tube-bottles. For unknown reasons, a separate bag full of frozen milk gets less attention than a stack of bags of milk inside a suitcase, so I just leave it out by itself. Sometimes they check it, sometimes they don’t.

    3) Freezer packs need to be frozen. Again, when you explain that it is a breast pump freezer bag for your milk they give you some leeway, but this did come up in Philly, where I left with frozen packs, but by the time I sat in the security line for 2 hours they were no longer frozen. They let me through with only mild harassment.

    4) Some airports (SLC specifically, probably others?) have infant care rooms with a cushy couch and outlets. 🙂 I pump before or after flights in airports. I use the restrooms if there isn’t a good alternative. Pumping on a plane is no fun. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it at my seat. Then I went to pump in the restroom and we hit turbulence, so the flight attendant wanted me to wrap up and go back to my seat… ugh. I just pump before and after now.

    5) Make sure your pump has a battery pack! I did one trip before thinking of that. Finding a place to pump with outlets is harder.

    Hope that helps! Good luck! 🙂


    Thank you so much! I am a logistics person, so this is immensely helpful for me to “see” what others have done.

    A few follow up’s:
    1. What sort of “freezer bag” are you using to put your frozen milk in? Is this the same bag you give to the hotel to hold in the freezer for you until after the interview is finished? I’m envisioning a large cooler bag, but maybe you’re using something more like a Ziploc freezer bag with individual bags inside. Also, do you tell the hotel that its breast milk and have there been any issues with this?
    2. It sounds like you also have your pump bag with you (in addition to the freezer bag) for interview days, correct? Do you consolidate it all at the end of the day? (I was originally thinking of just bringing a cooler/freezer bag that has a compartment for my pump but then I couldn’t leave it at the hotel)
    3. Do you put all the milk into bags or do you leave any of it in the bottles? I was a little confused.

    At the very least, I could see having the hotel keep the freezer blocks frozen for me until I leave for the airport. Then, the liquid milk would just be subject to inspection.

    Luckily, my first flight is on Southwest, so if need be I can always check my bag if the freezer blocks aren’t frozen solid. And then I could get some bags of ice from a food place after I passed security. Then again, I really don’t want to check a bag.

    I’ve managed this far with other car travel, rotations, pumping in the car, etc…but for whatever reason, this is giving me so much anxiety. I’m more nervous about the logistics of transporting the milk than the actual interview at this point. Ugh.


    I have travelled without my son while I was nursing. It was a quick less than 48 hr trip and surprisingly there were no major issues. It is definitely easier to travel with a child while nursing than without a child and pumping, but it is definitely doable. I ended up just keeping my milk on ice and not really freezing it. With my son I never made enough milk so I think I pumped every 4 hrs or so and came up with maybe 16 oz or so of milk per day if my memory is right. He was 9 mos or so at the time and sleeping through the night, so I didn’t pump at night. There was no way that I was going to throw out any milk since I always had low supply issues, so in that same vein I would not trust checked in luggage with it. I was staying with family so I just used their fridge and kept my milk in bottles in those lunch size portable coolers– I used gel packs and other times just used zip lock bags with ice in them and put them around the milk bottles during transport. Emptied the zip lock bags before security check in lines and then got ice again after the security lines. I’m not sure if any of that was the right thing to do but I have read that milk is good in the fridge for up to 5 days and since my trip was less than that that’s why I didn’t freeze. TSA was fine with me having breast milk and no kid– they just had me open 1 of my bottles and waved some strip of paper over it.

    Here is a good link on working moms who travel for a living–

    Traveling as a Pumping Mother

    There are a couple good websites if you google travel and pumping– I was pretty nervous the first time I did it, but it wasn’t bad. I ended up pumping in the airport in a family bathroom since it had an outlet. It was probably the first and only time I did that since it was gross having to do that in a bathroom period. I did pump on the plane as well but I felt comfortable for some reason there– either I was near an empty seat or one of the lone aisle seats or next to someone who was sleeping or was understandable like a mom or something. On the way back I didn’t pump in the plane since it was crammed and I didn’t feel very comfortable or discreet doing it. I did pump at the airport coming back at one of those cubicles that they use to charge phones, etc.

    I did also have my pump with me when I travelled with my son when he was 7 wks old– that time he was having latching on issues so I would get engorged– I ended up in the middle of the night with missing membranes to my Medela Pump in Style with a sleepy baby and fully engorged– ugh!! I’m glad I learned that lesson early in “my pumping career” because after that I carry extras of basically everything– tubing, phalanges, membranes,bottles, etc.

    Don’t worry– you can do this and lots of women do it all the time since they travel regularly for work. It’s scary when you do it the first time, but after I read up on stuff on the internet and how the TSA officer was like no big deal then I realized it was pretty common. Also the 3 oz rule does not apply to breast milk so you can bring all of it on board– at least as of 3 years ago when my son was nursing.

    Regarding how much milk that your child will take– I found this on kelly mom since I was trying to figure it out for my daughter who I will be leaving to go back to work :(.

    How much expressed milk will my baby need?

    Agree with Melbelle that you need a battery pack and maybe extra batteries, nursing cover, and pay attention that you are wearing comfortable clothing during travel days so you have easy access and to be discreet (if that is a concern for you– it always was for me, but I’m just like that).


    I meant to write when I came back from the interview…but we have the flu running through our house & then Christmas happened…what a crazy week. (luckily, the baby seems to have been spared)

    Anyway, as with most things I obsess and stress over, pumping/traveling/being away from the baby overnight turned out just fine. I was so busy and tired that I barely had time to miss them (which sounds terrible as I type it now…but it was helpful then). It also helps that my husband and in-laws are great with the babies and so it really was a non-issue.

    As for traveling, I decided not to freeze the milk since it was such a short trip, nor did I bring my freezer block in case it wasn’t frozen solid before I went through security. Instead, I used storage bags to store the liquid milk and brought quart-sized Ziploc bags for ice. And the hotel where I stayed let me have a refrigerator for my room for free because it was for medical purposes **side note: make sure to let them know it’s for medical purposes, because I almost paid an extra $10 for the fridge, until the hotel clerk asked if it was for medical purposes**

    I took others’ advice and put the milk and pump through last since I knew it would be scrutinized. They ended up running all of it through some machine with a laser, which took about an extra 5 mins. It was just a little inconvenient since I had to repack my strategically packed bag, but otherwise it was another complete non-issue.

    As for pumping, I was lucky in that my first flight to the interview was direct/non-stop so I didn’t have to worry about pumping at the airport or on a plane. On the way back, there was a delay (of course) and I had a few stops. So, I looked for a place to pump that was private first (I was offered the family bathroom…which was literally a large bathroom stall that smelled like a gas station bathroom). I ended up pumping on the floor, at an unused gate, facing a window, & using my nursing cover (which is actually the only time I ever use the cover). Now that I’ve done it, I feel better about it, but I was pretty annoyed at the time and kept praying there wasn’t going to be a flight going out of the gate soon where an influx of people would appear.

    I realized that I brought way too many bottles for storage (some of which leaked slightly when lying sideways in my bag) and that it was actually better to use the milk storage bags. So next time, I’m only bringing the 2 bottles to hook to my pump/catch the milk and will transfer it all into milk storage bags. I also was able to pack my pump/pump bag into my carry-on bag, which allowed me to bring a purse/satchel…I just need to work on bringing less articles of clothing because it was a tight fit. And if I’m at a bigger/nicer airport next time, I will seek out one of the lounges in hopes of using that to pump instead of on the airport floor.

    Thanks again for everyone’s help and input & good luck to my fellow interviewees! And I hope you all had a great holiday and a Happy New Year!


    I am so glad it worked out well! I just realized I hadn’t check in for awhile and totally missed your questions! It’s too bad that you had to pump on the airport floor. I hate that feeling when you just know you need to pump and that matters a lot more than where! It’s frustrating. Good luck with the rest of your interviews and happy new year! 🙂

    Hey MomHey Mom

    Not sure if you’re still looking for ideas on this, but here’s one more tip: on the pumping to just prevent/relieve engorgement you can do a lot in about five minutes if you are creative. I haven’t had to interview but I’ve had to take finals. Of course there is no pausing the test so I had to figure out how to get relief fast. I don’t use a pump. I take my shirt all the way off in the bathroom and use both hands and express into cloth diapers strategically placed. I throw them back in the gallon size ziplock when I’m done and get back to my test. The first time I had to do this baby was 6 weeks old.

    I recommend not trying this with paper towels if you can avoid it though. Wadded toilet tissue will suffice in a pinch. Rate of absorption is your limiting factor

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