Making Business Travel Less Hellish for New Moms

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A woman on business.
A woman on business.Photo: Milton Brown

Kate Torgensen founded Milk Stork, a startup aimed at making the traveling mother’s life a little bit less complicated, about a year ago. Torgensen, who has three children, says, “I created it because, in 2014, I had to go on a four-day business trip while I was breast-feeding my twins. My babies and I had worked very hard to overcome a slew of obstacles, so as I embarked on the trip, I had a lot of anxiety that we were going to lose ground on all that they had overcome and been through.” 

She pumped extra milk before she left, and pumped while on the trip. It was, she says, “stressful, heavy, and logistically challenging.”

Traveling is especially tough for breast-feeding mothers. You can’t just stop pumping for the duration of the trip: Your supply will dry up, and if you’re breast-feeding exclusively, your baby is going to need that milk. But breast milk can be so delicate. Unrefrigerated, it spoils after six to ten hours; on ice, it lasts 24.

Traveling moms have, for many years, simply pumped every few hours, packed the pumped milk into cooler containers, and FedExed the milk back home to baby and dad, or baby and grandma, or whoever is taking care of baby in this scenario while mom is away. Of course, this is often an organizational nightmare, especially for new mothers who are already stressed out about being away from their children for the first time. Milk Stork aims to make the whole experience easier.

Katie Baker, a Lake Tahoe, California–based writer and the mother of a 4-month-old, tried Milk Stork a few weeks ago during a three-day business trip. She’d been pumping to build up a “freezer stash,” she says, but didn’t have enough for three days. Which left her with two options: “I could use the stash and bring pumped milk back home with me,” she said, but she was “wary of traveling with, like, 90 ounces of milk in bags.” So she considered FedEx. “I found some tutorials online,” Baker says, “but it seemed like a hassle to get a box and pack the box a certain way with frozen milk and or a million ice packs or dry ice.”

As she thought about it, she felt like neither one was a great option. They’re both “totally doable,” she says. “Women do it every day, but on top of pumping, it’s just a lot going on.” She looked around online to see if there were any other options, which is when she found Milk Stork.  

How it works: Mom signs up for a Milk Stork account online. She inputs the details of her trip, including start and end dates, her hotel’s address, and the destination address for the milk to be shipped to. All she needs to bring to the hotel is her breast pump. The Milk Stork boxes — enough for a shipment for each day of her trip — are waiting there for her.

Each day, she pumps all of her milk, and then uses the provided bags, coolant system, and cooler to ship up to 34 ounces (that’s about a day’s supply) in the pharmaceutical-grade cooler. There are storing and shipping instructions for her, instructions for the person who receives the delivery, and preprinted shipping labels. Though the packages are shipped overnight via FedEx, the coolant is good for up to 72 hours, just in case something goes awry and there is a delay.

For this service, the charge is $99 per day — “not cheap,” says Baker, but “I rationalized this by thinking, okay, it would probably cost me a good 50 bucks in dry ice or whatever, and a box, or to have enough ice packs … then to deal with sending everything overnight.”

“I was really glad I had the service,” Baker goes on. “So I didn’t have to schlep around to seek out dry ice and shipping materials on top of everything else.” In her case, ”everything else” meant not just work, but also a ton of pumping. “At home,” she says, “I usually pump a few times a day but doing it over and over” for more than three days, she says, “was intense!”

Baker says she still had to do some legwork, obviously. The pumping alone is a labor of love, as is packing up the milk and dropping it off at the hotel desk or FedEx drop box in time for the daily pickup. But, she says, “It definitely was a stress reducer. It was really nice to not be trying to freeze the milk” in a tiny hotel fridge.

Currently, Milk Stork is averaging about 100 deliveries per week, Torgensen says. For her part, because of her good experience, Baker says that she is “pretty sure” she will be using it in the future.