Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Q: My wife has been breastfeeding our 3-month-old daughter, and she’d like to get out for her first post-pregnancy backpacking trip this summer. While we cannot take the little one along with us yet, we had planned to take a breast pump and dispose of the pumped milk.
We can’t seem to find any information about whether it is safe to camp in bear country while…uh…lactating. So, how about it? Is it safe to camp in bear country when you are a breastfeeding mom? Thanks! —Mike from Virginia, via email
A: Hey Mike. First of all, congratulations on the new cub—here’s hoping she has two eyes, ten claws, and a shiny fur coat.
Secondly, as long as you dispose of the milk properly, your wife should be good to go on that backpacking trip. There’s no evidence to suggest that lactating females would attract bears any more than those who aren’t. If it’s inside your body, a bear probably can’t smell it; any food or external odors left on your skin or clothes are more likely to attract bears.
As for disposal: You can treat it much the way you would treat dishwater. Scatter it broadly at least 200 feet away from water sources, and well away from your camp (strain it, if need be). This way, impact should be minimal. If you want to truly reduce your impact to zero, however, you should probably wait to go backpacking until your wife stops lactating. It’ll certainly cut down on her discomfort.
And if you ever need a babysitter…
Got a question for the bear? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.