After the myriad of health benefits, one of the best things about breastfeeding is that you don’t have to worry about things like bottles, formula cans, how to mix-and-go, sterilizing nipples and bottle-feeding equipment, and so on.
However, additional logistical tips that can make traveling with a breastfed baby easier.
Plan ahead when booking your airline tickets
Breastfeeding on the plane is great for soothing restless infants and helping to keep their sensitive ears cleared as cabin pressure increases/decreases throughout the flight.
Booking your ticket for a window seat – or claiming a window seat during early family boarding on first-come-first-served airlines – is a way to gain some privacy. You can turn your back a bit towards those seated next to you and in other aisles, and that also diminishes distractions that agitate more alert or sensitive babies.
Also look into your airlines “traveling with breastmilk” policies, whether or not the airport has breastfeeding lounges, etc. so you’re prepared before you get there.
Bring a light baby blanket or cover-up
If you’ve never been in crazy, busy crowd settings – traveling with your breastfeeding baby may bring up some breastfeeding issues the two of you haven’t experienced in more familiar and comfortable settings. For example, if your baby is fussy in response to all the busy-ness, the energy of strangers, your internal travel stress, etc., s/he may not be able to focus on breastfeeding.
Using a very light blanket or cover-up – even a sarong or something easy to shove back into a bag – can help create a nice filter between the two of you and the world around you.
Allow yourselves lots of extra time
Not easy, we know; but the more time you can grant yourself for getting to the airport or transportation center, a long drive (adding an additional 15 to 20 minutes for every hour you normally drive straight through), etc., the better. By allowing lots of extra cushion, you won’t feel irritated, anxious or stressed if you have to pull over, stop walking or to sit down (yet again) on an airport or train station bench in order to nurse your baby.
Consider leaving the pump at home
Your breast pump is great for working moms and visiting relatives (giving them a chance to feed the baby) but leave it behind when traveling. Bringing a pump, and expecting relatives to feed the baby via bottle, is a recipe for more cumbersome stuff to pack/schlep, oodles of sequestered pumping time, extra dishes to wash/sterilize and potentially paves the way for a more upset baby who misses his/her normal routine.
Prepare relatives ahead of time that in order to maximize your time together, you’re opting to leave pumping/bottles at home in lieu of quality time – and that the baby will love to be held, snuggled and played with, bathed – even if it doesn’t involve food.
Bring frozen breast milk along
That being said, you can certainly freeze breastmilk ahead of time and bring some along if bottle feeding will allow you and your partner to get away for a few hours or overnight. Today’s ultra-insulated travel bags and pre-frozen cold packs will keep your breast milk safe for many hours on end.
Read, Breastmilk Storage and Handling for more specifics. Don’t forget to call ahead or check online to verify your airlines policies regarding traveling with breastmilk and to ensure any hotels you stay in have a fridge in the room.
Remember to bring a sling, wrap or carrier
Your baby will feel safer connected to your body and you’ll have an arms-free traveling experience; it’s a win-win for all.
Pack snacks for yourself
You’re a breastfeeding mama and you need to keep your nourishment up to weather the traveling whirlwind, especially since sit-down meals aren’t that easy with a wee one in tow. Pack plenty of your favorite, healthy, easy-to-munch snacks to you don’t wear out.
Don’t forget to avoid foods that can upset baby’s stomach, since s/he may be more sensitive than normal with the change of pace, scenery and activity.
Put yourselves first
Sometimes, moms who are proud to breastfeed anywhere and everywhere at home find they become more self-conscious around relatives who openly oppose public breastfeeding, or around strangers. This can make breastfeeding more stressful – and both of you will suffer.
Put yourselves and your needs first above others’ preferences, opinions and well-meaning advice. Feel free to leave a room and seek a private place to nurse, snuggle and connect – to re-ground and re-center before diving back into the (sometimes frenetic) fray.