Whether you’re visiting family, going to the beach, or celebrating a holiday, traveling while breastfeeding has its own set of unique circumstances and potentials challenges. However, with a little planning and preparation, breastfeeding won’t put a roadblock in your travel plans.
When you are putting together your travel plans, think about how you will facilitate breastfeeding or pumping. If you’re flying, you can call ahead to the airport and airline to find out what breastfeeding/pumping accommodations are available to you in the airport and on the plane. Depending on the length of your flight you can also try timing your feeding and pumping session around your travel times so that you can limit the number of times you have to feed or pump while traveling. Since most breastfeeding infants can travel in their parent’s laps, this can help facilitate breastfeeding while inflight, and breastfeeding during takeoff and landing can help soothe baby and help them equalize the pressure in their ears. Pumping on a plane can be a bit tricky, but I’ve definitely known plenty of moms who’ve accomplished the task. Many planes now have electric plugs available, however, be sure to bring a battery back up for your pump just in case. You can also speak to the cabin crew once you’ve boarded and let them know that you’ll need to pump during the flight. Often, they are more than willing to do what they can to accommodate your needs. Whether your breastfeeding or pumping on a plane, remember that you’ll be in tight quarters. You may want to plan an outfit with multiple layers or bring a breastfeeding cover to help you feel more comfortable.
If your plans include a road trip, be sure to map it out prior to leaving. Take into account the baby’s usual feeding times and/or your usual pumping times so that you can find suitable places to stop along the way. Breastfeeding in the car can be a little tricky considering both you and baby need to stay buckled up for safety. Finding rest stops or other stopping places along the way is usually the best option. If you are pumping, and you plan on bottle feeding during your car trip, most breast pumps can either be run on batteries or you can get a car adapter to power the pump. Just make sure to bring an extra pumping set or two so that you have plenty of clean parts, especially important if you need to pump multiple times during the trip. Be prepared for your trip to take a little longer. With the potential stops needed for breastfeeding and diaper changes, you’ll want to add an hour or two to the length of your travel time. Setting this expectation early will help avoid disappointment and frustration later.
Safe storage of your breastmilk while traveling can easily be achieved using a cooler and ice. Try to avoid placing your breastmilk storage bags directly on the ice. You can either place them in a larger zipper bag or in a plastic food storage container and pack ice around it. Make sure to have plenty of ice in the cooler and add to it frequently. It’s best if the cooler doesn’t contain other items for your trip. Opening it less frequently will help maintain a colder temperature for your breastmilk. If you’re going to be taking expressed breastmilk with you on a flight, you are allowed to bring as much as you need to. However, the TSA does have specific guidelines about screening for breastmilk. So, be sure to visit their site and check out the latest information before traveling.
Packing your bags is always a huge part of any travel adventure. When your packing for a trip as a breastfeeding mom, there are a few things you should also keep in mind. In addition to your luggage for your family, pack a small breastfeeding bag that you can carry with you—allowing you easy access at any time. This bag should include a change of clothes for both you and baby, your pump with extra pump parts, nursing pads, milk storage bags, a nursing cover, and any other items you frequently use during breastfeeding or pumping. This is one time that you won’t be sorry that you overpacked, because it’s always better to be prepared.
No matter the destination of your travels, be sure to plan ahead for your breastfeeding needs, and to be patient with yourself. Things most likely won’t go exactly as planned. However, at the end of the day, you are on an adventure with the newest addition to your family and that’s worth the extra planning.