Have Boobs, Will Travel: Breastfeeding Tips for Moms on the Go

breastfeedingWhen it comes to breastfeeding, I have always been unabashedly, unapologetically pro-public breastfeeding. Your baby needs to eat when she needs to eat, right? And she needs to eat, even when you are travelling on a plane. Or a train. Or in a car. And lucky you, you’ve got instant portable nutrition. The dining car is now open, 24-7.

Whether you choose to breastfeed exclusively, pump exclusively or mix it up, travelling can sometimes post a challenge to your normal routine: Where should I breastfeed? Can I actually pump in the airplane bathroom? Can I just whip it out and let my kid have it in the middle of the train station?

There are a few tips that can make things easier on you while you travel, no matter how you choose to feed the little one.


General Tips

Pump before you go. Even if you have to do a pump-and-dump, your boobs are going to be a lot happier to be empty than chock full and aching at the end of the trip.

Consider purchasing a portable manual breast pump. These smaller models are easier to finagle – especially if you end up having to pump in an odd or tiny space. And if you are stuck somewhere with engorged breasts and no power source (like your car or a plane), your pump would be nothing more than a nice, heavy addition to your diaper bag. And even if you have a pump that doesn't require a plug in, pumps make noise, and a manual can relive you in almost silence.

Utilize a sling when nursing. Without your normal support (boppies, pillows, etc) you may appreciate having the sling to help hold your baby in position.

Breastfeed when and where you need to.  Legally, you have the right to breastfeed in public, or any other place of your choosing. So if you want to, just go right ahead! If you don’t love feeding in public, you can cover yourself with a blanket or wear clothing that provides good coverage.

Be prepared to get “the look”. You know what I’m talking about – that generally disapproving, who-does-she-think-she-is look. The best response is none at all, but if this is something that might get to you, refer to this list on nursing in public.

Make sure to take care of you. Dehydration can be a nursing mother’s worst enemy. Make sure that you drink plenty of water or juice, and snack or eat regular meals as much as possible.

Air Travel

Check with your airline. Each airline treats breastfeeding differently – and they’ve proven in recent years that flying the friendly skies may not be all that friendly, especially when it comes to boobs and babies. So find out if you are allowed to breastfeed on board, and also check to see the latest regulations regarding how much bottled breastmilk you can carry on. Generally, you are allowed to bring bottles of breastmilk (or formula) in quantities greater than 3 oz. as long as you’ve declared it for inspection at the security checkpoint. But airlines are allowed to further restrict what comes on board, so it’s best to check with both your airline and the TSA before you leave.

Feed during takeoffs and landings. We chew gum to ease the pressure in our ears, kids suck on lollipops, babies suck on boobs. The act of suckling and swallowing will help with the pressure changes, which can be quite frightening to babies.

Tell the flight crew that you will be breastfeeding. While most airlines prefer that infants be in approved infant seats during flight, you may be able to get a concession from the crew. Also, they may be able to move your seat to an aisle (if you need more room), window (if you want more privacy) or even up to the front row of seats where you will score both privacy and space.

Train Travel

Call ahead to check on regulations.  While security on trains is far more lax than planes (at least in the US), find out the rules regarding liquids and breastfeeding on the train.

Ask about special family cars or bathrooms designed to be family/new mother friendly.

Book seats at the ends of the cars. Frequently they have a bit more room, and will afford you a little more privacy for breastfeeding.

Car Travel

Wait for the rest stop. It is never ever a good idea (no matter how many times we’ve all done it!) to carry your infant on your lap and breastfeed in a moving car. It’s simply the most dangerous position you could put your child in – and possibly you, as you are more likely to be unbuckled. So if your baby is crying out to be fed NOW, at the very least, pull over to the side of the road. If you can, get to a rest stop. Better yet, find an exit with a place that also allows you a break: a snack and something to drink.

Pack a few bottles in the cooler. If you can’t stop for some reason, you will at least have a bottle at hand. Take it out of the cooler about a half hour before you think you might need it, if you have a predictable babe. Lots of companies now make bottle warmers   that just use a car charger, making them perfect for long trips. Again, don’t take your baby out of his carseat – it’s totally illegal in every state and very, very dangerous.

Nurse your baby in her seat. It can take a bit of maneuvering, but it can be done! Of course, if you are driving alone, go back two spaces to tip number one: wait for the rest stop.

Have you traveled and can add any other tips?


Image via Daquelle Manera/Flickr

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