7 Tips for Breastfeeding & Pumping While Traveling by Plane

baby breastfeeding on airplane

Ask any breastfeeding mom why nursing rocks, and she'll tell you "have boobs, will travel." So when it comes to taking a family vacation, a breastfeeding mama should have it all covered, right? Well, for the most part, yes! But if you're going to be taking an airplane somewhere, and you're going to be nursing a baby while traveling, there are a few things you need to do beforehand.


Been too busy packing up the whole family for your next trip to really pay attention to what you'll need to do to breastfeed on an airplane? Don't worry, the experts have you covered.

1. Buy your tickets wisely. You can breastfeed anywhere on an airplane, but Diane L. Spatz, a professor at the PENN University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, suggests booking a bulkhead seat if possible. These are the seats located right where the airline separates its "classes," and typically there is more legroom for mom to get good and comfy.

Bulkhead already booked? Corky Harvey, co-founder of The Pump Station & Nurtury, tells moms who want a little bit of privacy to book a window seat. "I can turn toward the window while the baby latches and then relax back into my seat," she explains.

2. Talk to the flight attendants when boarding. "I am always much happier to be on a plane with a breastfeeding mom! Breastfeeding is so much easier, and babies are so much happier when they are breastfed," says Spatz, a member of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses. That being said, there have been instances in the news of moms being hassled for nursing on airplanes, so Spatz suggests speaking up beforehand.

"Some uninformed people may not be comfortable with a mother breastfeeding on an airplane because they have not been exposed to breastfeeding at all," she notes.

Fortunately, most airlines support breastfeeding, and you have that to your advantage. Not to mention, public breastfeeding in the air is covered by state protections for nursing moms.

3. Wear loose, comfy clothing. For your sake -- and baby's -- wear something that will make for a fast and easy latch. The faster you can get situated, the faster your baby will settle down ... and you won't be "that" mom of "that" baby on the airplane.

4. Nurse on take-off and landing -- if baby's awake. "[It] causes the baby to swallow," Harvey explains. A registered nurse and lactation consultant, Harvey says swallowing "will help equalize the pressure in the ear and decrease the chance the baby will experience ear pain."

But don't force baby awake just to nurse during these times. If they're able to sleep through, they're likely not in pain. Let a sleeping baby sleep!

5. Check TSA breast milk guidelines. If you're pumping, the TSA will allow you to bring only a small amount of breast milk through security, and there are screening procedures required. If you don't want your milk X-rayed, you must say so before screening begins. Knowing your rights -- and the rules -- can help you get through security faster.

More from CafeMom: Flying With Baby: 5 Tips for Packing an Efficient, Lightweight Carry-On

6. Pump before you board! That is, if you're pumping. Relieving your engorged breasts will make you more comfortable, but if the flight is over three hours, you will likely have to pump again (or nurse), Spatz warns.

If you plan to do so on board, check well in advance to see if your flight has electrical outlets. If not, Spatz suggests purchasing a battery pack for your pump.

7. Bring wipes or extra pump parts and hand sanitizer. "Recent tests have shown that the drinking water in one in 10 airplanes is contaminated by coliform," Harvey warns.

Freaked out? You should be!

According to Harvey, coliform is a broad class of bacteria that is in the environment, including the feces of humans. And if it's there, e. coli may be too.

So you'll want to avoid cleaning your breast pump in the airplane bathroom. Instead some manufacturers make pump wipes that you can bring along -- or you can bring parts to switch out.

And even if you're not pumping, you're going to want to use hand sanitizer on your hands before you touch baby.

What are your best tips for breastfeeding on an airplane?


Images ©iStock.com/RyanJLane

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