Travel Tips for the Breastfeeding Mother
Traveling with kids By Katie DeTar
Following the tips below can help you maintain your milk supply while traveling. (Flickr: Chris Alban Hansen)
Much like travel, breastfeeding can be a beautiful and rewarding experience. With proper planning, you’ll be able to maximize your time and enjoyment at your destination, and continue your nursing relationship with your child - even when traveling solo. Following the tips below can help you maintain your milk supply, decrease your stress, learn how to effectively pump on the go, and create an overall pleasant breastfeeding and travel experience.
Travel with Baby
Whether traveling with your child by land, sea or air, your breastfeeding relationship should remain consistent, with regular feedings on demand. Nursing can be one of the most convenient and easy ways to feed your child, as milk is always ready, clean and proper temperature. For privacy or discretion in transit, some mothers choose to use a nursing cover. Others simply alert their seatmates that they plan to nurse openly. Fellow passengers are often pleased to realize that nursing can calm a fussy baby, prevent in-flight ear discomfort, and lead to a napping and quiet child.
Take comfort in knowing that 49 states currently have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers in public places (the exception is Idaho) so that you can continue to confidently feed your child while traveling. While many countries have similar protections, you may want to research cultural attitudes towards nursing at your destination. Additionally, U.S.-based airlines are becoming more and more nursing friendly, with helpful and understanding staff.
Some airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport offer nursing rooms or nursing pods – private areas for breastfeeding or pumping. Check with your airline to see about other lounges and private spaces that may be available.
If traveling to remote or undeveloped areas, see your doctor to discuss any necessary vaccinations or medications and how they may interact with breastfeeding, including treatments for travelers’ diarrhea and other travel-related illnesses.
Travel While Pumping
If you plan to be away from your baby, it is extremely important to pump at regular feeding intervals to maintain your milk supply, typically about every 4 hours. You’ll need to pack all of your supplies as well as your cleaning and storing solutions. Keeping milk frozen or cold is a must to safely preserve your milk to bring home to baby.
Consider the following checklist of items for pumping while traveling:
- Battery-operated pump and/or hand-operated pump
- Hospital-grade double electric pump for more efficient and faster pumping
- Hard-sided cases for transit of pump(s)
- Cleaning supplies: dish soap, wash basin, wipes, microwave sterilization bags
- Zip-top plastic bags
- Freezer packs
- Car adapter and battery packs
- Small cooler
- Breast milk freezer bags
- Permanent marker to date bags
Pumps are considered personal items and should stay with you through TSA checkpoints. Never check a pump and risk damage. Mothers are allowed to bring reasonable amounts of liquid breast milk through security. Keep milk and all pumping supplies separate from other luggage, alert the agent when at the checkpoint, and ask the agent to change into clean gloves before handling any of your feeding supplies. Note that any freezer packs must be frozen solid to be allowed as a carry-on.
Before your flight, fill a plastic bag with ice to assure your milk stays frozen or cold. Look for family restrooms – as they have outlets and locking doors – for a pumping location, or use an airport nursing pod. You may also wish to stock up on bottled water for cleaning your pump in flight, if needed. Flight attendants can also provide bottled water for cleaning, and may offer to store milk in the cabin refrigerator. In case of flight delays, be prepared to pump or hand express to avoid engorgement, and plan to safely keep milk cold for hours.
Use the rule of “6” for safe milk handling: Freshly expressed breast milk is safe for 6 hours at room temperature, 6 days in a refrigerator, and 6 months when frozen. Fresh breast milk will stay safe for 24 hours in a cooler on ice. Frozen milk, once thawed, must be consumed within 24 hours.
If you’ll be traveling for an extended period of time or do not have the means to store milk, consider donating your breast milk. Organizations like Human Milk 4 Human Babies connect babies in need with donor milk and have chapters located throughout the world. Another option is to ship your milk home to baby either frozen packed with ice packs or on dry ice. Be sure to use overnight shipping, insulate all of your milk bags or bottles in newspaper, and check with the carrier for current shipping rules and regulations.