Traveling with your baby is enough of a challenge but traveling for the breastfeeding mother presents a whole new set of challenges. One challenge is not being able to have all the comforts of home that make the frequent breastfeeding sessions easier, like your nursing pillow, favorite spot on the couch, being in your own element with space to spread out and relax, or the option to use your electric pump whenever needed. While traveling, you trade your nursing pillow for a carryon bag to prop up your baby, your spot on the couch for a hard, cramped airplane or airport seat next to a stranger. I understand the struggle because I’ve been there and done all of that. As a new mom, breastfeeding was already something I had to work hard to learn how to do properly for myself and baby. Hopefully something in this post will help you overcome a fear of traveling with your baby or help you find a product or service that will make the process of traveling with baby easier.
Water. My first must-have for traveling is a water bottle. Whether you purchase a bottle of water at Hudson Booksellers after the security check or fill-up your travel-friendly collapsible water bottle before boarding your flight, make sure you always have water on hand to stay hydrated and keep up your milk supply while traveling. All that recycled airplane air will quickly dry you out so drink more water than usual.
Snacks. Snacks are always a good idea to have on hand. A hangry breastfeeding mom is not good! When you’re responsible for feeding two people, eating is priority number one. So when you can’t wait for inflight service to start to consume some calories, be sure to have plenty of snacks on hand. There are many snacks you can get at stores like Target that are made specifically for breastfeeding mothers like Boobie Bars or Lactation Cookie Bites but regular travel-friendly snacks such as granola bars, fruits and nuts are all healthy options that promote milk production as well.
Nursing cover. Anything that serves a dual purpose is a win when traveling so a nursing cover that doubles as a carseat cover will come in handy. For breastfeeding moms such as myself that was still learning the ropes, breastfeeding in public was a daunting, stressful task. A nursing cover provided the security my baby and I needed to take our time getting that perfect latch and a comfortable feeding session in an airport full of strangers. There may be other options for you provided by the airport for a better breastfeeding experience such as Mamava nursing pods or nursing suites at the airport. Use the airport’s app, website, or contact them directly to ask about amenities available for breastfeeding mothers.
Storage. Before leaving home, make sure your milk is safe and secure in reliable storage containers. I used the Medela insulated cooler set that includes an ice pack to travel with pumped frozen milk many times without incident. Whatever brand or milk storage option you choose, make sure it can handle a cooling element like an ice pack and the amount of milk needed for your travels!
A couple of things I also found helpful was to lay the bags of milk sideways in the freezer to make them freeze flat and allow more room in the insulated bag. Also, I would take an insulated travel mug with a closing lid for hot water to use to thaw the frozen milk before putting the milk in a bottle. You can find a Starbucks in pretty much any airport terminal and every time I’ve asked for hot water, they have gladly obliged.
Comfortable breastfeeding clothes. When I became a mother, particularly while healing from my C-sections, I definitely put comfort as a priority over style for my postpartum wardrobe. When I travel, comfort becomes the ultimate goal. It’s very important to have clothing that allows you to feed baby quickly and easily while traveling, but I have found there were plenty of comfortable yet cute, stylish options for breastfeeding that meant I could have it all!
Nursing pads. Nursing pads is another one of my must-haves while away from home. You never know when you’ll spring a leak and want to always be prepared with some nursing pads and change of clothes in your carryon bag which could come in handy in the event you have plans such as dinner or a business meeting to attend right after arriving at your destination. There are different options available. There are reusable, washable pads that are eco-friendly, thick and comfortable and very absorbent, and there are disposable pads that are convenient and easy to pack that will also provide the protection you need.
Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream. This product was SO helpful for me. It was the reason I was able to continue to breastfeed my daughter and saved me so much pain and suffering. There are other brands and cream options available for purchase out there, but I can’t say enough good things about Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream. I was having the worst time when I started breastfeeding my daughter and as a new mom, did not realize how hard it could be. Within a couple of weeks, I wanted to give up because it had become so painful to feed my baby every couple of hours, but this cream applied after every feeding allowed me to heal enough to continue breastfeeding which was very important to me. So now I recommend it or gift it to every new mom who has decided to breastfeed to hopefully give her a better experience than I had at first.
Cleaning wipes. If you decide to bring pumping equipment along for your travels, you may find Medela Quick Clean Wipes a necessity to pack to clean your breast pump parts in the absence of a sterilizer and soap and hot water. You may also want to pack breast wipes to freshen up for baby between feedings for lengthy trips. There are also sterilizing bags that are easy to pack in your luggage and provide limited use to clean pumping equipment once you have access to water and a microwave.
Reminders. Setting an alarm or reminders on your phone can also be helpful to keep on top of feedings while you’re trying to maintain a travel schedule, flying through time zones, and suffering from jet lag. Especially for small babies who feed around the clock, it can allow you to make sure you make time to feed baby before baby has a meltdown to remind you! Also, having one less thing to think about or remember will help you focus on making your connecting flight or, in my case, hitting up the nearest coffee stand to fuel up before the next flight.
I completely understand the amount of preparation mentally and emotionally that goes into getting to the airport for your first postpartum flight(s) but, just know, that you can do it and it gets easier when you know what to expect. Breastfeeding is a huge responsibility that can be a rewarding experience for mother and baby and can even be considered a convenience while traveling when prepared. My plan for Baby Foodie in the near future is to provide more resources to make it more convenient for breastfeeding moms and babies.