Traveling with your little one can be intimidating for baby and mom. You both are out of your normal routine, sleeping in a different bed, adjusting to new surroundings, possibly a new time zone. Of course we don’t want our babies to feel uncertain and scared. Fortunately, one thing that will remain stable for your baby is the comfort and nourishment they receive from breastfeeding. Have you ever heard the expression “milk coma”? That’s pretty much how my babies get when I nurse them- regardless of whether we are in an airplane, on the beach, in the middle of a busy city, or, late at night, in an unfamiliar bed.
My name is Sarah and I am the owner of sarahctravels.com, a family travel blog. My boys are ages 4 and 1 and I have nursed both of them for the first 18+ months of their lives, including during our travels. I’ve nursed my babies in 30+ different countries all around the world. Not that I’m a breastfeeding expert, but I have found that nursing while traveling makes the whole experience so much easier!!
Breastfeeding Benefits for Travel
- You are always prepared with nourishment for your baby. When you breastfeed, you are the food, so you will always be able to satisfy your baby’s needs, and it’s always the right temperature and available when your baby needs it most. Nothing is worse than being stuck in the air longer than expected or being unable to find a place to eat when it’s dinnertime! Fortunately, a breastfed baby can eat whenever they need to no matter where you are.
- Breastfeeding your baby makes flying easier. Little ears can be sensitive to the air pressure changes when taking-off and landing. When breastfeeding, the sucking movement can help baby’s ears “pop” so that they are not uncomfortable during the air pressure changes on the plane. Timing out your feedings so that you can nurse your baby during take-off and landing will help make the transition more manageable.
- Breast milk can be an immunity booster to keep your younger children from getting sick. There’s no law that big kids can’t share in the benefit of breast milk too! When our bodies are fighting germs, we pass those antibodies on to our baby through our breast milk. I remember when I was fighting a stomach bug right before we were leaving for a beach trip to Puerto Rico and I was so worried that the rest of the family would catch my bug on vacation! I pumped a little breast milk for my then, 2 year old to drink and continued feeding the baby, who was only 4 months, and neither of them caught it!
- Breastfeeding helps your baby when they can’t sleep. I understand that it is important at home to work on sleep training and I am a firm believer in “cry it out”. However, when our family is traveling, especially in a different time zone, all “rules” go out the window. They are in a new bed, with different surroundings and shadows- it’s no surprise that your little one may cry a little extra at night. I always nurse mine “through” the night when we travel because I know that they probably need a little extra comfort (especially if they wake up in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place) and it definitely helps them fall right back to sleep if they have woken up due to jet lag. I have found that when we get home, after a week or less, we go right back to our regular sleep routine and the transition is pretty seamless.
- Breastfeeding is a great way to quiet your baby. There have been times when we were on a group tour or eating at a quiet, fancy restaurant, or in the middle of the night on a red-eye flight and I’ve needed to nurse my baby to quiet them down so we didn’t disrupt others. Last January we were on a safari in South Africa and my youngest would not stay quiet! We were looking for lions and there was no way we would be able to see one if he was making such a fuss! I quickly took him to nurse and everyone on the tour thought he had finally fallen asleep, but actually, I was just nursing him the whole time! I have to say, both boys have never refused the opportunity to breastfeed and it definitely has kept them (and me) happy and out of trouble! 😉
Breastfeeding Tips for Mom
We put all the focus on our baby, but so often we forget about ourselves. Here are a few things I’ve learned (some the hard way!) about breastfeeding and taking care of ME while traveling:
- Stay hydrated: Drinking enough fluids while breastfeeding is essential. If you are flying, make sure to bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it up with water before you board the plane. The air is so dry on the plane and they never give you enough water during the flight! Without enough water, you will get dehydrated. Nursing my baby at the beach in Hawaii without drinking enough water caused me to get very dehydrated because my body was taking away all the nutrients needed to keep me healthy and giving them to my baby. I had no reserve and ended up at the local Hawaiian hospital with an IV to hydrate me again. It was not fun and I definitely learned my lesson the hard way.
- Eat enough calories: The more calories you intake, the more milk you will produce. I find that when we are traveling, I am so busy and distracted sightseeing and being out of my normal environment that I unintentionally skip meals!! I literally forget to eat when we are traveling! It’s so important to be conscious of a higher caloric intake while breastfeeding so that your body can produce enough milk. A good reminder is to eat a snack whenever you stop to nurse your little one.
- Wear comfortable nursing clothes: Of course my absolute favorite nursing brand is Lottie Life!!! It’s so easy to wear and nurse with, SUPER comfortable and perfect for traveling! You definitely want to wear something that will make breastfeeding easily accessible for your babe whenever they need it.
There have been times when I’ve worn a shirt that’s difficult to nurse in and it makes it so frustrating, especially when the baby is crying and I can’t nurse them quickly enough. I also recommend layers or a nursing shawl, especially if you are traveling to cultures that are super conservative and may be sensitive to seeing too much skin. When we were in Israel and Jordan, I was always conscious to bring a shawl and cover myself and the baby when he nursed. Although I understand that there is a big movement these days to normalize breastfeeding, I also want to be sensitive to whatever cultures we are in,regardless of whether I agree or disagree with their cultural practices.
- Bring a manual breast pump: I would definitely recommend bringing your breast pump if you are traveling by car. There are numerous times when we are on a road trip and baby needs to eat but it is inconvenient to stop and nurse. In those cases, I will quick pump a bottle of milk to give my baby in their car seat so we won’t have to stop as often. It is definitely a time saver!
We have traveled to some pretty far away and exotic places. When everything seems strange and unfamiliar, breastfeeding my baby has provided normalcy and comfort for both of us. I’ve nursed my babies while riding on trains across Europe, touring the Galapagos Islands and walking the streets of Cuba.
You CAN travel with your babies and breastfeeding will definitely make the whole travel experience easier! You are always prepared with the food you need for your baby and you are able to provide him or her all the comfort they need to feel secure in a foreign environment. Just make sure to take good care of yourself too, so you that you can take the best care of your babe!!