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Planning for travel with a newborn is enough to make you wonder why people do it sometimes! If you’re breastfeeding while traveling, timing of feeds and where to breastfeed or pump adds another layer. We’ve got tips on breastfeeding while traveling and a packing list for breastfeeding mothers.
Tips for Breastfeeding While Traveling
I’ve been there. As a territory sales manager, I traveled up to four nights a week when my kids were infants. I wasn’t a confident nursing mom. With my first, I developed mastitis. He also had jaundice which led to him being placed on special formula. With my next babies, I was determined to not let travel derail my ability to pump and deliver breast milk. Over time I’ve devised a list of must-have items for breastfeeding while traveling.
General Breastfeeding Tips – An Overview to Get Started
We’re about to dive into tips that are specific to what baby needs while traveling. If you’re at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey or are looking for more general breastfeeding tips, we recommend the International Lactation Consultant Association. They address things like latch, lactation specialists, low milk supply, tongue-tie and other common breastfeeding problems.
Breastfeeding Tip: Know Your Rights
One factor that makes breastfeeding while traveling daunting is stories from friends and on social media about being chastised or directed to finish breastfeeding sessions in bathrooms. On top of that, will your seatmates be baby-haters?
First things first. Whether you’re driving, flying, stopping at restaurants, or staying in hotels, you can handle this and you have the right to breastfeed your baby!
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that allow a woman to breastfeed her baby in any public or private location. These laws extend to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. You can look them up by state here.
Research your airport.
It helps to do a bit of research before your trip. Breastfeeding on the road has come a LONG way since I traveled with my now-19-year-old. These days, many airports have lactation rooms so that you aren’t pumping in a bathroom to be close to a plug. Mamava has breastfeeding pods at numerous airports. They offer a great FREE private space for your nursing session. One breastfeeding tip we always share is to download the Mamava app before your flight. The app lists Mamava locations and other lactation locations.
Read More: Tips to Have a Great Flight with Baby
Breastfeeding While Traveling: How TSA Works
You have rights as a nursing mother. This includes bringing milk through a TSA checkpoint whether or not you have your baby with you. I’m going to repeat it because I know I’ve had issues with this. Your baby does not have to be with you to travel with breast milk. You can also bring ice packs through security with the breast milk. This includes the right to bring through ice packs as needed.
Going Through Airport Security with Breast Milk
- Be sure to print or screenshot the Transportation Security Administration policy on breast milk at security checkpoints. Not everyone is as aware of policy as they should be.
- Before putting milk through equipment, declare it to TSA agents. Not doing so can prolong the amount of time your screening takes. They have to follow protocol once they see a liquid on the scanner. Declaring it allows them to screen it as a medically necessary liquid.
- TSA has the right to screen your breast milk, which can include x-raying it and testing it for explosives. Agents are allowed to pour out a very small amount for testing.
- You can ask them not to x-ray it. Be aware that it will then need to be hand inspected and you will likely receive a full pat-down and private screening.
- Do not wear breast milk collectors through TSA checkpoints! It will end with a special pat down and interview. Regular breast pads are fine. Silicone covers and collectors like Lacticups will show up on scanners.
- If you feel that these rights are not being respected and you’re not reaching an agreement with the officer, ask to speak to a supervisor.
When possible I recommend traveling with small quantities of pumped milk. If business travel takes you on the road frequently, check with your employer. Some companies offer pumped milk shipping. If so, look into a service like Milk Stork. While I never had milk taken away, agents did comment on the volume of milk I was traveling with without an infant. After that, I started shipping when possible.
Breastfeeding Self-Care During Your Trip
Drink lots of water.
Yup. Dehydration is the enemy of breastfeeding. It’s easy to become dehydrated when traveling. Planes will already dry you out. Drink buckets of water. Then drink some more.
Choose a window seat!
If you have the option to select your seat, try to pick a window seat. It will give you a little more privacy and a spot to lean against. It also means that neither you nor the baby will get hit by a rogue drink cart.
Nurse during takeoff and landing.
You always hear about “crying babies” on planes. A major contributor is pressure changes that can wreak havoc on little ears. When you’re flying with baby, try to nurse (or at least offer baby a pacifier) at takeoff and landing. Sucking motions help keep their ears unclogged and popping so the pressure doesn’t build.
Buy a seat for baby if possible.
Babies can fly as lap children up to age 2 on most airlines. If you’re nursing, particularly if it’s a long flight, buy a seat. So many kiddos use boobs like binkies. If the boob is near, they’ll suck even if they aren’t actually hungry. Hold a baby through a long flight and mom is going to end up dehydrated with sore nipples. It’s nice to be able to buckle baby into a car seat. They’ll nap, maybe you’ll nap! You can pull them out as needed and keep them on a feeding schedule, even at 30,000 feet.
Dress for success.
I’m sure I’ve overstated it by now, but preparation is key. Breastfeeding tip-using a new nursing shirt on your first trip with baby can end in frustration. Worst case scenario you get yourself stuck in the shirt (it happens). I found a spaghetti strap tank top under a cardigan to be the key to success. I could slide one arm out of the cardigan, pull down the strap, put the cardigan back on and then nurse easily without needing to fiddle with cloaks and covers. Planes tend to be chilly! Think about packing a cozy nursing sweater or side-zip nursing sweatshirt.
Ask for help.
It can feel isolating and overwhelming to travel with baby. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Airline employees can offer guidance on the location of plugs and recommend the best seats for nursing. They can sometimes provide ice for breast milk if needed. Fellow passengers are usually happy to hand you something or even hold baby for a few minutes. People are inherently good.
Book a room with a fridge.
If you’ll need a fridge in your room, follow-up is your friend. Even if your initial research shows the room will have a microfridge, include it in the special requests section when you book. Then call or message in the hotel app to verify there will be a fridge. Sometimes it’s listed as an amenity but they’re in limited quantity. A few extra steps help avoid surprises if you get in late and find no fridge.
Pack an adapter for international travel.
Traveling outside of the United States? Connecting through a foreign airport? Be sure to pack travel plug and voltage adapters so your breast pump still works.
Breastfeeding on A Road Trip
If you’re driving, breastfeeding can get a little bit tricky. You can’t really nurse while the car is in motion but if every stop turns into a feed you never get a break. Your travel time can also go way up when baby takes a long time eating. A few things that I’ve found helpful are:
Schedule the longest driving stretches for baby’s regular nap or bed time.
By driving the longest distances during natural nap times or sleep times you maximize the amount of miles you can cover. This may mean night driving for you so you’ll have to decide if that will work. If you’re solo with baby, you’ll also need your sleep!
Plan out your meal breaks.
Try to look for some fun spots to stop and eat. Pairing nursing with a sit-down meal can be a great way to save time and eat something yummy.
Consider pumping and bottle feeding.
One breastfeeding travel tip, if your baby does well with a bottle you can save time by pumping when you’re the passenger. With pumped milk, you can give baby fresh bottles without stopping for every feeding.
Strategize your gas station stops.
No one really wants to sit in a parking lot to nurse but sometimes it’s a necessary part of roadtripping. Looking to save time? start nursing while your travel companion pumps gas. Then have them park. Send them in to grab you a beverage and snack while you finish up. In some climates, this may not be a great option. Consider accessories like a car-specific heated blanket, cooling towels or a quality sun shield.
Breastfeeding Tips: We Look for These Quiet Spots
Nursing rooms and lactation pods don’t always pop up when you need them. Getting the right position with a good latch can be tricky when there isn’t even a place to sit down! Through four kids, I’ve found these to be reliable spots to stop and nurse in many cities.
- Libraries. They’re quiet and have plenty of chairs. If it’s hot out you’ll get into the AC! Look for the children’s room or a study pod.
- Hotel Lobbies. Most hotels are used to people coming and going. No one will have an issue with you stopping and sitting in the lobby for a few. Mornings and evenings can be hectic, but midday is usually quiet.
- Theme Parks. If you’re already heading to a theme park many have designated baby centers or nursing rooms. You may not always want to trek to one though. Look for a bench or a slow-moving ride. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover was always a favorite of mine at
Walt Disney World.
- In a baby carrier. Not only does babywearing free up your hands (super convenient if you also have older kids!) but the right carrier allows you to nurse while wearing baby. Options like the Boba Wrap , LILLEBaby and Tula allow you to find the best fit for you.
Read More: 40+ Must Buy Baby Essentials
What to Pack for Breastfeeding Success on a Trip
There are so many options out there for breastfeeding supplies. It’s easy to overthink this or lose hours to research. One thing to keep in mind though? Things don’t always go according to plan. It’s better to buy an item you’re not sure if you’ll need than need the item urgently on a trip. If you’re questioning it, keep it in the packaging and set a date in your mind to reassess and return.
Packing List for Travel While Breastfeeding
Take advantage of drive time when you’re the passenger. You can pump in the car.
Organic bamboo washable pads are versatile. Washable silicone pads are good if you’re not prone to leaking too much breast milk. Breast shells or breast milk collectors like Lacti-cups collect milk you leak so you can save and store it.
Guys, these are my favorite. My youngest is 7. I still carry these because the ability to sterilize things on the road is amazing. Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam bags allow you to quickly sterilize pump parts, bottles, binkies and other items in a microwave. You get up to 10 uses per bag. Pack a Sharpie to mark off uses on the bag.
If you plan to feed baby pumped breast milk or supplement with formula, pack bottles, bottle cleaning brushes and any liners you may need. These silicone cleaning brushes cost a little more but they’re great for travel. They’re easy to clean and the smallest one fits in a sterilizer bag.
It doesn’t seem practical, but a little hand pump can help get things going and relieve pressue quickly. Travel can throw off the best of us. If baby isn’t being cooperative, you’ll be glad you have it. I know that some electric breast pumps come with manual attachments. Trust me they are not all created equal. This Avent one is a beast. It worked far better than the 5 other brands I tried.
Dehydration and fatigue, both common side effects of family vacations, can contribute to clogged milk ducts. Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it often. It will help keep your milk supply consistent even in unfamiliar surroundings. I love this glass one.
These were a lifesaver for me. They can be frozen to soothe sore nipples. Or heat and put them in your bra before pumping to help with milk flow. They can even stay inside a hands-free nursing bra while you are pumping!
If you’re pumping on the road, use these to keep everything clean until you get the parts to a microwave to sterilize.
Milk bags are always a good idea to have whether you’re solo or producing more than baby eats. These ones stand up by themselves and have a pour spout for filling bottles!
You certainly don’t need to use a scarf when you feed baby but if baby is handy, it gives them something to play with. In a pinch, you can clean spit up with it.
Your normal nipple cream or nipple balm may not be the best choice for traveling. Many products packaging takes up too much room in your zip-top bag of liquids. Bella B makes a great Nipple Nurture Butter that is travel-sized at 2 ounces. Or go with Nature’s Nurture Nipple Balm. It’s chapstick-like design is super easy to use on the go.
We love this one because of the included ice pack, shoulder strap and name tag area. Plus its budget-friendly price tag doesn’t hurt!
I’m kind of a Ziploc Fan Girl. They come in so handy! From getting ice to keep milk cool to holding spitup-covered outfits, you’ll be glad you packed them.
Have you traveled while breastfeeding? What are your breastfeeding travel tips and tricks while on the road?