Breastfeeding anywhere in public can be stressful. You’re worried about covering or not covering, extra milk, finding a good space. But preparing to breastfeed on a plane can double the anxiety. Not only do you have all the same concerns, but you’re stuck in a small space, thousands of feet in the air.
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of American moms breastfed their babies in 2014. So if even a small percent of those moms flew during that time, that’s a lot of breastfeeding on a plane. Which means a lot of women have tried to finagle a nursing cover while strapped to a seat and attempting not to knock over their neighbor's complimentary soda.
I’ve personally encountered this nursing dilemma, but I know many moms who have. And their advice for nursing in the skies — be prepared. You want to be able to board the plane with your baby and nurse in peace. Traveling with a baby is tough enough, and you shouldn’t waste time worrying whether you packed everything you need, if you’ll have enough space, or how you might react if someone complains. Breastfeeding on a plane will feel a lot less intimidating once you’ve got your bases covered. Here are five tips to help you prepare for breastfeeding on a plane.
1. Know The Airline’s Breastfeeding Policy Ahead Of Time
Not all airliners have breastfeeding policies, but a lack of a policy would be important to know as well, as this means the rules are up to the discretion of the airline attendants. Unfortunately, moms still experience difficulties even when the airlines allow for nursing on a plane, like Kristen Hilderman, who was told to cover up on a United Airlines flight in March 2015. Do what feels comfortable, and don’t be afraid to refuse to cover up.
2. Pack Everything You Need For Breastfeeding
You’ll want something to store your extra breastmilk, a scarf for draping over baby if you go that route (scarves are lightweight and look good!) a pillow for support, extra shirts in case you leak, lots of water, and the ubiquitous baby wipes. You’ll also want to know your airline’s policy on breastmilk and security screenings.
3. See If You Can Snag An Extra Seat
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends purchasing an extra seat for safety, but it can give you more room to nurse without infringing on other's’ personal space. Another option is to ask a flight attendant at the gate if there are any open seats you could be placed next to.
4. Stay Hydrated
According to Dr. Sears, breastfeeding moms need to drink about four more 8-ounce glasses of water a day than other people. But on a plane, the low water vapor content and air pressure combined with more rapid breathing equals a need for more water. The last thing you need is to become groggy and irritable while wrangling a nursing baby on a plane, so drink up mom.
5. Use Breastfeeding To Your Baby’s Advantage
Babies often have trouble taking off and landing due to the changes in air pressure that can cause ear pain. But breastfeeding can prevent the pain, as nursing relieves the pain of the air pressure change for the baby. Consider timing your feedings to these crucial times, and you may make for a cry-free flight.
Images: Courtesy of Claire Bidwell Smith; Giphy (5)