As a kid, road trips were my favorite mode of travel. But as a mom with a kid, there aren't all that great. They're still fun, but it's way more difficult than I could have ever imagined, especially if you're a breastfeeding mom. Short of detaching your boobs to give your baby in the backseat, the best way to make it work is to have some breastfeeding hacks when traveling on a long car ride up your sleeve.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, 91 percent of long distance holiday traveling is done by car. While taking a baby on an airplane is no picnic by any means, I think the major difference is that you can actually hold your baby on the plane. Generally, breastfeeding isn't an issue at 5,000 feet. You're free to move around, hold a fussy baby, feed them any time they want, and basically feel like you're at home. (If home is a very uncomfortable chair with a coughing stranger squashed up next to you.)
But when you're in the car for those long stretches of highway, you've got to have some plans in place. Whether your trip is six hours or spanning two days, these nine breastfeeding hacks can help both you and your baby make it with minimal trauma. (Except for that whole diaper blow out thing in the car seat on a 50 mile stretch of empty highway. That will always stick with you.)
Even if you don't usually pump, you should bring it with you and grab a car adapter for it. Fit Pregnancy noted that pumping while in the car is a huge help, even if you're driving, but in order to make it work, you need to be totally hands-free. Using your electric pump, you can find a car adapter so you don't have to hand express any milk and relieve your breasts while in the car. The point of the pump even if you hardly ever use it? Your baby may sleep through some feedings. If you want to maintain your milk supply, but you don't want to wake them, you're going to have to pump while you're on the road.
I can't stress this enough. It's like when you know you don't have to pee, but you just want to be sure before you get in the car — feed your baby one last time before everyone straps in. That way, there's no surprise hunger cues (you hope) five miles into your road trip and you can go ahead and start planning when you'll make the next stop to nurse.
Seriously, you're going to have to stop. Nobody wants to, I know, especially when you're in the rhythm of traveling, but there's no way your baby can last the whole trip without a stop. For one thing, Breastfeeding Place noted that it is very unsafe to try and lean over your baby's car seat to nurse them while traveling. If you were in an accident, the weight of your body could crush your little one. So save the feedings for the stops. You'll need to get out and stretch your legs anyway, so take some time before you start your journey to plan when you'll be stopping. If your baby eats every two hours, then follow that schedule. If you think your baby can handle a longer stretch, go for it. If you know you'll need gas a couple of hours in, go ahead and plan to nurse at the same time.
A cooler can be your saving grace for a couple of reasons. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk is good at room temperature for about six to eight hours. If you'll be traveling longer than that, a cooler can help keep your breast milk cool until you reach your destination. Just throw some ice or ice packs in the cooler (or find one that can plug into your car's adapter) and you'll have a great way to transport milk. But you can also store your own snacks and plenty of water in the cooler, too. Lansinoh noted that it's very important for you to stay hydrated while breastfeeding and traveling, and having water on hand can eliminate any stops. (Except to pee of course.)
When you're on a long road trip, there's a chance you'll be seeing more trees than restaurants on some stretches of your journey. Be sure to do some homework beforehand. You already know you'll have to stop to nurse and let your baby out of their car seat, so research rest stops and restaurants to try, suggested Lansinoh. If you know there's a restaurant right before you hit two hours of nothing, make it a priority to stop, nurse your little one, and relax before you continue on the journey. The Huffington Post also suggested looking up the laws for breastfeeding in the states you're traveling in so you know your rights and can do what you need to do.
They're just a little more resilient than bags. The CDC recommended using some kind of container that can be sealed tightly once your breast milk is inside to eliminate contamination and leaks.
If you don't mind driving at night, it might be your best bet. Lansinoh noted that you can take this approach by nursing your little one just like you do before bed and then buckling them into the car seat. There's a good chance they'll sleep as well as they do in bed and, if that's several hours, you may be able to make it to your destination with limited problems.
Breastfeeding Place recommended bringing extra diapers, clothes, and wipes, so make sure to get organized. Have a "command center" in the car, like a small box or bag, that can hold all of the items you need handy like wipes, pacifiers, toys, books, diapers, and snacks. It will be so much easier for you if you can just grab what you need instead of rifling through bags or losing things to the floorboard of the car.
The car could potentially be your oasis for a while, especially if you have to pull over at less-than-ideal rest stops or even nurse in a parking lot. If you need your nursing pillow, bring it. If you want a book or an iPad to pass the time, bring them. Whatever you need to make breastfeeding in the car easier and more enjoyable, do it. Otherwise, those nursing sessions will be very long and miserable.