A Holiday Guide To Traveling While Breastfeeding, Because You Want To Be As Prepared As Possible
In terms of fun-to-be-had, holiday travel probably ranks somewhere between going to the DMV and getting a root canal. But when you throw a baby into the mix it's even worse. And breastfeeding and pumping can only complicate this already quasi-chaotic (or at least potentially chaotic) situation. Something must be done! Won't someone please think of the children... and, more pressingly, their poor, flustered parents?! We need some holiday travel tips for breastfeeding moms, so Romper talked to Jennifer Jordan, Director of Mom and Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare, who gave us some pointers.
Step one: In the famous words of Scar from The Lion King, "be prepared." (Yeah, he's an evil, fratricidal lion who reigns chaos over the savanna by disrupting the natural order, but you cannot fault him on his preparedness. Credit where credit's due, you guys.) Before you even start to pack, Jordan suggests making a checklist, especially if you will be bringing a pump with you. "With your pump parts, there are so many pieces you need to remember," she tells Romper, and points out that even parents who are used to toting a pump to and from work may take for granted certain items that are typically on hand but wouldn't be on a plane or train, such as paper towels to clean and dry parts, or steam sterilizing bags.
Seriously: how many of us have gone on vacation only to discover that we completely forgot items exactly because they're so essential? I forget toothpaste every. single. time. I pack, people. Because there's always toothpaste. It's right there! Fortunately for me, you can easily buy toothpaste most places. Specific baby items? Not so much. So, a few days before you start to pack, go through your daily routine and jot down every item you use. Is it convenient to do this while doing your daily routine? No. But it's going to be less inconvenient than sitting in an airport with painful swollen breasts because you forgot your pump's power cord. (Speaking of which, Jordan suggests considering using a battery operated pump while traveling or bringing a hand-pump "so you're not at the mercy of finding a power outlet." I can tell you from experience this is the opposite of fun.) She also suggests bringing an extra pumping kit if you can, just in case you're unable to clean your parts in-between pumping sessions.
Other items that may not come immediately to mind include baby's favorite blanket or lovey (to ease the transition sleeping in a new place), frozen ice packs for breast milk storage if you're going to pump ("if your ice packs are kind of slushy you could be subject to a different testing protocol [by the TSA]," Jordan warns), and items that serve more than one purpose, such as baby sling that doubles as a nursing scarf or blanket. After all, there's no getting around the fact that you're going to pack a ton of stuff, so two-in-one items can do a little bit to ease that burden. And, of course, never leave home without plastic bags and a change of clothes for baby. "Because blow-outs will happen," Jordan wisely assures Romper, and, from experience, I can absolutely back that up.
OK, so you're all packed. If you're simply driving to where you need to go that's probably your biggest worry. But for moms who are flying (and therefore have to deal with the trials and tribulations of airports) you may also be concerned about your legal rights. Are you allowed to nurse on the plane? Does pumped breast milk count as a liquid as far as the TSA is concerned? Will there be somewhere for you to pump if you have to? And OMG how are you going to deal with a baby on a plane?!
Don't panic: The key to most of this, Jordan tells Romper, is to be confident in knowing your rights.
"Mom should know she has the right to feed her baby wherever and however she would like," she says. That includes anywhere in the airport you have a right to be (though special breastfeeding pods are becoming more common for moms who'd like more privacy and quiet while they provide milk for their baby) and on the plane. If your child is under two, Jordan says, they can be on your lap (for free) on domestic flights for the entire flight, so you can nurse whenever you need. This can be particularly useful during take-off and landing, to help your little one deal with changing cabin pressure. "Pressure change is incredibly hard on baby," Jordan tells Romper. "Being able to feed is very soothing and helps them adjust."
Of course, it's one thing to know your own rights as a breastfeeding parent... it's quite another for someone else to be aware. Even those in positions of power. That's why Jordan suggests grabbing a screenshot (or even a printed copy) of the most recent TSA and airline guidelines for breastfeeding moms (and traveling with breast milk) before you travel (and bear in mind that they do change). "We've seen in the news that there have been breastfeeding and pumping moms who have maybe been treated or questioned outside of the TSA guidelines," Jordan says. "TSA and security personnel as well as a airline employees go through training but... having a printed copy of the guidelines can serve as a refresher [for them] as well as protection [for mom]."
Once you arrive at your destination, even if there's a time difference, try to honor your baby's schedule as much as you can, especially with feedings. After all, they don't know it's three-hours earlier. They just know they want to eat or sleep. "We know we have to be flexible when traveling," Jordan says, "But you probably worked hard for that schedule... [and] it's going to make the transition to and from your destination so much easier.
Finally, as with anything that involves parenting and especially, perhaps, issues that involve breastfeeding, it's crucial to take yourself into the equation and remember that your wellness matters! Make sure you're eating, drinking, and (whenever possible) resting as best you can. "Your body is working so hard to produce milk for baby," Jordan reminds Romper. "Make sure you're taking care of yourself."
So, wherever your travels may take you this holiday, take care of yourself out there, mama. You've got this.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.