Between packing all those extra clothes and gear, coping with erratic sleep schedules and crossing your fingers that your baby won’t scream the entire trip, traveling with a little one is no easy feat. And if you’re breast-feeding or pumping, there are some other things to consider like how much milk you can bring on the plane or where the best places to breast-feed are.
Here, experts weigh in on simple things you can do ahead of time to keep you and your baby healthy this holiday season.
1. Be prepared.
The good news is that when you travel with a baby, you can bring both a carry-on bag and a diaper bag on the plane. A breast pump is considered a personal item so you can bring it, but it would be in place of one of your bags. Or you might consider bringing a single manual pump if it fits in the diaper bag. Breast milk will stay at room temperature for about 8 hours, so bring a bag with ice packs for longer trips.
Pack hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to clean the armrests and tray, as well as a nursing cover or baby sling if it makes you more comfortable feeding your baby on the plane. Also, never use the water on the plane to clean pump parts or bottles because of bacteria that may be lurking there, said Laurie MacLeod, a certified nurse midwife at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Instead, store them in resealable plastic bags and clean them at your destination or ask the flight attendant for bottled water.
2. Tell security about your milk.
The TSA have eased their restrictions on liquids, allowing moms to travel with more than three ounces of breast milk but you’ll still have to tell security if you have more than that amount. No matter how much you bring, it’s a good idea to have breast milk portioned out for individual feedings.
Although milk and ice packs likely will be screened by X-ray, TSA may also ask you to pour out a small amount and test it. If you don’t want the milk to be X-rayed, opened, or tested, tell them; they may run additional screening. Plus, some airlines offer TSA Pre-Check, an expedited screening program, which can help the process run smoothly.
3. Time feedings right.
To encourage your baby to swallow and help ease the pressure in his ears during takeoff and landing, breast-feed or offer food or a pacifier.
4. Leave early.
If you’ll be driving to your destination, build in extra time to pull over for feedings and the diaper changes. It might be easier to pump and feed your baby a bottle instead, but you’ll still have to express or pump to keep your milk supply up, Tipper Gallagher, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn. and founder of theboobgeek.com said.
5. Pack supplies.
Be sure to bring anything that will make your trip less stressful. Pack extra nursing bras, breast pads, a feeding pillow, a bottle brush, milk storage bags and nipple cream. If you’ll be staying in a hotel, request a room with a mini fridge to store milk.
6. Use an app.
A recent poll from Public Health England’s Start4Life service found that more than one-third of moms felt embarrassed breast-feeding in public. If you’re one who prefers privacy, download an app to find places where you can discretely breast-feed or pump. Some airports have Mamava lactation suites that include a power outlet, seating, cleanup supplies and room for bags.
7. Stay healthy.
Changes to your normal schedule coupled with exposure to viruses and bacteria in busy airports can make you more prone to mastitis, a breast inflammation that can cause pain, swelling, fever, chills, body aches and malaise, MacLeod said. Plus, a decrease in feedings can affect your milk supply, too.
To prevent mastitis and keep your milk supply strong, stay well-hydrated, wash your hands frequently, rest and stick to your normal breast-feeding and/or pumping schedule as much as possible.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.