Breastfeeding Your Child During a Family Trip
By Julia Rosien
Whether you have five children or one, traveling with a breastfed baby is easier than with a bottle-fed baby. Without packing a thing, you have all the food your baby needs for a long or short journey. No sterilizing, cleaning, making formula or heating bottles is required. It’s all there – ready to use and at the perfect temperature – whenever your baby needs it.
Lisa Viger has flown, camped, hiked and driven with a nursing baby. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this had I been bottle-feeding – there just weren’t the facilities needed to mix or refrigerate formula,” she says.
Many women find it possible to breastfeed a child while both Mom and Baby are securely strapped in their seats.
Car travel is easy with a breastfed baby, as long as you remember that travel in general is strange to her. She will most likely want to nurse more often for comfort than for food. “I’ve never seen one of my babies refuse a breast when they’re fussy, though I’ve seen babies refuse bottles,” says Wendee Holtcamp, mother of two.
Holtcamp took her 8-month-old son on a seven-day trip to Alaska. She found that breastfeeding in the car took a bit of maneuvering, but it was better than having to stop the car. Her husband drove as she sat in the backseat nursing her son, who was safely strapped in his car seat. “I would never take the risk of taking him out of the car seat,” she says.
It is illegal in most states and very dangerous to hold a child on your lap while the car is moving. Many women find it possible to breastfeed a child while both Mom and Baby are securely strapped in their seats. If this is uncomfortable for you or you are driving alone, then pull over to a safe place and stop the car.
Some mothers offer expressed breast milk in a bottle on car trips, but make sure your baby is familiar with the bottle before you try this. If you are driving alone, never try to feed your baby and drive at the same time. As always, pay attention to your own needs for nutritious food, plenty of liquids and rest. All these things will affect your milk production and your baby’s temperament.
In today’s world of heightened airline security, flying with a breastfed baby can be a bit more challenging than it once was. Still, planning ahead can make your trip successful.
Before you board the plane, make sure Baby is filled up with breast milk. A full feeding before take-off might be enough to curb Baby’s in-flight hunger. Bring a light blanket to cover you and your child if busy airports make you feel self-conscious.
The FAA says that the safest place for babies is in a proper infant safety seat during the flight. This would seem to rule out any breastfeeding once you board the plane. But there are ways to safely breastfeed while flying:
- Seasoned travelers know that a good amount of time can be spent sitting in the plane before it ever leaves the ground. Take advantage of these delays to get in a last-minute feeding.
- Learn to nurse while Baby is buckled up. It can be a contortionist’s game, but breastfeeding an infant strapped into a car seat is possible. This is easiest if the car seat is buckled in a rear-facing position. Practicing before the flight will make you confident and comfortable once you’re in the air.
- Bring along one bottle of expressed breast milk for in-flight feeding.
- Try substitutes. Pacifiers or Mom’s clean finger for the youngest infants and snacks and cups of water for older infants might be all you need to get through take-off.
- If Baby becomes distraught and feeding is a must, wait until the pilot gives his or her permission to unbuckle and move about the aircraft. At that point, unbuckle Baby, nurse and quickly return him or her to the safety of the seat.
Don’t ignore your needs when flying, either. Rest when your child rests so that when she wants to play you are ready to enjoy her. Drink when she drinks to ensure good milk supply, and eat healthy snacks. Salty snacks and sugar will only make you more anxious, which in turn will affect how your child behaves.
Bottle, Breast or Both
Breastfeeding mothers are in the unique position of being able to choose which method to feed their babies depending on the immediate situation. Many nursing mothers supplement breastfeeding with bottle-feeding. Whether by formula or expressed milk, there may be times on your holiday when you want to use a bottle.
Bring a hand or battery-powered pump along with you if you plan to supplement with your own milk. An electric pump limits where and when you can pump, especially if you are camping with no electricity. If you are going to supplement with formula, take bottled water from home rather than using local water. Prepared bottles can be kept in cooler bags and heated using a heater that hooks up to the cigarette lighter of your car.
Whichever option you choose, test it at home first. If it doesn’t work there, it won’t work miles away where everything is strange and unsettling.
Viger remembers a four-hour trip to a family reunion when her second child was breastfeeding. The drive was relaxing for the whole family as she breastfed in the backseat. When they arrived to a house full of noisy and strange people, she nursed to calm her son. Her cousin, who had a baby the same age, wasn’t as happy. “She spent most of her time mixing formula and washing bottles,” Viger says. “I was able to nurse and visit and it was a great time for all of us.”
Plan for different options and prepare your baby and yourself for schedule changes. And remember, it’s a holiday – and that means you should enjoy yourself.