Ever since I was pregnant with Julia I was sure of one thing: I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I was lucky to have access to a lot of accurate information and supportive healthcare personnel in the birth clinic and after birth. That obviously makes nursing so much easier. I can say that my breastfeeding journey was almost perfect, with very few challenges along the way. To travel and breastfeed was a given for me since we started traveling with Julia shortly after she was born and she was breastfed for much longer than the norm.
Our breastfeeding journey
It helped me a lot to set goals for myself. First I wanted to breastfeed exclusively until she was six months and I could start introducing solid foods. When that day came I really had no reason to stop, she seemed to thrive and both she and I loved our nursing moments. So I continued. Then I set a second goal: nursing at least until she turns one. Then again that day came and I still had no real reason to stop. I still loved breastfeeding and Julia loved it too. So we continued.
Breastfeeding until the toddler years
Then it was time to go back to work and for Julia to start going to nursery, she didn’t need any other huge change in her life, so it was also not the time to stop breastfeeding. We still enjoyed it, so we continued. I think you get the picture. I set myself milestones, got to the milestone, had no reason to stop, we both still liked it, so we continued. I eventually stopped the milestones and decided I’d stop whenever I wasn’t comfortable anymore or whenever she stopped asking to breastfeed.
That day came when I was around 3 months pregnant with our second child, my boobs hurt and it was quite uncomfortable when Julia wanted to breastfeed, even if she was nursing once or twice each day at most. She was old enough that I could explain to her what was happening, we counted down the days and she accepted that mommy had no more milk. We also went to the toy store where she chose a toy that I’d give her as a thank you for the wonderful experience of being able to breastfeed her all these years.
Why did I breastfeed for so long? Probably because I became a mom abroad, it made it that much easier to challenge societal norms and decide for myself. You can read here three great things about becoming a parent abroad.
Flying and breastfeeding
I think I’ve mentioned before that the first time that Julia got on an airplane she was only one month old. Through out her life she has flown to Asia twice, Africa once and Mexico something between 7 to 8 times. This is obviously not counting the trips that we have done within Europe since she was born. If I could choose one thing that made flying on an airplane easier it will be breastfeeding, above anything else, for me to travel and breastfeed was a match made in heaven.
They say kids can feel lots of pressure in their ears at take off and landing, breastfeeding helps for that. No need to pack water or cans of milk, you just gotta bring yourself. Normally before they’re two years old they anyways fly on your lap. Breast milk also has magic sleepy powder, so no need to walk around, rocking a baby trying to get them to sleep. The baby got thirsty? breastfeed. The baby got tired? breastfeed. The baby got bored? breastfeed. At least until Julia was around seven or eight months old breastfeeding was the answer to pretty much every question.
International travel and breastfeeding
Now I have read online in mom forums and different articles that people feel anxious about breastfeeding in countries where maybe breastfeeding in public is not well perceived, or where the cultural norms are a bit different from those at home. I don’t have the right answer to this, and by all means do you research before you go and pack a small burp cloth you can use to cover yourself, but I never ever felt uncomfortable feeding Julia in any country that I have visited with her.
I was always discreet when breastfeeding, and wore clothing that was easy to pull up or down, but still breastfed in the Piazza San Marco, in a bus in Greece, in the Parthenon, at the airport in Malaysia, in a park in Singapore, you name it. I never once felt observed or out of place not even when she was past her baby months and we were still breastfeeding. I guess my recommendation here is: it is up to you, do what you are comfortable with.
If you’re not comfortable breastfeeding in public at home, it will likely be the same when traveling. In that case plan in advance, so that you can go somewhere a bit more secluded before your baby gets crazy hungry, carry a scarf or burp cloth you can cover yourself with, but most of all, don’t think about it too much and just feed your baby! To travel and breastfeed really go hand in hand, no matter how private or public you decide to do it.
What if you’re not breastfeeding?
I am obviously by no means saying that you can’t or shouldn’t travel if you’re not breastfeeding. This is my experience regarding travel and breastfeeding but I know that there are plenty of moms that either by choice, lack of support or whatever other reason are not able or willing to breastfeed. That is also perfectly fine and not the purpose of this post. But fear not! Expressed breast milk or formula are allowed on the plane on your carry-on luggage.
The 100mL limitation to liquids doesn’t apply to breast milk or formula. All you need to do is first of all have reasonable quantities for the amount of time you will be flying (don’t bring 10 liters if you’re flying for 2 hours), and make sure before you go through the security screening you let the officer know that you have milk for your baby. There is different regulations depending on where you are flying from, so check in advance, normally they will simply do an X-ray screening which doesn’t affect the quality of the milk and you will be good to go.
If you’re flying from the US these are the TSA guidelines on traveling with children. For Europe I was not able to find such extensive information, but is clearly stated that liquid amounts regulations don’t apply to medicines or baby food. Within Europe you will not be able to bring on board frozen breast milk, but you can pack it in the hold luggage.
Remember the thing about the ears and the pressure from the air? I never noticed anything with Julia but bring a pacifier or give your child a bottle right at the time of take off and right at the time of landing. It doesn’t really matter whether they are sucking on a boob or a pacifier, that seems to do the trick in reducing the discomfort.
To travel and breastfeed are really a match made in heaven, it helped us travel lighter, help Julia adapt to the discomfort of changing environments every so often and even making her fall asleep and wind down from overstimulation of crowds, noises and new places.
If I had a chance to start over I’d do it all over again, but then again I had an easy journey. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, a little bit of planning and a lot of flexibility will make traveling with your children so easy and so enjoyable that you will get hooked just like we are.
What is the one thing that has made traveling with your kids that much easier ? Let us know in the comments below.