Travel Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
Many of us have been out of practice from traveling much in general since the start of the pandemic, so we’re all working on a certain (re)learning curve when it comes to travel these days — but traveling while you're breastfeeding is a different game entirely!
Before we dive into some specific pieces of advice for breastfeeding and/or pumping during air and car travel, let’s just briefly note a few overarching things to keep in mind:
Traveling with a baby — or maybe even more, without your baby, hah! — can be stressful, especially if it’s your first time doing so. Acknowledging this beforehand is so helpful for keeping your expectations in check. There will likely be moments of heightened anxiety (the baby needs to nurse RIGHT NOW while you’re unloading your luggage in the security line??) and/or changes to your schedule and normal routines (traffic/delays/missed pumping sessions/extra nursing sessions) — and that’s all fine. Deep breath.
Also, know this: if your baby is with you, everything will take longer. A lot longer. (Sorry.)
Simply being aware that things may play out differently than you thought or intended or hoped can go a long way in maintaining your sanity. Again: breathe.
Don’t forget to think about yourself, mama! Make sure to pack your water bottle and stay hydrated, and think about whatever you’ll need en route to keep yourself comfortable and happy. Think: snacks, comfy clothes and shoes, and a manageable luggage load.
Know that anywhere in the U.S., you have the right to breastfeed!
Here’s what the National Conference on State Legislatures says: “All fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.”
If you want to see additional state-specific legislation on breastfeeding before you travel, see this state-by-state list.
Okay, let’s get into some more hands-on suggestions for breastfeeding or pumping while traveling:
While it can feel daunting to fly while breastfeeding, in many ways it’s actually a wonderful way to travel (and convenient). There’s no prepping of bottles (a difficult feat in a cramped airplane seat with a crying baby in one arm, let me tell you), fewer worries about packing, and nursing can be a real comfort to babies, who may also be stressed out by all the changes and activity of an airport.
Here are some of our top tips and things to know about breastfeeding and air travel:
- Many airports now have lactation rooms available for comfort and privacy — check for these rather than having to use the bathrooms… and remember you can pump or nurse anywhere. You do not need to be relegated to a bathroom stall. (And actually, experts suggest not nursing or pumping in the stall if you can avoid it because airport public restrooms are quite germy.)
- Breast milk and any breast milk storage, pumping gear, and accessories are all allowed through airport security, and the 3.4 oz. limit for liquids does not apply to breast milk — you can bring as much breast milk as you want through security.
*Make sure to tell the TSA agents before your screening that you have breast milk or accoutrement with you; it will still be screened but they usually run it through separately. We also think it’s very helpful to pack ALL of your breastfeeding/pumping supplies in one separate bag so that when you go through security you can easily pull everything out from one consolidated spot rather than having to pilfer things from multiple separate bags.
- If you are traveling with baby, try your best to book a window seat, where it’s generally much more comfortable and private to nurse (or to pump if you need to pump in flight). If you’ve already booked and are sitting in the aisle or the middle seat, you can always ask someone to swap with you — most folks are pretty accommodating when there’s a baby involved!
- Nurse during takeoff and landing — the sucking helps babies to pop their ears so that the pressure changes don’t make them uncomfortable and fussy.
Road trips have the advantage of being much more flexible than air travel, which is especially convenient if you are nursing. At the same time, it’s not safe or possible to nurse while you (or anyone else!) is driving — but there are some tricks that can help you get from point A to point B more smoothly.
Here are the best pieces of advice we received about taking a road trip while you are breastfeeding or pumping:
- Plan out your stops — and plan to stop more frequently than you otherwise would. While it may seem easy enough to just pull over to nurse whenever the baby starts crying, this can actually present a very stressful experience. When I tried this, I always found myself having just reached one of those interminably long highway stretches marked by signs like “No Exits for 142 Miles.” (OK, kidding about the exact distance, but when you have a hungry, screaming baby in the back even 1 mile can feel like a marathon.) You never know when you’re going to hit traffic, too.
Making a plan can also help ensure that when you do pull over you have a safe, comfortable space to nurse — even better if you can try to sync up your stop with gas fill-ups and refreshments. Lastly, mapping out your itinerary just makes it psychologically easier to accept and stick to your schedule.
- If you’re traveling with a partner or another adult, you could think about pumping and bottle-feeding from the backseat, both of which can be done while en route (i.e., in the moving vehicle), vs. having to stop the car to nurse.
- If you’re pumping at all, don’t forget to bring your car adapter!
Breastfeeding and Travel: Some Nuts & Bolts
We have a few final tips for breastfeeding while traveling that aren’t necessarily specific to planes, trains, or cars:
- Bring a nursing cover or scarf, or wear a comfortable nursing top on the day of travel.
- Pack your pump and ALL parts/accessories you’ll need — don’t forget the charger! Also, remember to bring breast milk storage bags and a safe place to store expressed milk, such as a portable cooler (ice packs are preferable to actual ice, experts say, for hygiene purposes). If you don’t anticipate pumping much, a simple hand pump may still be nice to bring along just in case, and it’s much lighter and easier to pack.
[Set this section aside] If you’re traveling without your baby, you’ll want to make sure to either pump and store your milk to bring home or else pump and dump to maintain your supply. If you’re traveling by car and can bring a cooler, that’s a great route. If you’re flying, you can still pack a cooler and transport, but depending on how long you’ve been away this may be more cumbersome. There are some companies, such as Milk Stork, that specialize in shipping breast milk, so that may be something to look into. [end]
- Pack all the bottles and bottle components you need.
If this is your first trip, it can really feel like a lot, but it gets easier every time (mostly, hah!). Remember to anticipate everything taking longer than you think it will, to take care of yourself, and to have grace for yourself — you’re already a superstar for breastfeeding at all, so don’t beat yourself up about veering a little off track from any schedule you may have established. It’s a lot for everyone, and a little flexibility can go a long way. At the end of the day, getting from A to B with a baby is a victory all on its own.
If your baby is also enjoying solids, be sure to bring some of our travel-friendly baby food. Amara baby food powders are super lightweight, don't need to be refrigerated, portioned as single servings, and are so convenient for on-the-go. Simply add a few tablespoons of breast milk or water, mix and serve! Check out our full line of organic baby food powders here.
Good luck and safe travels, friends — and please let us know if you have other tips and advice for breastfeeding and travel!