Travel Tips for Nursing Mothers

Travel Tips for Nursing Mothers

Written by Shannon O’Donnell on

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008 and has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Barcelona, where she now calls home. She travels slowly and supports responsible tourism along the way, winning numerous awards for her work advocating for the communities impacted by travel and tourism.

Travel Tips for Nursing Mothers

Planning a trip with a breastfeeding baby might be easier than you think. If you’re dreaming of international travel with your young one, here’s what you’ll need to know before you go.

Many new moms are committed to breastfeeding their babies, if they’re able. Nursing a child can give them a great start in life, offering both health benefits and bonding opportunities. For the traveling mother who chooses to breastfeed on the road, it may initially seem like a challenge—how does one nurse on a plane, on public transportation, or in unfamiliar surroundings? And with the unpredictability of travel, it can seem like a challenge to stay hydrated and well-fed enough to keep a steady supply of breast milk. Even more, while traveling abroad, which different laws govern breastfeeding in public? Luckily, the answers to these challenges are less complicated than you might think.

Handle the Practicalities

Many moms are most concerned with how to survive a travel day with a nursing baby. From leaving your home to arriving at your hotel, you may be looking at just one feeding, or a dozen if you’re heading to the other side of the world. Even if you’re comfortable breastfeeding anytime, anywhere, create a compact system to store and carry milk for exceptionally long travel days. This is essential to success while traveling—you just can’t guarantee finding a time and place to breastfeed exactly when you need it, so pump a small supply in the days before you leave. And know your rights: TSA regulations allow up moms to bring a “reasonable” supply of breast milk through airport security, even if it surpasses 3.4 ounces.

The easiest travel-friendly containers are pre-sterilized, sealable bags. Although many eco-conscious moms might prefer the glass containers on a regular day, sterilized bags are far more convenient and practical. Then, use a compact insulated lunch box with ice packs to serve as a mini cooler.

Understand the international factor

Each mother approaches nursing in her own way, and may have unique challenges. For moms who choose to nurse their babies without pumping and bottles, international travel presents a few additional considerations. Nursing moms in the U.S. and most European countries have public breastfeeding rights. What may surprise many travelers is that many other countries actually also strongly support breastfeeding rights, too. You should research each country specifically, especially if you’re visiting a conservative culture. This research will alert you to if you must find the specially designated nursing rooms (like in the U.A.E), or if you can freely breastfeed as needed (like in Australia).

Don’t rely on internet anecdotes when conducting your research on public breastfeeding laws at your destination. Instead, look for specific laws from your destination’s government. And remember, legal doesn’t always mean culturally acceptable. The CDC site recommends a number of international support groups for traveling moms, which are a great resource on a range of health and legal information for most destinations in the word. Also use the CDC site for recommendations on the safety of common travel vaccinations and medications for traveling moms.

Stay happy and healthy

Even if you usually have few issues with milk supply, consider three main factors that can influence milk production: hydration, food, and sleep. Each of these factors can fluctuate in the chaos of a travel day, and simply maintaining an awareness of your food and water intake, as well as your daily rest, will go a long ways toward ensuring your baby is happily fed each day.

Pack the essentials

The right gear will smooth the entire experience. Pick a wheeled suitcase that easily glides through the airport—four-wheeled suitcases tend to work best for traveling parents. Then pack a comfortable day bagthat can fit everything you need for a day of sightseeing with your little one. Here are a few essential items you should have with you each day on the road:

  • Spare changes of clothes for you and your baby.
  • A comfortable, lightweight cover up to drape over yourself (scarves work well and serve multiple purposes for travelers)
  • A liter of water to stay hydrated, and healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruit
  • Ice-packs, a small cooler, and extra milk if you’re unsure that you will easily find a place to breastfeed while sightseeing
  • A charged breast pump so you can maintain your pumping schedule
  • Sterilized pumping bags and nipple cream

Related Links:

How to Get a Passport for Your Kid(s)

6 Tips for Hiking With a Baby

What to Pack to Keep the Kids Busy on a Long Car Trip