With the Easter long weekend around the corner, many families in South Africa will head out for bonding over this period. If you’re looking forward to some rest and relaxation and you are breastfeeding, you may be feeling anxious about the traveling, but fear not! One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that it’s much easier to travel with a breastfed baby than a formula-fed one.
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or car - breastfeeding provides for a portable, nutritionally balanced food supply for your baby.
Traveling and breastfeeding also go together for reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition or convenience. Traveling with an infant can be a source of stress for many parents and breastfeeding helps to provide a soothing and comforting environment for your baby. This is especially true if you plan on flying, as the sucking and swallowing actions help to release altitude-related pressure in your baby’s ears.
Despite the obvious benefits, traveling with a breastfed child can have unexpected highs and lows. So, here are a few tips to help you have a fabulous travelling experience with your breastfed baby.
As part of your overall travel plan, give some thought to how and where you will breastfeed whilst in transit. Breastfeeding whilst out on the road is part art and part science.
The science part comes from trying to maintain a normal bedtime and planning schedule, way ahead of destinations where you will have the opportunity to breastfeed in peace. For example, you might locate roadside rest areas or other breastfeeding- friendly locations on the map before setting off on your journey. I have not always been able to find somewhere suitable locally where this is possible, but even if you plan a pit stop to simply take some time out while your partner goes to get some tea and snacks, it will help somewhat.
The art of breastfeeding whilst out on the road, originates from our inherent ability as mammas, to react to inevitable challenges along the way. Babies respond to the various levels of energy associated with travel just like the rest of us. Make a concerted attempt to avoid stressing if your baby needs to feed at unusual times. Approach travelling with an infant using a new mindset – this is your holiday too remember!
Many women experience traveling with a handy breast-pump as a lifesaver. With the right pump, you can express and store milk ahead of time, ready for use when you need it. Should you have access to an electric pump, be sure to remember to pack in your adaptor when travelling. If you’re a frequent traveller, you may want to consider acquiring an additional, more portable pump, like the ‘Medela Harmony’.
Ensure that you have access to a cooler or insulated bag in order to store your breastmilk safely. Also, keep in mind that if you’re travelling by plane, you are allowed to bring breast milk on board, whether or not your baby is travelling with you. I have never had any unpleasant experiences using local South African airports when traveling with breastmilk.Simply declare your breast milk during the security screening process.
International travel requires alerting the airline ahead of time – and checking their rules and regulations.
Make sure you read my blog post carefully on how to transport and look after your ‘liquid gold’. (Click here)
It’s so important to make breastfeeding feel as comfortable whilst on the road, as it is at home. One way to ensure this is to make yourself a breastfeeding survival kit for peace of mind whilst you’re away. The kit can include things like bottled water, nipple cream, additional pump parts, Medela quick clean micro-steam bags, soothing heat packs, as well as a few extra Mrs Milk bars - and anything else you need to ensure your comfort. Staying hydrated is always important when you’re breastfeeding, so drink lots of water.
Happy babies make for happy mammas, so be sure to take along plenty of distractions for your little one. For younger babies this could include music, rattles, soft fabric storybooks, toys, and a host of other comfort items. Older babies will be happy with a well-stocked activity box full of fun and exciting items. These could include magnets, stickers, pipe cleaners and items ideally suited to encouraging fine motor skills development. Babies love this.
Familiar items are a baby’s best friend, something like a blanket from home will help your baby stay calm. If you are taking a long flight, a pillow may become a life saver for your arm if baby is sharing your seat!
Breastfeeding is a natural necessity and can be an easy and fun part of your travelling experience. Many moms find that it’s empowering as well as invigorating to be able to take their baby on a holiday or other journey while breastfeeding.
One final piece of advice – don’t be afraid to ask for help! You don’t have to do everything yourself. Let the other members of your family get involved. You might even find that, as a breastfeeding mom, you receive considerably more pampering and attention than usual!
Have a lovely long weekend break!