Tips for Breastfeeding Mums Who Travel (with kids and without)

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There is an ever-growing number of mothers who travel during the breastfeeding season of their lives, both with and without their children.

I am not a mother myself, but during my travels, I’ve seen women from different countries and cultures nourish their children on train rides, in the middle of busy restaurants and quiet corners of crowded airports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that, whenever possible, babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. They also support continued breastfeeding until at least 12 months and beyond, as long as both the mother and child desire. The World Health Organization recommends that children be breastfed until 2 years of age and beyond.

During this window of time, many mothers travel for work or leisure and would like to continue with their routine of breastfeeding and milk expression.

Regular expression is key to keeping a regular, healthy milk supply. Whether they are with their child or separated from them, lactating mothers can and should maintain a schedule of breastfeeding and/or milk expression while out on the road.

The commitment I’ve observed nursing mothers have for breastfeeding their children led me to ask lactation experts, breastfeeding advocates as well as experienced traveling mothers for their tips and insights.

Here’s what they shared:

Tips for breastfeeding mothers traveling with their children

  1. On-demand feeding is the most straightforward and natural way to continue breastfeeding while traveling. Find a place where you and your child could nurse according to your personal comfort level and preference.
  1. Plan in advance. Look at your itinerary or schedule, and identify opportunities for breaks for breastfeeding during your day. If you wish to have privacy during nursing, you may want to call the places that you will be visiting and ask if they have facilities or areas that would be suitable for breastfeeding in relative comfort.
  1. Different cultures and countries view breastfeeding in public in different ways. It is prudent to be mindful of local laws, customs and sentiments on the matter. If you feel strongly about your right to breastfeed in public, look up local laws on it and bring a copy.
  1. Aside from providing much-needed nutrition, breastfeeding and physical contact help address the child’s physical and emotional needs during traveling. Nursing can also help calm your baby during airplane takeoff and landing and minimize ear pain.
  1. Even if your baby accompanies you on your travel, you may still need to express milk. Check your hotel or accommodations for access to a refrigerator for storage.
  1. Declare any breast milk that you intend to carry on a flight during security screening at the airport when flying. The United States’ Transportation Security Administration (TSA) considers breast milk belonging to the category of liquid medication and is not subject to the 3.4-ounce restriction for other liquids and gels. Ice packs, gel packs and other accessories needed to cool breast milk are also allowed in carry-on luggage.

Tips for breastfeeding mothers traveling without their children

Keeping a regular schedule of pumping or expressing milk while traveling needs preparation and foresight to avoid or minimize inconvenience and to ensure a healthy, comfortable experience.

  1. Prepare in advance and make sure that you have enough expressed breast-milk to leave behind. Estimate your baby’s consumption at 1-1.5oz per hour if he or she is less than six months old. Teach caregivers on how to properly handle and give expressed breast milk.
  1. If you plan to pump while traveling, figure out the time spent away from your child for planning milk storage. For traveling less than five days, expressed breast milk will sit well in the refrigerator. It will need to be frozen if travel is more than five days. Check with your hotel or accommodations for access to a refrigerator and freezer.
  1. Pack frozen milk in checked in luggage with adequate ice packs.
  1. Carry a small insulated bag with ice pack for milk collected in transit. You can ask for ice from restaurants or flight attendants to help keep the milk during the journey.

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What to pack when breastfeeding and traveling

Photo credit: Manny and April Photography
Photo credit: Manny and April Photography

1. Manual, battery-powered or electric pumps

  • For those who use pumps to express, there are manual, portable battery operated and hospital-grade pumps. Check that you have all the required parts, cords, extra battery packs as well as the appropriate travel converters and adapters.
  • If you plan to pump while on the go, consider manual or battery-operated pumps to eliminate the need for having to find an electric outlet to power your pump.
  • Mothers would do well by learning hand expression. They may choose to use it exclusively or as a supplement to using a pump.
  • Breast pumps are considered medical devices and should be allowed as a carry-on item. Airline regulations vary on whether they would consider the bag containing the pumps as an exempted item and, therefore, does not count as your carry-on item. To avoid hassle at the airport, seek clarification and print out a copy of official policies.
  • For extended travel and personal preference, you can also try to find hospital-grade or closed-system pumps for rent at your destination. Find local breastfeeding support groups on Facebook for reliable recommendations.

Recommended breastfeeding pumps:

2. Breastfeeding friendly top, cover or blanket

(I just used a spare baby wrap to cover me over – Caz)

3. Baby carrier or sling

4. Milk storage containers/bags, insulated bag, and ice packs

5. Supplies: dishwashing liquid for bottles, hand sanitizers, markers for labeling

Who to contact for breastfeeding and traveling advice

  • TSA or its counterparts in different countries

Helpful link to TSA guidelines concerning breast milk:

  • Airline

Confirm check-in and carry-on policies for your breast pump and expressed milk before your trip. Bring  a copy of correspondence or policies when possible

  • Hotel/Accommodations

Correspond with your hotel before your trip to ask about access to refrigerator, freezer and heating. Bring a copy of correspondence when possible.

  • Le Leche League

Contact local support groups, questions on local laws, customs, and policies at your destination Click here

  • International Lactation Consultant Association

Contact to find a local lactation consultant.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has the Yellow Book: Health Information for International Travel that has a section on travel and breastfeeding.

  • Your medical professional and local lactation counselor

Seek advice from an experienced professional and lactation expert to ensure best practices that fit you and your child’s health and well-being.

Acknowledgements:  Katrina Trebol-Villapando, lactation counselor and pediatrician, breastfeeding advocates, counselors and lactation experts: Bing Sugue Guevarra, Velvet Escario-Roxas, and Cheryl Chan-Wong, traveling mothers: Tippi Tan-Vargas, Mabs Olegario, Evette Sta. Maria,  Anna Joanino, Mariel Tirol, Cris De Leon Hinlo, Angel Cabrera, Polly Magpili, and Leah Saldua.

What are some of your tips for breastfeeding when you travel?

25 thoughts on “Tips for Breastfeeding Mums Who Travel (with kids and without)”

  1. While technically correct, this article would have much more impact (in my opinion) if the author was a breastfeeding mother and sharing personal experience. I have breastfed in multiple countries with no issues but ran into problems attempting to carry bottles of formula into London due to over zealous airport security.

    1. I actually think it’s a well-researched article with lots of great tips and useful resources. Tessa has asked the advice from many different breastfeeding mums so I think it caters to a wide variety of needs. It’s probably more in-depth than what a personal post would be as that is only one perspective. I also think it’s great that a woman who doesn’t have kids really cares about this issue for those who do.
      If I was a newly breastfeeding mother wanting to travel, I’d find this way more helpful than reading a personal story and it would save me time having to research many different viewpoints and resources. This actually empowers me to know how to make it work no matter my situation.

      1. Thanks, Caz! I consider this post a salute to all breastfeeding moms, whether they travel or not. Just thinking about the logistics and work that goes into breastfeeding – whew!

    2. Thanks for your comment, Melanie. Because it is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I wanted to do my bit to share input and information from lactation experts and experienced traveling mothers. I hope it proves to be helpful for those who may have questions or apprehensions about traveling while breastfeeding and vice-versa. Cheers! T.

  2. Hi,

    This is really incredible post and very helpful for breastfeeding mothers. i will share your post in my personal network so that people can take benefit of your amazing post

    Regards
    Linda

  3. Hi,

    If you fly with a baby, I believe something you should really consider is to bring one carry-on with you. Having two is tough. I’d suggest you bring extra clothes for you as something unexpected may happen to you (your baby spit all over you, etc). Consider to travel during your baby sleep time (at least if you fly). And… get some bottles ready either it’s breast milk or formula. I followed this article and it works fine http://mybabyfeeding.net/how-to-express-breast-milk/

    Another tips to add, I believe about a week ago, a mother had to dump her bottles of breast milk just because she didn’t travel with her baby. I think it’s better to check the airport rules once again before flying. Cheers!

  4. experts believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, breastfeeding may not be possible for all women. For many, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical situations.

    I will recommend this post to my friend.

  5. I kind of knew pumping would make it to the list, but I also read about how alternating breast milk and formula could help especially for moms having trouble with adequate milk supply! Thoughts?

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