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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pack frozen milk in checked in luggage with adequate ice packs.
- 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.
What to pack when breastfeeding and traveling
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:
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
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.