By Dr. Alicia Hartung
As we anticipate the arrival of warm weather and begin to plan our summer vacations, many of you may be looking for tips to make travelling and breastfeeding easier. So how should you travel with a breastfeeding infant?
The age of your infant will depend on how often you are feeding. Obviously a one month old will be feeding more frequently than an 18 month old. You should attempt to keep the same schedule while on vacation as you do at home. You can accomplish this with a combination of breastfeeding and pumping if need be.
The most important thing to do while travelling on vacation is to maintain your supply. To do this you should continue to feed on demand and not restrict feeding times. Some people find it helpful to use a sling or soft carrier, which allows unrestricted feeding times and maintains skin-to-skin contact, which will help maintain your supply.
Traveling by car can be a huge feat, especially with multiple children. It never fails that the infant is sleeping, siblings are ready to stop and eat, or siblings are sleeping and infant wakes up wanting to breastfeed. I experienced this with my second child when we traveled to the beach, about an eight-hour trip. Not only did we have a full car, including a 3-year-old and a 3-week-old, but were traveling with another family who also had a toddler. In this case, I found the easiest thing to do was to take the breast pump. Most have car adapters or run on battery. Or you can use a manual hand pump. If I was unable to breastfeed, I was able to maintain the same schedule and we were not forced to stop every half hour!!!! Granted your infant needs to eat, but if your baby is already taking a bottle, I found this was a great way to save time.
Regardless of when she was hungry, if we stopped, I breastfed. Otherwise I had a bottle of pumped milk ready to go!! Keep in mind that breast milk is the easiest and safest source of food for your infant and all that your baby needs if he or she is less than 6 months old. Any milk that is pumped while travelling should be stored in clean containers and tightly sealed. You can use ice packs or dry ice to freeze the milk until you get to your destination. Freshly pumped milk is good if stored at room temperature for about 4 hours or may be stored in an insulated refrigerator bag for up to 24 hours, which hopefully gives you enough time to get to your destination.
Flying is also a huge feat with children and it depends a lot on the length of the flight. It is recommended to breastfeed your infant on take off or landing to help prevent problems with ear pressure.
Your electric breast pump can be carried on the plane. It is considered a personal item and will be stored close by. However, because air safety requirements change frequently check with your airline before leaving.
Traveling to other countries can also be a challenge. Be sure to check with the CDC regarding any travel guidelines, including medicine and vaccinations that you may need before travel. Most medicines or vaccines can be administered while breastfeeding. Remember, mom’s breast milk is safest for baby! No need to worry about mixing with contaminated water or feeding formula that you are not familiar with. And you always have it available!
Once you finally arrive at your destination you want to keep up with your present feeding schedule to ensure you milk supply does not drop. Again, the best ways to do this is unrestricted feeding within a feeding schedule.
Please call the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh with any further travel questions. You can also check this excellent TSA site for traveling with children.
So pack your bags and get ready to enjoy that much needed VACATION!!!!
Dr. Alicia Hartung, is an IBCLC and has been a Kids Plus physician since 2001.