What You Need To Know About Travelling While Breastfeeding

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​The ultimate guide for travelling while breastfeeding and tips for travelling with breast milk for safe family travel with your baby or toddler. This guide includes tips for travelling with your baby or travelling without your baby while breastfeeding too.

We invited health professional Samantha Radford, a PhD Chemist and Public Health Expert, to share her best tips and help you navigate those breastfeeding challenges that nursing families experience while travelling.

Breastfeeding While Travelling – Yet Another Thing To Consider Before You Go

Travelling with a nursing baby (or travelling without baby while breastfeeding) can be stressful. From the worry of whether or not to bring your pump, to remembering all essentials for milk storage, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed before even hitting the road.

The advantages of breastfeeding can’t be overstated for both your baby’s health and your own. Fortunately, there’s no reason that travelling should deter you from continuing your breastfeeding journey.

No matter how far away from home you have to travel as a nursing mother, there are several steps you can take that will help make the journey and feeding easier and more comfortable for both mum and baby.

As a mum of 4, I’ve travelled by car and plane several times with a nursing baby. I’ve also taken trips away from my nursing child, so I know what it’s like to have to pump on the road (or in the air).

In this guide, we share our top tips on travelling while breastfeeding, whether you’re travelling with a baby or pumping while you’re separated from your breastfeeding child.

General Tips For Breastfeeding While Travelling

woman sitting in the sand breastfeeding her baby while her partner and child look at the water

While travelling with a little one can be difficult, it’s important to keep things as close to your day-to-day routine as possible. Sticking to a similar schedule, as usual, will help your baby feel secure and help you feel settled.

With that said, no matter how far you are travelling with a baby, expect it to take longer than it did pre-kids.

There will be diaper blow-outs and fussy moments where your little one needs bouncing or rocking, and your baby will simply need more breaks than you did when travelling alone or with older kids.

Make sure you pack diapers and wipes, plus extra outfits (for baby and you both).

Check out our baby road trip packing list for a guide on what to pack for a car trip.

One of the most important things to realise is that you are legally allowed to breastfeed wherever you and your child are allowed to be (at least in Western countries such as the United States or Australia).

No one can ask you to stop, cover-up, or move to a bathroom, whether you’re on a plane, at a restaurant, or poolside.

This may be different in some other parts of the world, so it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with your destination country before you travel.

With that said, you may want to wear something that makes it easier to breastfeed on the go.

I love the combination of a nursing tank with a t-shirt or cardigan because it allows me to have easy nursing access without baring my midsection.

Taking A Road Trip With A Breastfeeding Baby

woman in blue shirt breastfeeding her newborn baby in a car

Honestly, I think driving with a breastfeeding baby is possibly harder than flying.

That’s because you’ll likely have to stop the car and take breaks every 2-3 hours to nurse, do diaper changes, and just give your baby a change of scenery.

While you can just make a pit stop at a gas station, it’s nice to stop at a rest station when possible.

That way, you and your little one can take a walk in the grass and see a little nature (make sure you leave a baby carrier out of your luggage so it’s easy to get to).

SAFETY TIP: Even if you’re sitting in the backseat with your baby and they’re still strapped into their car seat, do not nurse while the car is moving. If there were a car crash while you were nursing, the force your body would place on your baby would be catastrophic.

In addition, you would be at additional risk of injury because you wouldn’t be able to nurse and wear your seat belt correctly.

If your baby is old enough, you can also have little snacks such as teething biscuits for the road. These can keep your little one entertained without nursing (although don’t rely on them for nutrition and think you can skip nursing stops).

Tips For Breastfeeding While Flying

woman breastfeeding a baby next to a window

You already know to give yourself plenty of time to get through airport security and get to your travel gate.

This is doubly necessary with a breastfeeding baby or toddler because you never know when there will be a diaper emergency or something else that will slow you down.

It can also take much longer to get through security screening when you have a supply of breast milk in your carry-on baggage.

If possible, pack your breast milk in your checked luggage and only bring enough for the first day or two in your carry-on. You can also bring cooling accessories such as ice packs and freezer packs.

If you get to your gate with extra time, take that opportunity to let your little one explore. Especially if you’re boarding a long flight or it’s your first trip.

If they are walking already, give them time to toddle around the waiting area (before they’re stuck in a seat for hours).

If your baby isn’t mobile yet but is awake, you can put them in a carrier (much easier to use in an airport than a stroller) and walk around.

Often, parents with small children are allowed to board the plane early.

It may be easier to get to your seat with fewer people, but you will have to sit and wait longer while everyone else boards (which may frustrate your baby). It’s up to you whether you think you’d rather board early, or purposely be one of the last ones to board.

While it may seem that breastfeeding during a flight is a hassle, it can actually be a great tool! I have had flights where I nursed my baby to sleep upon takeoff and they woke up right around time to land.

Plus, nursing can relieve the inner ear pressure changes that happen with flying.

Do you remember how you’re told to chew gum during takeoff and landing? Well, babies can’t chew gum, but your baby’s ears will get that same ear-popping benefit from nursing to help prevent ear pain and discomfort.

This trick even works with toddlers (if you’re still nursing past the first year).

It can also get quite cool on an airplane so make sure you have warm clothing for your baby and a swaddle or blanking. You can also get many nursing cover options that can also double as a wrap.

Additional Screening Procedures At Airports

When travelling with breastmilk, toddler drinks, baby food or formula, you are required to inform the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer at the beginning of the screening process at airport security checkpoints that you are travelling with these items.

The TSA officer will guide you through an additional screening procedure, such as a swab test for explosives or X-raying your carry-on bag.

All of these steps are designed to ensure all travellers’ safety and protection from any security threats.

Note that there are restrictions with the amount of liquid you can carry on board a plane, however, there are exceptions around reasonable quantities of breast milk (and formula) as they are considered medically necessary. Check the TSA website for further details.

It can also be helpful to familiarise yourself with the procedures for each airport and airline you are flying with for international travel.

Pumping While TravelLing Away From Baby

breast pump and breast milk storage bags

While travelling without your child can be easier in many ways (hello, uninterrupted sleep!), it can also make things much more difficult if you’re still nursing.

Sometimes travel without our baby is unavoidable, such as for a work trip if you’ve returned to work or if you are taking a short trip for an important event.

If you have a younger baby who still relies on your milk for their primary food source, you will need to be ready to pump and store your milk.

You will need to remember to bring all your related supplies to express milk, including:

Make sure you have a private area with an electrical outlet for pumping.

If you’re staying in a hotel room, you should have easy access to pumping space. Booking a room with a mini-fridge is also helpful for keeping your milk fresh.

You will want to pump as often as your baby usually nurses – probably every 3-4 hrs. This will help keep your milk supply up and also avoid the discomfort of becoming engorged.

You can probably get away with going overnight without pumping, but you’ll need to do a really good pumping session first thing in the morning.

Make sure you do hand massage all the way up where your breast meets your ribcage and even back up into your armpits (you’d be surprised how deep your ducts go!).

If your child is old enough to primarily depend on solids for nutrition and mostly nurses for comfort (usually around 18+ months), things will be greatly simplified for you.

I still suggest bringing a pump, but a manual one should be enough.

You won’t need the hassle of storing milk; instead, just pour it down a sink drain after pumping or expressing (as much as it may kill you to get rid of that liquid gold).

Plus, you likely won’t need to express every 3-4 hours. You can probably get away with once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and right before bed (but listen to your body and keep tabs on if you feel full or sore).

How to Avoid Engorgement & Soreness While Travelling Without Your Baby

I have found that if I rely on a manual pump for more than a day or two, I am more likely to get some engorgement and soreness in some of my deeper breast tissue (a pump isn’t as efficient as a baby is at extracting milk).

If this happens to you, be sure to do some extra pumping/expression to avoid a clogged duct or mastitis.

If it’s really a problem, the best thing I’ve found is to try to drain the breasts completely and “start over.” Get in the shower and do a lot of hand expression until your breasts are soft (it may take a little while).

Work your way all around each breast, looking for firmer areas that are still congested with milk.

After that, you should feel better and be able to pump/express at a normal rate again.

If your soreness and fullness gets worse, you can develop mastitis. If you see redness on your skin, feel achy and sick or develop a fever, contact a doctor immediately for treatment.

This can make you very unwell and extremely sore! It’s not fun at all.

Travelling With Breastmilk Safely

breast pump and breast milk bottles with woman and baby in background

Remember, you are allowed to travel by air with breast milk!

It is considered a medically necessary liquid by TSA guidelines and allowed in carry-on baggage.

Your milk can be fresh, frozen, or partially frozen (and you don’t have to worry about staying under the limits set for most liquids for carry-ons so long as they are in reasonable quantities).

You’re also allowed to have ice packs and gel packs to keep milk cool. With that said, remember to bring a cooler with you to keep your milk fresh.

TSA may scan your milk during security. To make that easier, keep your milk in clear bottles instead of bags.

Finally, don’t forget to double-bag your milk in freezer bags to avoid leaks. This not only avoids a mess but also gives you extra peace of mind when things don’t go quite as planned!

FAQS: Your Questions Answered

Is it safe to breastfeed while travelling?

Absolutely! Breastfeeding while travelling is safe and offers numerous benefits for both you and your baby. It provides comfort, nutrition, and a sense of security.

How do I handle breastfeeding during flights?

Plan ahead by nursing during takeoff and landing to ease ear pressure. Bring a breastfeeding cover for privacy, and don’t hesitate to ask airline staff for support.

What essentials should I pack for breastfeeding on the go?

Pack extra supplies like nursing pads, a comfortable breastfeeding pillow, and a portable breast pump. Stay hydrated and dress in breastfeeding-friendly attire.

How to pump while travelling?

Opt for a hands-free pumping bra for convenience and privacy. Seek out designated nursing rooms or quiet areas, and communicate your needs with travel companions or venue staff for support.

How long can I keep pumped breastmilk for?

At room temperature for up to 4 hours, refrigerated for up to 4 days and frozen breastmilk for around 3 to 6 months.

Final Thoughts: Travelling While Breastfeeding

Whether you’re driving or flying, travelling while breastfeeding is totally doable! It just takes a little planning ahead and some extra preparation time. There’s no reason to cancel your travel plans – You can do this!

Author Bio: Samantha is a PhD Chemist and Public Health Expert turned mom of four who shares practical tips for parents at Evidence-Based Mommy.