Being a mom that was nursing, I was super intimidated the first time I flew. Eli wasn’t nursing well or latching, and absolutely hated using a cover, and I just wasn’t sure how it was going to go. I did a bunch of research and it ended up going really well. Now I feel like we are experts at nursing on planes or in airports, and I have even flown a couple of times without Eli and had to pump in airports and carry milk on airplanes.
I do want to preface by saying FED IS BEST! If you are not a nursing mom, that’s ok! As long as your baby is being fed, formula or breastmilk, that is what is best for you and your baby! It took me a long time to figure that out as we place a lot of judgement and guilt on moms who do not breastfeed, and ultimately it does not matter. A friend told me this, and it is the best advice I have ever received: Your worth as a mother is not measured in the amount of breastmilk you produce! Okay, off my soapbox…now to the advice I have for nursing mothers who are flying.
Nursing: Nursing is a fantastic way to keep your baby’s ears from hurting on the flight. During takeoff and landing we try to nurse and Eli hasn’t had any issues with ears. Most people on airplanes are super friendly and supportive, especially when your baby is screaming because they’re hungry and you’re trying to hold them off until take-off (happens to us a lot…no matter how much I plan, it never fails that he changes those plans). I always aim to feed him right as we take-off, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. In that case, I feed him as soon as we sit down, and usually he falls asleep (which is fine for his ears as well). My best advice for your first flight – don’t stress. It will be okay. The flight will end and you will never see those people again. So even if you cannot get your baby to latch or eat, or stop screaming, the flight will be over and you will go on your way!
Covers: I always use a cover in public because I just feel uncomfortable being fully exposed (but more power to you if you are comfortable with it! I’m always impressed with moms who are). And sometimes you get sat next to an awkward teenage boy (it has happened to us more than once) on the plane, and you just feel awkward feeding your baby, let alone being fully exposed. I use this cover (similar ones here – we used this one as a carseat cover too – and here). It’s amazing since I’m fully covered and it’s lightweight (it can get hot on airplanes before takeoff). We had the hardest time nursing in public before I found this cover, as I always felt exposed or couldn’t maneuver the cover the right way. I saw the Milkmaid Goods one on Facebook one day and decided to give it a try. It is one of my must-haves for a baby, and I now buy it for all my friends baby gifts!
Nursing Rooms: I’ve utilized the nursing rooms in most airports (and mamava pods are incredible if an airport has one) both to nurse or pump (when Eli isn’t with me). I always do a quick google search to find where they are in the airport before a trip or as the plane is pulling up to the gate. I think almost all airports have them, but if they do not, they do have family restrooms. This is NOT ideal…but if you are desperate, it is possible (especially if you are pumping). I have also seen moms use a nursing poncho to cover their pump parts and go sit on the floor in the corner by an outlet. Whatever works to get the milk out, stay on schedule, and feed your baby.
Security: You can carry your breast milk on, I think the limit is something like 500 oz, which I never even came close to that! You can also ask them not to put it through the X-ray machine. They will hand search all your luggage and pat you down, but it only takes an extra 10 min or so. We usually end up having to be hand searched anyways because of the amount of liquids we are carrying (between milk, food pouches, juice and water).
When Eli was a newborn and not nursing well, we would carry bottles for Eli in our diaper bag with an ice pack, just in case. They always test those but never open the milk. Unfortunately, I do have a friend whose milk was confiscated (she was an exclusive pumper and so her baby did not have anything to eat for their flight…that must’ve been a nightmare) because it tested positive for something, so be aware that can happen and bring a little extra.
When I travel without Eli and pump, I carry all of my milk I pumped the entire trip with me. I know you can have it shipped home through companies such as Milkstork.com, but I could not afford that. I just packed all of my milk in Lansinoh freezer bags (they stack easily in a cooler and do not leak) and put them in a cooler bag (similar one here and here) with ice packs. I also take an empty gallon ziplock bag with me and ask for them to fill it with ice at Starbucks whenever I get through security to keep it cool also. I have also taken milk I had frozen on the airplane, and just pack extra ice packs and lots of ice to keep them frozen throughout the duration of my trip.
I really hope this helps if it’s your first time flying with your baby, or without and you’re a nursing mom! Do you have any other tips to share?