Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding on board

Traveling with an infant is actually easier in some ways than traveling with older children. An infant won't run off through security or immigration without you, won't kick the seat in front of them, and won't gripe about the food on board. They're also a lot more likely to spend their time on board the airplane asleep, at least if they're not bothered by the air pressure affecting their ears.

I've traveled with a bottle-fed infant and a breastfed infant, and for me, it was a lot easier to do the trip when breastfeeding. If your infant is breastfeeding, bringing food for them on the flight is a lot easier: no liquids in your hand luggage to bring through security, no bottles to clean, and no powdered formula to make a mess.

But of course, there are other issues. Diaper changes for example. And if your child eats formula, you might be worried about traveling with liquids. The short version: don't worry, baby formula is ok to bring with you.

Here are my top things to consider when you are a traveling, breastfeeding mom:

If you have any issues about breastfeeding in public, then make sure you do not have the aisle seat, because sitting there will make you feel pretty exposed. It is also a spot where people are likely to bump into you, or worse: bump into your baby! The middle seat is not great either, especially if you don't know the people next to you (bringing a partner or other companion along can be a very good thing for a lot of reasons when traveling with an infant). So, window seat it is, at least for maximum privacy.

Mention to your travel agent or to the airline that you are breastfeeding when booking your flight, and ask them to put you in the best spot possible. Mention it again when you check in for your flight, just to make sure you get the best seat available.

Bring a cover-up
If you're breastfeeding, you probably already have some sort of cover-up you use when breastfeeding in public. A blanket can work just fine, and there are also all sorts of nifty things like the Infinity Breastfeeding Scarf and a Nursing Cover With Storage Pockets. Now, having been a breastfeeding mom myself, I think moms should be allowed to breastfeed everywhere they want to, whether they cover up completely or not. Hungry babies should be allowed to eat after all, and some babies (and some moms) don't like the cover ups.

However, long flights are stressful enough when you're traveling with a small child, so having something to get that extra privacy while also "sparing" other passengers the sight of a mom feeding her child, can make your trip go smoother. If your child doesn't like the cover up, try to get one that is light and soft: sometimes the baby will be ok if there is a bit more light and air coming in.

Bring extra supplies
Bring an extra shirt, nursing bra and set of nursing pads with you. It's always nice to have a change in case of leaks, spit-ups or spills.

If your child is bottle fed, you will be carrying more supplies on the flight than a breastfeeding mom. Even with today's restrictions on bringing liquids, you are allowed to bring formula for your baby on board. However, don't worry too much about bringing water to mix formula with, since water (warm and cold) is usually available on board.

Some tips when traveling with a bottle-fed infant:
  • Bring bottles that use plastic inserts or liners, as they are easier to deal with on board than washing out a regular bottle.
  • Bring lots of bottle nipples and rings so you can use a clean one even if you can't get to the bathroom to wash the old one out.
  • If you're bringing powdered formula, put it into tiny ziploc bags in pre-measured amounts. This makes it a lot easier to make a bottle on board. There are also powdered formula dispensers you can bring: I never used these, but they look very handy.
  • It's also easier if your child is ok with drinking room-tempered formula, rather than warm formula.
  • Keep the bottles and supplies in a separate bag, even if you put that bag inside your carry on. This makes it easier to find and handle the food supply once you're on board.
My final tip for both breastfeeding moms and bottle-feeding parents is:

Time the feeds

If you can, feed your baby during takeoff and landing. This helps equalize the pressure in your child's ears and also calms them down if they're bothered by the noise.

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