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I’ve been breastfeeding for 2 years and 2 months now. I’ve breastfed Miss M until the end of my second pregnancy and then moved straight onto feeding my son, who is now 5 months. During this time I’ve done a lot of travelling and in many respects breastfeeding has made travelling with small kids easier for me. It’s been a convenient and immediate way to feed my babies, it’s also been a sanity saver for soothing them if they do happen to get bad tempered on a flight (or anywhere for that matter). Plus it’s a good way to keep ears from hurting on take-off and landing. On top of that, breast milk has antibodies that protect against illness which has given me greater peace of mind when travelling (particularly to developing nations) as the last thing you want when you are away is an unwell child.
I understand that not everyone can breastfeed or chooses to breastfeed so I do have a special guest post dedicated to bottle feeding and travel coming very soon. But in the meantime if you are a breastfeeder or intend to breastfeed in the future, here are some things that you may wish to ponder if you’re going to be breastfeeding whilst travelling:
Maintain a strong milk supply and look after yourself
The best way to keep an abundant milk supply is through frequent/demand feeding, and when you’re travelling this is no exception. Here is a great article about increasing milk supply if you suspect that it may be dwindling. It’s also important to remember to keep well hydrated, particularly on long-haul flights and in warmer climates. When I fly I always buy a large bottle of water once I’ve passed airport security and I try not to rely on the airline to provide water as they tend to only offer a tiny paper cup every couple of hours if you’re flying economy. The one time I did forget to buy water I eventually persuaded a lovely attendant to provide me with a large bottle of water (that they swiped from business class of course!) .
I rely solely on breast milk to feed my babies (pre introduction of solids stage), so ensuring I’m healthy is also key. A bout of food poisoning can play havoc on milk supply, and breastfeeding when sick is an unpleasant experience. To avoid getting food poisoning while travelling check out this post on eating in developing nations. If you do happen to get sick, generally the best thing to do is to continue breastfeeding, even increasing the frequency of feeding. If you do take any medication for illness you should check with a doctor whether it’s suitable for a breastfeeding mother. You might also want to check the compatibility of any medication in your first aid kit. Another little tip that I’ve picked up along the way is to keep an antifungal cream in your first-aid kit for any instances of nipple thrush. If this does happen, remember also to treat your baby with an oral thrush treatment.
Can you have vaccinations when breastfeeding?
This is a bit of a grey area, but in general, the answer is ‘yes’ as the majority of vaccinations are considered safe for breastfeeding. However, there are some, such as yellow fever or small pox, that are not compatible with breastfeeding. This chart provides a good overview on what vaccinations are acceptable for breastfeeding mothers. Also, not all anti-malarial medication is suitable to take when breastfeeding. Keep in mind that although breastfeeding does pass on immunity benefits, you should never assume that a mother’s vaccination will protect the baby from a disease. As always, you should discuss with your GP any queries you may have relating to vaccinations if you are breastfeeding.
A big question when you’re breastfeeding whilst travelling is ‘where can I breastfeed?’ particularly if you are out and about all day sightseeing. I often wonder when I’m travelling whether it will be acceptable to nurse in public. When breastfeeding in public I prefer to use a nursing cover or oversized muslin cloth as a shield, but often wonder if even this method is accepted by other cultures.
I think the key is to be considerate and respectful of the local culture, and do as they do. A little research before you go on local law is always worthwhile. At your destination if you see local women feeding in public, then it’s probably ok. If you don’t see anyone breastfeeding in public and you’re really unsure you can always ask a local mum. In Dubai, for example, breastfeeding in public is not against the law. However, as it is a very modest culture, exposing your breast in public would surely cause offence. There are ways around this by using a breastfeeding cover, or using the superb facilities designed for mothers and available in the majority of Dubai’s shopping malls.
A fantastic website for the ins and outs of breastfeeding, and the resource that I have returned to time and time again, is Kellymom.com. It truly is a gem of a site! I realise I haven’t covered pumping while travelling in this post so if you do intend to express then here is a great article on the subject.