Breastfeeding while traveling

With a bit of preparation, breastfeeding or pumping can fit right into your travel plans.
Jan. 14, 2019

mom smiles and holds babyYou’re a new mom. You’ve put in the hard work and finally feel you’ve gotten the hang of breastfeeding. You’ve got a routine, and life is starting to feel like it’s moving forward again. And now it’s time for a trip — and who is more deserving of a little time away from home than mom?

Traveling — whether for business or pleasure — doesn’t have to alter your breastfeeding goals. And it doesn’t need to disturb the hard work you’ve put in.

In Colorado, supporting breastfeeding moms is a priority, according to Sara Rathmell, registered nurse and international board-certified lactation consultant with the Lactation Support Program at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland.

“Colorado does a great job with supporting breastfeeding moms, and we have high breastfeeding rates overall when compared to the rest of the country,” Rathmell said.

Breastfeeding while traveling, she said, is a great way to reassure your baby if he or she is overstimulated by new sights and sounds.

Whether your little one is coming with you or not on your next trip, here are some tips to make sure you’re able to continue to breastfeed and enjoy your time away from home.

Keep in mind the health benefits

There is no better nutrition for a baby than breast milk and those benefits make it worth the effort and challenge.

Babies who are breastfed have less risk for upper respiratory and ear infections, and a lower risk for allergies, obesity, juvenile-onset diabetes and childhood cancers, according to Rathmell.

Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding, which reduces risk for breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease and postpartum depression. Breastfeeding also helps women return to their pre-pregnancy weight, she said.

The support is here

Active local breastfeeding coalitions  that support moms and host fun events to celebrate breastfeeding throughout the year are located throughout Colorado.

“Denver even has Breastival each summer,” Rathmell said.

At that free event, families gather at City Park Pavilion to connect with businesses and resources that every parent needs and to participate in fun activities for kids.

Moms check out nursing pods with their children at the Stadium
UCHealth announced their partnership with the Colorado Rockies and the Denver Broncos on the UCHealth Nursing Suites during a press event at Coors Field on Aug. 4, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Clarkson Creative.

Colorado’s sports teams and venues have teamed up with UCHealth to make sure moms have a nice space to feed or pump while attending a sporting event. At the Colorado Rockies, Denver Broncos or Colorado Avalanche games look for the UCHealth Nursing Suite for a place to relax away from the crowds with your baby, or to pump. The pods are large enough for siblings and have a television so you don’t have to miss the game. (Click here to search for all area Mamava-brand nursing suites.)

The perfect spot

Traveling in the car with a nursing child doesn’t need to be stressful.

mom cross country skis with baby on her back

When it’s time to nurse, try to stop at a site with spectacular views of Colorado. Keep a camp chair in the car and when it’s close to feeding time, find a lookout, scenic pullout, or nice lake or creek to sit alongside. Enjoy the view while your little one enjoys their lunch.

“That’s the beauty of breastfeeding,” Rathmell said. “It’s always readily available anytime, anyplace. Whether you’re hiking or camping, or even snowshoeing, you can wear your baby in a carrier and then just take them out to feed them. Find a comfy spot to sit down and nurse in nature.”

Flying and nursing

“Breastfeeding can be very convenient with traveling,” Rathmell said. “And you have the right to breastfeed wherever you are.”

Many airports now have nursing or pumping rooms available for moms, but it’s nice to check their website ahead of time. In October 2018, the FAA Reauthorization Act became law and includes the Airport Improvement Program Modification. This act requires large to medium sized airports to provide a private lactation area beyond security in every terminal by October 2020.

If you don’t feel comfortable nursing on the plane or in the airport, you can try to pump and bring breast milk in a bottle, she said.

Nursing during takeoff and landing is a common suggestion because it can comfort the baby and help with ear discomfort.

“But don’t stress if your baby won’t latch during these times,” Rathmell said. “Most babies will do just fine.”

Traveling without your child

For occasions when you can’t bring your little one, it doesn’t need to be the end of breastfeeding. With a little determination, planning and the right equipment, you can pump while on the excursion.

Enough stored milk

A nurse reaches in to help a new mom as she breastfeeds her baby. UCHealth now has more Baby-Friendly hospitals.
UCHealth lactation consultants provided extensive support and tailored plans to help moms breastfeed their babies.

If you’re leaving your little one behind for a few days, make sure you have enough frozen breast milk to feed them while you’re gone.

At breastfeeding support groups, moms can weigh their baby before and after a feeding to determine how much milk a baby consumes in a feeding. Use that figure to calculate how much milk your baby will need while you’re gone.

For example, if your baby eats 3 ounces every three hours (equal to eight feedings a day), and you’ll be gone for 24 hours, you would need about 24 ounces stored. And make sure you practice with the bottle before you leave to ensure your baby will take it, Rathmell said.

Airport security

Security can be stressful enough without hauling your pump and supplies with you. So, when traveling without your little one, make sure you still give yourself extra time to get through security.

A breast pump is considered a medical device, so it doesn’t necessarily have to fit in the airlines’ approved carry-on bag guidelines. However, you may want to check with your airline and review airport security rules before you travel. Printing those rules may also be helpful because airport staff are not always aware of exceptions to the rules.

If you are traveling with a small lunch cooler, make sure the ice packs are completely frozen or you may run into issues at security. Breast milk storage bags are easier to transport milk in than containers, as bags lay flat. The 3-ounce liquid rule doesn’t apply to breast milk. However, security may pull you aside and require special testing.

It can be helpful to fully freeze your milk before your return flight. Ask your hotel concierge if you can use a freezer. Make sure your storage bags have your name and contact information.

“After you get through security with frozen milk, you could stop at a food counter to ask for ice to keep the milk frozen,” Rathmell suggested. “Pack some extra zip-close freezer bags to put your milk bags in as well as for ice. As long as the milk is mostly frozen with ice crystals in it, you can put it back in your freezer when you get home.”

That business conference

If your trip without your little one is for business, make sure you have a safe place to pump while attending meetings or a conference.

“Definitely call ahead to the venue to see what is available for nursing moms,” Rathmell said. “A lot of times this can be overlooked by organizers. But just by a simple inquiry, they may be willing to create a private space for you to pump.”

Outdoor adventures

If you plan to hike a 14er or go skiing — or any one of Colorado’s many outdoor opportunities — planning ahead also is crucial to make sure you stay safe and healthy.

Determine how long you will be away from your baby and try to empty your breasts every three hours while away, Rathmell said. If you only need to pump one or two times and won’t have access to electricity make sure to bring a hand pump. If you’ll have access to your vehicle, think about investing in a car adapter or battery pack for your electric pump. Bringing your nursing cover can provide that extra privacy while you pump in a semi-private area. And don’t forget sanitary wipes or enough clean pumping parts to get you through the day.

“Stay hydrated and get enough calories to stay healthy as this will keep your milk supply up,” Rathmell said. “Also try to get out of a constricting sports bra as soon as you are finished with your activity.”

More resources and inspiration

Learn about the benefits of a breastfeeding support group:

This mother of twins was glad she stuck it out with breastfeeding:

Get the real answers to your breastfeeding questions:

News on UCHealth Nursing Suites:

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.