You may well argue that breastfeeding and travelling are not directly connected. But in my case breastfeeding was something that made travelling with my son so much easier. That is why I decided to state my case here. You may agree or disagree and you are very welcome to tell me that in the comments. But what I would value most is that if my article would answer some questions for those who have doubts about travelling with breastfed babies and encourage them to pursue the lifestyle they want.
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My experience of breastfeeding on travelling
In this article I will refer to the baby as “he”, not because I am a girl-hater, but because when I look for examples, I think about my son.
I have already mentioned before that my son was breastfed exclusively until he was 6 months. I kept breastfeeding him on demand until he was 1.5 years old. To answer your question: that was the age when his demands stopped. I was actually planning to do it longer, because it was really convenient. But oh well, there is this annoying issue of the baby not following my wishes exactly, but exercising a will of his own. I am sure you know what I am talking about.
We start with the assumption that you are not against breastfeeding as such, and just consider, whether it is a good idea to chose this way of feeding your baby on your travels. Also, I have to say at once that my experience is based on North America and Europe. I would very much like to hear your thoughts on the rest of the world.
The controversy of breastfeeding
Just as with breastfeeding in your daily life, breastfeeding while travelling can be a sensitive subject. It is a sensitive subject, because:
- Breastfeeding can be painful. It actually almost guaranteed to be painful in the beginning, but with no major issues and problems, the pain will stop after the first couple of weeks. If it doesn’t, look for help. There are consultants out there, who can help you.
- You can feel pressure from your circles or broader public to breastfeed, when you do not want it, or vice versa, to stop breastfeeding, when you want to continue longer.
- It can be time-craving. For example, your baby would nurse for very long stretches of time, or very often.
- You might catch a cold, if you nurse in a cold location.
However, breastfeeding is NOT a sensitive subject, because someone will see your breasts. They will not, because you wear nursing (or sensible) clothes while doing it and are not shoving your breast in these people’s faces. So let us not even discuss this issue of people being unhappy of you nursing in public. We will just ignore those sad boob-haters, who for some reason decided they have a say in this. They do not. They might just as well discuss the lack of clothes in MTV music videos.
7 ways breastfeeding can make your travel easier
1. It is a great way to soothe your baby
And travelling is a stress, although a positive one. Being in different surroundings, facing new landscapes, smells, climate can be stressful (or, as we call it, exciting) for both adults and babies. Having those moments of feeding with you – the most familiar object in the world – can be the best way for the baby to relax.
2. It can help the baby heal
If you baby catches a cold or other mild sickness, your milk might make him feel better quicker. There are studies proving that your milk changes its qualities when your baby is sick to provide him with the elements he needs most at this moment. Of course this is not to say that you should ditch doctors and medicines. It is just a great addition to help your baby heal quicker, if it happened on the trip.
3. Your milk is the same in every country you go to
Meaning you will spare the stress of realising they do not have your usual formula in let’s say Montenegro. And in general you will save the trouble of looking through the shops to find a particular brand.
4. It is cheap
If you count the money you have saved during the first 6 months of baby’s life, it would already cover some kind of trip.
5. It does not require any equipment
Now, if you are feeding your baby on a schedule, then at least you can plan your time accordingly. If however you chose to feed on demand, then breastfeeding can be much easier during your travels. You can do it practically whenever wherever. The milk will be just the right temperature and consistency without you having to prepare the bottle, formula and warm water.
6. It is quick
This one actually flows naturally from the one above. Just keep in mind that the actual eating time might be longer than with the formula, depending on the baby. So if your baby tends to hang on the breast for hours, than just strike this one out from your list.
7. Less packing
You do not need to calculate, how much formula you will need for the trip, and then fill your luggage with bottles, sterilizers, heating equipment, etc.
The cons of breastfeeding while travelling
- If your baby has a fussy stomach or some allergies, you will probably not be able to taste all this fun exotic food you would eat otherwise.
- Booze in bulk is off-limits. Small amount of wine and/or beer might be possible, depending on the culture you are from and your views on the subject.
- If you feed the baby on demand, sometimes he would demand the milk at a time when you really are in the middle of something interesting (like, the Louvre) and really not in the mood to be interrupted. But yeah, no one can substitute you in this, even if you are travelling with your partner, two sets of grandparents and a babysitter.
Some tips for making your breastfeeding while travelling easier
- A nursing scarf or any other type of scarf can be handy. No, not to cover you from the public, we have discussed that already. For me it was very useful, when I had to nurse in a very sunny or windy location, to protect the baby from the sun or the wind and make him more comfortable while eating.
- Make sure your clothes are comfortable for nursing in a specific location. For example, I found it uncomfortable to have skin to skin contact in hot countries, because the nursing becomes a sweaty business. In that case better to have something covering your stomach as well (as opposed to a type of blouse you just lift and put the baby underneath).
- Take something to sit on, if you are planning to be in the nature. If you happen to just sit on the ground for nursing, it can be wet/dirty/full of small stones.
And please, let’s remember…
…that breastfeeding is first and foremost about food and nutrition and secondly about togetherness. However, surprisingly as it may sound, in many countries the room for this activity is usually either placed within the toilet or next to the toilet. But you do not eat in the toilet, nor do you go there to socialise. So please do not make your baby eat and socialise there either. It is gross. Eat and breastfeed in places, which are nice and cozy, like parks, restaurants and living rooms.