A busy travel schedule doesn’t mean you need to stop breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, you may already know the benefits it offers you and your child. For example, breast milk is easier for your baby to digest. It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids your baby needs to be healthy. And, it has many substances formulas don’t have that can protect your baby from diseases and infections. Breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia and many other illnesses.

Breastfeeding is also good for moms. It can be calming and promote bonding. It burns calories that can help you lose weight. And, it’s linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.1

That’s why it’s good to know that travel doesn’t have to be a reason to stop breastfeeding. It may present challenges. But, many women find traveling with a nursing baby is easier than with a bottle-fed baby. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, offers very helpful tips.2 Here are some of the highlights.

Traveling with a nursing infant less than six months old

If you’re traveling with your baby, keep these two tips in mind:

You don’t need to supplement breastfeeding. Infants younger than six months old don’t even need water added to their diet.

It’s a good idea to take along a sling or other soft infant carrier. It can be used to:

  • Ease the burden of carrying a child for long periods of time
  • Increase opportunities for nursing, which helps maintain a good milk supply
  • Maintain skin-to-skin contact with the child
  • Protect the child from some environmental hazards

Traveling apart from your nursing baby

If you need to take a trip without your baby, start preparing as soon as you can. You may want to express and store breast milk for use while you are away. Building that supply takes time and patience.

Infants who have never taken milk from a bottle or cup will also need time to adjust. It is important for the baby to practice this skill with another caregiver.

If you are unable to nurse for an extended time, you may notice your milk supply shrinking. But you may still resume breastfeeding when you return. In many cases, after mother and baby reunite, the baby will help return a mother’s milk supply to its prior level.

If you’re going to be away for a week or longer, you may need to plan for other ways to express milk. It can be done manually or with the help of a small breast pump, but that might not be enough to keep an abundant supply of milk over an extended time. You may have greater success using a hospital-grade electric pump.

How to store and handle milk while traveling

Expressed milk should be stored in clean, tightly sealed containers. Many mothers choose to use infant feeding bottles with solid caps to store milk.

Milk may be stored and transported in refrigeration, or frozen in dry ice.

  • Freshly expressed milk is safe even when stored at room temperature for 6-8 hours.
  • Fresh milk may be stored in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours.
  • Refrigerated milk can be stored for five days.

Once milk is cooled, it should remain cool until it is used. Refrigerated milk can be frozen. However, once frozen milk is thawed, it should be used within one hour.

If no good storage is available and you’re traveling without your child, you may need to throw away your expressed milk. It is important to remember the value of regular expression to maintain your milk supply, regardless of whether the milk is stored.

More resources and information

If you need more information, the CDC article cited below may be helpful. It contains direct links to support groups and web sites dedicated to helping women who are breastfeeding. To learn more, visit http://www.cdc.gov/Breastfeeding/recommendations/travel_recommendations.htm

This material is intended for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor.

Last updated December 2013