Much as been written about the benefits of breast feeding your child. Actually breastfeeding while on a family vacation with your baby can be much easier than formula feeding. Maternity leave is one of the rare times in life that many moms are able to take extended time off from work. It's an excellent opportunity to take a vacation. Lactating moms have a portable solution to give their child all the nutritional requirements nature intended while providing a constant and familiar source of comfort. Even so, there are a few considerations you may want to take into account before leaving home.
If you are only breast feeding your child, then you have no worries about sterilizing bottles or the availability of clean water. If you are supplementing with formula then this is a great time to splurge on ready to feed bottles or prepared canned formula. Be alert that changes in water used to mix formula may upset your baby, not to mention tap water in some travel destinations may not be fit to drink. Remember, babies have strong swallowing reflexes so be extra careful when bathing or swimming with your child in areas where the water may be in question. Generally breast fed babies have a lower incidence of getting traveler's diarrhea. Traveling breast feeding moms need to be mindful of their eating, sleeping and stress patterns as this could effect their breast milk production. This is a time to ask and accept help. Make life as easy as possible for yourself and avoid stress whenever possible.
It's always a good idea to consult with your family doctors in order to protect the health of both mom and baby. When possible, schedule an appointment with your family doctors 4 to 6 weeks prior to your departure. Depending upon your specific itinerary and destination, travel immunizations may be required and can take several weeks to take effect. There may be certain diseases like yellow fever, measles, and meningococcal meningitis which may be a threat to infants. Small infants may be at risk because they are too young to be immunized and they do not receive antibody protection through mother's milk. If you a heading to a warm or tropical destination, you may want to ask your pediatrician about offering extra fluids to your child to avoid dehydration. Moms may also want to be prepared for the tropics by having antifungal cream on hand to treat possible periareolar yeast infections
If you and your child will be flying, you may want to consider using a baby sling. These nifty devises offer moms a hand free way to carry baby thru the airport and gives you nursing privacy. Infants have immature eustachian tubes in their ears which are very sensitive to air pressure changes. Swallowing can help balance the pressure in your child's inner ears so allow your child to nurse during take-offs and landings. Security xray screenings have no effect on lactation, breast feeding or breast milk. Breast milk does not need to be declared at customs. If you plan to carry expressed breast milk on board, it's prudent to check with the latest airport security rules. Rules regarding the transport of liquids on board aircraft are subject to change and should be checked prior to travel. Breast pumps are considered to be personal items and are subject to the same carry on rules as other carry on bags. Just be sure to check with your airline regarding size and weight restrictions to avoid additional baggage fees.
As far as accommodations are concerned, you may want to consider having access to a kitchen, or at least a refrigerator. This will certainly make life a bit easier if you plan to express or store your breast milk. Refrigerated milk can frozen but, once frozen milk has been fully thawed, it cannot be re-frozen and it must be used within 1 hour. Expressed milk should be kept cool and stored in clean, tightly sealed containers. Use any container that may be cleaned well with hot, soapy water and that seals tightly. If you are traveling to areas where water may be in question or depending on the age of your child, sterilize containers with boiled water. Many breast feeding moms can easily pump manually and may find this more convenient while traveling. Others prefer electric pumps. If you need nursing support or equipment rentals while traveling, try contacting an International board certified lactation consultant or the LaLeche League.
As a traveling mom, please bear in mind that opinions on breast feeding vary greatly. Some people consider it natural and totally acceptable while some places have laws forbidding it. Many developing countries associate breast feeding with a lower economic and less educated class of people. In some cultures, it is considered socially acceptable to admire and even interact with a nursing child. Airports can be interesting social bubbles because here you'll find a cross section of so many different cultures. Be respectful, learn, share experiences and try not to react to negative responses. When in doubt, it's usually best to be as conservative as possible. Do your best to find a private area to breast feed your child. Try to be as prepared as possible with clothing and covers for modesty. Cross cultural experiences are often the reason we leave home in the first place seeking adventure...and let's face it, parenthood is one of the greatest adventures of our lives. As travelers, and especially parents, we are ambassadors and we should strive to set a positive example through understanding and tolerance.