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So You're Going to Be Breastfeeding on a Plane. What to Know.

Posted on March 05 2017

Mom Breastfeeding on an Airplane. How to Air Travel Easily when Nursing.

Traveling with a baby is not always easy for a new -- or even an experienced -- mom.

Babies get fussy and cry and newborns get hungry for another feeding often within 2 or 3 hours of take off. Other people...they may not be kind, make faces, or judge you for flying with kids. If you're a nursing mom, you want to be able to nurse at the airport or in-flight, as the need arises (without stares or issues). Even if you bring pumped breast milk in bottles, you need to have a way to keep it cool and have it heated when it's time to feed your baby and sometimes security makes bringing breastmilk on a plane more difficult. 

There are many challenges!

Here's a little welcome news for you. Most airlines recognize that it can often be challenging and there are ways to make air travel a little easier for nursing moms!

Nursing Moms and Airports

Airports around the country and around the world have begun to wake up to the needs of nursing mothers by providing "lactation stations" where a nursing mom traveling with her baby can go to nurse in clean, comfortable surroundings, and a mom traveling on business without her baby can go to pump in privacy and in clean surroundings. Until now, many a nursing mother was relegated to the less than sanitary conditions of a public bathroom to nurse or pump.

Some of the airports that have stepped up for nursing moms include:

  • Airports in Chicago have installed what the state's Department of Aviation call "Mother's Rooms" to accommodate nursing mothers.
  • Dallas' Love Field added a room for nursing mothers directly across from a play area for kids when they revamped the airport in October of 2014.
  • In December of 2014, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport added pre-security nursing stations in each of their terminals. Each of them contain a sink and a baby changing station along with comfortable seating and an electrical outlet for powering a breast pump.
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport led the field in providing nursing rooms several years ago, but in 2015, they improved upon their initial efforts with the opening of two lactation stations in Terminal 1-Lindbergh designed for mothers to express milk before boarding their flights. The new rooms have a deep sink for cleaning pumping equipment and bottles, conveniently located electrical outlets, soft lighting, artwork, a baby changing stationery and comfortable seating. There are also some considerate extras such as a USB charging station, hooks for hanging coats and bags, and even a full-length mirror so you can check to make sure you're put back together before departing.

Of course, not all airports have taken steps to accommodate nursing moms -- yet. However, the tide is turning and turning fast, so it's only a matter of time before they bow to public pressure.

Breast Milk on the Plane

Most airlines say that although they can't refrigerate bottles of breast milk, they will gladly provide ice to keep it cold while in flight to your destination. Simply pack your bottles in a small insulated bag and ask the flight attendant for ice.  YETI makes pretty awesome insulated bags that work wonders for this purpose. Invest in a high quality product so you don't have to worry about melting ice or temps of your milk going down. Learn here temps on how to store your breast milk.

Some airlines will heat a bottle at your request, while others won't. It's best to ask the airline about its policy when booking your flight.

If you need to pump during your flight and want privacy, the only option is the restroom. Give the flight attendant a heads-up before you head to the restroom so he/she won't be concerned if you're in there for a while.

In-Flight Nursing with Chic Nursing Wear Choices

In general, most airlines today neither prohibit nor discourage breastfeeding during their flights, but in an effort to please all passengers (some of whom may object to the "exposure"), they suggest that you cover up as much as possible while nursing. Now, we've experienced that lots of baby's do not like being covered.  Also, the nursing apron style covers can hamper baby's airflow. You can, however, breastfeed discreetly with clothing that's designed for nursing that allows baby access to your breast without exposing too much to fellow passengers. Designed nursing wear is also great because you don't have to lift your shirt up and expose your tummy to chilly airplane air-conditioning. 

With that said, nursing wear has gone far over the years and is a great must have for the traveling mom. You can literally look super chic and comfortable while wearing a nursing tee shirt or nursing hoodie that has a "non maternity, non nursing" style. There are wrap cardigans that act as perfect cover ups and easy tank tops that offer quick breast access and make breastfeeding where ever, like on a plane, easier. 

A few investment pieces, especially if you are a nursing mom on a plane or in an airport, will serve you well. Bun Maternity has ideal stylish breastfeeding clothes for moms that nurse on demand and especially when on the go go go!

It's sad that any nursing mom should have to feel the need to cover up because some people are "squeamish" or plain ignorant about catching a glimpse of her (gasp!) breast, and in the end, the decision to cover up or not to cover up is yours alone. That said, ultimately choose what makes you and your little one feel best.

Tips for Making In-Flight Nursing More (Physically) Comfortable

Nursing on an airplane is not ideal in terms of comfort. Space is often cramped, there are loud announcements, and you've usually got someone sitting next to you whom you'd like to avoid bumping or disturbing (unless it's a family member). Given these facts, here are a few tips to make your flight more comfortable for you and your baby:

  • Bring along a Boppy nursing pillow to help support your baby, or use your neck pillow if it is sturdy enough.
  • Try baby wearing in a ring sling for breastfeeding and sleeping. This allows you to fall asleep yourself without worrying about your baby falling out of your arms. Here's tips on breastfeeding while babywearing.
  • Dress comfortably. Aside from wearing a great nursing top, make the rest of your outfit as comfortable as possible. Sweat pants or yoga pants, sneakers, etc. are best for maximum comfort, especially on long or trans-ocean flights. Bun has the cutest nursing hoodies and tops that pair well with joggers and yoga pants for those longer flights.

With a little forethought, you'll find that traveling and nursing needn't be at odds with one another. Airlines are becoming more amenable to the needs of nursing mothers, as are airports -- all good news for nursing moms and their breast-fed babies!

Keep traveling and keep going mama! You're doing great!

Items we mention are pure love and non sponsored.

Shop stylish and convenient nursing tanks here.