The World Health Organization states: “Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.” The benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented and include among other things immune and nutritional benefits for the baby. Unfortunately some mothers may cease breastfeeding earlier than they would have due to travel arrangements. This is unnecessary with the convenience of “on tap” nutrition and hydration for baby potentially being easier to manage when travelling than infant formula. In support of Breast Feeding week, and to encourage women to continue to breast feed while they are traveling I am sharing these tips:
What are my rights as a lactating mother when I travel?
The rights of lactating mothers and babies to feed publicly vary around the world. In the majority of the world breast feeding is the standard method of infant feeding and therefore readily accepted. In Australia each state has laws prohibiting the discrimination against women on the basis of breastfeeding (or association with a child in South Australia). In the United States laws also vary across states including some states with no legal protection for women, limitation to legal protection only until a baby is one year old, and comprehensive protection. As laws change frequently, and there is the (rare) possibility for criminal charges if you breastfeed publicly in some overseas destinations I suggest checking with the relevant embassy as to your rights prior to departure.How can I retain my modesty if I need to feed my baby in public?
Tips for women to protect their modesty when breastfeeding on a plane
Although women should feel comfortable to feed in front of others the reality is we often don’t. Mothers may feel shy about public breastfeeding on an airplane or train. A range of options exist to protect your modesty. Clothing designed specifically for feeding mothers, with features facilitating breast access with minimal public disclosure are available at maternity shops and online. Similarly, specifically designed feeding shawls can be purchased. I have used both but prefer to use feeding shawls as it gives me more control over my clothing options. A cheaper option is to have a supply of muslin wraps or swaddles that can be draped to protect your modesty. Older babies tend not to tolerate shawls because they obscure their view of the world. Many airports have feeding rooms, just ask for their location at the information desk.
Are there any special considerations for lactating women when traveling?
It is important to remember to keep well hydrated when breast-feeding, especially if travelling to areas with warm climates. Breast-feeding mothers need to be particularly careful to avoid traveller’s diarrhea as the dehydration that may result may have a drastic impact on breast milk supplies.
Can I keep expressing milk while I travel?
The logistics of expressing breast milk are made more difficult by travelling. Airport security for international flights limits the carry-on of liquids to 100ml. Australian airports are allowing breast milk in excess of this volume through security. Different countries will however have different rules in relation to breast milk passing through airport security. If you intend to carry expressed breast milk please conduct research prior to your trip to ensure that you will be allowed to carry breast milk through security in the countries you are visiting or transiting in. Individual airlines may also have rules regarding the carriage of breast milk onto their planes (Qantas’ website states that they do not limit this) so checking with airlines prior to booking your ticket is also sensible. Even if you are allowed to bring breast milk onto a plane it is unlikely that any airline will allow you to store it in their fridge due to its biological nature – you will therefor need to bring a cool pack onboard. Once again, check with the relevant airline/s prior to booking.
If I am lactating can I still have the recommended travel vaccinations?
All travel vaccinations except for that used to prevent Yellow Fever are considered safe for use by lactating women.
If I am lactating can I take anti-malarial medication?
Doxycycline and Primaquine are two medications used to prevent malaria that are generally considered safe for use with breastfeeding mothers.
Finally a safety warning.
Tragedies have occurred when mothers have fallen asleep breastfeeding. Motherhood pushes the limits in terms of fatigue, but jet lag and long flights stretch these limits further. If you are feeding on a long flight and feel you may not be able to stay awake to feed safely, it is worth asking someone (even if it is a stranger next to you on the plane) to ensure that you do so.
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