Flying with a baby might seem intimidating, but it’s a lot easier than flying with a toddler. Babies don’t cry particularly loudly, they don’t want to get up and run around, they don’t kick the seat in front of them, grab germy handrails, order sugary drinks, play loud video games, drop their toys, or say embarrassing things about other people very loudly. In exchange for a little milk, they will lie peacefully through the whole ordeal.
On my first flight alone, breastfeeding was pretty stressful. First, I was seated next to an older woman who asked that I move. I don’t know why exactly but she was clearly not at all interested in observing any feeding or changing activities close up. Not interested at all! I was then re-seated next to a young guy in a fancy business suit. “Great” rattled sarcastically in my head. I started to wiggle around, trying to figure out how I would ever discreetly feed this baby who was now making motions and noises that were definitely not discreet. The man looked at me, smiled, and said “Oh, I remember the first in-flight feedings, they were tough.” I wanted to hug that man! I still wish I could find him again and say thanks. Sure he made me feel comfortable on that one flight but his small, thoughtful comment transformed all the business men on that flight, and on every flight since, into dads-who-miss-their-kids-and-totally-understand-what-it-might-be-like-to-be-flying-alone-with-a baby-or-small-child.
The trickiest part of flying with a baby really isn’t the flight, it’s airport security. First of all, you should know that if your baby is finally , finally, finally asleep in his stroller, the TSA security officers do not care. They still need you to take your baby out of the stroller, fold the stroller up, and stuff it through the x-ray machine. All alone, this is not easy! Ask a stranger to help with the stroller. They’ll be more than happy to help you keep the line moving (ask someone behind you – they’ll be extra motivated). Be organized heading into security but don’t panic. All those business folk behind you can wait an extra 2 minutes to keep the flight safe and the parents sane.
On business trips without baby, you may have to get your pump and breastmilk through security. This is really not a big deal. TSA security officers have seen breastpumps before … really. And mothers are allowed to bring breast milk through security (more than 3 oz) as long as they declare the milk to the security officer. Even moms travelling without their babies can take breastmilk through security. Breast milk is in the same category as liquid medications. You should keep it separate from your other liquids and present it for inspection. You won’t be asked to taste it (phew!) but you may be asked to open the container; and it might be tested for explosives. When travelling with a baby or toddler, you may also bring formula or juice through security in quantities over 3 oz but, again, you need to declare it and present it for inspection. Up-to-date details are available at the TSA website.
What about nursing and/or pumping on the road? As baby’s schedule adjusts, he’ll nurse at somewhat different times of the day. Milk production will adjust accordingly. It’s a lot easier to nurse in a foreign country than it will be later on when you need bits of food, clean hands, a place to prepare meals etc. so enjoy the simplicity. If you’re using bottles, pack spares! Throw spare bottles, bags, and formula into your carry on. Luggage gets lost, flights get delayed, but babies still need to drink. If you want to enjoy a drink while traveling, there is a new product to help you nurse safely. Milkscreen is a small portable test strip that tells you whether there is alcohol in your breastmilk. It’s tiny and easy to pack. You can buy Milkscreen at BabiesRUs, Target, Amazon, or directly from the manufacturer. For pumping on the road, bring spare tiny parts and keep them separately in your luggage. When you leave your pump all clean and dissassembled on a hotel towel, it’s easy for bits to get lost. Lost pump parts are a big bummer. Patience, confidence, flexibility, and spare parts … pretty much all you need for happy babies on the road!