For most mamas, the thought of going on vacation conjures images of rest and relaxation, but for nursing mothers, thinking about breastfeeding on a plane can bring feelings of stress.
Where will I store the milk?
What if I don’t want to cover up?
What will the person seated next to me think?
The first thing to note before jumping on a plane is understanding that there are no restrictions on breastfeeding. In fact, some airlines provide information and assistance to make the experience more comfortable for mother and baby. The goal is to arm yourself with as much knowledge before the big day so you feel relaxed and ready to enjoy your vacation.
Here are some useful tips to help ease your mind while breastfeeding on a plane:
1. Prioritize rest and hydration
The dry, recirculated air of an airplane is notoriously dehydrating, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids. This includes the days leading up to the flight. If it is a long flight, remember that your supply may need time to re-adjust to the new time zone, so consider napping when the baby does to help your body adjust.
2. Learn where the power outlets are located
Most flights offer power outlets near your seat but call ahead to double-check. If you aren’t near an outlet, plan on bringing a manual pump. If you are bringing an electric pump and you’re traveling overseas, be sure to have the appropriate electric converter kit. Additionally, pack a mini insulated storage bag to keep the milk cold until you arrive at your final destination.
3. If you prefer to use a cover, bring a blanket or nursing cover
Breastfeeding is natural so you are in no way obligated to cover up, but if you’d feel more comfortable, prepare ahead of time. An alternative to a nursing cover is a scarf, which can keep you warm on a cold plane and serve as a cover when it’s time to nurse.
4. Let fellow passengers know about your choice to breastfeed
More often than not, neighboring passengers will appreciate the transparency and it allows them to avoid any disturbances to you or baby during this time.
5. If a situation arises, stay calm and know your rights
If a confrontation occurs, notify a flight attendant immediately, who will be able to help mediate the situation and remind the passenger(s) of your rights to pump or breastfeed on a plane. They may even choose to remove the individual from your area so that you can continue to comfortably breastfeed your baby.
6. Choose an aisle seat
I find it is easier to get up and walk with the baby when you’re seated at an aisle seat. You won’t be stuck in between two strangers or up against a window when trying to nurse. The aisle seat also gives you easy access to the restroom in case you’ll need to change baby’s diaper or clean up after an accident.
7. Use a travel neck pillow as a nursing pillow
Typical breastfeeding pillows are too bulky for the small airplane seats, but if you position the travel neck pillow between your arm and armrest it might make things a bit more comfortable for you. It may also serve as a resting spot for your little one when they’re not feeding.
A version of this post was published August 12, 2019. It has been updated.