Right about now, you may be reminiscing the days you could just get up and go, whether it was for a small weekend trip or an extended vacation. As a new mom, you may be thinking those stress-free traveling days of yesteryear are long gone but being a new mom doesn’t have to get in the way of traveling — or be stressful.
Between the supplies you’ll need, baby’s schedule, diaper changing, and a fussy baby, there’s no denying you have a few more added factors when traveling than you did before, but there are also ways to navigate around those new stressors and still have an enjoyable trip.
Breastfeeding on the Go
Nursing moms have many resources at their disposal to pump or feed on the go, whether it’s by plane, car or train.
- Pack the essentials. If you’re traveling without your baby, don’t forget to pack your pump, as well as milk storage bags or containers. Bring a permanent marker to label each bag with the date and time. If you’re flying with expressed milk, notify the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent at the gate. TSA allows you to separate formula, breast milk and juice from other liquids (which are forbidden in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces) and carry them on board. The TSA will still screen these items for safety — usually with an X-ray — but you’ll be able to take them on board.
- Plan ahead. Make sure you know how long the flight will take, including any layovers. If you can get away with pumping before and after the flight, try for that. If your baby is with you on the flight, feeding during ascent or descent might help relieve the ear-popping associated with pressure changes.
- Store properly. Pack a travel cooler that will allow you the option to store milk for as long as 24 hours. Once you arrive at your destination, you can refrigerate the bags or bottles for up to five days or freeze them. Breast milk can be frozen for as long as six months.
- Ship successfully. If traveling solo and need to ship breast milk home to your baby, pump and then package, seal and date the bags. Frozen breast milk can be packed in a foam container with dry ice and then shipped overnight.
The Flying New Mom
According to a recent survey, 56% of Americans rather sit next to a pet on a flight than a baby In fact, 48% say they feel happy when they see that an animal is on their flight, even if they’re not sitting anywhere near the pet. While there isn’t any data to determine the excitement level of those who see they will be sharing the skies with a baby, if you’ve flown before, you can probably piece together how a lot of people feel regarding a baby on board. All those extra judgmental eyes and jeering looks can make traveling with a young one even more daunting.
Colleen Lanin with Travel Mamas, a website dedicated to helping parents and their children connect through travel, says booking a direct flight or one with a longer layover can be helpful, especially for babies and young children.
“Landing is typically what puts pressure on those little ears, causing the pain that makes babies scream on airplanes,” she writes. “Plus, less time spent in transit means less chances for a mid-flight tantrum.”
If you have to book a flight with a connection, she adds looking for one with an extended connecting time, ideally one that requires you to deplane. You can use this time on the ground to grab a meal or snacks, change a dirty diaper not in the tight confines of an airplane bathroom, and for older children, a chance for them to get some of that pent-up energy out before the next flight. As for navigating changing air pressure in the cabin, she suggests doing anything that will promote a sucking or chewing motion from your baby during take-off and landing, such as giving them a bottle, pacifier or even just your finger to suck on.
She also suggests taking advantage of pre-boarding if your airline offers it so you can get yourself and baby situated long before a line of people start huffing and puffing that you’re holding up traffic in the aisles. This also allows the flight crew to help you get situated or notify you of amenities/services available for traveling parents of infants.
Did you know that many car seats are also cleared for air travel as well? Even though children under age 2 typically fly free on your lap, you might want to consider buying a seat for your baby, not only for safety but it also gives you and your family room to spread out.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says on their website, “the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap [because] your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”
A CRS is a hard-backed child safety seat that is approved by the government for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft. FAA controls the approval of some but not all CRSs. Additional information is available in FAA guidance (PDF) and on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website. But just a reminder, not all car seats are approved for use in airplanes.
While you’re at it, double up on baby necessities. Bring twice as much formula, diapers, bottles, baby food and snacks on the plan as you think you will need, as well as a change of clothes for both you and baby. If your flight gets severely delayed or canceled, the last thing you want is a hungry, thirsty, or soiled baby on your hands.
The Road-Tripping New Mom
If you’re planning to travel by car, you have a few more luxuries on your side, such as the ability to pull over when needed, a bit more space to spread out, and privacy. You can also go at your own pace, and for many new parents, that can be comforting. But the downside of road trips is often the length of time they take. What could be accomplished via one 3-hour flight may take days via car, and that’s a lot of time to keep baby happy, fed, clean and occupied — as well as yourself sane.
Tash Peto, a recent mother and frequent road tripper, says while toys are grand for keeping your baby busy, sometimes only you will do — which you may already know by now.
Some tips she offers up are:
- Sit with your baby – If there are two of you on your road trip with your newborn, sit next to your baby in the back while the other person drives. Your baby will take in an immense amount of comfort by seeing, hearing and feeling you there. Remember, the world is still a new place for them, and they can’t yet fathom that you are a separate person from them.
- Sing – Never underestimate the power of singing to your baby, no matter what you think it sounds like. It is their favorite sound — really!! They love the sound of your voice; it’s soothing to them. We have sometimes ended up singing the most ridiculous songs together to keep our little one happy during car journeys. Songs that include hand actions and sound effects are good, and you can always add them in if they don’t have them already!
- Give leg massages – Babies often crave literal contact too. Our little boy finds it relaxing having his legs and feet massaged.
- Make frequent pit stops – Taking regular breaks during a road trip with a newborn baby is necessary for a couple of reasons. It gives baby a change of scene, a chance to feed and have a cuddle. Additionally, they may be a little less grumpy for you after a break from the car. It’s recommended that you take a 15-minute break every 2 hours of a car journey due to concerns over restricted breathing in a car seat, but by this point, your baby will probably already be hungry/in need of changing anyway!
- Shield them from the sun – No one likes the sun getting in their eyes, not even newborns. Additionally, the sun shining directly on them can cause them to overheat, so add a sunblind that sticks to the car window to your pre-trip shopping list.
Last But Not Least
All three women suggest, that while it may be hard, their biggest tip while traveling with an infant is to ignore the haters. Despite your best efforts, your baby or toddler is going to cry, sometimes loudly and for long periods of time while traveling.
“You have enough to worry about without concerning yourself with every cranky pants on the airplane,” Lanin adds. “Take care of your baby or toddler, and ignore the haters. Soon enough, your plane will safely land and your family will be ready to explore together.”
For more tips on traveling as a mom, visit TexasHealth.org and schedule a visit with your OB/GYN.
Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.