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Ask Sheila: How do I travel without my baby while breastfeeding?

by Healthy Horizons on June 28, 2017

Jillian S. asks, “My husband and I are going to be separated from our three-month-old baby Jack for

several days to be in my sister’s wedding. Jack will be staying with Grandma for the four days and three

nights we are away. Can I continue breastfeeding when I return? Will I still have a good milk supply and will he still want to breastfeed?”

A: The good news is babies do better with separation than their parents and should adjust just fine. You will most likely be able to continue with your breastfeeding upon your return. Prior to your departure, make sure Jack is willing to take a bottle so you will have peace of mind knowing that he can eat and be comforted while you are away. The recommended strategy is to start pumping and storing your milk several weeks before the trip. In order to do this, many moms will pump 20 minutes or so after the early morning feeds to collect milk. Alternatively, if Jack goes to sleep early, or sleeps long stretches, some moms find those times productive for collecting milk. Once collected, store the milk in the freezer. You will need to leave approximately 24 ounces for each 24 hours you are gone. Grandma can easily defrost the milk by placing the bag or bottle in a bowl of very hot water or letting it defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

You should nurse him right up until the time you leave and then as soon as you return. Remember to pack your pump. The most important thing you can do for your supply is to pump every two to three hours during the day and at least once or twice at night. If you are pressed for time, even a quick five-minute pumping session is helpful. Remember to keep up demand by pumping so your body will continue producing milk.

During your travels, freeze all pumped milk, pack it in a Styrofoam cooler with dry ice or tightly packed with newspaper and check it with your luggage. Once home, put the frozen milk in the freezer immediately; any fresh milk that was recently expressed can be used within a week’s time. If Jack gives you a hard time nursing upon your return, go into a quiet room, lay down with him, cuddle him, and try and get him sleepy, then try to nurse him again. If you feel like your supply is diminished, nurse often, and keep Jack skin-to-skin. Wearing him in a carrier like the Ergo is also helpful. Other tips include pumping after a few feedings once home, drinking Mother’s Milk Tea by Traditional Medicinals, taking Fenugreek capsules or drinking the tea, or trying the Nursing Tincture by HerbLore. For additional information on traveling with your nursing infant, visit the CDC’s Website.


Sheila Janakos, MPH, IBCLC, LE, RLC

Chief Executive Officer, Healthy Horizons


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