Five benefits of breastfeeding while traveling

So many points in our breastfeeding journey have given me space to reflect. The last time we got back from Trinidad and Tobago, I was still buzzing with excitement over the revelation that I was making enough milk to breastfeed without other milk, expressed or artificial.

This time, I’m just feeling quite celebratory about how easy and enjoyable breastfeeding my fifteen-month-old made our trip. So I’ve come up with five benefits of breastfeeding while traveling. If you’ve taken this show on the road, can you think of any more?

Perfect comfort for the plane

I was disproportionately nervous about the transatlantic airplane journey with the baby. I was going to be on my own. When I got to the baggage drop at the airport, I was literally shaking and stammering. Looking back, I think I must have been experiencing some kind of crisis of confidence in my parenting or something. It turns out that I don’t suck at what I do. That and, I’ve got magic under my shirt.

Ready for take off? Baby to breast and the change in ear pressure is nothing to worry about. The baby is annoyed with you because you won’t let her touch that thing/crawl into that person’s lap/empty that bag? Baby to breast and it just might buy you some time before you have to do a walk around. The baby needs a nap? Baby to breast and let the hormone exchange do its work. Actually, Talitha has long struggled to focus on breastfeeding when we’re out. She spontaneously started doing it just before we left. I can pass on no tips about this. Babies are random sometimes.

Less gear

Last time I did this journey on my own, I took bottles and formula with me because I was nervous that it would all crash and burn (excuse the pun? maybe not?) while we were in the air and I’d have a baby who was hungry but wouldn’t feed. It was such a faff packing it all and then I had a hard time getting the flight attendants to give me hot water so it just added to my stress, really. This time, it was such a relief not to have to take anything and to know that the milk was ready whenever she needed it and that she’d be able to access it.

It also meant not having to deal with the liquids situation, though they seem to have relaxed a bit on this from what I glimpsed of other families going through security. Everyone seemed amused that I had no purees either. If I’d taken any, she would have made me exchange with her and I don’t like baby food.

Easy transition across time and climate

Both times I’ve done this journey, people have asked how Talitha coped with the heat and jet lag. She copes exceptionally well with the heat. She copes as well as I do with the latter. I’m not basing this on anything concrete but I get the feeling that no matter where we go, Talitha is oriented by my presence.

Breastfeeding stabilises our physical connection in such a way that my body is her home and it goes with her and she with it. Every time we settle for a feed while we’re away, we relax into each other. The place is suddenly not so strange. Apart from that, the water in my milk hydrates her, which helps with the heat, no doubt.

As for the jetlag, our sleep sharing and breastfeeding are so entwined it’s hard for me to say which is the influence. Either way, it took her about as long as it did me not to feel tired very early in the evening. We’re still both recovering. It’s a relief that she doesn’t get there before I do.

You’re never out of food and drink

If anyone asks why my fifteen-month-old is still breastfeeding, it’s because her survival instincts tell her that her mother too disorganised for it to be otherwise. Let’s just say I have been known to underestimate how many snacks and cups of water are needed when we go out. My breasts are, so far, very forgiving.

It’s a mercy too that she still breastfeeds because she lived on Crix (crackers), rice, bananas and raisins while we were out there. I cajoled her with mangoes, papaya, oil dong, stewed chicken, curries but she wouldn’t have any of it. This is even before she came down with what we think was tonsillitis. At least with her still getting lots of breast milk I wasn’t as stressed out as I could have been about her apparent disinterest in solid food.

Immunity boosting

Speaking of the mystery illness, I think breastfeeding probably helped here too. Talitha keeps demonstrating that breastfed babies do get sick, despite what some may say. In fact, she catches just about everything that passes, as do I. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life when I was not prone to picking up the current bug.

I really do think, though, that she kicks things a lot faster than she would do without the antibodies in my milk. At any rate, breastfeeding gives her immature immune system important defenses when it’s exposed to all sorts of new things while we’re traveling. Who knows? It could have been worse. She could have still been ill by my brother’s wedding, which would have made for a very different day.

Do tell, have you had any trips that made you glad you were breastfeeding?

Images: Laurence Jarrett-Kerr (By the way, we weren’t in the sun for long!)