The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, but it can also be stressful, especially if you’re a new mom travelling with a young baby for the first time. When other travellers are tired and under pressure and trying to get home for the holidays, patience can sometimes run short. Families with young children might feel a little less tolerated when dealing with the often unpredictable ups and downs of caring for babies.

So what are the kinds of situations you may want to prepare for? Here are a few holiday season scenarios that can make breastfeeding and breastmilk pumping more challenging:

  • Holiday crowds: If you’re out shopping on busy streets, or surrounded by people at an event or get together, it might be hard to stick with your regular breastfeeding routine. So flexibility and planning are the key words! Think about your route in advance and be aware of department store ladies room or a breastfeeding friendly café where you could stop to feed.
  • Impatient travellers: It’s rare, but it happens. Sometimes other travellers on a plane or on the road are less than tolerant of a mother and baby’s need to breastfeed. Just breathe.
  • Travel delays and airport issues: Have you ever been stuck at an airport for a long layover or a delayed flight? Imagine what it’s like with a hungry baby! The secret is to be prepared.

Remember in Canada, mothers have rights to protect their ability to breastfeed and pump breastmilk in public and while traveling. Knowing your rights is the first step to feel confident and empowered during your holiday travels.

Breastfeeding (or feeding breastmilk you have pumped) is actually very convenient when travelling. You don’t need to pack any equipment or fuss with preparation. But whether you’re an exclusive breastfeeding mom or whether you use a breastpump to express milk, there are a variety of ways that you can plan ahead to have an easier time during the holiday season.

Rather than feel stressed, it helps to be prepared. Here are some special breastfeeding tips for the holiday season that can help you stay comfortable and calm, and help your baby stay happy and well fed. There are several “what ifs.”

What if you are flying?

When going through airport security, there are rules and regulations about bringing breastmilk onto a plane. According to Transport Canada, passengers are allowed to bring breastmilk onto the plane, as long as they declare the breastmilk in advance. It is always good to check with an airline about their on board policies so that if a situation should arise on board you will be prepared.

What if your plane is delayed on the ground or car stuck in traffic?

Unexpected travel delays can test everyone’s patience during the holidays, and dealing with babies can add another dimension of stress. It’s important to have a few things in your travel bag to keep your baby clean, comfortable and happy during a delay, such as: extra diapers, expressed breast milk in bottles (unless you want to breastfeed), wipes (for changing diapers or cleaning up messes), and any baby toys that the baby enjoys. Especially if you are sitting on the runway or in a traffic jam in a small, enclosed space where you are not able to stand up and walk around with your baby, you will want to keep the baby happily distracted whenever necessary. The most important thing is for you to try to relax. Babies have an amazing emotional sixth sense and are super sensitive to your own tension.

What if you want to pump breastmilk?

If you’re traveling for the holidays, at your destination, you might not always be able to pump breastmilk in your usual way. For example, if you have an electric pump that you usually use at home, you might be sitting somewhere where there is no electrical outlet. In this case, choose a battery pump like the Freestyle, which has a rechargeable battery. Or get an easy manual pump like the Harmony for travel so you can quickly express some milk when the need arises, with no power required. If you are planning to take your electric pump with you, don’t forget the charger or converter if you are going to another country.

What if someone complains?

You have the right to breastfeed your baby anywhere, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as described in this article. Hopefully this won’t happen, but in stressful, crowded holiday travel situations, some other airline passengers might complain if they see you breastfeeding. If this happens, try not to get upset and overreact. Even though you’re well within your rights, and they’re wrong to complain about you feeding your baby, it’s often best to avoid escalating a confrontation. Consider bringing a cover-up top or blanket, or using a special nursing bra or tank top (like the ones from Bravado Designs) to minimize your exposure. Even if your breastfeeding technique is more modest than what you would do at home, it might be easiest to avoid criticism from other passengers.

General Travel Advice

The Government of Canada has book you can download on Travelling with Children in Canada which can help answer questions and offer advice on a variety of travel situations that you might encounter during the holidays. For example, if you are traveling to the U.S. or other international destinations, make sure your passport is up to date! Children need to have a passport too, even if they are newborn babies.

Create a Home Away from Home

One of the most important things about breastfeeding is to be relaxed and to create a comfortable space in your home to feed your baby. This is your breastfeeding sanctuary. For holiday travel, it’s important to make sure that you have a good place to relax and feed at your destination. For example, if you’re staying at your parents’ house or with your in-laws, talk with them in advance to discuss arranging a dedicated place where you can breastfeed the baby. If you are staying in a hotel, have a familiar wrap or cushion to help you feel comfortable.

Minimize Stress

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially for moms. Many families try to fit in a flurry of holiday activities – dinners, shopping, travel, and family togetherness. If you are having family visit, be prepared for lots of energy, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. Although it’s a joyful time, the weight of expectations can be stressful. So try not to overdo it. Try not to wear yourself out by “doing it all.” Focus on your baby, yourself and your partner. Keep up with your regular routine of sleep, good food, plenty of water, relaxation and self-care.

For more travel advice for breastfeeding moms, check out this article – “Bon Voyage! Tips for Travelling With a Breastfed Baby.”

What are your thoughts on this? Are you expecting that the holidays will be stressful time for breastfeeding? How do you plan to maintain your regular breastfeeding routine during this busy season? Leave a comment in the comment section and let us know, or join the conversation at our Medela Canada Facebook page.

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