Breastfeeding is best when you travel

There have been discussions about breastfeeding and travel on Gadling before. Breastfeeding on an airplane, in particular, has come up as a subject with many opinions. Here’s my take. I was reminded of my breast feeding days when I saw a woman with a two-month old at the movie Sherlock Holmes. When it comes to travel, breastfeeding is the way to go. And don’t worry about what anyone thinks about it.

If you’ve ever been to West Africa where a breast is for nursing children and not used as an object desire, you’ll see where I’m coming from. My Peace Corps male friends who were in The Gambia when I was would moan every time they saw a woman pounding grain without a shirt on or whipping a breast out in the middle of a conversation to nurse an infant, “This is ruining it for me,” they would say. What would they have to fixate on-to fantasize over?

When my son was born in India on New Year’s Day, I was fortunate to be living in India, a country where breast feeding is seen as natural as breathing. It gave me the notion that babies and travel do indeed go together.

Because I breast fed only, for six months my husband and I traveled bottle free. There was no worry about our son getting sick. No paraphernalia to pack. I’d pack onesies, a few cute outfits, and a pair of baby shoes, one of those plastic diaper changer travel kits, disposable diapers, burp cloths and a cloth baby blanket. (The portable changer rolls up to slip into a daypack and has a pocket for carrying two or three diapers and baby wipes.)

Breastfeeding made our lives easier. What I also discovered is that if one is quiet and discrete, you can breast-feed about anywhere as long as you look comfortable. I breast fed in movie theaters, museums, and restaurants. If you’re not worried about what people think about you nursing, you’ll feel comfortable. If you’re comfortable, chances are they won’t notice, and if they do, it won’t seem like a big deal. Think of it this way. Your breastfeeding is helping add to the peace and quiet of everyone else. Your baby who is breast-feeding is not crying. On an airplane, that’s a real gift to give to passengers-particularly during take offs and landing.

To help make breastfeeding easier, take a light weight shawl with you and wear shirts that provide room for your baby to nurse comfortably, but also will cover your breast.

Even when I traveled in the summer in the U.S. and breast fed there, I never had any problems.

For more tips on traveling with a nursing infant, whether breast or bottle fed, check out “Travel Recommendations for The Nursing Mother” at the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Galley Gossip: A question about being a mother and a flight attendant

Dear Heather,

I have one quick question for you… I am about to be a new mom (with a baby boy due in February) and I’m also a flight attendant. I love my job (people, travel, benefits… everything!) but I’m worried about how hard it’s going to be for me to be a flight attendant and a mommy. Any tips?


Dear Varina,

First I must congratulate you on being a new mom! It’s the best job in the whole world. As for being a flight attendant and a mom, I’m going to tell you two things several flight attendants told me when I was pregnant and worried about how I would handle flying and being a new mother…

  1. Don’t worry
  2. It will all work out

And it did work out, even though I did worry, and still worry – at times! What do I worry about? What I’m going to do when my two year-old is in school and what am I going to do if we have another child. I want another child. How am I going to make that work – writing, flying and commuting? And just when I start to get all worked up, those flight attendant voices come back to me and say…

  1. Don’t worry
  2. It will all work out

Now I’d like to add one more thing…DON’T QUIT! No matter how hard it may seem when you come off maternity leave and find yourself back on the line, don’t give up your job until you’ve figured out how to make it work for you, because it can work, it’s just a matter of finding the routine that is right for you and your family. Whether you drop trips, fly turns, work nights, work days, only work the weekends, or work a week straight and have three weeks off (like me), you’ve got options, lots and lots of options. What makes our job great job is the flexibility, so work it, girl!

Of course you’re going to feel like quitting, we’ve all been there, but do me a favor and give it at least six months before you make any drastic decisions. I say this because I know many new mothers who wanted to give up their flight attendant careers the year their babies were born, but then, later on, were glad they continued to work. With a job like ours, there’s no reason to quit! Remember, the first year is always the hardest.

SUPPORT: If your significant other is supportive and understands your job, you’ll be just fine. While my husband is a great guy, he’s a hard worker and doesn’t always know when to turn it off. Because I live in Los Angeles and work out of New York, he gets frustrated when I’m gone for a week straight. In the beginning, it was my husband who stressed me out the most, not my job. I can’t tell you how many times he begged me to quit flying. But I stood firm and reminded him of our second date when I told him I would never quit – EVER! Thankfully my husband has gotten much better when it comes to my job and taking care of our son. It took two years, but he’s now handling the situation like a pro.

FAMILY: The hardest part about being a flight attendant and a new mom is worrying about your child when you are away from home. If you know your child is in good hands with people who love him, you’ll be more at ease. In my post, A question about being a flight attendant when I have a small child at home, I mentioned that my parents and in-laws have helped me out immensely during reserve months. Without them, I don’t know that I’d be able to do my job, not when my husband travels as often as he does for business. While line months are doable, reserve months are killer. While it’s hard on my husband and I when I’m working away from home, my two year-old son is just fine.

“Ready to go back to California?” I asked my son as we walked to a nearby park in Queens, New York last week. It was my day off of reserve and my mother-in-law had just dropped him off to stay with me.

“No,” he said matter of fact as he held on tight to a big yellow bouncy ball.

“No?” I repeated, reading his face for any signs of distress. “You don’t want to go home?”

He smiled. “Not yet.” Then he added, “I like New York!”

Me, too!

And there you have it. My son is happy in New York, even though mommy is working. Me, not as happy, not when I’m on reserve for the entire month. But knowing my son is doing just fine makes flying a lot easier on me. While I miss my son greatly when I’m working, my son is getting to know his father and grandparents in a way he wouldn’t have if I didn’t have my job. So if you’ve got family nearby who are willing give a helping hand, take the offer and run – er, fly!

DAYCARE – During the months I hold a line, I take my son to a preschool / daycare. He’s been going to this facility since my four month maternity leave and six month personal leave of absence came to an end – he was just ten months old. Trust me when I tell you that it was harder on me than it was for him to go to daycare. The key, though, is finding a place that you are comfortable with, a place that you can trust. Because most daycares have waiting lists up to six months long, make sure to start your daycare search as soon as possible. While I still feel a little sad dropping my son off at school, I know he’s fine, especially when he says, “I had a fun day at school, mommy!” when I put him the car at the end of the day. At first I would only take my son to daycare when I worked, which was about eight days a month. Now I make sure to take him at least twice a week, even when I’m not working. I don’t want each time he goes to daycare to be like his first time. To alleviate stress, I try to be consistent. Even when I want to keep him home with me.

NANNY – While I didn’t go the nanny route, I did entertain it. The reason I chose not to use a nanny is because the nanny could get sick and if that happened who would watch my son while I was flying and my husband worked? We do not have family or friends nearby who can step in at the last minute in case of an emergency. However, I do know many flight attendants who use nannies and even a flight attendant who shares a nanny with another flight attendant. They alternate work days. One flight attendant I know placed an ad in the newspaper for a sitter at night and found an elderly woman who ended up working for her until all three children were grown. I know another flight attendant who found help through her church. Just keep your ears open and talk to flight attendants and other mothers around you.

Like I mentioned above, you’ve got option, options, and more options, it’s just a matter of figuring out which combination works best for you. Even if you try them all and still nothing works, at least you gave it a shot. You’ll be able to look back with no regrets. Hey, flying is not for everyone, I know that, especially when you’ve got the most important job in the world – caring for a child.

Hope that helps,

Heather Poole

Have a question? Ask me!

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