I’m not an advocate of separating a nursing baby and mother for the sake of traveling. But I believe there are occasions when it may be necessary or even beneficial for both to be a part.
For example, your husband really wants you to go on a “honeymooney” vacation with him for 3 days, just the two of you. He wants to revisit couple hood and have you all to himself. If your baby is eating solids and over six months, I would say take the trip and leave your baby at home with your parents (I’m sure they won’t mind!). A trip with your hubby can rekindle romance and intimacy which will make you both better parents!
The biggest challenge will be keeping up your milk production while you are away and then returning to breastfeeding when you get back. If that’s your fear, then take heart. Perhaps this post will encourage you.
Edric and I were in Brazil for 11 days and we opted NOT to bring Catalina. I vacillated between taking her and leaving her, going over the pros and cons. At first I was dead set on making sure she came with me. When my parents invited us to speak with them in Curutiba, Brazil, I was like, IF WE DO GO, WE HAVE TO BRING CATALINA.
However, two weeks before the event, Edric and I really thought through the decision and we decided not to. I was anxious and relieved at the same time. There really was no perfect scenario, but here were the factors that gave us peace of mind about her staying behind with our four other kids:
- At nearly 1 year, she was eating 3 sizeable meals a day.
- Her intake of breastmilk was down to 14 to 16 ounces a day or 4 to 5 feedings. Her schedule looked something like this: 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM.
- She could drink milk from a cup or glass or bottle.
- I didn’t have enough milk stored in the freezer to sustain her for 11 days but my friends, Ron and Ivy, donated theirs. Ron, in particular can pump mega amounts of milk! She’s like a beautiful cow. Thankfully, she was generous enough to send me an oversupply of frozen milk.
- Catalina’s paediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Say (the best pedia in the world), advised that she stay. Looking back, I’m glad we listened because Catalina got Roseola three days after we left which means she would have had it in Brazil.
- Catalina was on a great sleeping schedule at night that would have been shot to heck by the jet lag effect.
- I had a fantastic nanny to care for her in my absence and my kids would be staying with my in-laws. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) have always been the best people to leave our kids with when we are away.
- The travel time to our destination and back was going to be uncomfortably long – Almost 30 hours with layovers.
- Since Edric and I needed to speak and minister to people during this trip, we wanted to be able to focus on doing this.
- Edric and I were also planning to celebrate our 13th year of marriage.
Even if these reasons made us inclined to go without Catalina it wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always difficult for me to leave any of our children and this was my first time to leave one of my breastfeeding babies. If circumstances were different, I would have preferred that we had waited until next year to take this trip to Brazil. But God made it clear through people, circumstances, and his word that this was a trip he wanted us to go on.
Nevertheless, I parted with Catalina tearfully. It felt unnatural for me to be away from my nursing child for an extended period of time. Eleven days felt like forever. So how did Catalina and I survive without one another and then reunite to continue our breastfeeding relationship?
I had to pump on a regulated schedule, preferably no more than 3 hours in between pumping. It didn’t matter where I was. I found a place to sit down with my nursing cover and pump. This was a challenge. I brought a hand pump! On the one hand it was super easy to carry along and quiet. But on the other hand, I probably didn’t get as much out of me as I could have with an electric or battery operated pump. However, my Avent pump worked just fine to keep my supply going.
On the 6th day my milk decreased a little. But this was related to emotional stress and lack of water in take. My emotional stress was connected to having to give a very personal testimony about a tragic experience in my life. As for the water, it was hard to come by in Brazil. We had to keep buying mineral water and I didn’t like spending for it. Eventually, I just drank out of the tap in our hotel room. When my mom suggested that I try it since she had been doing it without getting stomach problems, I guzzled down glasses of it! (My mom has a stomach of steel. She “trained” it by drinking tap water all around the world. I’m not as brave as she is and I’m not recommending this!)
Pumping on a schedule meant doing so even during the conference sessions and while touring. But I didn’t care and nobody did either. One time, I had to stand up with my not so pretty nursing cover because Edric and I were introduced to the audience. That was a little awkward. I had one hand under the cover holding my hand pump and the other one waving. On other occasions I pumped while riding in tour buses or taxis, while eating a meal, in the mall, etc.
Unlike some of my friends who stored every ounce of milk they pumped during their travels, I dumped mine. I’m not proud of this but it was the simplest way to keep my milk production operation going. I didn’t bring a sterilizer for my pump because it would have complicated my pumping “system.”
It was hard to throw away my milk. Everytime I poured it down a sink, I felt sad. I tried to convince Edric to drink it so that someone could benefit from it. He agreed to if it was cold. But, when the cream rose to the top after I kept milk for him in the refrigerator, it was asking too much. I agreed. It didn’t look very appetizing. I couldn’t bring myself to drink it either. So I pumped and dumped.
One of my friends, Kim, took along an ice chest with her when she traveled with her husband, and she was able to keep all her milk frozen. Amazing! She paid a lot of money for excess baggage and threw out clothes she didn’t care about so she could bring home her milk!
I favored the practicality of dumping it, but there was emotional aspect to doing this. It felt wasteful. So depending on the situation, a mother has to decide what is important to her. Go through the trouble of sterilizing a pump and storing milk while traveling or pour it out after each pumping session. It’s not a moral choice but some people have very strong convictions about breastmilk. I have friends who donate their milk to babies who are in need so it would be difficult for me to say that pumping and dumping is the best way to go.
Besides pumping regularly, I kept taking my Life Oil pills (Malunggay) which I had been using for months. Two capsules a day, plus all my other vitamins and minerals. I learned a new word from my friend, Kim, who stored her breastmilk and took it home. GALACTAGOGUE.
Take a galactagogue to increase milk supply (ex. Fenugreek, oatmeal, Malunggay, Motilium). Malunggay capsules were the most familiar to me because I usually take them when I am breastfeeding. I also knew about Motilium which I had used for my children’s stomach problems in the past. When I read up on it, I found out it was safe for nursing mothers to take but I never did try it to increase milk supply. Kim told me she had tried it and it didn’t impeded her intestinal functions. Motilium comes in suspension or tablet form. Both Life Oil and Motilium are available at Mercury Drug. Both of these can be pricey. There are other brands of Malunggay capsules sold in Mercury Drug and generic drug stores like Generics Pharmacy.
When taking a trip away from a nursing baby, I wouldn’t recommend going over a week. Eleven days was pushing it for me. I would have preferred a 5 or 7 day trip if we had not attended a conference. Since we wanted to maximize our time in Brazil, we added two side trips – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo was not worth it but Rio was. Sao Paulo is a massive city. There isn’t much to see in terms of tourist spots. It’s like a bigger version of Makati and way more expensive. As Brazil’s financial capital, it’s more of a business destination. As for Rio, this was our “honeymoon” part of the trip. We added this so we could celebrate our anniversary.
Most people don’t need to combine a conference and vacation in one trip. In fact, I would advise that a nursing mother focus on just one. The commitment of pumping and the emotional difficulty of being away will take its toll. At a certain point it was hard for me to Face Time with the kids and see Catalina. During one of our calls, she said “Mama” and pointed to my face on the screen and cried. That was tough!
As for the pumping, I got a plugged duct the day we left which was massively painful. At first I thought it might lead to mastitis but Edric and I prayed and 12 hours later, I was able to get rid of it. With a plugged duct, the best way to alleviate it is to keep nursing or pumping. I couldn’t do the former so I did the latter. Even if it hurt like heck, I forced myself to pump. Right after the duct unclogged itself, the pain dissipated. That was a happy moment. Previously, lifting my arm was painful!
I thought the biggest challenge of all would be returning to my breastfeeding relationship with Catalina. (That’s why I don’t recommend taking too many days away from a nursing baby.) I prayed about being able to nurse Catalina again, committing the final outcome to the Lord. Worse case, I was willing to stop breastfeeding. But that would have broken my heart. I gave my concern to the Lord and tried my best when I got back home.
My plan for reintroducing Catalina to the breast was to hold her first and be physically accessible. I was planning to try but I prepared myself to be rejected. If she turned me down then I was going to wait for her to remember that I was her milk source and pump in the meantime.
God was so good! When I got home, she expressed interest in latching on and she nursed right away! I was so happy. I thanked the Lord for affirming the decision to leave her. Since Thursday evening when we arrived, Catalina has returned to her nursing routine. Praise God!
Like I said at the beginning, I’m not saying that all mothers should leave their nursing babies and go away on a trip. But if you are put in a predicament where you need to or have to be away for a couple of days then here’s what you can do:
1. Pump enough milk two months before to store in the freezer so your baby can stay on breastmilk while you are away. Depending on the age of your baby, store enough ounces to cover your absence.
2. Have one person train your baby in advance to take breastmilk from a bottle or cup. I usually introduce a bottle to my babies when they are about a month old. Breastfeeding advocates often recommend later. But I’ve found that letting them try the bottle even two weeks after giving birth doesn’t cause confusion if the bottle isn’t given habitually. I don’t ever give the bottle myself. I have the nanny do it. But bottle feeding is always a last resort. I always prefer to breastfeed directly.
3. Start taking a galactagogue if you feel you need to increase milk supply. Some women don’t need this and sometimes galactagogues don’t really affect milk production positively. But it’s worth trying a few weeks before you leave for your trip.
4. Avoid being away from your baby before the trip happens. It was hard not to do errands during the last few days prior to our Brazil trip, so I took Catalina with me as often as possible. This ensured that she was breastfeeding until the last possible moment.
5. Train your baby’s nanny to defrost and prepare breastmilk in the bottle so she is confident about giving it when you are gone. I taught Catalina’s nanny how to use the very simple Safety 1st Babypro Bottle Warmer.
6. Leave your baby with someone you trust. Grandparents are always a great option!
7. Pump every 2 to 3 hours when you are away. You can take a 6 hour break at night when you are sleeping so you get enough rest. But if you want to be super diligent about pumping, you can wake up once to pump. I used Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump, but I also recommend the one my sister uses which is very efficient, lightweight, quiet, and portable. She bought hers at Rustan’s: Medela Swing Breastpump. Medela Moms is very helpful if you want to consult them before buying a pump.
8. If you pump and dump, bring a bottle to store your pumped milk in until you find a place to pour it out. I went to the restrooms so I could wash out my pump and bottle each time. Since I wasn’t sterilising, I just used whatever soap was available.
9. If you want to store all your milk, bring milk storage bags, ice packs, a portable cooler (your breast pump may already come with one), a larger cooler than you can check-in, and a steriliser for your pump and bottles. Use the portable cooler and ice packs when you pump on the go. And the larger one to transport milk storage bags from one place to another. Keep the ice packs frozen by using the hotel refrigerator. If you check in your milk with frozen ice packs, they should be okay for 24 hours. It’s rare to be on a plane trip for longer than that, unless you are traveling to Brazil! According to my friend, Kim, airlines are pretty accommodating about checking in breastmilk. But, if you go over your allotted baggage weight limit, you will have to pay.
10. When you get back home, pump before you see your baby just in case she doesn’t latch on right away. If she doesn’t, stay on the bed with her and have skin to skin contact. She will most likely remember. If she is awkward about sucking at first, don’t worry. Be accessible and Lord willing, you will get back to your breastfeeding groove soon enough!
5 thoughts on “How to Travel Without Your Baby”
hi joy, im a housewife and i have read several of your articles and they gave me wonderful insights about parenting and being a Godly wife 🙂 thank you for sharing your personal experiences to your readers 🙂 in fact, i am amaze at how you still get to have the time to write on your wall despite the many roles you have in life and the many things you need to accomplish in a day 🙂 you have mentioned kim in your article, she is also my friend and we are together in a group, she did a great job indeed in storing her milk while away from her child 🙂 if you may, i would like to get your insight (not related to breastfeeding..hehe)…but instead on going on a vacation with your husband and leaving your children behind. i believe going away with your husband for a couple of days will indeed improve your marriage and deepen your relationship however, i have a 20 month old baby and going away just the two us is hard for me coz i don’t have trustworthy people to leave her to (like in-laws coz they are quite busy) but i have a yaya who has been with us since my baby was born and im assured she will do no harm to my baby but i’m afraid that if i leave my baby with her for a couple of days, my baby will not be as productive as wen i’m around. would you let me know what is your insight regarding my situation? tnx a lot 🙂
Wow! that’s one tough story huh! It’s very inspiring and admirable women or breastfeeding moms do like that. All for the love of our children, mothers undergo that tedious activity no matter what. I salute you mommy Joy!
Hi Joy! Wonderful insight on your trip. I can definitely relate much! Surprised that you mentioned me too haha. Correction though, we didn’t pay a single extra dime to take the milk home. I wouldn’t allow it! I am the type of person who will never pay excess baggage cost (which is always a ridiculous amount) by:
a. trying to sweet talk the counter person
b. befriending co-passengers who have very little check-in baggage to carry some of my weight on theirs
Unfortunately, for the first time in my life, my charm didn’t work and so instead of paying the ridiculous amount of $500USD for the 14kg frozen breast milk I have, I hand-carried so many old clothes and threw out the rest just so I won’t be fined. I made a mental calculation and figured it’ll be more worth it if I just buy new threads worth $500 instead of paying the amount and get nothing (I didn’t go shopping after though =)
I just want to say that I am sure being away from our nursing baby is quite an experience for both of us and other breast feeding moms out there. Kudos to you too for pushing on this long. It was also my fear that my daughter wouldn’t latch after my 16-day trip, but like you, God is good and our babies just went back to nursing like we were never gone.
Lastly, just want to encourage you more by letting you know that your life inspires mine. Thank you for loving Jesus the way that you do.
Thanks for the correction! Nice seeing you the other day, too 🙂
Hi! I would like to ask, is there a reason why you brought a manual pump instead of a battery-operated one? 🙂 Would you know if I can bring the battery-operated pump with me inside the plane and pump while on the plane? 🙂