Breastfeeding and Air travel

Air travel with a baby on your lap is so much fun!  Yeah, right.
(This picture was taken by my husband on a previous trip.)

Ewan has taken 4 trips that involved air travel and he is only 14 months old.  His first trip was at 2 months and last weekend I took a trip across the country to attend a friend's wedding.  This time, DH stayed home for work, so it was just Ewan and I.

Nursing Ewan on the plane is the easiest way to keep him quiet and get him to sleep.  I can't imagine air travel with a baby or toddler without nursing!  He will nurse himself to sleep, but then continue softly sucking in his light sleep.  It gets a little annoying for me to have him latched on for extended periods of time, but it beats him being awake and squirming all over my lap.  Other passengers are always shocked at how "well-behaved" he in on flights.  Nursing mom's secret: a baby can't cry with a breast in his mouth!

Interior of a CRJ, exactly like the ones I was on
I really lucked out on this trip.  I had to connect, so we had a total of 4 flights for the trip.  Two coming, two going.  All of my flights were on CRJs.  They are so small, and they don't have changing tables in the bathrooms.  But, for two flights no one was seated next to me!  I actually got to lay Ewan down in the seat next to me after he fell asleep!  Twice!  That was awesome.

The other two flights I was seated next to women, which makes nursing in close quarters less awkward.  

The first flight, I was seated next to a women who wasn't livid when he started kicking her a litte.  I did all I could to keep him from kicking, but he likes to kick his feet sometimes while nursing.  She was just coming from visiting her grandchildren, so she said she understood about the kicking.  I do think my nursing made the male flight attendant on that flight a little uncomfortable though, because he seemed nervous when he was talking to me and pouring my tomato juice.

The third flight I sat next to a dolled-up single woman in a uber-short dress and leopard print platform heels.  She had a neon orange wrist band from a brewery tour she had gone on, and a star-burst right hand ring, both of which Ewan found fascinating.  She just giggled and said that he was cute.  

I try to be a model for the social acceptance of public breastfeeding.  I believe that entails being as non-threatening as possible.  My strategy is to look confident in what I'm doing, to be as discreet as possible, and to not look at anyone.  Eye contact only causes confrontation, unless the other person is looking at you with encouragement and support.

I only nursed him in the airport once on this trip: on the way home during our layover.  It was really late at night.  Our flight was leaving at 10:00pm and Ewan was exhausted.  I nursed him a little in a chair at the crowded gate.  I sat out of the way, and didn't look around to see if anyone disapproved of my putting my walking-talking toddler to my breast.

On planes, I have found that having the window seat is easier for nursing.  I feel less exposed and the CRJs have a built-in nursing stool against the wall.  There is a little ledge just big enough to put one foot on.  Not all planes have that, though.  Every plane will have a little space between the seat and the wall for stashing a blanket, pillow, or toys when not in use.

Essentials for Air Travel with a Baby:

Nursing tanktop and cardigan sweater
I wear a nursing tanktop with a cardigan over it for discreet nursing on the plane.  Keep the cardigan buttoned above your breasts and nurse under it.

Boppy Pillow
I don't use it anymore because there isn't enough space, but when he was little, the Boppy kept my arms from falling asleep while holding a sleeping baby for hours.  If I managed a first class ticket, I would take the Boppy with me for sure.

Baby blanket
Planes are cold sometimes, and a sleeping baby may need a light cover.  Most airlines do not supply blankets unless you are in first class, so bring your own.  It can double as a pillow, too!

Comfortable clothes
I used to always put Ewan in one-piece PJs, but this last trip he wore a long sleeved onsie with soft pants and leather moccasin style Robeez shoes.  (Oh, yeah!  If your baby is wearing shoes, you DO have to take them off at the security check.)  6/13/2012 Update: You no longer have to take their shoes off.

Change of clothes and a wet bag
I had to change Ewan's outfit once on a plane when we had a diaper failure.  Don't get caught without a change of clothes and a bag to put the dirty ones in!

Babywearing device
This is just for getting around in the airport and getting on and off the plane.  I take it off and stow it during the flight, but I put him back in it before we de-plane.  I loved my Balboa Baby ring sling when Ewan was lighter, but now I love my Ergo Baby carrier.  For this last trip I didn't bring the stroller, just the Ergo.  I didn't want to miss a connection while having to wait for a gate-checked stroller to appear!  Ewan hates the stroller anyway.  I would have ended up carrying him around.

Squeezie Food
Plum, Sprout, and various other baby food brands are making food available in squeezable packages.  Ewan loves them and they are simple, non-messy ways to feed him while traveling.  He sucks the puree straight out of the package.  I try to get the ones that have vegetables in them, not just fruit.  Check the ounces on the packages though!  If they are over 3 ounces, TSA will allow it, but you have to get "patted down" (aka: groped!).  I made that mistake once.

Video device with headphones
I am not a fan of toddlers watching TV, but special circumstances call for normal rules to be broken.  On this last trip, in addition to favorite books and small toys, I brought season 2 of Yo Gabba Gabba for Ewan to watch if he wouldn't sleep.  Sure enough, one flight he was bored and resisting sleep, so I turned it on.  It made the flight more enjoyable for everyone.

Feel free to comment and add your own ideas for air travel with a baby or toddler!