My good friend Sevi gave birth to her fist baby, Konstantinos, last week, and in honor of her and her new son, I am finally going to write an article on traveling with a nursing infant. Congrats Sevi!
The first things you need to think about in regards to breastfeeding while traveling are all logistical. How will it work to nurse in public in a different culture? Will there be places you can go for privacy? What should you wear? What about a nursing cover? These are all questions I will answer, and I hope you find this information helpful.
Breastfeeding in a different culture.
You might be surprised what you find when you go to nurse in a country that is not your own. I’m American, and most Americans get weirded out by breastfeeding (it’s a fact I’m not particularly excited about, but what can you do?). With that in mind I used a nursing cover with my second child because I knew we were going to be out and about right away. I also assumed that it would be really liberal in Hungary (it isn’t by the way) because it is a European country after all, but I bought my nursing cover along anyway. I’m a super modest person, and I would probably never just “whip it out,” as they say, but I have no problem with other women doing that. What I found in Hungary was very similar to what you would find in America. People all have different opinions, no matter what country they are from! Some people would smile at me, encouraging what I was doing, and some older women (and on one occasion a very angry older gentlemen) yelled at me for covering my baby up in such hot weather. All that to say, expect to irritate someone, somewhere, no matter what you do. Do what makes you feel most comfortable, because you can’t please everyone. Of course in some cultures there are specific taboos you should avoid, but if you are just vacationing, I wouldn’t spend any serious time worrying about it.
A private place.
Some women are not comfortable nursing in public. That’s ok. You can usually find some kind of privacy somewhere. However, I would NOT recommend nursing your child in a bathroom stall. In the US many people who don’t want to witness women breastfeeding suggest that women go into the bathroom stall to nurse. In reality, that stall is full of germs because it’s for going to the bathroom in! You wouldn’t ask an adult to eat in a bathroom stall because it’s dirty. The same is true for babies. In a lot of European countries, they have special family bathrooms in large public places like malls, and in those family bathrooms there is usually a nice big comfy chair for nursing moms. Thoughtful, no? You can also find a planter or bench facing a wall or tree if you are looking for more privacy. Of course, the next two questions will also deal with giving you a bit more privacy.
What to wear.
I personally don’t like my belly showing, so I never liked lifting my shirt to breastfeed my children. I also tried several different types of nursing clothes that were supposed to keep you covered but allow access for the baby. I learned the hard way (several hundred dollars later) that most breastfeeding clothes companies do not design their clothing for women with large breasts. So I abandoned that whole track completely, and made my own nursing tops. I bought several tank tops, cut the bottom off, sewed elastic around the bottom that now went down just below my breasts, and found several shirts that would button down far enough that I could unbutton them, lift up the tank top, and stick my baby on with no skin showing. If you aren’t the sewing type, you could use this other trick that is my favorite: Wear a tank top under a cardigan or light zip up hoodie. You can lift up your tank top, and the cardigan or hoodie will keep your belly from showing. The baby’s head covers your breast, so you don’t really need to use a cover unless you feel really exposed because of your location. If someone was sitting behind you, they wouldn’t even know you are nursing your child. While riding in the close confines of a plane, train, or bus, I never felt the need to use a cover while using this layered technique. No one could ever tell that I was breastfeeding.
To cover, or not to cover, that is the question.
Should you use a nursing cover? Well, in many circumstances I have found having one helpful. You can slip it on, nurse your baby, and not have to miss out on any conversations or activities. If you start using it early, your baby will be very used to it, and it won’t be a big deal. Of course, every baby will get to an age when they want to pull on it a bit. I found sitting on the corner of the cover (depending on what side my child was nursing on) helps a great deal during those very curious times. I think that you should use a cover that is as light as possible. You can find homemade ones on Etsy.com that are one piece of fabric with hems sewn at the edge. I even found one with towel fabric sewn into the corners for wiping spit up. Do you sew? You can make your own, and in case you don’t want to make your own pattern, you can buy one on etsy for $5.50 USD.
I hope you will be less intimidated about traveling with a nursing baby. I’ve done it, and I know you can too!
Do you have any fun cultural nursing stories?