Let’s talk about breastfeeding.
Is breastfeeding relevant to traveling, you ask? Yes, yes it is.
Breastfeeding is such a mystery. Women have been doing it since the beginning of time. Yet, it’s not getting any easier. Or am I doing it wrong?
My story. As a first-time mom, I had many decisions to make from birthing to feeding. Here’s an example: I had a mild panic attack because pregnancy books suggested that we made a decision about circumcision before the due date (if it was a boy – we did not know the sex of the baby before birth). Anyway, I understood that many of those decisions could be out of my hands. Because, well, childbirth is also a mystery. For most of my pregnancy, my attitude was “Let’s wait and see?”. For the feeding plan though, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I wasn’t sure if I could but I wanted to try at least. Why wasn’t I sure? Isn’t breastfeeding so simple, just put a baby’s mouth on your breast and all’s well? Um, absolutely not.
Breastfeeding begins as soon as the baby is born
On the day my daughter was born, she was on my breast within an hour. The first time was truly magical. It was purely an instinct on her part and it was amazing to witness.
Day by day, I started to realize the tremendous amount of intricate knowledge involved in breastfeeding. If you think about it, it’s the most natural thing in the world. A mother and a baby, breastfeeding. All mammals do it. The most natural food there is. Right? It sounds so easy but it’s not. It’s perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
It’s not as simple as a baby’s mouth + breast = breastfeeding. There are so many factors. How to properly hold the baby: football or cradle? How to make it easy for the baby to latch. How to trigger the milk flow. How long to feed each time. How to wake up the baby when they fall asleep while eating. How to hand ‘express’, and so on and so on. A baby’s mouth is small and slippery. Safely holding a precious newborn baby is pressure as it is and holding your breast in one hand to sort of “squeeze” things into her small mouth is not an easy task. Oh, and your nipples get so sore, like a pain that you never imagined. Some days you can’t put anything on because it hurts so much.
Especially during the first month, there were many tearful sleepless nights. Lots of internet searches too. I only tried to pay attention to credible ones though. I was probably running on adrenalin from the high of childbirth. We had to feed a minimum of every 2 hours, which meant, I didn’t sleep longer than 2 hours at a time. Not only I was tired, but also things weren’t easy. Mostly I was questioning myself, why it wasn’t as naturally easy as I thought it would be. What was I doing wrong? Was I failing my daughter? I will save you the painful details. I will be able to share my journey with you all, especially to help you prepare for your own journey. Breastfeeding moms, you are heroes.
Three months later… breastfeeding is still not easy but I’m no longer so emotional about it. But a couple of weeks after the birth, pumping came into the equation. People say breastfeeding + pumping + supplement feeding is the hardest combination of them all, and I believe it. It’s not easy. A lot of moms are exclusively pumping, which means they feed their baby expressed breast milk through a bottle. And of course, a lot of moms exclusively breastfeed. Some do both, like me.
Can I do it while traveling?
As promised, a travel-related story about breastfeeding and pumping. We just went on our first family vacation to Hawai’i just before my daughter turned 3 months old. Before we went I spent a lot of time visualizing breastfeeding and pumping on the road. How is it going to work? At the airport, on the plane, in the car, etc. How can I pack right, so everything could be easily reachable? What do I need to be “discrete” or don’t I need to be? How to safely store breast milk and clean all the parts? So many questions.
For two weeks while we were on the road, I’m happy to report that everything went well. I pumped, my daughter was fed, and I didn’t accidentally flash anyone. I have a pump that has a battery that gives me mobility but it’s certainly not travel-friendly. Because I have to be hooked up to the machine with a tube for 20-30 minutes, I had to plan the day ahead to help me pack. Now I’m looking for a wearable pump for my next travels.
Essential items for pumping while traveling
- A sarong, swaddle blanket, or nursing cover – to be discrete
- A pumping bra – for your hands-free freedom: I love these stylish and functioning pumping bras from Davin & Adley. I bought a few recently and became a big can. Use “RunawayJuno10” to get 10% off!
- Easy change outfits – for when you need to access your pumping bra
- A cooler and ice pack – to store pump parts (fridge hack)
- Ziplock bags – to put used pump parts
- Nursing pad – for obvious reasons (I use reusable ones)
- Ceres Chill – to safely store breast milk
*I will update the list and add discount codes when available.*
It was certainly a lot to manage but the natural planner and organizer in me was proud of myself and my daughter. We did it! It was actually empowering. I thought I would be more self-conscious but I wasn’t. I really did not pay much attention to what other people thought of me before so why would I start now? There were only a couple of occasions when people did a doubletake when I was assembling the pump parts but I assumed that was because of curiosity.
I’m already making plans and visualizing how to make this process easier and simpler. There are certain items that are worth spending some money on to make your life easier, like a good pumping bra. We’re traveling again in April and I will be even more prepared by then. I am excited.
Breastfeeding is empowering.
Breastfeeding is empowering. It really makes me feel like I have a superpower. How amazing is it to be able to create food to feed my baby? I read a lot about breastfeeding vs formula feeding while I was pregnant. In Korea, lots of women are choosing formula feeding because they don’t want to be limited. They say formula feeding gives moms more freedom. More women are having kids late and more moms are working than ever, so the logic makes sense.
Since I started my breastfeeding journey, I read and talked to a lot of moms about all types of feeding and I think exclusive pumping is a great alternative. Even if you include occasional pumping in the mix, it makes a big difference. At least it’s a great compromise if you want to feed your baby breast milk but don’t want to stay home all the time. So whether I’m pumping, breastfeeding, or even occasionally formula feeding, I do feel like I have a superpower. It’s an amazing feeling.
The journey continues
My breastfeeding and pumping journey is far from over. It’s ever-changing and evolving. Some days it’s easier, and some days are harder. But I’m in for the ride and I am excited to make it work. I’m excited to bring breastfeeding along for my travels and see what happens. Sometimes people say your life is over when you have kids. But life is not so black and white and there’s no one right answer. We can make it work and we can have it all. You just have to be willing to make changes along the way.
I’ll take you along for my ride. Are you in?