I drank my wife’s breast milk in Italy, cleaned breast pumps in 11 different states, and helped my wife breast feed our son in 17 different countries around the world during our son’s first year of life.
Our family travels a lot. In fact almost 40% of the year we are away from home either for business or pleasure.
Before our son was born, travel was easy and actually enjoyable. I really appreciated flying and long road trips and even looked forward to them. This all changed once our son was born, as the seemingly constant feedings, diaper changing, and toting around all the stuff that comes with a newborn really cramped our leisurely travel style.
Our laid-back traveling was further altered by the fact we breastfed our son exclusively for 6 months, and continued mother’s milk with food until 12 months. Breastfeeding is hard work, for both mom and dad, and even harder work when traveling. I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding, as is my wife, so we were fortunate in that we had the most important ingredient to successful breastfeeding: two dedicated parents.
I actually found that breastfeeding helped me (as the dad) be more involved and connected to the entire process of caring for our newborn. Yes the endless hand-cleaning of bottles, pumps, and associated pieces was a lot of work, but it was work that involved me.
I also believe that breastfeeding helped ease our family’s international travel experiences, as we knew that no matter what, we had plenty of nutritional food for our son. Breastfeeding while traveling extensively was hard work, but well worth it.
Our first trip with our newborn son, a long road-trip from our home in St. Louis to Milwaukee and Green Bay, was the hardest. As new parents we were a bit overwhelmed already, but traveling for a 4 day weekend several states away from home with a newborn took a tremendous team effort. It also turned what would normally be an easy 6 hour drive into a 10 hour marathon of a road trip.
As a newborn our son needed to eat about every 3 hours. We had trouble getting him to breastfeed (which is a common issue) but we would not give up on mother’s milk as his source of nutrition, so pumping was the alternative. We bought the best (and most expensive) breast pump on the market, the Medela Freestyle, along with every accessory they made. From my perspective as a dad, this breast pump was well worth money, although it had so many parts and pieces that we would spend several hours each day hand cleaning them while traveling. Although our first road trip tested our patience and commitment, we stuck with it and fortunately each subsequent road trip became easier and easier.
Flying with a baby brought on its own unique challenges, especially concerning breastfeeding. We did a lot of international travel during our son’s first year, and learned quickly that every airport and every country treated breast milk differently. Some had swab tests, others had fancy machines, in London they required my wife to drink it, and in Italy the security staff insisted that if we were to take the pumped breast milk any further, that I (dad) would have to drink from each bottle!
Once we arrived at our destinations, we faced a new set of challenges. Breast milk must be kept chilled, which meant endless runs to ice machines (or convenience stores) to constantly keep a bucket full of ice around the pumped milk. All the pump pieces needed to be sanitized (not just cleaned), so we needed to ensure our hotel rooms always had a microwave, as the travel sanitation bags required one.
In order to maintain a constant and steady supply, my wife had to pump or feed every three hours; this meant pumping in busy tourist attractions, on airplanes, trains, and other very public places. Fortunately we never faced a single issue, nor did anyone ever complain.
Looking back we would absolutely make the same decision on breastfeeding, even knowing the amount of travel we do each year. Our son was never sick. Not a single illness in his first year of life, and he traveled extensively; we attribute his to diet of mother’s milk. Avoiding sickness is a huge relief when traveling, especially overseas. Although breastfeeding and pumping is a lot of work, it also guaranteed our son a healthy diet, which was also free. I learned that breastfeeding takes commitment from both parents, especially while traveling the world, but it’s well worth it knowing we were doing what’s best for our son!
Adam Sommer is a Traveling Dad guest blogger and regularly blogs about family travel in the Midwest at Visit Flyover Country. Follow Adam on Twitter, Facebook or visit his blog http://www.visitflyovercountry.com/