Being on the road with a baby and breastfeeding can present a few challenges, but nothing you can’t prepare yourself for and nothing that can’t be solved.
Here are some tips for breastfeeding while on a road trip. They’re simple, but they can help your trip be more manageable and without any added stress. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
Simple Tips to Breastfeeding on a Road Trip
Generally, breastfeeding isn’t an issue at 5,000 feet. You’re free to move around, hold a fussy baby, feed them any time they want, and feel like you’re at home.
(If the home is a very uncomfortable chair with a coughing stranger squashed up next to you.)
But when you’re in the car for those long stretches of highway, you’ve got to have some plans in place.
Whether your trip is six hours or spanning two days, these breastfeeding tips can help both you and your baby make it with minimal trauma.
(Except for that whole diaper blowout thing in the car seat on a 50 mile stretch of empty highway. That will always stick with you.)
Get a Car Adapter for Your Pump
Even if you don’t usually pump, you should bring it with you and grab a car adapter for it.
Pumping while in the car is a huge help, even if you’re driving, but to make it work, you need to be hands-free.
Using your electric pump, you can find a car adapter, so you don’t have to hand express any milk and relieve your breasts while in the car.
The point of the pump, even if you hardly ever use it? Your baby may sleep through some feedings.
If you want to maintain your milk supply, but you don’t want to wake them, you’re going to have to pump while you’re on the road.
Breastfeed Before You Get in the Car
We can’t stress this enough. It’s like when you know you don’t have to pee, but you just want to be sure before you get in the car.
Feed your baby one last time before everyone straps in. That way, there’s no surprise hunger cues (you hope) five miles into your road trip, and you can go ahead and start planning when you’ll make the next stop to nurse.
Plan Stops With Your Baby’s Feeds
Seriously, you’re going to have to stop. Nobody wants to, we know, especially when you’re in the rhythm of travelling, but there’s no way your baby can last the whole trip without a stop.
For one thing, it is very unsafe to try and lean over your baby’s car seat to nurse them while travelling.
If you were in an accident, the weight of your body could crush your little one. So save the feedings for the stops.
You’ll need to get out and stretch your legs anyway, so take some time before you start your journey to plan when you’ll be stopping.
If your baby eats every two hours, then follow that schedule. If you think your baby can handle a longer stretch, go for it.
If you know, you’ll need gas a couple of hours in, go ahead and plan to nurse at the same time.
Have a Cooler Handy
A cooler can be your saving grace for a couple of reasons.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast milk is good at room temperature for about six to eight hours.
If you are travelling more extended than that, a more excellent can help keep your breast milk cool until you reach your destination.
Just throw some ice or ice packs in the cooler (or find one that can plug into your car’s adapter), and you’ll have a great way to transport milk.
But you can store your snacks and plenty of water in the cooler, too. You need to stay hydrated while breastfeeding and travelling, and having water on hand can eliminate any stops. (Except to pee, of course.)
Research Rest Stops & Restaurants
When you’re on a long road trip, there’s a chance you’ll be seeing more trees than restaurants on some stretches of your journey.
Be sure to do some homework beforehand. You already know you’ll have to stop to nurse and let your baby out of their car seat, so research rest stops and restaurants to try.
If you know there’s a restaurant right before you hit two hours of nothing, make it a priority to stop, nurse your little one, and relax before you continue on the journey.
Look up the laws for breastfeeding in the states you’re travelling in so you know your rights and can do what you need to do.
Store Pumped Milk in Bottles
They’re just a little more resilient than bags. The CDC recommended using some container that can be sealed tightly once your breast milk is inside to eliminate contamination and leaks.
Consider Driving at Night
If you don’t mind driving at night, it might be your best bet. You can take this approach by nursing your little one just like you do before bed and then buckling them into the car seat.
There’s a good chance they’ll sleep as well as they do in bed and, if that’s several hours, you may be able to make it to your destination with minor problems.
Get Organised in the Car
Breastfeeding Place recommended bringing extra diapers, clothes, and wipes, so make sure to get organised. You might want to check out My Baby Nursery’s biggest range of the best baby clothing.
Have a “command centre” in the car, like a small box or bag that can hold all of the items you need handy like wipes, pacifiers, toys, books, diapers, and snacks.
It will be so much easier for you if you can just grab what you need instead of rifling through bags or losing things to the car’s floorboard.
Bring Along Things You Need to Be Comfortable
The car could potentially be your oasis for a while, especially if you have to pull over at less-than-ideal rest stops or even nurse in a parking lot.
If you need your nursing pillow, bring it.
If you want a book or an iPad to pass the time, bring them. Whatever you need to make breastfeeding in the car more accessible and more enjoyable, do it.
Otherwise, those nursing sessions will be very long and miserable.
Things to Consider When Breastfeeding on a Road Trip
Create a readily accessible “command centre” stocked with clean diapers, a wet bag, plastic shopping bags (for the dirtiest diapers), wipes, and spare clothes.
Don’t forget nursing pads; your breasts may not be used to schedule changes, and you don’t want to sit in wet clothes for hours! Also, be sure to pack healthy breastfeeding snacks.
If you’re pumping, in addition to bringing your pump, parts, and bottles, get extra features and bottles so you don’t have to wash everything right away.
For an electric pump, bring a battery pack or an AC/DC converter/car adapter. You may also want to get a hand pump, which is great if no outlets are available.
Wearing a hands-free pumping and nursing bra or tank is a huge help. If it makes you more comfortable, bring a nursing cover.
Don’t forget to bring ice packs and storage containers for pumped milk.
After pumping, you can give your pump parts a quick once-over with breast pump wipes, throw all the pieces into a Ziploc bag, and put them into a more astounding to wash later.
Some moms swear by travelling at night – topping off their babies before their usual bedtimes and placing them directly in their car seats to take advantage of the naturally soothing rhythms of a moving vehicle.
Whatever time you travel, most moms say that nursing your baby is one of those things you absolutely must do before getting into the car – just like going to the restroom.
Plan for frequent pit stops. You can’t breastfeed in a moving car, and babies are not always keen on taking a bottle if they’re only used to nursing.
If your baby typically wakes up screaming to eat, you may consider instead gently rousing him or her for a top-up or dream feed at planned intervals.
If possible, try to sit in the back while someone else drives. Don’t try to rush your baby back into the car seat immediately after nursing.
A few minutes of post-nursing snuggling can go a long way! If your baby uses a blanket, lovey, or pacifier, make sure to pack it and bring spares!
Maintaining Milk Supply and Preventing Engorgement While Traveling Without Your Baby
If you’re not travelling with your baby, pumping or expressing your milk will help protect and maintain your supply.
While tossing your liquid gold can feel wrong, if your baby has enough milk at home and handling the storage of your pumped milk feels too demanding, you might consider “pumping and dumping.”
Look for hotels that offer amenities such as a mini-fridge/freezer and microwave.
You can keep your ice packs solid, any pumped milk cold, and pump parts sterilised in a microwave disinfecting bag.
To maintain and protect your milk supply while separated from your baby, pump every two to three hours during the day with a four-to-five hour stretch at night.
If your baby is older than six months and your supply is well established, pumping on his or her regular feeding schedule should not harm your pool.
If you feel your supply is decreasing, add in an extra pump or two.
A week-long separation or less where a mother pumps at the recommended intervals poses no significant threat to the mother and child’s breastfeeding relationship.
Pumping is generally less efficient at removing milk from the breast than nursing. Frequent pumping is one of the best ways to avoid engorgement.
Hands-on pumping can also help increase milk output and pumping efficiency. If your hotel has a microwave, a heated neck wrap may improve the letdown and get your milk flowing.
Massage any lumps that form to release a mild plugged duct. It may take several pumps to get rid of it.
Packing and Storing Breast Milk While Traveling
Expressed milk should be stored in clean, tightly sealed, see-through containers, like bottles, glass containers, and milk storage bags.
Since transferring from pumping bottles to bags or other containers may be tricky while travelling, you might want to bring extra bottles.
Expressed milk can be safely stored at room temperature for up to six-to-eight hours before refrigeration.
Breast milk can remain fresh with ice packs in a cooler bag for up to 24 hours as well.
If you’re staying at a hotel, book a room with a mini-fridge/freezer, which can keep your milk cool for up to a week.
Not all mini-fridges are the right temperature, though, so make sure the one you have is cold enough to store your milk safely.
If your hotel room happens to have a microwave, disinfecting bags work well for cleaning pump parts and bottles.
If not, you can scrub the pump parts as you usually would; make sure to pack a travel-size container of dish soap and a brush.
Another helpful tip, especially when you don’t have a full-size sink, is to throw all the pumping parts into a Ziploc bag and store it in the fridge or your cooler after each pumping session.
This prevents bacterial growth without having to wash your parts after every session. Wash and sanitise the parts once at the end of the day.
Rather than carrying and storing breast milk with you at all times, you may find it more convenient (albeit much more expensive) to ship fresh or frozen milk home to your baby.
You can ship it overnight in a cooler with ice packs or dry ice via UPS or FedEx.
We recommend using companies that specialise in breast milk transport, such as Milk Stork.
If it’s within your budget, you may value the peace of mind you get from knowing experienced professionals are shipping your milk.
Other Tips for Breastfeeding on a Road Trip
Breastfeeding on a road trip can seem like a huge undertaking. It can be done!
The most important thing is a sound support system, including yourself! If your self-doubt and question whether you can handle it, it will make things more difficult. You can do this if you put your mind to it. We believe in you!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
As always, stay hydrated. Then drink an extra bottle of water.
It is a natural reaction to try to drink less on a road trip because you’re unsure about “potty stops.” Breastfeeding? It would help if you kept up your fluid intake.
Allow Extra Time.
Stopping to feed a baby takes time. Stopping to use the restroom takes time. Plan for that time, so you aren’t frustrated later.
If You Pump, Invest in a Car Charger for Your Breast Pump.
Are you travelling with another adult? You can pump while that person drives and feed baby bottles later if you wish.
Pack a Small Cooler.
If you’re pumping, you’ll need somewhere to store pumped breast milk. If you’re nursing, it’s also a great place to keep liquids and snacks for Mom.
Wear Nursing Tops or Clothes That Make it Easy to Pump or Breastfeed.
Bring a nursing cover if it makes you feel more comfortable. Know your rights about nursing in public. You can see laws by the state on this site.
Practice Good Nursing Hygiene and Habits.
The last place you want to end up with an infection or breast issues is on a road trip. Pump or feed regularly to avoid mastitis. Don’t wait too long just to get miles in. Wash your hands routinely or use a hand sanitiser. Bring a nursing cover if that makes you feel more comfortable when nursing.
Don’t Mind Driving at Night?
Nurse baby at her usual nighttime feeding and then put her in her car seat, ready for bed. There’s a good chance she’ll sleep for the duration of the trip.
Using an online mapping tool, chart out the route before you leave, and designate a couple of places to stop along the way. These can be restaurants or shopping centres, or highway rest stops. When it’s time to nurse, or you need to stretch out your legs, you’ll have options on where to stop.
Bring Along a Big Water Bottle.
You must stay hydrated during road trip nursing.
Extra changes of clothes (for baby AND you!), extra diapers, extra wipes, extra nursing pads. Different of whatever you think you’ll need.
That way, there are no surprises between home and your destination.
You’re going to need a cooler with ice packs if you are storing any extra breast milk that you pumped beforehand. Pack shirts and clothes that you are comfortable nursing in.
If you have one, bring your pump along with any spare parts just in case.
When Driving, Plan to Stop.
A lot. Keep your nursing schedule as best as you can. Never breastfeed a baby in a moving car. You never want to take the baby out of the car seat, and contorting your body to nurse while the baby is strapped in isn’t safe for you either. Be mindful of what rest areas are on your route so you can plan accordingly.
When Breastfeeding in Public, Know Your Rights in the States You Will Be In.
But don’t feel embarrassed about nursing in public. Baby needs to eat, and don’t let the ignorance of others make you feel wrong about that.
Book a hotel that has a refrigerator with a tiny freezer (if possible), so you can store breast milk and keep ice packs frozen/cold. It is okay to leave breast milk at room temp for around six hours.
Lastly, Stay Calm!
Some parents refuse to travel by car with a little one because of all the extra stuff needed, but good for you for deciding to do it.
Family adventures are great for everyone, and if you stay calm and roll with whatever annoying things that may happen (getting lost, missing rest stop exit, spilling breast milk), you will have a great time. Looking for a car seat for your baby? Look no further. My Baby Nursery has a wide range for you to choose from.
Travelling while breastfeeding poses unique challenges, but it’s nothing you can’t handle with a bit of preparation. If you’re bringing your baby with you, know that despite some complexities, trips with your little one can make lasting memories you’ll cherish for years to come.