Born To Be Breastfed > 2014 > December

Air Travel: Seven Top Tips for Nursing or Pumping Mothers

airportPumping Listen to the podcast “Top Tips for Air Travel”
Even as a nursing mother, you choose air travel for the same reason other people do. Either you believe it is a time-efficient way to get where you need (or want) to go, or it is the only way to get to your destination. (There’s no bridge to Hawaii!)You don’t choose air travel for fun, elbow room, or leg room.

You don’t choose air travel for its thrill or glamour. As Virginia Postrel observed, “Airline glamour never promised anything as mundane as elbow room, much less a flat bed, a massage, or an arugula salad. It promised a better world…[N]o one expected air travel to be comfortable.” Indeed, it’s that “better world” that beckoned when you reserved your plane tickets, and you didn’t seriously expect glamour. I’ve talked about the demands of travel before, but here I want to highlight seven top tips for dealing with the discomforts of air travel if you need to nurse or pump while traveling by air

1. Skip the Clamor for Glamour
Maybe you tuned in to hear Jeremy and Nina Blackman talk about their horrible air travel experience, or to hear Joan Ortiz discuss her published survey of how user-unfriendly the top 100 U.S. airports are for nursing or pumping mothers. If so, you know that the deep-seated problems of air travel aren’t likely to be resolved before your next plane trip. Unless you are fortunate enough to travel through a handful of user-friendly U.S. airports, like Burlington International Airport, the hard fact is you need to stop wishing and start planning. Find ways to deal with the non-glamorous experience
2. Make a To-Do List and To-Pack List
Sure, you’ve got to know what to pack, how much to pack, and where to pack it. But first, you need to actually have the stuff you’ll need. Make a list that includes everything you or your baby might need related to feeding, and more. Go shopping, if necessary. But also, make a to-do list that includes calling the airport, the car rental place, and the hotel. Print out the TSA rules. Be fully prepared before you even think about packing.

3. Packing is Key: Do it Right
Unlike a car trip, where pack-rat behavior can be effective, air travel forces you into packing only what you absolutely need, and packing the smallest, lightest-weight version of what you need in your carry-on bag. Pack items you wouldn’t necessarily need or use at home, and replacements for things which, if lost, could impact the nursing or feeding experience for you or your baby. Packing, when done right, is the key to making air travel much more manageable.

4. Pump or Nurse Near the Gate
Okay, that seems simple enough. Just do it. Oh, oops, no, it’s not always that easy! Nursing is easier than pumping. Pumping will most frequently finding the ladies restroom near the gate. If you plan to use an electric pump, you’d better make sure you can actually find a place to plug it in and keep it upright on a surface. The aim here is to remove milk from your breasts as soon before take-off as reasonably possible. Everything from what-to-wear to when-to-arrive will be part of your strategy for this last-minute opportunity.

5. Know TSA Rules and Regs for Your Milk and More
How many times have you read articles about mothers who were forced to leave their pump paraphernalia behind, or forced to discard their milk? Must you lift up your shirt, as one airport traveler was asked to do? (In one case, though, a woman who was hassled at the Phoenix airport got a court settlement.) Unless you know the rules and regs, you could find yourself in the same boat as women who have been misinformed and humiliated by TSA officials. Print and carry the rules! Don’t assume that the 20-year-old guy who started working for TSA last week knows the rules. By knowing the TSA rules and regs for your milk, pump apparatus and more, you can be your own best advocate.

6. Plan for How to Cope on Board
Flying often poses new challenges when you’re on board the aircraft. Cabin pressure may give your baby some discomforts he wouldn’t otherwise have. Narrow seats and no privacy can make pumping difficult. Emptying your bladder in a room small enough to give anyone claustrophobia is not easy. These are just a few examples of the difficulties you might encounter. Try to anticipate the difficulties and foresee what solutions you can. Many mothers find that the flight attendant can be a terrific ally in problem-solving, but it’s better if you can think ahead. You may find it helpful to ask other mothers you know how they coped.

7. Stay Focused
By definition, airline travel means that you’re in the air, you’re hundreds or thousands of miles from your own creature comforts, and you are out of your usual routine. If you have the baby or other children with you, you need many more than two hands. If you don’t have the baby or children with you, you may already feel like something important has been ripped away from you. Stay focused. You’ll be home soon, and breastfeeding is so important to the baby you love. You can do this. Just stay focused.

Let me help you focus on more details on my radio show/podcast. What has been your experience with airline travel? What has worked or not worked for you? I’m curious.
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Six Ways to Deal with Criticism About Breastfeeding

Do you feel uncomfortable when you know you’ll be in the presence of someone who may not share your enthusiasm for breastfeeding? The holidays are here, and it’s prime time for encountering relatives and friends you haven’t seen in a while, so be prepared for criticism—verbal remarks or just critical glances. How should you respond? Even as every fiber of your being wants to lash out, you may realize that there has to be a better way to deal with criticism. Indeed, there are six good approaches for dealing with criticism about breastfeeding your child:

1) Use non-response responses.
Often, you can get away with something as vague as “Hmmm or “Uh-huh.” If you want to up the ante, you can throw in, “Oh, I admit. You’ve raised an interesting point there.” These responses are a great way to say something without actually saying anything at all!

2) Focus on the “other” with active listening.
Communication experts have been teaching active listening for years, and with good reason. It’s a great way to diffuse the situation, because you’re focusing on the other person’s remarks or feelings, rather than defending yourself or your own words. Responses like, “I can see you have very strong feelings about this” or “I’m so glad that approach worked well for you and your baby” can help you avoid a squabble.

3) Focus on information or authorities.
The critical relative or friend picking on you may find it harder to question the authority of your child’s doctor or the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don’t hesitate to quote some professional or some organization as the be-all and end-all of knowledge. This approach will often shut down your opponent.

4) Focus on YOUR decision.
Over the years, I’ve learned that breastfeeding, like how to style your hair or who you go to bed with, is a very personal decision. Therefore, you need to make the decision that you feel is best for yourself and your baby, and stick to it. A comeback like “This works for our family in our situation, but it might not work for you,” or “Maybe you tried it and it didn’t work for you. I get that” often works.

5) Use humor.
If someone says, “If he’s old enough to ask for that, he’s too old to have it!” you could come back with, “Yeah, he’s 3 years old. Wow, if he asks for a Lamborghini, what am I going to do?” I’m not all that great at giving humorous comebacks, but has several you might like.

6) Try a last-ditch effort if things get out of hand.
Sometimes, no matter how you try to deflect criticism, you’re stuck. You can try to find some common ground, or just admit that the gap is too big to close. When necessary, resort to, “We’re really at odds here. Let’s just agree to disagree and remain friends (happy sisters, or whatever.)”  

Join me as I help you to activate your criticism-radar, find ways to prevent or minimize criticism, and respond to others in ways are more effective than lashing out. 
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