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Must-Know Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane

Breastfeeding is a part of life for many mothers when they have babies in tow. Whether you are at home or on a plane, you need to be able to sit down and nurse your little one. Nursing your baby on a plane should not be an uncomfortable experience, or something to be ashamed of (even if the plane can feel a bit cramped). Figuring out what gear to pack and what seat to book can add unwanted stress to a trip, but don’t worry, we have you covered.

And yes, your fellow passengers may give you funny looks, but really, who cares? Your baby is your number one priority, not that guy two rows down who just walked by and figured out what is going on under that blanket.

RELATED: I No Longer Feel Like a Breastfeeding Failure

Gear to pack

You don’t need to pack the kitchen sink, but you do need to pack a few key accessories to make breastfeeding more comfortable and convenient for you and your baby.

1. Scarf: A semi-sheer scarf (I prefer black) is an easy accessory that you can wear on a plane and use as a nursing cover. Simply find the middle and drape it over your baby. Tuck the ends over your shoulders to keep it secured. You will still be able to see your baby and have a little ventilation in there. A thin swaddling blanket will work too, but it might not be as easy to secure behind you and also wear as an accessory to your outfit. They key is to pack as many double-duty items as possible.

2. Nursing tank tops: Tank tops are a mother’s ultimate undergarment when it comes to those months or years of nursing. Thanks to the nursing tank top, you can go back to wearing your old clothes, keep your belly warm and still feed your baby. Pick out a nursing tank top that is easy to clip and unclip. You will be able to easily get your baby his food without stripping on your flight, or having those cold little fingers grabbing at your belly.

3. Burp cloths: Your baby will spit up. There is no question about it. Pack two burp cloths (I always used cloth diapers) to help mop up any messes that dribble out of your baby’s mouth and all over your clothes. You may not arrive at your destination dry, but at least you can get cleaned up a bit.

4. Extra shirt. Leaks and spit ups do happen. Pack an extra shirt so you can still arrive in style.

5. Ziplock bags. Pack a few empty bags to store dirty clothes and burp cloths that may leak on your other carry-on items.

6. Breastfeeding pillow alternative. Plenty of people pack a breastfeeding pillow for their flight, but they can be a pain to carry and too bulky in those tiny airplane seats. Grab a comfy neck pillow instead. You can prop your baby up, protect his or her head from the armrest and give your arm a little relief without spilling over onto your neighbor's seat.

Location

Your seat location is key when you are breastfeeding on a plane. I always found that the aisle seat gave me the elbow room I needed, plus easy access to the aisle so I could get up to bounce my little guy or burp him. The window seat is also great if you want to lean and hide yourself a little more.

The galley is a decent alternative to nursing at your seat. Make sure you chat with the flight attendants first, as each airline and crew will have their own rules and what they are comfortable with you doing. Ask if you can get the baby started in the back while they are serving beverages. Once you get yourself situated head back to your seat (another reason aisle seats are best).

RELATED: Surviving a 14-Hour Flight With My Toddler

Your rights

Above all else, please know that it is your right to feed your child, even if there is no clear policy to support this in the USA or from the airlines. Most people on your flight won’t even notice. If you are worried, call the airline and ask what their breastfeeding policy is. Even better, email them and get it in writing. Most will just ask that you cover up to make sure other passengers don’t become uncomfortable. You can let your seat mates know that you plan to breastfeed in case they would like to move to a different seat. Don’t be offended; you may get a row to yourself! Don’t be nervous either. Just feed your baby as you do at home. Be confident and you will do just fine. I have had nothing but positive experiences feeding both of my boys on airplanes. I wish the same for all of you.

Image via Flickr, Caitlin Regan

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