The Breastfeeding Journey: Tips for the Traveler

For any journey you embark on, it is a good idea to have a road map, travel plans, and the proper equipment for the terrain. The journey through birth and into becoming a breastfeeding mother is no different: preparation will make the journey more enjoyable, even if you depart from your original travel plans. So, before starting down the road, plan for the journey.

Planning Your Trip: Know Where You’re Going and How to Get There

An important but often-overlooked aspect of breastfeeding is that as much as breastfeeding is a natural event, it is also a learned skill. In cultures where breastfeeding is no longer the accepted norm, or where it has skipped a generation or two, many women are lacking the necessary skills and support system for successful breastfeeding. Because breastfeeding is a learned skill, it requires observation and practice. While you are pregnant, read books, check out internet sites, watch videos, and most importantly, hang out with other moms who are successfully breastfeeding. You will learn what a “proper latch” actually looks like, have a chance to learn about common pitfalls before setting out, and establish a support group for any bumps in the road.

Choosing a good travel agent can turn even a difficult journey into a positive experience. It is important to have guidance from someone who knows the terrain well and guide you through unforseen events. However, not every travel agent has the same idea as you do about what makes a good trip. Carefully interview your doctor and pediatrician and be sure that they are on the same page when it comes to nourishing your newborn. Be wary of quick solutions involving formula or artificial nipples / breast shields—they are rarely indicated for the health of the mother or child and can actually have a negative impact on the breastfeeding relationship. Knowing that your doctor or pediatrician will support you in doing what is best for you and your child in the long term, even if it seems more difficult in the short term, will enable you to relax and enjoy the ride.

Booking Your Accomodations

You do not need a five-star hotel in order to have a pleasant trip. The important things to look for are quality of the staff and the ability of the facilities to meet your needs. The World Health Organization has created the Baby-Friendly Initiative, which awards baby-friendly hospitals and acts as a guide for parents in finding a supportive environment for giving birth. When choosing a hospital for birthing your child, check that the staff and the administration have actively implemented these guidelines in order to make your experience as smooth as possible.
The criteria for designation as Baby-Friendly are:
1. Having a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2. Training all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
3. Informing all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4. Helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
5. Showing mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
6. Giving newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, not even sips of water, unless medically indicated.
7. Practicing rooming in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8. Encouraging breastfeeding on demand.
9. Giving no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
10. Fostering the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refering mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

After your stay at the hospital, be sure to give feedback regarding the staff’s adherance to the Baby-Friendly Initiative. Only by hearing from customers will the administration be encouraged to continue in what they are doing well and make changes where they are weak.

Packing for Success

Wear loose-fitting shirts and dresses. Allow your breasts exposure to open air as much as possible. This will prevent bacterial and fungal infections caused by constant exposure to the moist warmth of a breast pad.

Avoid tight-fitting and underwire bras. This can restrict milk flow and lead to engorgement and breast infections.

For sensitive nipples, use nipple protectors (different than breast or nipple shields). They are hard plastic cups with holes on the top and a replaceable cotton rim on the bottom to catch milk flow. It fits into the bra and provides ventilation while preventing sore nipples from rubbing against fabric. Ameda is a good brand and can be found in Turkey.

Avoid the use of breast pumps before 6 weeks while your breasts are adjusting to your baby’s needs, except under the direct guidance of a knowledgable professional. Pumping does NOT help engorement, and can actually make it worse!

Refrain from introducing bottles and pacifiers (dummies) until 6 weeks or until the breastfeeding relationship is firmly established.

Use pure lanolin or fragrance, paraben and alcohol-free vegetable-oil based nipple creams to prevent and treat sore and cracked nipples.

At the first sign of hardness or hot spots on the breast, contact your physician!

With mindful prepartation, you will be ready to hit the road. Check back next issue for the continuation of the journey!

Recommended Reading:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International

The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Jack Newman, M.D.

Mothering the New Mother, Women’s Feelings and Needs After Childbirth by Sally Placksin

Natural Health After Birth by Aviva Jill Romm

Visit: La Leche League’s website

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