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Breastfeeding and Holiday Travel

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Any woman that has nursed her child in public has had "that moment." No, not the moment where someone approaches you and makes a comment about what you are doing, but that moment when they notice another person in a restaurant, at a sporting event or even in the park that gives you the vibe that they might make a scene.

I had that happen for the first time this past week. I was in Northeast Ohio visiting my parents for the week, since most family up there hadn't yet met Emmitt. My parents live on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and we often drive across the border to shop or eat out in PA. That's how I found myself with the kids, my mom and my grandmother at an Eat-n-Park in Pennsylvania. As we sat down and got ready to order, I slipped my hand through the neck hole of my shirt to undo my nursing bra. I'm getting to be old-hat at this (getting the boob ready for feastage while keeping things covered) and didn't think much of it until I glanced at the table next to us. There sat a mom, a boy that looked about 3 and what I can only assume was the grandmother. I saw a brief flash of eyebrow raising from the grandmother and realized that she was directly in the "line of view" for the side I was going to nurse on. I was sitting in a chair at a table and I was on the aisle. I was wearing a nursing top, so I knew no one was going to get flashed, but there was also going to be no doubt what I was doing.

Mentally, I prepared to do battle. I have no qualms over nursing in public, I've done it all over the place so far, restaurants, fast food places, department stores, malls, church, doctor's offices...if I'm there and he needs to eat, I feed him. If anyone ever says anything, my first response will be to politely point out that I have a legal right to breastfeed my son. If it continues, I'll offer them a blanket to cover their head with. ;)

Then I realized, I'm not in Ohio.

Sure, I know the law in my own state, but I have no idea what the laws are in Pennsylvania. Suddenly I was left only with my smart aleck remark and with no TRUE recourse should someone make a complaint.

The lady never said a word, but it got me thinking. The holidays are coming up and nursing moms across the country will be preparing to travel home to visit family members. While there's usually some talk around the holidays about how to deal with nursing your child around unsupportive family members, we often forget to think about the actual logistics are for the traveling nursing mom. From pumping to flying to knowing your rights, breastfeeding and the holidays can be enough to stress out even the calmest mom.


The biggest tip here is to remember to take your pump with you! A few years back I flew to Chicago in December for a conference. It was right about when I had begun to wean Nora anyway, but the fact that I forgot to take my breast pump kinda solved that problem. It was a "full" couple of days, but it did give me a definitive end to something that I was a little sad about doing.


Most breastfeeding moms know that nursing is a great way to keep baby calm on the plane. It's also a great for take-off and landing to help baby's ears adjust to the pressure. Just like adults will often chew gum, or swallow repeatedly on purpose, nursing (or bottle feeding) a baby will allow them to swallow and therefore equalize the pressure.

It's also ESSENTIAL that moms be aware of the new restrictions on taking expressed breast milk on board. While moms are allowed to carry breastmilk and pre-mixed formula on planes despite the new liquid ban...they can only do so if they are traveling with an infant. Moms that might be doing some holiday traveling without their tots and that will be pumping milk during the trip will need to place that milk in their checked baggage. For most, that will mean getting an insulated bag and packing the milk in lots and lots of ice. (Zip lock bags full of ice or freezer packs should do the trick for most trips within the U.S.) On that note, don't forget to check out the petition to allow mothers to carry their milk on-board with them sans baby.)


There are currently 37 states that have passed laws that give mothers the explicit right to nurse their child in any location that the mother is otherwise allowed to be. That means that if you'll want to know if you will be traveling to one of the 9 states that does NOT offer legal protection for nursing moms. Those states are:

North Dakota
West Virginia

Additionally, there are four states that do not have laws stating that a mother may nurse in public but that DO have laws that exempt breastfeeding moms from public indecency laws. Those states are:


To find out the exact law in your state (or the state you'll be traveling to) you can check out the 50 States Summary of Breastfeeding Laws list at the National Conference of State Legislatures site.

Beyond that, it's important to remember that mothers can legally nurse in public on any federal property. That means that national parks, national monuments and federal buildings are ALWAYS breastfeeding friendly.

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  1. Blogger Leah | 5:30 PM |  

    I was also under the impression (via LLL, I think) that the exemption from public indecency codes is actually just a clarification. Public indecency laws are not meant to be used for breastfeeding mothers, so a good response if you're in a state without a specific clarification would be something like, "Breastfeeding is not an act of public indecency and would not be successfully prosecuted." I could be wrong, but that's what I thought the deal was!

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 4:41 AM |  

    Thanks for such a lovely information....

  3. Blogger Mommy Madness | 9:13 PM |  

    I remember a news story about a woman who was kicked off a plane for breastfeeding BEFORE takeoff back in 2006. There was a "rally" of sorts in that airline's check-in area, but I don't remember what the outcome was. Anyway, it has made me nervous about flying with a nursing baby, but I do it anyway. I just make sure I have a nice big blanket to stay covered.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:12 AM |  

    I wrote some tips in the link in my comment about how to handle nursing around the relatives during the holidays. Maybe it will be helpful.

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