Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane for a First Time Mom

Breastfeeding mothers rejoice. You can do it on a plane! Solo business traveling males- have no fear, breastfeeding mothers are generally a discreet bunch when it comes to cramped modes of transportation, at least I was when breastfeeding on a plane.

Now before the bottle feeders get up in arms, please know that I have experience bottle feeding a baby on a plane and successfully breastfeed on a plane as well. I have tips for bottle feeders too.

breastfeeding on a plane

For various reasons I couldn’t nurse my boys for very long, so bottle feedings were a regular fixture in my home and on flights. Baby bottles are definitely easier, but breastfeeding on a plane can be just as convenient, if not more so.

Just think of all that gear you don’t have to pack! After all, breastfeeding on a plane comes with built in equipment.

Pashminas for breastfeeding a baby

Style tips when breastfeeding on a plane

The scarf

Now is the time to pull out all of those fabulous scarves and pashminas you have in your closet. Although companies are finally making attractive breastfeeding scarves, my favorite breastfeeding cover up with my boys was a black, slightly see through, wide scarf I picked up at H&M years back.

I would wear it around my neck and then cross it over my youngest while I was feeding him. This gave my baby some air to breath (kind of important), I could peek at him while breastfeeding on a plane without disturbing his snacking, and no one could see my breast.

I would build my entire travel outfit around this one scarf so I didn’t have to pack an extra cover up.

Tops

Just like when you are out and about at home, you will need a good nursing top when you are on a plane. GAP used to make a nursing tank top that I love that was easy to wear under any shirt, but sadly they stopped making it.

Look for a breastfeeding top that pulls away quickly and easily. I preferred one that still covered up my tummy and only came apart at the top. I would wear another top of drape my scarf over my shoulder to cover up.

No matter what, make sure you know how to use your nursing top before you get on a plane. The last thing you need is a botched top with a starving, crying baby on a plane.

Packing

You won’t need bottles, but you will need your cover up of choice, an extra shirt in case of leaks, and a decent burp cloth. No one likes baby spit up all over them for an entire flight. If you plan to pump your breast milk, you will need to bring your breast pump, along with a small cooler bag.

If you need to keep breast milk cool, pack a bag of frozen grapes to put in your insulated bottle bag, and bring along a few extra Ziploc bags to fill with ice in the airport and on the plane. It’s easier than dealing with TSA and an ice pack when you need to store breast milk.

  • Burp cloth
  • Cover up
  • Ziploc bag filled with frozen grapes if you plan to pump or bring breast milk
  • Extra Ziploc bags to grab ice along the way or store messy clothes
  • Breastfeeding pillow alternative. If you like your Boppy pillow but don’t want to haul it on board, use an airplane neck pillow instead. If gives your baby a squishy spot to stick their head and lifts them up a little.

Location

Aisle seat

Your seat is the best location to breastfeed your baby on a plane. I always preferred aisle seats so I could not only get up to bounce my boy, but also have the elbow room I found necessary to get everything maneuvered in order to breastfeed on the plane.

That extra space means you won’t nudge your neighbor as much. You also won’t feel as cramped while you try to breastfeed your baby in a tight space.

Then again, a window seat allows for more privacy. It’s your call.

Bathroom 

Locking yourself in the airplane bathroom to breastfeed on a plane is not the best option considering it can take upwards of 20 minutes to feed a baby. You will not win any points with your fellow passengers and the flight attendants may get suspicious that you are up to no good.

Don’t do anything that will get you thrown off the plane! Always check with the flight crew before you breastfeed on a plane in the bathroom. Plus, really think about the amount of germs in that tiny bathroom.

The Galley

If you have a very nice flight crew, talk to one of the female flight attendants about your breastfeeding on a plane concerns. First time mothers can be nervous as this is all new, and they aren’t very efficient at it yet (I know I wasn’t, even with my second!).

Ask if you can at least get the baby started in the galley while they serve beverages. This way you can get yourself situated without worrying people will stare at you as you start to breastfeed your baby. Head back to your seat so your arm doesn’t get tired and you can relax a little while baby is occupied breastfeeding.

NOTE: Understand that post-9/11 flying may prohibit this. If the flight attendant says no, listen to her/him. They always have the final word. You can and will be kicked off the flight if you argue.

Your Rights

Above all else, please know that it is your right to breastfeed your child, and even breastfeed while flying, 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 on a plane policy is. Even better, email them and get it in writing. Most airlines 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 on the plane 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 breastfeed your baby as you do at home.

Be confident and you will do just fine. I have had nothing but positive experiences breastfeeding while flying with both of my boys. I wish the same for all of you.

Breastfeeding-on-a-plane

Featured image of baby breastfeeding, vertical image of baby, Colorful pashminas and Interior of Airplane via Shutterstock.com

15 thoughts on “Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane for a First Time Mom”

  1. Awesome tips! I wish I was able to travel more when my twins were babies. Getting to the store was journey enough.
    We were given these beautiful temples we call bodies for a reason. We are equipped to feed nurture and create life. Amazing!!

  2. Great tips! I feel like I flew a million times when I was nursing and in general people were very nice about it. But you are right, it helps to have an aisle seat!

  3. Great tips, love the frozen grapes idea and travel pillow alternative to the Boppy. I found that a zip up hoodie could work as a shield (pull one side forward aznd around baby’s head to create a wall between your breast and the aisle) in a pinch. In fact I once had a flight attendant conduct a 10 minute conversation with me about how quiet my baby was, asking if she was bottle fed, while I was breastfeeding her literally the entire conversation! She might have been particularly unobservant, but many people aren’t looking for you to have your boobs out and so don’t even notice!

  4. Great post! I love the idea of packing frozen grapes instead of blue ice; hadn’t heard that one before! (About how long do these stay cold enough to consider frozen? Would they work for more than 6 hours?)

    1. Keryn @ Walking On Travels

      Hi Beth! Yes, they should stay pretty frozen for 6 hours I’ve used this method on a cross country flight. Just make sure you put it in an insulated lunch bag.

  5. We are well out of our breastfeeding days, but I may still find uses for that frozen grapes tip! I have seen a lot more breastfeeding moms in my area use specially made breastfeeding covers instead of the scarf. They tie around your neck, but have a stiff band around the top that creates a gap for you to see the baby while staying covered.

  6. shiela

    wow! I am so thankful for the BREASTFEEDING tips… it will be a great help for me for I am a first time mom and we are planning to travel this month with my husband having our two-month old baby boy..

  7. The Educational Tourist

    Great post and something worth talking about!

    Breastfeeding moms, relax. I have breastfed both of mine on planes and we had no problems whatsoever. Just do your usual thing. If someone near you is narrowminded and concerned then let THEM worry about moving to another spot. They are perfectly capable of locking themselves in the bathroom or galley until your ‘offensive’ task is done.

    Well fed infants are happy travelers. 😉

    Great post! Thanks for sharing,
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  8. Kristie Hill

    I could have used this when my baby was born! He was 2 weeks old! when we flew with him for the first time! He hadn’t even learned how to latch yet! Nursing took at LEAST 1 hr. You should have seen me in the airport. I had his swaddle blanket over him, and ME! Almost missed the flight!

    1. Keryn Means

      Oh no Kristie! I flew at 7 weeks with my youngest but at least he had latched by then. Glad you pushed through and flew anyway… and didn’t miss your flight!

  9. Christan P

    Thanks for for the Mommy Tip Keryn! My wife and I would like to bring our baby along to our travels and your tip will be a big help!

  10. Kaitlyn

    Just for the record…
    Southwest has it posted on their website: “Southwest welcomes nursing mothers who wish to breastfeed on the aircraft and/or within our facilities.”

    This is who our family prefers to fly with because of all the issues I have heard other moms having!

    1. Keryn Means

      WAHOO!!! Score one for traveling families!

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