Flying with infants feels intimidating as it is, so trying to figure out breastfeeding on a plane is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.
Are you allowed to breastfeed on an airplane? Is a nasty flight attendant going to make a big deal if I start nursing my baby?
As much as I wish these things didn’t happen, we know they do. A quick internet search will show you multiple accountants of mothers being reprimanded for breastfeeding their infants while flying, despite airlines claiming that their policy states mothers are allowed to do so.
The last thing you want as you head off on a vacation is to start the week with a negative experience while flying.
Thankfully, in most cases, mothers will have problem breastfeeding on a plane. All American-owned airlines welcome breastfeeding, but all mothers should know their rights. Let’s take a look at what you need to know before stepping on an airplane with a breastfeeding baby.
Is Breastfeeding on a Plane Allowed?
In most cases, breastfeeding on a plane in your seat is permitted at any time during the flight.
However, I suggest that you check with each airline before boarding to double check their policies. Print out their policy and bring it with you in case any flight attendant gives you problems while nursing at your seat.
I took a look at some of the major airlines in the United States and found out what they say about breastfeeding on the airplane.
Air Canada Breastfeeding Policy
According to Air Canada’s website,
“Formula, breast milk, juicy, and baby food are permitted in carry-on baggage. Because onboard refrigeration may not always be available, the cabin crew is unable to look after these items on board. We ask that you bring these items in a smaller cooler.
We are also happy to support breastfeeding on board our aircraft, whenever safety permits.”– aircanada.com
Alaska Air Breastfeeding Policy
You won’t be able to find a written breastfeeding policy on the Alaska Airlines website, but according to multiple interviews, this airline believes that mothers have the right to breastfeed their child in public and private locations. Alaska Airlines states that flight attendants are not permitted to ask mothers t cover.
They also stated they will move objecting guests if the mother does not want to cover while nursing.
American Airlines Breastfeeding Policy
American Airlines has come under fire several times for being less than breastfeeding friendly. In the past few years, they charged a mother for bring on a breast pump, and recently, a flight attendant called a mother disgusting for refusing to cover up.
That being said, their spokesperson continues to say that mothers are welcome to nurse or pump whenever they feel comfortable and need to feed their babies.
However, considering their past history and also less-than-forgiving masking policy for children currently, I would say that American Airlines isn’t the most family-friendly choice.
Delta Breastfeeding Policy
According to Delta’s website:
“Delta fully supports a woman’s right to breastfeed on board Delta and Delta Connection aircraft and Delta facilities. Breast pumps are allowed on board.”
In my experience, Delta continues to be one of the most family-friendly airlines in the United States.
Southwest Breastfeeding Policy
According to Southwest’s website:
“Southwest welcomes customers who are nursing who wish to breastfeed on the aircraft and/or within our facilities. Baggage containing a breast pump and/or breast milk may be brought onboard in addition to the standard carryon limit.”
United Airlines Breastfeeding Policy
According to United Airline’s website:
“Nursing mothers are welcome to breastfeed or pump on our aircraft and in our facilities. If you will need to pump, we recommend bringing a battery-operated or manual breast pump since the availability of inflight seat power varies. Breast pumps and milk may be carried on board in addition to the one carry-on bag and one personal item allowed.”
Can I Pump on a Plane?
Most airlines also have no problem with you pumping on a plane in your seat. Once again, I suggest bringing the printed policy with you to avoid any problems.
Sitting by the window will give you the most privacy, but that’s not always possible. I suggest bringing a manual pump with you since these are the most quiet and a blanket for extra privacy.
Airport Security Policies for Breastmilk
If you’re flying without your baby, you might be worried about flying with breast milk. The rules for flying with breast milk are the same whether or not your infant accompanies you.
Breast milk in larger quantities are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit in a quart-sized bag. These are medically necessary liquids, and they need to be packed in a way that TSA can easily inspect at the checkpoint.
TSA recommends letting the agents know that you have breast milk with you and placing it in a separate bin from your other items.
Can I Breastfeed During Takeoff and Landing?
Absolutely! Since most babies are lap babies during a flight, chances are you’ll have your baby in your arms during takeoff and landing.
The CDC recommends that mothers nurse their babies during takeoff and landing when traveling by plane. Nursing protest your baby from ear pain that happens due to cabin pressure changes. Then, continue to feed your baby on demand while flying.
I highly recommend that you nurse while taking off and landing. I’ve found that it makes my babies much more comfortable. You might not notice the change in air pressure, but babies tend to be more sensitive than adults to these changes.
8 Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane
Since no major airlines prohibit mothers breastfeeding on a plane, the biggest steps you need to take are to be prepared and ready for this. Whether you’re heading on vacation or visiting family, you’re headed somewhere new, and you don’t want this to be a huge hurdle to overcome.
1. Plan Ahead and Ask About Outlets for Pumping
If you have to use a breast pump on an airplane, call ahead of time to ask if they have outlets on the plane. You also might request a seat near an electrical outlet.
Another option is to bring a manual pump on the plane and check your electric pump in your luggage.
2. Try to Score an Aisle Seat
While the window seat gives the most privacy, if you have someone beside you, it leaves you with little elbow or wiggle room. Using an aisle seat reduces your privacy but makes it easier to feed your baby.
Being in an aisle seat is also convenient if you need to get up and change your baby in the bathroom.
I prefer to book flights with airlines that allow me to book the seats ahead of time. I’ll pay extra for this to avoid problems, and I also make sure I buy my nursing baby a seat. I personally think that having a baby in a car seat while flying is safer, and it also gives you more space.
3. Bring a Blanket or Nursing Cover – If You Prefer
Breastfeeding is natural, so if you’re breastfeeding on a plane, don’t feel obligated to cover up with a blanket. That’s a personal choice.
However, airplanes are tightly packed, and if you’re seated near a stranger, you might feel more comfortable with a nursing over. Blankets, nursing covers, and nursing scarves are options to consider. My favorite blanket for breastfeeding is a muslin swaddling blanket; these are lightweight and perfect for placing over your shoulder for a bit of privacy.
4. Wear a Good Nursing Top
Preparing is everything, and wearing a good nursing top makes breastfeeding on a plane that much easier.
Planes tend to be cooler than you might otherwise want to feel, so I layer with a nursing tank top and a regular top. This keeps my belly covered and the top of my breast covered.
Pick a nursing top that makes you feel comfortable and one you know how to use. The last thing you want is to struggle with your top in the middle of a crowded plane as your baby screams.
Not a good time.
Here are a few of my favorite nursing tops.
These nursing tops are short sleeves and have a flap that you lift up for easy nursing access. The shirt keeps your belly covered for privacy and comfort.
If it’s cold out, this hoodie sweatshirt is perfect for breastfeeding. It’s lightweight but warm enough for the winter, and the liftable flap makes discreet nursing so easy.
5. Pack a Prepared Diaper Bag
Another way to be prepared when taking a baby on a plane is to have a well-stocked diaper bag. Unless you need to pump for your supply, chances are you won’t need to bring bottles on the airplane, but you still have other supplies you need to bring.
If you plan to pump while flying, you’ll need to bring a breast pump and a smaller cooler bag. Bring some empty Ziploc bags, and you can grab ice from a vendor inside the airport to keep the milk cold.
Here are some things you need to make sure you include in your diaper bag while flying.
- Burp cloths
- A blanket
- Ziploc bags
- Extra clothes
6. Give People Nearby a Heads Up
If you’re seated by strangers, it might be a good idea to give them a heads up that you’ll be breastfeeding your baby. Most passengers appreciate the heads-up, and if they have a problem with it, the flight attendants can move them before a problem begins.
7. Know Your Rights
One of the keys to successfully breastfeeding on a plane is knowing your rights. If anyone confronts you, be sure to speak to a flight attendant immediately who will help fix the situation.
Remember, breastfeeding is natural and within your rights as a mother. As long as you are following the policies of the airline, then the confrontational person is in the wrong, not you.
8. Use a Travel Pillow as a Nursing Pillow
Bringing a huge breastfeeding pillow with you isn’t practical on a flight; these pillows are typically huge and bulky. Instead, using the travel neck pillow as a nursing pillow. It will help keep the space between your arm and the armrest more comfortable.
I hope these tips and knowing the policy of the most popular airlines makes you feel more comfortable breastfeeding on a plane. Remember, it’s normal and natural to feed your baby, so don’t let anyone let you feel bad.
Have you ever breastfed on a plane? Let me know how it went in the comments, especially if you’ve ever had any bad experiences!