Traveling while Breastfeeding vs Formula

There are probably about a billion posts on this, but I figured, why not add mine to the mix? Traveling can be stressful without a baby. Add baby to the mix and boom, more stress. More crap, more sweat, more benefits? Ha, that’s a stretch. But there is a lot of great experiences. One of the most hotly debated experiences of motherhood is: breastfeeding vs formula.

We did a couple mini roadtrips while I was exclusively breastfeeding and they were pretty okay; could have done with less crying to be honest, but what can you do? Literally everything, we tried everything. Anyways, our trip to Crete started with me breastfeeding and mixing in some formula, and ending with him exlusively on formula.

The benefits are obvious for breastfeeding exclusively and traveling:

  1. Less stuff to haul around
  2. Less stuff to clean and sterilze
  3. No need for boiled/bottled water
  4. Antibodies for baby if you pick up something on the journey
traveling while breastfeeding vs formula
There are worse places to breastfeed

I wasn’t stressed out either way, if he wanted to keep breastfeeding that was fine, but I was ready to be done as long as he was. Luckily for us, he took to the forumla right away, and he didn’t have any stomach problems from it, no apparent allergies etc.. Given the time change and fatigue, my boobs packed it in mid trip. I could have forced it, but as I didn’t care, I let them do what they wanted. Plus it was like 40 degrees and I wasn’t interested in having him on my body like that all the time. Can you say sweat city!?

The benefits for traveling with formula were actually pretty good (for me).

  1. I could actually relax on the holiday! Dad could take over some feeds!
  2. He could eat in his stroller, on the couch, or highchair instead of being attached to me in the heat.
  3. I didn’t have to whip my boobs out in unfamiliar places. (Greece is very family friendly, and I doubt I would have encountered any issues if I was breastfeeding in public, but it was just nice to not have to)
  4. I could stop worrying about the sunscreen I was applying to the area and baby’s exposure to it.
  5. Could stop worrying about alcohol completely. (I was never “worried” but now it was a non issue)
  6. If you are driving, you don’t have to stop to breastfeed, you can just pop a bottle in their mouth.
traveling while breastfeeding vs formula
Dad taking a shift as the feedbag

Prior to this trip I had kind of hoped to be able to breastfeed all the way through, just for the lighter bags. In the end I’m really happy with the way it turned out. If I’m traveling while breastfeeding in the future, and it would depend on the baby’s age; I will definitely bring a bottle and a small pack of formula, just in case the milk bags can’t keep up. I would rather enjoy my vacation and give my baby formula, then stress out and start pumping like mad to get things going again.

traveling while breastfeeding vs formula
finally taking some ownership in his own meals

Obviously this is a personal choice and it depends on how mom is feeling and on the baby. For me, breastfeeding wasn’t easy right off the bat, and we had to work hard at it. Eventually we found our groove and we made it to the 9 month mark before adding in formula and switching over.

Once I stopped breastfeeding I felt like a weight had been lifted. I could get help with the feeds and my body started to feel like my own again; the aches and pains associated with postpartum started to slowly fade. And cuddling with him while he eats from his bottle is now my favourite time; especially right before naps and bed. Prior feeds at these times were a chore for me because it was like I was already doing it constantly (given his short attention span and laziness towards eating). Now that I can share the workload throughout the day (or he feeds himself) I can fully enjoy those quiet moments just the two of us.

This isn’t a pro breastfeeding or pro formula post, but a personal experience post. Basically, if you think you can’t travel because you’re using formula or because you’re breastfeeding, stop worrying about it! There will always be a million reasons to not do something (or to do it) but just do what feels right for you. The important thing to remember is that the baby is well fed, regardless of the source, and that Mom is healthy and happy with her decision. Everyone else can fuck off.

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Our First Night Away from Baby

Many parents talk about the stress and guilt of leaving their baby for the first time overnight. This was not us. Granted he was 10 months old by the time we finally did it, so, I guess you can say we were ready. Prior to this, we hadn’t really been able to. Because we had lived in such small quarters, it had taken a really long time to get him sleep-trained. I think this made it easier to say, “nah we’ll just come home”, rather than inflict that upon anyone. We had spent evenings away from him, individually and as a couple. And those poor souls that tried to get him to sleep when we were both out, suddenly never questioned our frustration or tactics again. I’m pretty sure a few of them experience sudden reproductive organ strikes.

But like I was saying… his age most certainly made things easier. We had big plans for dual stag nights in Vancouver and we had booked a hotel downtown. We requested a baby crib, and made plans for my Mum and her boyfriend Jonathan, to watch him for happy hour until after dinner.

When I met them at the hotel, Mum took one look at the cage of a crib and its closeness to the bed and asked if I’d prefer for her to take him home and spend the night with him, so he could sleep in his own bed. Of course I hesitated, like all first time parents would, but I didn’t scoff at the idea. I looked at the crib, and thought about all the delicious foods and drinks I could enjoy, of Tyler coming into the room like a drunken bear and waking Callahan, and immediately said “Are you sure?”

In all honesty, that crib did not look inviting. I had previewed the menu for happy hour, I had previewed the menu for dinner, and I had just previewed me saying “oh gotta go now, baby you know” for the 15 millionth time in 10 months, and when Mum said, “Ya of course” she knew she had outplayed me. Dressed in my moderately best, she knew it was now or never, she knew I was just tempted enough, that I was just ready to party enough. So away they went, all his gear in hand, (except the formula, because I forgot it AGAIN) and Callahan happily kicking away in his stroller, hanging out with his Gram-Gram and Poop-Poop.

I let Tyler know we were childless to which he responded “Woah! We get to sleep in!”. I was asked a few times throughout the night if I missed him, or even the next day if I had missed him. And honestly I hadn’t, it sounds bad, but I think it was just perfect timing. A couple friends came by the hotel that night and were rushing to leave because “they finally have a night to themselves” wink wink. Jokes on them, we passed out cold barely saying a word to each other.

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Lessons from Our First Trip with Baby

If you’ve read our previous posts, you’ll know that our trip to Crete had some ups and downs. Our flight to Crete can be read here and is best summed up as, tired. Our first few days on the island, were disappointing (you can read about them here), and can be summed up as, tired. Our middle few days were great (you can read about them here), and can be summed up as, tired… I think you get the picture…

Traveling with a baby is tiring.

We have always liked to think of ourselves as low maintenance, no expectation, go with the flow travelers; so we thought that same attitude would help us cope with traveling with a baby. WRONG. I mean, sort of. We were on the right path, but we just weren’t low maintenance/flowy/expectation-less enough. Does that make sense?

Lesson 1: You WILL be tired and there is nothing you can do about it, unless you have help with you.

In the past, we would regularly show up in a city, having done enough research to find our accommodations. Then, we would just walk aimlessly. There was rarely any one site, we HAD to see. We ate when we were hungry, we waited in lines if we felt like it, we napped and watched TV if that’s what suited us. On this trip we rented a car, and booked our accommodations in advance. We researched what we wanted to see and came up with a general itinerary. There was Plan A, and Plans B-Z.
We were going to walk aimlessly, and we were going to chase beaches. Surely, a 9 month old would love that?!

Yes, he did in fact love this. But he also loved napping, or not napping, depending on what suited him. We were so tired, because we started off jet-lagged, without any sleep (seriously read this post and you’ll understand), and it took several days for him to adjust. We meanwhile, drank 14L of coffee every day. He woke up early and multiple times a Our First Trip with Babynight, meaning we were constantly in the negative sleep bank. When we headed out to a site/beach we always left early so that his first nap was in the car. What that meant, was while he was sleeping peacefully, we were on high alert for crazy drivers, single lane roads, herds of goats, and cliff faces. We’d arrive at our destination, just in time for him to wake up! Now, he’s ready to go full speed, and we’re even more tired. We’d chase him around the beach, or walk with him in the stroller, and then drive home in time for his second nap… repeat cycle….

We actually managed to accomplish a lot more on this trip, day-to-day, than we had expected, because of this method. We were tired, but we managed to do everything we had set out to do. I heard from multiple people, who have all corroborated the same story- travel somewhere easy (same time zone etc.) and travel with extended family. Bring Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts and Uncles, other kids etc. basically anyone who you can pass your kid off to once a day (or more) and get a break, whatever that break may look like for you.

Lesson 2: No Age is the Right age, but the right age is probably not your kid’s age.

We also suspect, that the trip might have been easier if he had been a little bit older or younger. We don’t know which is better, but ideally, your baby is not mobile yet, but is definitely sleep trained (or at least has sleep coping mechanisms). Or your baby is no longer a baby… Would this have helped? Yes, no sand eating, no worrying about falling, maybe they have all their teeth already, or simply you can reason with them? HA YA RIGHT!

Lesson 3: Don’t pack anything you haven’t tested out at home first, and then pack over and over and over and over again.

Our First Trip with Baby
Pack light for your small car & sanity!

I love packing bags for trips. It’s like a puzzle that can make or break your trip! High Stakes people!! I read 8 million different blog posts about what to pack; handy gadgets, crap you don’t/do need. Honestly, I don’t know why people bother traveling if they are going to haul that much shit around. We always pack as little as possible. I like to open my bag and not be bothered by 17 different decisions, when I could be out exploring. So I research everything in advance (what will the weather be like, does it swing hot/cold morning to night, does the hotel have AC, what customs, if any do I need to respect with my attire, how much walking will we be doing, will we have fancy nights out etc.) I think this is all fairly normal research, Tyler thinks I’m insane.

We were entitled to 2 carry-ons, plus a diaper bag and a purse, and we were only going to bring two roller suitcases as checked bags, plus the stroller; and that’s what we did. On the way home, we even donated some stuff so that we could abandon our cheap diaper bag, and have less stuff to carry. We opted not to bring our car seat which was genius; and used an umbrella stroller for its lightweight/smallness. We made sure everything could do double/triple duty. We brought sink-sized laundry detergent. This was still a lot of stuff for us, but in the end. Everything got used multiple times, if not daily.

Lesson 4: Don’t stay too long or too short, its anyone’s guess what the right amount would be.

On previous trips to Europe, we would always save up our vacation time and go for 5 weeks. To us, this made the flight and jet-lag worth it. This time around, we knew we couldn’t afford it, and that we would be tired. (See first lesson). So we planned for 17 days including travel. This seemed reasonable, we guessed we’d manage about 10 days without anyone being jet-lagged. Which was about right, but again, oh so tired. This is a tricky one to get right I think (unlike the rest of our traveling lessons haha)
you need to know what you’re capable of solo, as a couple, and then take into consideration HEAVILY what you think you can reasonably manage with a baby. We have since said that ideally, we would have stayed 3 weeks to a month, stayed in one or two locations rather than traveling around, and invited friends/family to come with us. Two weeks was fine (too much) with the two of us, because of the jet-lag.

Our First Trip with Baby

Lesson 5: Drink every day, but don’t be hungover.

This one speaks for itself….

 

 

Lesson 6: Seek shade, wear SPF 50, reapply, and cover up.

If you’re going somewhere sunny and hot, don’t be careless. A burnt baby is not going to be pleasant, since a burnt adult isn’t pleasant. Thankfully Our First Trip with Babywe didn’t run into this issue because I am a sun protection psycho.

Lesson 6a: There is no such thing as a base tan/burn. Any tan/burn is skin damage. Straight up.

Lesson 7: Make sure you’re eating, not just the baby.

You know what’s stressful? Traveling. You know what makes things worse? Hunger. Make sure that you have food for baby; but make sure you take the time to stop and get food for yourselves. When shit hits the fan, which it will at some point, you don’t want to be hangry and dealing with a baby. When we ran out of formula we had about a 2 hour trip in front of us, with one serving of food for the baby left. We stopped at a restaurant before starting our hunt, fed him his last serving of formula, and ate a bunch of food ourselves. He fell asleep in the car with a full belly, and we managed to keep our cool until more formula was secured. All because we had eaten sufficiently. Can you imagine how easily this could have spiraled out of control?

Lesson 8: Don’t get the shits, drink drink drink that potable water.

Don’t get diarrhea. Seriously, just don’t. At the very least don’t get it bad. Just make sure you are drinking lots of water, if the water needs to be boiled, boil it or buy bottled. We probably drink more water on vacation than we do at home, because we don’t want to get dehydrated and ruin our trip. Plus sometimes you eat new foods and it upsets the system… cue the need for more water. We made sure that we each had a 1L bottle of water whenever we left the hotel, and that we had 2L of boiled or bottled water for Callahan’s bottles.

Lesson 9: Clear up space on your phone & leave the big camera at home.

This next lesson will only be pertinent to a few people… You know that ginormous semi-pro/pro camera you bought before the baby? Ya, don’t bother bringing it. A baby means you have more stuff than normal, or that you’re carrying the baby, or baby wearing the baby… see where I’m going with this? I used to bring my camera with my most versatile lens (and I Our First Trip with Babydid on this trip too) and take 200 pictures per day. This trip? I took 200 total on my camera. I also had a waterproof camera that I took about 20 pictures on. Do you know how many I took on my phone? About 2500. And then there are the pictures Tyler took on his phone. I even did direct comparisons of  my phone and my DSLR, honestly I can’t tell the difference between the two. There are a few situations where my phone was actually able to get a better picture. It seems like a great idea, you want to get some AMAZING shots of your child in foreign lands (and feel like your old self again), but honestly it’s a bitch to haul around. Your phone is always in your pocket anyways. Buy a waterproof case for your phone if you feel the need to bring it in the water, but for sure, make sure you have a protective case because you’ll drop that bitch at least once a day in the juggle struggle of baby vs camera.

I think that sums up our lessons from this trip, I’m sure there are others, but just remember above all else; it doesn’t matter how disastrous it seems to be going, take a deep breath, let things go, and know that as long as you all make it home alive and mostly intact, you will not regret going.

Our First Trip with Baby

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