TRAVEL TIPS: HOW TO SURVIVE LONG FLIGHTS
Six months after giving to baby No. 2, publicity director Jennifer Verti of Los Angeles craved a full night's sleep sans or meltdowns. But not enough to want to venture nearly 3,000 miles from home. "The first time I had to travel for work, I worried a lot about missing special moments," she admits.
We totally get it. When you're tasked with your first post-birth business trip, there's a lot to be concerned about, from presentation slides to pumping sessions. Plus, moms have the innate ability to carry guilt like a heavy suitcase, and leaving your sweetie behind is liable to make you feel conflicted. But hitting the road doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here's everything you need to know before you go.
Brief Your Reinforcements
It's natural to feel apprehensive about passing off responsibilities while you're gone—even if the capable hands belong to your partner, your parents or a regular sitter. The more confident you are in your stand-in, though, the easier your child will adjust. "Babies are like tiny barometers; they can feel your anxiety, even if you're not expressing it verbally," says Lindsay Heller, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and professional nanny consultant in Los Angeles. (For more on finding and keeping the best babysitter ever:The No-Stress Guide to Finding Great Child Care.)
To delegate tasks in a way that doesn't make you feel like you're micromanaging, Heller recommends using an organizing app, such as Cozi (cozi.com), which helps you keep everyone on the same page with customized calendars, as well as shopping and to-do lists. "Long before your departure, make a chart of tasks carried out daily, weekly and monthly," she says. "If it's a pre-existing document, it takes away the stigma of 'I'm typing all of this up because you don't know how to do it.' It's just a reference sheet for anybody and everybody who takes care of the baby." After all, if you trust your pinch hitter enough to look after your baby in your absence, you should believe in his or her judgment and ability to handle hiccups. "Offer some guidelines of what to expect, but remember that this person is in charge while you're gone," says Heller. "It's important to respect their territory."
Map Out a Milk Plan
If your baby is exclusively breastfed (snaps to you for being a pumping powerhouse!) and not yet eating solid food, it'll take a bit of guesswork to calculate how much liquid sustenance you'll need to leave behind. "Most babies will take anywhere from 25 to 30 ounces of milk in a 24-hour period," says Alison Dodge, C.L.C., co-owner of Happy Bambino in Madison, Wis. To stock up, it's smart to start pumping and freezing extra milk as early as possible during your maternity leave for these sorts of jaunts. (Breast milk lasts for five to eight days in the back of the fridge and three to six months in the rear of your freezer.) To enhance your stash, Dodge recommends no more than one extra pumping session per day so your body doesn't trick itself into creating an oversupply, which could lead to plugged ducts or mastitis. "Your prolactin levels rise during the night, which means most women have a higher milk supply in the morning, making it a good time for a bonus session," she notes.
If you haven't squirreled away a stockpile, don't stress: Even if you've only been breastfeeding, it's fine to supplement your baby's diet with formula during your trip. A day or two beforehand, have your partner or sitter give her a bottle during a snacktime feeding. "Your baby is more likely to accept the change if she's not super full or super hungry and if it's coming from someone other than Mom," Dodge says. "If she smells you, she's more likely to want breast milk." Once you're home, you can switch back to exclusively breastfeeding if you want.
Pump While You're Far From Home
Maintaining your milk supply while you're on the move is tricky but totally doable. If you'll be on a four-hour-plus flight, pack a backup set of batteries for your machine and head to the bathroom. "Tell a flight attendant what you're doing so he or she knows why you're in there for an extended period of time," suggests Wendy Haldeman, I.B.C.L.C., co-owner of The Pump Station in Los Angeles. Once you get to the hotel, check that your room is equipped with a mini fridge. "When you're away for less than 48 hours, it's easier and safer to keep your milk cold, not frozen," Haldeman says. "If you freeze it, it has to stay that way until you get home, which can be hard." Many major pump brands sell cooler bags with ice packs to keep milk cold for a finite number of hours (often around eight). How much you'll end up pumping depends on your supply, baby's wants and age, according to Dodge; most women average six sessions per day, but you should do whatever is most comfortable for you. Flying home? Call your airline to ask how many ounces of your liquid gold are allowed through security.
Plan a Daily Check-In
Of course you're going to miss your sweet pea. And while staying connected with an end-of-day phone or FaceTime chat is a meager substitute for snuggling that scrumptious head, it's better than nothing, Heller says. Not only will it give you something to look forward to, but you'll also be less inclined to call home every hour just to make sure all's well. Keep in mind that babies relate to parents through touch and smell, so being able to see Mom but not feel her can be confusing. Have your partner or your cutie's caregiver hold your little one and narrate what's going to happen, advises Heller. A good way of phrasing it: "We're going to see Mommy on the computer. We're not going to be able to give her a hug or a kiss, but we can talk to her and see her face, and then we're going to say goodbye." Having a comforting lovey nearby will also help the chat go smoothly.
Now you have zero reason to feel bad kicking up your heels, watching HBO and totally loving it. That king-size bed isallllyours, mama!
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