Tips for feeding and changing your baby on a plane and abroad

Breastfeeding On a Plane & Abroad

Breastfeeding is the easiest option when travelling with baby as it requires little to no equipment (you may want to travel with your breast pump) and can be done almost anywhere.

If you feel uncomfortable feeding on a plane or in a public area then you can express milk before you leave. Breastmilk can be safely kept in a cooler with ice for up to 24 hours. There are a number of travel coolers on the market. Koo-di make a handy travel sized cooler suitable for small amounts of breastmilk. You can store the milk either in sealable plastic bags or in sealed glass or plastic containers. Remember to label whatever container you use with the date to ensure it is fresh. Breast milk stays fresh for three to eight days in a refrigerator and for 6 to 12 months if it’s frozen, and for 4 to 6 hours at room temperature. If it thaws on your journey, you will need to use it within 24 hours. Once you arrive at your destination put the milk straight into the fridge or freezer (if it has not thawed).

You should not have a problem taking breast milk through security but for safety’s sake it would be best to stick to 4 ounces per container. If you want to bring more than this you should contact your airline in advance and ask about their policies and about the security situation at your departure airport. At the airport, explain to the security staff that you are carrying breast milk in sealed containers.

Another option is to check your breast milk in a small insulated cooler with frozen ice packs if you won’t need it in the plane. The storage compartments in planes stay quite cool, so your breast milk will be fine for the duration of a short flight. For longer flights you will need to use dry ice but ensure that you follow the safety guidelines carefully if using this. Click here for more details on storing breastmilk.

You can pump during the flight and a breast pump will need to fit in your hand luggage. It’s a good idea to contact your airline in advance of your flight to ask about their policies.

If your baby has never had breastmilk from a bottle before, it’s a good idea to have a few “trial runs” before you leave as not all breastfed babies will be happy to accept a bottle.

Preparing Formula on a Plane and Abroad

Pharmacies or supermarkets in most countries that you visit will sell powdered formula however if your baby is fussy or you’re not sure about the local formula you should bring it with you. Even formula which has the same brand name as the one you use at home may taste different when purchased overseas as it will generally be produced elsewhere. Also, instructions may be written in a foreign language and you might need some help to read them.

Formula takes up a lot of space in your suitcase but is light. Aptamil can be bought in many countries in Europe and is also sold under the name ‘Milupa’. SMA is sold in the UK and Ireland only but equivalent products are available in other countries under the Wyeth S-26 brand name. Cow and Gate is sold in Europe as Almiron and both this and Hipp Organic are widely available throughout Europe although you may not be able to find these brands everywhere. Hipp Organic has an excellent website where you can find out where their formula and food are sold all over the world.

If you are not sure about the water quality you should use bottled water with a low sodium and mineral content. Some bottled waters in Europe are marked ‘safe for baby feeding’. In any event, boiled bottled water should be used for babies under 6 months as bottled water is not sterile. Evian is widely available in Europe and is low in sodium and in minerals.

Carrying & Transporting Formula

Avent formula dispenser container with 3 compartments to fill 7-8 scoops of formula in each. These are also available in Tesco own brand. If you want to make a bottle or carry water and keep it warm the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Travel Food Warmer is a good option and is available in Boots.

Another useful option, especially for the plane is to use premixed, sterilised formula. You simply need to open the 7 ounce bottle and pour it into your own bottle. Aptamil and Cow and Gate produce ready to pour formulas. For younger babies you can also buy formula with a pre-sterilised teat which removes the need to carry bottles in your hand luggage.

Some Boots Pharmacies located within airports have a click and collect service. you can pre order formula and nappies and collect them after you check in. This is a great option if you want to reduce the amount of bulk in your suitcase but please be aware that certain airlines will expect you to for what you buy in your hand luggage (although this is rare) so it would be best to check with your airline in advance.

For more information on formula and what is available at your destination see our country by country destination guide.

Baby Food Abroad

You may be able to bring enough home cooked food for your journey if you are not going too far. However you may need to buy pre made packages of food for your baby or toddler if this is not an option. Ella’s Organic baby food is a useful option for travel as the food is packed in pouches which can be packed easily in your hand luggage or suitcase. You can buy snacks such as pureed fruits and full meals which vary depending on the age of the child.

If your child is used to home cooked food you may want to let him or her sample this pre-made food before heading off on your trip to ensure that he or she will like it. If you are going somewhere where the water quality is poor remember to peel all fruit before giving it to your child as the skin may contain microbes that will make him or her ill.

If you are renting an apartment or house or have a kitchenette in your room or even access to a kitchen you will be able to cook your child’s food on holiday. You might also be able to get your hotel to make up something baby friendly. This won’t be an issue for older kids unless they are particularly fussy. Boots do a fantastic organic baby stock which you could take with you and use to cook a lot of delicious meals using local products. Annabel Karmel’s website offers lots of recipes which you can follow while you are away. For more information on food see our destination guide.

Cutlery and Bowls

The First Years Take & Toss Travel Cutlery Set is available from Amazon for and is an ideal little set comprising of a knife, fork and spoon in a small container perfect for travel. Avent do a similar product which is available in Boots and Tesco. You can also buy the ON-THE-GO’ – Travel Baby Feeding Bowl Set with a lid which comes with a spoon in its own compartment to keep it clean.

Fold away High Chairs

If you are eating out and you are unsure if the area you will be travelling to will have high chairs available, fold away high chairs are a great solution. The Polar Gear 5 Point Harness Travel Booster is for toddlers aged 12 months plus and costs £14.99. the Koo-di Seat Me Safe Travel Seat is available from Amazon for £9.84 and is suitable for babies aged 6 to 30 months. Jojo Maman Bebe also sell the JoJo Super Lightweight Pocket Highchairs (£14.00) which are suitable for babies from 6 months (or when they can sit up on their own). These are very light and easily fit in your bag.

Sterilizing Abroad

If you are unsure about whether there is a kettle in your accommodation at your destination you should consider bringing one. You could also buy one locally if you are going to an area with electrical shops and large pharmacies and supermarkets.

When going out sightseeing, a flask should keep the water warm and you can add it to the formula when your baby is ready for a bottle. If your child is under 1 year you should use boiled bottled water only to prepare formula if you are unsure of the water quality at your destination.

If your baby is younger than 6 months you will need to sterilize his or her bottles. A steam sterilizer is large and cumbersome to travel with and there are many alternatives available.

  • A microwaveable sterilizer could be packed quite easily and would be useful if you are staying somewhere with access to a microwave.
  • Another option would be to use microwavable steriliser bags. Munchkin do a range of these and you can buy them in boots. You will need to check if you have access to a microwave at your destination.
  • Sterilizing tablets are very handy and you will need a large container with a lid to put your bottles into. You could buy such a container when you get to your destination or if you are packing one you could fill it with other items during your journey. Milton do a range of sterilizing tablets and 1 tablet sterilizes 5 litres of water.
  • Sterilizing bags with tablets are also very handy. You simply fill the bag with water, pull the drawstring and hang the bag up for 30 minutes while your bottles are sterilized. These fold up very small and are easy to pack. Milton brand steriliser bags are available in Boots.

Tommee Tippee sells bottles that are pre sterilised in packs of 2 (€3.99) or 5 (€6.29). These might be a good option for the plane or for emergencies when you have not had time to sterilize. You can also buy a range or sterilized teets.

Milton antibacterial surface wipes are small, compact and useful where high chairs don’t have table tops and your child is eating finger food directly from the table. Dettol also do a range of wipes but the packet is bigger. Acquaint Sanitizing Water is also a useful product which is stocked by Jojo Maman Bebe (£5.00). It is 100% natural and kills 99% of bacteria. It is suitable for use on feeding bottles, soothers, tables, cutlery and hands. Milton Soother Sterilizers are a handy way to clean soothers on the go and sterilize your child’s soothers in 15 minutes. Tommee Tippee Soother Wipes (30) allow you to clean your older child’s soothers and bottle tops on the go. They kill 99.9% of bacteria and are proven to kill E.coli, Staphylococcus and H1N1.

Changing Nappies & Potty Training

If you are going to an area where there are unlikely to be a lot of changing facilities, a waterproof changing mat would be useful. You could also just bring a large plastic sheet if you think you will be changing your baby on the beach. This can be placed over a towel and won’t take up much space in your bag. Another option is the Royal Kiddy London © 3 in 1 foldable baby travel bag which transforms into a changing mat and bassinet. This product is available on Amazon.

If your little one is in the process of potty training the Potette Plus Portable Potty and Trainer Seat may be useful. You can buy this in Boots and it folds up easily to be packed in your suitcase.