We are taking our 10 month old baby on a five hour flight in a couple days. He is still nursing about every two hours, so he will need to nurse at least a couple times during the flight. At this age, he is easily distracted while nursing and will pull off the breast for every little noise. This is not a problem at home. But one a plane, we may be sitting very close to a stranger. I'm concerned about how to help my little one nurse successfully in such a distracting enviroment.

This is not his first flight. We took him on another trip when he was two months old. At that time, he would nurse anytime, anywhere and I could even cover him up under a blanket. Now, even a nursing cover is a huge distraction for him!

Any advice for nursing an older, easily distractable baby during a flight?

asked 03 Mar '10, 01:08

cat_g's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

Oh boy, I don't envy you this one! I've nursed easily distracted babies in public before, and it can really be a challenge, never on a plane, but darn near everywhere else you can think of, including a football game. (Okay, taking a 9 month old to a Bomber game wasn't the best choice I've ever made, but it was the Labour Day Classic and they were supposed to win. It was a long time ago. I realize they don't, in general, win anymore. And that only made sense to the Canadians. Sorry.)

I'd put one of his really snuggly blankets where you nurse him most often for a few days before you leave, so that it will really smell of the place he associates with good sweet nummies and quiet time with Mummy. (I'd put it in my bed, 'cause we co-sleep, and that's where my little guy does most of his nursing now, but wherever you nurse the most will do it.) Stick it in your carry-on and when you want to nurse, just snuggle him in it, the smell of home and familiar feel of the blanket really cuts down on their agitation.

None of my kids would ever put up with having a blanket over their heads after about 3 months either, and it will probably just tick him off so I wouldn't bother. Nursing as much as you do, you're really good at it by now and unless somebody is actually staring at you, they probably won't even realize what you're up to. I've usually used cradle hold and spent most of the time looking in their eyes and talking or singing softly too them so they don't get distracted by any noises or lights they arn't used to. (Do you know that magic bubble you sometimes feel like the two of you are in when a feed is going beautifully and everything is just perfect? Try to make that on purpose.)

I was just IMed by one of my girlfriends who has nursed on a plane, and she said that she basically did the stuff I mentioned above and the white noise and motion of the plane really helped her son relax. She also said to remind you to try to get him latched on for take-off and landing so his little ears wouldn't hurt.

I hope you have a great time and your little guy turns out to still be a wonderfull flyer.


answered 03 Mar '10, 08:04

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

+1 Great answer! Thanks Neen! Your answer has reminded me that, as long as I stay relaxed, he probably will too. Lots of good advice. Thanks. I already do many of the things you described when he needs to nurse in other public situations. I'm not sure why I was thinking it would be so different on a plane. :)

(03 Mar '10, 09:20) cat_g

The only thing I can think of that will be really different is it will probably be a lot more cramped than either of us are used too. And you're welcome, encouragement is the least other nursing Mommies can do for each other.

(03 Mar '10, 15:25) Neen

I was never aware of the points made by Adam, on Turkish Airlines flights, flight attendants actually advise that you nurse or bottle feed, during take off and landing (particularly for younger babies) to ease the pressure on their ears.

Regarding your question you will find great Practical Tips for Nursing on an Airplane

In my opinion, I would nurse him during take off and landing, feed him solids during the flight, and try to have him sleep once you are airborne. If he is already easily distracted then it is only natural that he will be distracted during the flight.


answered 03 Mar '10, 07:47

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

+1 Thanks for the link.

(03 Mar '10, 09:12) cat_g

+1 Emi that is my experience as well in Canada.

(03 Mar '10, 12:25) Tammy ♦♦

The article, Ten Tips for Flying with Babies, casts some doubt on whether it's even allowed:

Is breastfeeding on planes -- illegal?! We talked to Jake Aryeh Marcus, a lawyer specializing in breastfeeding rights, to get information about policies around nursing in flight. Ms. Marcus says that aviation law can be confusing and there really isn't a straight answer. If a woman is concerned, she should talk to the airline beforehand. "The advice I give people is to contact the airline by e-mail before traveling and ask what the policy is concerning breastfeeding on the plane. Then the mom can print that and bring it with her. If she is questioned by a flight attendant, she can then pull out the e-mail."

Most nursing moms will fly without incident but if you're concerned you can also take these precautions:

  • Request a seat by the window and reserve the seat next to you if you won't be flying with your partner. That way you have more room to get your baby into position.
  • Ask the flight attendant for a blanket or bring your own cover-up to help you be discreet.
  • Wear clothing that makes it easy to latch baby on without too much rearranging, like a button-up shirt that you can unbutton from the bottom.
  • If you're really uncomfortable nursing your baby in public, top him up just before you board the plane even if it's before he seems interested. He might get through the flight without needing another feed.

Some articles seem to suggest that the mother should bring milk and bottle-feed - which has its own set of challenges trying to get through security with milk. Other articles are pretty straightforward in proclaiming a mother's right to nurse on a flight.

You'll probably need to consult with the airline, and as suggested print any correspondence you can hand to the flight attendants if they have questions.

It shouldn't be an issue, and probably won't be, especially if you can arrange (or re-arrange) seating so you have space between you and your fellow passengers, but there are no guarantees:

The pilot has the authority to enforce whatever rules they deem necessary for the safety and comfort of their passengers, and even if the airline has told you otherwise, a flight attendant may require that you not nurse during the flight. You'll need to be prepared with alternatives if that's the case. You can always file a grievance later, but baby is hungry now...

Good luck!


answered 03 Mar '10, 01:31

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%


@Adam: I'm of the "breastfeeding anytime, anywhere" camp. So, I'm not too concerned about being "allowed" to breastfeed or not. It is the natual way that babies eat. I will breastfeed him on the plane. It is not only my right to breastfeed, but his human need to eat. (And he has refused a bottle from day one.) I checked out the first article you quoted because I was surprised that the author would suggest it is illegal to breastfeed on a plane or anywhere for anywhere for that matter. I wanted to see when the article was published, but I didn't see a date.

(03 Mar '10, 01:52) cat_g

All that being said, I do appreciate you sharing this information. It would be really terrible if I could not nurse my baby when he was hungry because of a rule about breastfeeding on planes.

(03 Mar '10, 01:57) cat_g

@cat_g - I agree. Unfortunately others do not - it's still an uphill battle it seems. I doubt you will have trouble, but I generally follow "better to be safe than sorry" and plan for cases where I can't do what I plan to do.

(03 Mar '10, 04:28) Adam Davis

I tried to get a window seat because then you can hold the blanket up on just one side if necessary as to hide yourself from the other passenger's but the baby feels like they are not covered and they can see you. I nursed a few times in an isle seat and found it to be more awkward.

We once had seats near the back of the plane and found that the noise of the engine actually makes a great "white noise" effect because it was a constant roaring noise. So maybe the engine noise will actually help your baby be less distracted for nursing...unless there are other things going on like other loud babies/children.

If worse comes to worse you can always go to the bathroom and nurse uncovered that would decrease all the distractions for your baby AND for sure it would solve the "not allowed to nurse rule" which I have a hard time imagining anyone could enforce.


answered 08 Mar '10, 06:19

Sabrina's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

+1 Before leaving I thought about using the bathroom if all else failed.

(12 Mar '10, 23:49) cat_g
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Asked: 03 Mar '10, 01:08

Seen: 7,516 times

Last updated: 08 Mar '10, 06:19