Important notice: Breastfeeding is best for babies and has many benefits for both you and your baby. It is important that you eat a healthy well-balanced diet in preparation for and during breastfeeding. Follow on milk should only be used as part of a mixed diet from 6 months. Talk to a healthcare professional.
Travelling with a baby - what you need to know
Are you planning a holiday this summer? We’ve got all kinds of tips and tricks for you. From planning your holiday, to travel tips, to travelling with a bottle-fed baby, and more. In this article, though, we’re thinking about how to keep your baby safe and happy while you’re away, so that you can make memories you’ll treasure forever.
Going somewhere sunny? Babies can dehydrate very quickly in a hot climate, so it’s important to make sure that they have plenty of fluids. If you’re breastfeeding, you can do this by offering extra breastfeeds, in addition to increasing the amount of water you drink, too.
If you’re formula feeding or weaning your baby then you could offer cool boiled water in between feeds to prevent them from becoming dehydrated. (Make sure the local water is safe to drink, or if using bottled water check the label to be sure the sodium levels aren’t too high – more on this below.)
Babies are sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss so be aware of the signs of dehydration:
- fewer wet nappies
- sunken soft spot/fontanelle
- becoming drowsy
- dry mouth and no tears when crying
If you’re heading to colder climes, layers are key – though most well-meaning parents tend to actually bundle their little ones up more than necessary! We lose much of our body heat through our heads, so making sure your baby has a hat on, and that tiny fingers and toes are covered to prevent frostbite, will go a long way toward keeping things comfortable. And don’t forget to strip back several layers when you go inside, or your little one will get hot and cranky very quickly!
Breastfeeding in hot weather
If you’re getting uncomfortably sticky breastfeeding in the heat, you could try a different position or invest in a portable feeding pillow that stops baby’s sweaty head sticking to your sweaty arm.
Though you don’t usually have to worry about cleaning your breast before breastfeeding, if you’re slathered in sun cream, it might be worth giving your boob a wipe before latching baby on – just in case they get a mouthful!
And of course, as above, stay hydrated. That’s the best way to keep your baby hydrated. You might even notice that your breastmilk looks different, as it adapts to the heat. Clever!
If you’re using powdered formula whilst you’re abroad, it’s best to make it up with cooled, boiled bottled water, not tap water as you do at home. When you’re buying bottled water, though, check the label: the amount of sodium (Na) should be less than 200mg per litre and sulphate (SO or SO4) should be less than 250mg per litre.
Given all this trickiness, some families prefer to just take ready-to-feed formula with them on holiday. If you need to buy more formula whilst you’re away, it’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s website first, as names and ingredients can vary from country to country.
To stay safe in the sun, you’ll want to use a very high factor sun cream, preferably one with SPF 50 or above and apply it to your little one at least half an hour before you venture outside. Remember you will need to reapply regularly, particularly after swimming (even if your sunscreen is waterproof).
If you are taking young ones into the sun, choose a time when it is less intense – i.e. outside of the hours when the sun is at its highest (between 11 am and 3pm). Young babies can burn very quickly, even with SPF 50 on, so you’re safest keeping your baby in the shade as much as possible.
Sun screen is only one part of the job, though. Covering up with loose cotton clothing and a sunhat will also help protect sensitive skin. When you’re out and about, you can use a sun shield in the car and a sun canopy on your buggy. People often make the mistake of covering their buggy with a muslin to keep the sun off baby’s face – but this can create a dangerously hot environment for your little one, so it’s best to use an approved sunshade or set up a homemade canopy that allows plenty of airflow.
Special baby sunglasses will also protect their sensitive eyes – if you can get them to stay on! UV proof swimsuits and clothing are also a good way of keeping the sun’s rays at bay.
If you’re headed somewhere tropical, mosquitoes might be an issue. Insect repellents are suitable from different ages so always make sure you check the one you are buying is suitable for your child's age. For example, insect repellents containing DEET aren’t suitable for children under 2 months.
For very young travellers, , your best bet may be to invest in a net that you can use over your pushchair, especially at dusk and early in the morning, when mosquitoes are most active. At night, ensure all the windows and doors are shut and use the net on your baby’s cot. To help prevent mosquito bites, you can also turn on a mosquito plug-in before leaving your room in the evening, so that when you return after a couple of hours, any mosquitoes will have been killed. (If, after all this, your baby is unlucky enough to get bitten, you can ease the itch with a cool, damp flannel.)
Your baby, thankfully, isn’t likely to come down with this, but you might! If you’re breastfeeding and you come down with traveller’s diarrhoea while you’re away, it’s best to continue breastfeeding; it is highly unlikely that you will pass it on to your baby.
Prevention is better than cure, so if you’re in a country where you can’t drink the tap water, try to eat only cooked, hot foods and avoid uncooked fruit, vegetables and salad unless they have been washed in safe water or can be peeled. Drink only bottled water, and remember: washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to prevent infections.
It may seem like a lot to keep in mind, but it will be worth it. We hope you have a wonderful first holiday together!