When we decided to take a 15-day trip to Europe with our 6-month old daughter, I never thought twice about how I would feed her. Breastfeeding had become second nature. I was happy she was being fed, she was happy to be eating, but I was never super emotionally connected to the experience of having a baby attached to me. However, once we started our adventure, I knew this very natural task would become something precious that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
Ever since her birth in April 2015, my daughter latched right on and nursed her way through our skin to skin time. We never struggled with bleeding nipples or lack of milk. Actually, it was mostly the opposite. I made a ton of milk and had a very fast/heavy let down, so I nursed and then pumped after almost every feeding. I would wake up when she didn’t so I could pump to relieve my engorged boobs. Our nursing sessions were always 5-7 minutes; short & easy. I would pump for less than 10 minutes every time and still end up with full bottles. Eventually, I had a freezer full of milk and very hefty baby. I donated hundreds of ounces and kept about 400 stored ounces for myself. Breastfeeding was not a struggle for us, but it also wasn’t a super special time for us either. I had always felt that I could take it or leave it. If she had been a bottle baby, I wouldn’t have been sad. It was just something we did out of convenience and it also saved us money, so that was a great perk.
Fast forward to November 2015 when we landed in Munich, Germany. As I sat in the airport waiting for my husband to grab our bags, I nursed. I kept looking around while my mind wandered from thought to thought, “Are we really here? Did we really just bring our baby to Germany for vacation? No one seems to cares that my boobs are out. Do you think she knows we aren’t in the states anymore? I am so tired. Will she ever sleep while we are here? Is my husband ever coming back with those bags?” It was my first time ever considering that me nursing uncovered would be normal and accepted. We couldn’t use covers and I never wanted to, so I had gotten used to people feeling awkward around me, but it felt different here. It felt natural to be feeding a baby from the breast in the open. That feeling stayed with me the entire 15 days. Our first days were spent in Germany. We toured Munich, the concentration camp Dachau, and Füssen to see the Neuschwanstein Castle and some of the best views of Bavaria from Mount Tegelberg. We ate incredible German food at delicious local shops, drank different German beers at Biergartens, walked and walked and nursed and nursed. Since everyone walks everywhere in Europe, it was always easy to find a bench or a curb to plop down on and nurse. My husband typically sat with us, but sometimes he would use the time to venture off and find cigar or souvenir shops or more amazing food. I couldn’t help but let my mind wander in the welcomed silence. It would often occur to me that I was physically sitting in some of the most beautiful and historical places in Europe, nursing my baby – I was giving her life as I absorbed the magnitude of where I was.
Over the next two weeks we traveled by train from Munich to Innsbruck to Venice to Florence, then Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento and finally the Amalfi Coast. We spent our days, from wake to sleep, touring the streets, eating the pasta/pizza/gelato, drinking the best cappuccinos and wine on Earth, touring some of the World’s oldest and greatest historical relics, and nursing. We stood where many people suffered, we stood where men became Kings, where entire cities disappeared off the face of the Earth, where ocean cliffs became cities and where boats are used as cars. We walked through building and barracks used to host the most horrible atrocities the World has ever seen. We walked through cities that fairytales are based off of. Every single second was incredible.
In all of these unbelievable places, I nursed. At the time, I was nursing every 2-3 hours...sometimes more. We stopped for lunch, I nursed at the table. We walked the streets of Pompeii, I stopped to nurse. We waited for trains to take us from city to city, I nursed on the benches or floor. Wherever we went, wherever we were, I pulled up my layers of sweatshirts and unclipped my nursing bra and fed my baby. How was it different than any other day? (Other than the location…) For me, it was much more emotion filled. I was already clinging to the fleeting moments of this trip and these little quiet moments with my baby allowed me to spend more time appreciating the situation. I was able to think about her and myself and where we were; let it sink in. I knew she would never remember these moments, but I would. I made it a point to have my husband take a few photos of us along the way so I could be sure to remember.
Since returning from our trip my husband and I always say how it was the best trip we’ve ever taken together. We always agree that it was so amazing because we had our daughter with us. We travel a lot and we always have, but something about sharing these places with a new little malleable person was incredible. We often lay in bed after she is asleep and scroll through all of our pictures. I find myself spending a few seconds longer on the photos of us nursing. All of those moments I couldn’t appreciate as much before now stand out. I feel like this trip is what made me love nursing; it helped me to understand the bond created between mother and baby and helped me to slow down to take in our time together.
Now, I am expecting my second child in October and while my nursing journey ended earlier than I had hoped at around 13 months with my daughter, I am excited to start another one. We are already planning a trip to Europe as a family of 4 and I cannot wait to nurse my way through history a second time.
If you ever have any questions about traveling while pregnant or with your children, let me know. I am only a click away.
Fly Brave. Travel Often. See everything.
written by VHS contributor// Tavia Carlson