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Cross-Country Breastfeeding

Jody Krause
Rochester MN USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 2, March-April 2003, p. 57

Getting stranded in the Nevada desert with my 10-and-a-half-month-old daughter, Sophie, wasn't on the top of my worry list, but it wasn't on the bottom either. A trek across the country from New York to California became necessary when my husband's job changed and we decided to defray moving costs by doing it ourselves. As I examined the map through the Midwest and then further west, I realized there were long, empty stretches of road in Utah and Nevada. Sometimes these passes were 100 to 150 miles long, with, I discovered while driving it, only "ranch exits" to break up the drive. We secured a brand new rental truck from a national company, picked up some old college friends in Tennessee and Colorado to help with all the driving and baby care, and, in July, we headed off to a new chapter in our life.

I was naturally worried about how Sophie would handle being in a car for such long and uninterrupted stretches of time. We generally started our days around nine or 10 o'clock in the morning and ended before dusk. Because of the truck, our pace was slow. And we generally didn't drive more than four hours at a time before getting out to eat, stretch, or use the restroom. At every stop, the first thing I did was take Sophie out of the car to crawl around and stretch her legs. She wasn't walking yet, and so allowing her to expend some energy required some creativity. She acquiesced to being in her car seat without too much protest, and we seemed to enter a nurse-drive-sleep-play-eat-drive-sleep-cry zone that actually had a rhythm to it that I could navigate. Perhaps because her energy expenditures were so reduced and/or her need for comfort and reassurance was greater, primarily Sophie just nursed her way across the country. I was so proud of her for being so flexible. I remember thinking, "This isn't so bad."

On what would have been our final day of driving, on August 3rd, we awoke in our campsite at a state park in the Nevada desert, made breakfast, stretched, socialized with fellow campers, and prepared to leave. Around nine o'clock, about when the sun starts to beat down unmercifully, we climbed into our car and rental truck, only to hear the sound of a near-silent "click" from the truck's ignition. And so began our three-day layover in western Nevada. As my husband and our friend, Vera, tried to make all of the necessary calls to the rental company, Sophie and I and our friend, Mike, claimed a small, irrigated parcel of land that actually offered some shade. We stayed there until around four o'clock that afternoon, trying to make the best of a hot, dry, windy, and dusty situation. As the sun moved, so did we, in order to maintain our shade. We had some food from our cooler and water was available at the campsite. Obviously, we didn't have to worry about baby bottles. Sophie played, crawled, napped a little, nursed, and played some more. As far as she was concerned, this was the best day of the journey. By four, the situation had been partially remedied. We drove to the nearest town and stayed in a hotel, reimbursable by the rental company. We left the truck with all of our belongings at the campsite. Two days later, the truck was repaired and ready to complete the final leg of what was, by then, our three-week journey.

In the end, we survived our desert mishap without any significant physical trauma. Sophie's skin, despite sunscreen and shade, was fairly burned by both sun and wind, but it resolved significantly the next day. Certainly the circumstances could have been much more catastrophic. At some point during the chaos and endless waiting that day, I recall considering how perfectly simple it is to breastfeed my little girl. Nursing my baby is a way to nourish her with nothing but my own body, relying on nothing else. When I decided to breastfeed my child I did so for many reasons: health, bonding, convenience, frugality. I hadn't thought about being stranded in the Nevada desert. But I am definitely going to add that to my list.

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