When traveling with frozen breast milk, it might feel a little overwhelming – how do you keep it cold? Are you allowed to take it on the airplane? Does a TSA officer have to test the milk? In this post, you’ll learn all you need to know about how to travel with frozen breast milk.
How to Travel with Frozen Breast Milk
At some point or another, many mothers will need to travel with frozen breastmilk. Whether it’s due to work, traveling away from their baby, or an exclusive pumper who just needs to bring breast milk along – knowing how to properly store and bring along your frozen milk is essential.
The good news is that it isn’t hard and while it may take a little extra time to make sure you have all your ducks in a row- it is completely worth it to make sure you have what you need for your little one.
Knowing the proper way to store your breast milk while traveling will not only ensure that it gets home safely, but that your trip is a little less stressful. This is especially true when you are traveling by plane!
Regardless of how you are traveling, this post will help you feel prepared and ready to travel with frozen breast milk!
How To Travel By Airplane With Breast Milk
Traveling by airplane while pumping and bringing along breast milk can be really stressful for a lot of parents. But, as I’ve already mentioned – knowledge is power! Knowing what your rights are and what is allowed will make your trip go a lot more smoothly. The first time you fly with breast milk might feel a bit overwhelming, but I promise, it gets easier with time as you understand how airport security works and the accommodations available at the airports you travel through.
You CAN Bring Breast Milk on the Plane
If you are flying under TSA jurisdiction, breast milk is 100% allowed through security and on an airline. Although it might be liquid, it is NOT subject to the 3.4-ounce liquid rule that other liquids have to be under. If anyone gives you a hard time well, they are wrong.
By freezing your milk, it can make it easier to bring your breast milk through security. But the bottom line is – you can bring breast milk along with the rest of your belongings. If you have trouble, ask for another security agent who might have a little more training/knowledge.
Print off TSA Regulations
Not all TSA personnel are versed on these rules, so make sure you take a copy of this page with TSA guidelines from their website in case anyone gives you trouble. Some of them have been known to make people throw out breastmilk because they haven’t been properly trained.
In 2016, The BABES Act was passed by Senate and signed off by President Barack Obama. It required more training of TSA employees for handling breastmilk and formula. This was a huge win and has hopefully made it easier for parents traveling with breast milk and formula!
Be aware that if you are traveling internationally, there may be different rules. Make sure to check the rules for the countries you are traveling to, as they aren’t under the same TSA rules.
Getting Through Security
You can take as much breastmilk through security as you like, and it does not have to be opened and tested If someone requests that you do this, you can reject this and ask for additional screening procedures, which is usually them swiping the outside of the bottle with something that can test for explosives.
This may require additional security measures for you, but if you don’t want your milk tested, it’s not that big of a deal. If you are carrying your baby through security, I highly recommend getting a baby carrier – the Ergo is my favorite It gives you more hands, and you can nurse in line easier if you need to (here are a few tips for breastfeeding in an Ergo carrier!).
If your milk is frozen, it can make things easier to get through the security screening process. You can send your milk through the x-ray machine as you would for other screening of other carry-on property, though you can request that it be hand checked. I personally don’t like the idea of sending breast milk through one of these machines.
You can take ice packs or gel packs with you, though they do need to be under the 3.4-ounce limit if they aren’t completely frozen. It’s best to bring frozen ice packs, as they don’t have to be tested like other liquids and you probably won’t be questioned. I’ve heard of some people taking their cooler to a restaurant in the airport to get it filled with ice beforehand.
Dry ice is permitted if it is obvious it is being used to keep your milk cool. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules here.
Be aware that it may take more time when traveling with breastmilk, so leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Don’t Check Your Milk
You may wonder if you should just have a checked bag with ice packs and breastmilk. While you technically can, I would say you should avoid this if you can and bring it with your carry-on baggage
They don’t handle checked bags very well. We’ve had many things broken or damaged when flying, and if you’ve ever seen them handling the bags, they are often just tossed around. We all know that pumped milk is a pretty precious commodity – so make sure you take it with you and keep it under your watchful eye.
Pumps, Breastmilk, and Other Breastfeeding Supplies
Your breast pump does not count as your carry-on or personal item. It is considered a medical device, and it does not go toward your carry-on/personal item. Most airport and security personnel won’t bat an eye, but there may be some that you need to remind. I recommend having the rules printed off. Be sure to bring along a good pump bag.
Most airlines allow. a diaper bag that also doesn’t count as a carry-on or personal item, but, of course, check with your specific airline. This could be helpful for breast pump parts or breastfeeding supplies.
Ask about Pumping/Breastfeeding Accommodations
Most airports I’ve traveled to in recent years have been pretty breastfeeding-friendly airports with rooms or pods set up for mothers who want to breastfeed or pump in a quieter or more private place (airports can be rather loud and germy!).
Unfortunately, not all airports have a private space for breastfeeding moms. First off, you should know that you can absolutely breastfeed or pump anywhere in the airport. Don’t feel like you have to hide out in a bathroom stall or anything like that. However, I have found that a family restroom in an airport can be rather spacious and even have seating areas and outlets – so that wouldn’t be the worst option!
With that said, it can be sometimes tricky to find a place to pump that’s not totally uncomfortable. I do recommend checking out this link to see if the airport you are traveling to/from has breastfeeding facilities available.
If there isn’t, you can always ask an airport employee if there is a quiet room you can pump in. They may or may not have something for you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Pumping on the Airplane
You can absolutely pump on any airplane. I recommend bringing along a portable pump that is battery operated if you can – or if you have success with a manual breast pump, that can be the simplest option. If you don’t have access to a pump that is manual or battery-operated, make sure you book a flight with an airline that has outlets in the seats so you can charge your electric pump. I would also bring an extra battery pack if you are using a battery powered breast pump.
My personal favorite portable pump that is quieter than others is the BabyBuddha Pump – you can get 10% off with the code TBM10.
A pump like the Elvie or Willow can make pumping a little more discrete and take up less space, though these are quite pricey! You can “hack” the BabyBuddha with Freemie Cups as well.
If you have anyone give you trouble with pumping on the airline, you should definitely ask for the assistance of a flight attendant. Some moms prefer to pump using a breast pump with a nursing cover, but that’s entirely up to you!
I would definitely wear your pumping bra as well- here is a list of our top recommendations.
Once you’ve pumped milk, I would recommend just putting the caps on the bottles and putting them in your cooler or bag. I would also bring extra bottles so you can pump into more. Breast milk can stay at room temperature for about four hours, so if your flight is shorter than that, don’t worry too much about getting your cooler out to put them in. For longer trips, you will want to get them into a cooler bag – if you forgot ice or ice packs, you might be able to ask a flight attendant for some ice.
I think it’s probably easiest to sit in an aisle seat, so you can access your cooler more easily if it’s stored up above you, plus you’ll have more room than if you were in the middle seat or window seat.
Make sure your hotel has a freezer
If you are staying a hotel, check ahead of time what type of accommodations they have available in your hotel room. If you will be gone for just a few days, you can probably make due with a hotel fridge that’s turned up all the way. However, ideally, you’ll have access to a freezer. make sure that there is at least a fridge with a freezer available to you.
You can store thawed breastmilk in a fridge for 4-6 days, and it’s best if you can store it at the back. If there is no freezer or fridge available, you can request that it be stored in the hotel freezer. Just make sure you label everything very clearly and check with the hotel before you check-in to see if this is a possibilities. If you are using a hotel freezer, you may have to freeze more reasonable quantities, as you may not be able to use the whole fridge.
How To Travel By Car With Frozen Breast Milk
Now that we have talked about air travel and breast milk, let’s move on to traveling moms and cars! This can be a more convenient way to travel with your liquid gold, just because you don’t have to deal with security. It can be easier to as much milk as you have space for as well.
How to store milk while driving
If you are traveling by car the best way to store milk that is frozen is in a cooler or small cooler bag. That is the best way to ensure it stays frozen while traveling and for when you reach your final destination. If you pump fresh milk while on the road, you’ll want something to keep it cool as well.
If you are going to be in the car for an extensive amount of time you may want to pack your cooler with dry ice. The last thing you want is to find out your frozen milk had thawed along the way.
If you are traveling with a small amount of frozen human milk you could get away with using a smaller cooler. So first you will need to determine how big of a cooler you need. Follow our recommendations below on how to pack your cooler. You might want to even pre-freeze your cooler to help it stay extra cold. Be sure to check out our article on the best coolers for breast milk. However, if you are traveling with other food items, you could just bring along a regular large cooler, especially if you won’t need the breast milk along the way.
Refrain from opening the cooler until you are at your destination.
Pumping on the Road
There are different recommendations on whether or not you should pump while you are driving. The safest option is to stop and pump, just because if you were to get in an accident, you don’t want your pump parts flying all over the car (some of those double electric breast pump machines can be VERY heavy).
I do recommend bringing along a car adapter for your pump – most pumps have one available for them. WHen you pump your fresh breast milk, you can easily store it in your cooler. While you could just leave it in the car, the temperature can be variable in there, especially if you park the car and get out – cars can heat up really quickly when stopped, so it would be best to keep the milk close by. You could have a small cooler up by your seat where you could put the milk until you can put it in a more permanent location later!
What if my frozen breast milk thaws?
If, for some reason your frozen milk begins to thaw on your trip (meaning no ice crystals are presents) you will want to be sure to use your milk within 24 hours or else you will sadly need to discard it. It would be sad to lose so much breast milk, so preparation will help to prevent this.
How to pack your breast milk cooler with frozen breast milk
Frozen is best, as it is more likely to last a long flight in an airplane or car ride.
Even if there’s one ice crystal left, it can be refrozen. If your milk is just cool, having enough ice packs, ice in your cooler, or dry ice is essential. More is better – you never know when there might be a delayed flight or if you’ll have to sit on the tarmac for an hour.
Be sure to squeeze all of the excess air out of the bag to prevent it from bursting in the air or in the back of a car.
When it is time to pack the cooler be sure to pack it as full as possible or with as much milk as you need to pack. If you don’t have enough milk to completely fill it, consider taking a few additional steps and freeze a ziploc bag or two with water and place them alongside your milk bags.
Stand your breast milk storage bags upright in a uniform way to utilize the space and to allow for easy access. You can also put the milk supply into large Ziploc Bags and then place the Ziploc bag inside the cooler.
If you are traveling with frozen breast milk in bottles you would simply arrange the bottles in a way that keeps them upright and allows you to put as many in as you need.
You can than either fill the cooler with ice or use large freezer packs. Both are great options. Yeti sells a really good ice pack that would be perfect for keeping your milk frozen.
Once you have filled the cooler with your milk and the ice, shut the lid and do not open it again until you reach your destination. If your cooler is small enough you can pack it the night before you leave and then put the cooler in a larger freezer until you need to start your traveling.
One tried and true way to keep your milk frozen is to pack your cooler with a frozen reusable ice pack. A lot of people love the Yeti ice block.
You can ship breastmilk, though it comes with a pretty hefty cost. They can be shipped in coolers or in cooler shipping boxes. You can ship using dry ice or gel packs. Here is more information on shipping frozen or refrigerated items.
It’s best if you can overnight the milk, even though this will be more expensive.
If you are only planning to transport a little bit of breastmilk, shipping isn’t probably the best option. However, if you are going to be away from baby for awhile or you have a large quantity to transport, it may be a good option to consider.
The Milk Stork is a company that specializes in shipping breastmilk.
We hope that this post post will help you to have the best experience when it comes to knowing how to store breast milk and transport it while traveling. Be sure to comment below with any tips you’ve found that have been helpful in your travels!