When traveling with breast milk, a little planning ahead makes the process quite simple and little-to-no hassle! By now you may already have your stash developed or have a pumping routine in place, but now there is planning needed to transport the milk, whether fresh or stored. Whether you are taking a road trip or are flying across the country, knowing how to store the milk you bring, or pump, along the way is imperative to save the integrity (and time spent!)
The first things that come to mind are knowing the method in which you're traveling, planning accordingly with materials, and knowing the approximate amount of breastmilk in which you will need along the way, or in other cases, how much you are bringing back with you!
Milk stays great at room temperature, with a nice 4 hour time span. If going on a short flight or smaller road trip, extra refrigeration or freezing may not even be needed. Store breast milk in small, usable amounts to avoid waste.
Preparing Breast Milk Storage
Using milk storage bags, which are great for labeling, store an approximate feeding's amount, which on average is 2-3 ounces for babies under 6 months of age. This helps minimize waste, allows even temperature regulation and quicker cooling time, and stores in compact bags, freezers, and coolers beautifully. Make sure to date and practice good inventory: First in, first out/used.
Frozen Breast Milk
Frozen breast milk needs to be kept as close to freezing temperatures as possible if not needed right away. Once breast milk thaws, and no ice crystals remain inside, the milk needs to be used within 24 hours, and kept in the refrigerator, or in this case, the cooler, in between uses. If ice crystals still remain, the milk can actually be refrozen safely in the freezer. Milk can also be frozen if within 5 days of having been pumped, not drunk from, and kept in the refrigerator!
Once the amount of breast milk needed is known, use an appropriately sized cooler or insulated cooler bag that will fit both the milk and the ice, gel packs, or freezer packs.
Flying with Breastmilk
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) , the screening process and carry-on baggage does not apply for breast milk . TSA guidelines state to notify a TSA agent at the security checkpoint, separate the stored breastmilk, cooler, and pumping gear, bottles, etc, from the carry-on baggage, and do not include melted gel packs or melted ice packs, or they will may counted toward the overall liquid amounts rule and screening procedures.
3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exemption (From the TSA)
Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.
Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.
Your flight attendant can also assist in where to keep your additional baggage.
Another quick note, if bringing a breast pump, this is considered medical equipment, according to TSA regulations, and must not be charged for or combined with checked bags weight.
Things to Take Into Account:
- Method of travel; flying, driving, etc.
- How long will you be traveling? Calculate an estimate of ounces to be collected in total.
- What storage methods will be available on the trip? If staying in a hotel, call ahead to see if there is access to a freezer.
- Account for space in your carry-on or checked bag to hold milk. Is it possible to combine/consolidate with the rest of your luggage?
- Some airlines provide an allowance for diaper bags, strollers, etc.
- Duration of Flight and Temperature Regulation
- Frozen packs will stay cooler longer.
- Ice should be available on the flight.
- Bottle coolers are smaller, more ideal, and can hold ice.
- If flight or drive is longer than three hours, moms will need to pump during the flight if the child is not present to feed directly from the breast.
- Fresh milk is safe at room temperature for up to four hours.
- Most airlines consider breast pumps to be medical devices and not carry-ons.
- It is legal to breastfeed on planes with or without a cover.
- Milk Storage Bags
- Sharpie or pen (for marking dates)
- Ice or ice packs/gel packs *
- Cooler or insulated lunch box/cooler bag *
- Breast pump, pumping accessories**
- Separate bag from carry-on to keep milk and Pump
* As necessary for trips longer than 4 hours
** If feeding at the breast is not an option during travel; try to keep to a schedule of every ~3 hours