Are you traveling with breastmilk? Are you wondering, “Can you take breastmilk on an airplane?” This post covers everything you need to know to make sure your precious liquid gold makes it home safely.
Not a week goes by that I don’t see a question about traveling with breastmilk come up.
Whether someone is away from baby on business and pumps during that time, or they just want to bring a bottle of breast milk through security at the airport.
You may have seen stories in the recent past of mothers having their milk defrosted or sent away at security in the airport, and sadly, this should not happen. However, it has, and I feel like a lot of women are nervous about what might happen to their breastmilk at TSA checkpoints.
I believe that knowledge is power, though. And it’s important to know the proper ways to handle breastmilk will traveling. Not only will it ensure that precious liquid gold gets home safely, but that your trip is a little less stressful.
Thank you to a few of the ladies in my breastfeeding support group for giving me some of their expert tips to include!
Print off TSA Regulations
You are absolutely allowed to take your breastmilk through security. It is NOT subject to the 3.4-ounce liquid rule that other liquids have to be under.
Not all TSA personnel are versed on these rules, so make sure you take a copy of this page from the TSA 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.
However, there should be a major overhaul of this soon. The BABES Act was just passed by Senate and is on its way to President Obama’s desk. You can read more about it at that link, but basically, it will require more training of TSA employees for handling breastmilk and formula. The La Leche League posted this great synopsis recently – it’s a huge win!
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 request that they do another procedure to clear it.
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 security. You can send your milk through the x-ray machine, though you can request that it not be.
You can take ice packs or gel packs with you, though they do need to be under the 3.4 ounce limit. It’s best if they are frozen solid, as they don’t have to be tested like other liquids. 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 check your bag with ice packs and breastmilk. While you technically can, I would say you should avoid this if you can.
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 medical equipment, and it does not go toward your carry-on/personal item. Most people will be okay with this, but you may need to remind others.
However, if you have a bag that carry bottles or other breastfeeding supplies, this will be considered your carry-on or personal item, so just plan accordingly!
Tips for Packing Milk
You want to take all the precautions you can that your milk won’t get too warm on the flight. Frozen is best, as it is more likely to last a long flight in an airplane.
Remember, 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.
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.
Ask about Pumping/Breastfeeding Accommodations
Unfortunately, not all airports have accommodations for breastfeeding and pumping mothers. 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.
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 airport security or information if there is a quiet room you can pump in. They may or may not have something for you, but I think it’s worth asking.
Make Sure Hotel has Fridge
If you are staying a hotel, make sure that there is at least a fridge available to you. You can store breastmilk in a fridge for 5-7 days, and it’s best if you can store it at the back. You can sometimes make a fridge cold enough to freeze by adjusting the thermostat.
If possible, a freezer is a better option, though that is harder to find in hotels. 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!
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.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.