Here’s how to travel with frozen breast milk, whether you’re flying, driving, or moving. Plus other helpful tips for first time moms!
If you’re a first time mom there’s a lot to learn. And that’s especially true for moms who pump!
There’s a lot more that goes into it than you might think. And with all the equipment, bottles, and safety guidelines, it can become pretty overwhelming.
When you add travel to the mix, it gets even more complicated.
Luckily we’ve got all the best tips and tricks for how to travel with frozen breast milk when flying driving or moving. And the best gear to help you do it!
Keep scrolling to find out how to navigate the airport, make that summer road trip a breeze, and smart tips for moving!
How to Travel with Frozen Breast Milk
In general, the ideal container for transporting frozen breast milk on a plane is breast milk storage bags (not a Ziploc bag).
And depending on the quantity, you can pack these into a cooler bag or a regular cooler (like you’d use for a campout).
You can take the smaller cooler bags on the plane with you, but larger coolers should be checked.
Below, are instructions for flying with frozen breast milk in a carry-on bag or checked luggage.
Air travel is hard enough even without dealing with extra bags for your pump parts and frozen milk. But, thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to make it easier.
Here are some general tips for traveling with frozen breast milk on a plane:
- Plan extra time to get through the security checkpoint
- Carry the milk onto the flight with you if at all possible
- Call ahead to make sure your hotel room or final destination has a freezer (or can provide access to one)
Before you book your flight, make sure you understand the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) guidelines for fresh and frozen breast milk.
Unfortunately, many of the security agents don’t know their stuff when it comes to breast milk, so you need to be the expert.
We suggest printing out the TSA guidelines in case your TSA agent isn’t familiar with the rules or won’t take you seriously.
And here are some important things to know before you fly:
1. There is no set limit to the amount of milk you can take.
The TSA guidelines simply state a “reasonable amount”. So, this will likely be up to the discretion of the TSA officer you happen to get in line with.
If you feel you have more than a “reasonable amount” consider checking your breast milk bag/cooler or shipping it ahead (instructions for that below). If you do check your breast milk storage container, be sure to label it as “fragile” and “do not open”.
2. Check with your airline for specific requirements for dry ice.
If you’re using dry ice to keep your breast milk frozen during flight, there are special rules that apply.
Here’s a quote from the FAA to provide an idea of what to plan on and expect: “When [dry ice is] in checked baggage, the package must be marked “Dry ice” or “Carbon dioxide, solid” and marked with the net quantity of dry ice, or an indication that it is 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) or less.
Tip: Additional non-hazardous ice packs (blue ice, gel packs, etc.) can be used to supplement the dry ice.”
NOTE: Dry ice may change the taste of your breast milk. So, if you have a picky eater, it may not be the best option.
3. Breast pumps are considered a medical device and are generally not counted as your one free carry-on.
In most cases, pumping moms are allowed two carry-on bags plus a personal item. However, not all airlines follow this, so make sure you double-check!
4. You don’t need to travel with your baby to bring breast milk.
The Screening Process
When you get to the security checkpoint, make sure to tell the agent you’re traveling with frozen breast milk and a pump, and they will most likely screen your carry-on bags via x-ray.
But, if you’re traveling with any liquid breast milk, they may opt to test each container with test strips.
You can request that the agent use a fresh pair of gloves before handling your breast milk.
However, you do have the right to say no to screening your breast milk altogether.
If you chose not to let them test or x-ray your milk, you and your other bags will undergo a more thorough screening process that takes more time.
Here’s a direct quote from the TSA: “Inform the TSA officer if you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you or the traveling guardian will undergo additional screening procedures, to include a pat-down and screening of other carry-on property.”
The TSA continues, “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.”
For a cooler bag:
- Before packing your cooler bag, label the outside of the bag as “breast milk”, “fragile”, and/or “do not open”.
- Freeze your breast milk bags flat so you can fit more in your cooler
- Try to pack it tight with frozen milk so there’s as little open space in the bag as possible.
- Don’t open the cooler bag once it’s packed.
- If you can, pack your pump parts and breast milk in the same bag, unless you need to pump in air, in which case you’ll want to pack your pump parts separately so you don’t have to expose your milk to room temperature air..
For checked luggage:
According to the CDC, breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours when traveling.
If your flight, plus the travel time to your destination exceeds 24 hours, you should pack your breast milk in dry ice or ship it ahead.
Otherwise, you can follow the same instructions for packing breast milk in a cooler bag from above. Though you may want to carry your pump parts onto the flight so you can pump in-air.
On the Plane
Once you’re on the plane, try to store the cooler bag under the seat in front of you, it will be cooler on the floor.
And if you need to pump in-air, you can ask the flight attendant for ice to keep your freshly expressed milk cool.
Traveling Internationally with Breast Milk
For international travel, be sure to check the rules for your destination country as these may vary. And if you’re having trouble finding the information you need, you can contact the American consulate where you’re going.
Ship it Ahead
If lugging your breast milk through the airport sounds like too much of a hassle, you can choose to ship it ahead.
Here are some tips to safely travel with frozen breast milk when driving.
There are a few different options to keep your breast milk frozen or cool, depending on your needs and the duration of your travel.
You can use:
- Breast milk cooler bags
- A regular cooler
- A portable mini fridge
If you’re taking a short trip, no longer than a few hours, you can pack your cooler with regular ice. But for a long trip, you’ll need to use freezer packs.
Ice packs freeze at a cooler temperature and usually include dry ice or some kind of gel so they stay cooler for longer.
A cooler packed tight with frozen breast milk and freezer packs should keep milk cool for 24-48 hours in an air-conditioned car.
If you’re a passenger for the drive, consider buying a pump that plugs into the car. And if you’ll be driving, you may want to invest in a hands-free pump.
If you can, bring extra pump parts so you can pump as you need to without needing to wash your gear. Or, invest in some quality breast pump wipes.
If you’re traveling with your baby, try to store some breast milk in bottles for easy use on-the-go. And it’s a good idea to keep some fresh milk that’s ready to drink.
If you need to travel with frozen breast milk when moving, you can follow all of the suggestions above.
However, if you’re move will take longer than 24-48 hours, consider packing your frozen breast milk in dry ice.
If you choose this option, remember to not let the dry ice come in contact with the milk bags because they will rip open. And be sure to wear gloves for protection.
You’ll need one pound of dry ice for every pound of frozen breastmilk, so be aware of that when packing!
Alternatively, you can ship your milk ahead, using the instructions mentioned above.
Breast Milk Safety
Here are some breast milk safety guidelines to keep in mind as you travel:
- Fresh milk can stay at room temperature for about 4 hours.
- Once milk is fully thawed it needs to be used within 24 hours.
- Freshly pumped breast milk kept in a refrigerator at or below 40 degrees will last for 4 days.
- If there are still visible ice crystals in the milk, you can re-freeze it.
RELATED: How To Scald High Lipase Breast Milk (2 methods)
The Best Breast Pumping Tips & Gear
Tips for Low Milk Supply
If you’re having trouble building up a freezer stash, here are some tips to help!
Drink plenty of water (about 16 cups per day)! And try foods that encourage milk supply like:
- Fennel seeds
- Lean meat and poultry
- Garlic (if it doesn’t bother your baby)
- Lactation cookies
If you have the time, try to pump more often. Breast milk works on supply and demand. So the more you pump, the more milk your body will produce.
And make sure you’re eating enough calories! If you’re trying to lose weight, be sure to follow these tips for how to lose weight while breastfeeding or pumping.
Breast Milk and Pumping Essentials
If you’re wondering what cooler to use, here’s a comprehensive guide to help you find the best cooler for traveling with frozen breast milk.
And here are some other helpful pumping and breastfeeding essentials:
- Nipple creams to prevent chaffing like Lansinoh Lanolin
- Disposable nursing pads or reusable nursing pads to catch leaks
- Silicone breast pumps for in between regular pumping sessions
- High-quality electric pumps like the speCtra or the hands-free Elvie pump
- A nursing cover that you can hook around your neck for pumping in public
- Nursing tanks and tops and underwire-free nursing bras for easy access
- Breastmilk storage bags
- A tumbler or 40 ounce mug to make sure you’re getting enough liquids
- A cold/hot compress to help with engorgement and clogged ducts
- A portable bottle warmer if you travel frequently or feed from a bottle during the night
RELATED: 15 Creative Ways To Use Leftover Breast Milk
Frozen breast milk will stay cool in an insulated cooler for 24 hours, according to the CDC. And breast milk packed in dry ice can stay cool for up to 48 hours.
You can transport frozen breast milk in a cooler bag, or for larger quantities, a regular cooler packed tight with ice packs.
If your move is just a short trip, no longer than a few hours, you can pack your cooler with regular ice. But for a long trip, you’ll need to use freezer packs.
Yes. You can use dry ice to transport breast milk. However, it may change the taste of your milk.
Always wear gloves when handling dry ice, and make sure the milk bags aren’t in direct contact. It will rip the bags open. And you’ll need one pound of dry ice for every pound of frozen breastmilk.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line on traveling with frozen breast milk:
- When flying, read through and print off the TSA guidelines to have on hand.
- For “reasonable” amounts of breast milk, pack your milk in a cooler bag and bring it with you onto the plane if possible.
- Freeze your bags flat, pack them tight with freezer packs in a labeled cooler bag, and don’t open your cooler once packed.
- Be sure to get to the airport early to allow for extra screening time.
- You have the right to refuse direct screening methods for your breast milk.
- For larger quantities, you can check your breast milk or ship it ahead.
- When driving, you can store your frozen breast milk in cooler bags, a regular cooler, or mini fridge.
- Freeze your bags flat, pack them tight with freezer packs in your chosen container, and keep the container closed as much as possible.
- Invest in a hands-free pump or one that plugs into the car.
- Pack extra pump parts so you don’t have to wash your gear in between pump sessions.
- If you’re traveling with your baby, pack some milk in bottles, and bring some liquid milk that’s ready to drink.
- When moving, follow the same advice for driving. And for longer distances, consider packing your milk in dry ice or shipping it ahead.
If this post was helpful, be sure to check out:
- 40 of the best breastfeeding tips
- 20 things to know about breastfeeding
- How to lose weight while breastfeeding
- 15 genius newborn baby hacks
- Proven newborn sleep tips
- 3 first time mom books worth a read
Did I answer all your questions about how to travel with frozen breast milk? Let me know if I missed anything in the comments!