How to Fly & Travel with BreastmilkSep 27, 2021
By: Stacy Notestine RN, IBCLC & Katie Wilham
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you buy the tried, tested and loved products mentioned, I receive a very small commission from Amazon which supports the mission at Baby’s Best Beginning and is at no cost to you.
After carting breastmilk through the airports and in and out of hotels and stadiums for 16 months due to my career requiring travel, this is what I learned:
“Breastfeeding is hard and pumping, storing, traveling with your milk takes work. Don’t let anyone discourage you from bringing that liquid gold home to your baby!”
~Katie Wilham (FOX News Sports Reporter)
Tip #1 – KNOW TRAVEL POLICY & YOUR RIGHTS!
-TSA Travel Guidelines with breastmilk
-Look up your Mama rights everywhere - whether it be the airline’s stance on traveling with breastmilk coolers, pumps, etc. to the hotel’s policy on free refrigerators for breastmilk and ice pack storage.
-Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself! They all have their own take on it but for the most part I learned they ultimately want to help you (if not, it’s really bad publicity for them). It might just take finding the right person to talk to if you don’t have that online info handy. So when you find their policy print it off or screen shot it to keep on your phone in case you need to reference it or educate anyone (which I learned you probably will).
-I mostly fly Delta, American or Southwest Airlines and can tell you that breastmilk coolers and pumping bags are NOT considered a carry on. So you can have those plus your roller bag and purse.
TIP #2: GOING THROUGH SECURITY/TSA
- Give yourself extra time than what you normally would to get through the security line. You will get pulled to the side to have everything checked.
- You can have UNLIMITED amounts breastmilk! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And NO, it does not have to be frozen.
-Ask TSA to put on a clean pair of gloves before handling your breastmilk, cooler or pump bag.
- Keep breastmilk bags to 3 oz or less and have them all clearly marked. If you package more than 3 oz that’s okay but just know TSA will want to do “extra screening” on anything they see that is over 3 oz. They should never open your breastmilk bags. Typically they will wipe the outside down for condensation and put that or a package in a screener to look at it.
-Just like your breastmilk doesn’t have to be frozen, neither does your ice pack for your breastmilk cooler although it does help if it is frozen solid. If you’ve been out all day and it’s only half frozen or even just cold be prepared for TSA to give you a hard time. Just tell them you prefer “further screening” and ask to speak to the supervisor on duty. You do NOT have to toss out your ice pack.
-Be prepared for INCONSISTENCY. Every airport is different. I discovered at some airports where security is very high they often didn’t even pull me over because they knew it was breastmilk inside my cooler. But at other airports (vacation hot spots) where you would think it would be more relaxed, they were one of the worst. Be prepared to speak up and advocate for yourself. When in doubt, always ask to speak to the supervisor on duty.
TIP #3: PRACTICAL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE MUCH EASIER WHILE TRAVELING & PUMPING
-Comfortable clothing and a great pumping bra make a big difference in ease of being able to pump and keep up your milk supply. Kindred Bravely has a great pumping and nursing bra that is amazing!
-Get a small durable cooler . It will be a life saver to keep your milk a safe temperature! Yes-I splurged on the Yeti Hopper Portable Cooler and this purchase proved its weight in gold!
-Always travel with 2-3 empty gallon zip lock bags to put your breastmilk bags in to prevent any leaks. I really liked the Medela Breastmilk Storage Bags or the Target Up and Up brand breastmilk bags. They were sturdy and leaked way less than some of the other brands I tried.
- Ask the hotel for a small refrigerator for your room and explain it’s for storing your breastmilk. The room refrigerator should always be free but you have to speak up and say it’s for breastmilk.
- Ask the hotel to freeze your icepack for your cooler (the blue ice packets work the best and have a lower freezing point then regular ice) upon check in and get it when checking out. Putting it in one of those gallon zip lock bags with your contact info. Make sure to ask where your ice pack will be stored - sometimes they have multiple freezers and if you’re the first flight out kind of gal like I am it will be the overnight staff trying to locate it for you at 4am, so knowing where it is helps them.
- If you have a lot of breastmilk, are overseas, or need it get it home to baby quick consider using a breastmilk shipping company. There are a few out there now - like Milk Stork. They aren’t cheap but if you need to get it home or don’t want to deal with the hassle of traveling it home yourself there are options for you. Just make sure you have someone available at home to receive your milk and get it stored in the fridge or freezer.
- The best apps to find airport pumping or nursing spots is Mamava or Pump Spotting. Download the Pumpspotting app and use the code PARTGje2ZH for 6 months free access to pumpspotting premium.
- Always bring an extra pump and a few spare pump parts! I typically traveled with 3 pumps - my trusty Medela Pump N Style (I would use in my hotel room), my Willow pump (while I was out and about and working), and I always had a Medela manual hand pump just in case. I always knew where the nearest Target was just in case I needed extra pump parts, breastmilk bags, etc!
- Don’t forget to bring your own small dish soap, bottle brush and drying rack. The OXO Travel Size Drying Rack with Bottle Brush was my favorite:
That first trip will seem overwhelming but I promise you it’s really easier to do than you think!
You’ve got this Mama!
YOU are your baby's best beginning in life!
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