Tips for Traveling with Breast Milk

When my family relocated across the country with our 6 month old, I needed to transport 200+ ounces of frozen breast milk to our new home. This felt like a daunting task, but as I am sure many of you can relate, I was not going to let my liquid gold go to waste! Resources online for how to do this were limited so I figured I could share my experience with other mamas looking for answers.

Traveling with Frozen Breast Milk

Flying with Frozen Breast Milk

Flying with frozen breast milk is a straightforward and cost-efficient option for transport. Properly packed frozen milk can usually stay frozen all the way to your end destination (note: Frozen breast milk that has started to thaw but still contains ice crystals can be refrozen).

Here are some tips to set you up for success on your journey!

In the US, you can bring frozen breast milk in your carry-on or checked bag (whether or not your baby is accompanying you). Frozen milk is not a concern at security since it is not in a liquid state, but I still recommend informing the TSA agent that your bag contains frozen breast milk. There is no official guidance from TSA regarding how much breast milk is permitted in a carry-on or checked bag, they simply state a “reasonable quantity.” While this is subjective, I have brought up to 10 bags of frozen milk in my carry-on and 200+ ounces in my checked luggage. The packing method for both bag types is similar.

What You Will Need for Packing

  • Cooler bag: You will want a heavy duty cooler bag, especially for longer travel times. I had success with this AO Cooler bag, which is a cost-efficient option.
  • Gel ice packs: You might see recommendations to use dry ice in your checked bag, but I advise against this. Not only is dry ice at risk of altering the flavor of your milk, but you also need a lot of it (1lb of dry ice for every 1lb of breast milk), which could end up putting you over the airline’s luggage weight limit. These Cooler Shock reusable ice packs worked great for my checked bag and you can use smaller ice packs for a carry-on (be sure to use gel vs water ice packs for longevity!).
  • Plastic bags: Your breast milk should be frozen flat in milk storage bags for the most efficient packing. I filled gallon-sized ziplock bags with my individual milk storage bags to prevent leakage and keep things organized.
  • Extra filler: It is important to fill in any gaps with either 1) frozen bags of water or 2) crumpled up newspaper. The more packed the cooler is, the better your chances for everything to stay frozen.
For the transport of my 200+ ounces cross country, I nested my cooler bag inside a suitcase and filled in extra space with newspaper (depending on your cooler bag, you may choose to check it in its own). We arrived to our new home and were pleased to find the breast milk still frozen solid without any damages or leakage!

    For additional tips on breast milk transport, see below:

    Flying with Fresh Breast Milk

    I have also flown numerous times with smaller quantities of fresh breast milk in my carry-on. For packing, you will want to pack your bags or bottles of milk in a small cooler bag with gel ice packs (I have used the standard Medela cooler bag as well as a lunch cooler bag). When you get to security, you should plan to pull aside your cooler bag and inform the TSA agent that you are traveling with breast milk and it will be screened separately. This only takes a few extra minutes and I have not had any concerns arise from TSA agents. I recommend reading the information provided on the TSA website to be prepared. To keep the bag as cold as possible during your flight, it is best to store under the seat in front of you and only open if you need to retrieve milk for your baby.

    Shipping Breast Milk

    In my initial research for our cross-country relocation, shipping breast milk seemed to be the only viable option for large quantities. This route was quite expensive and made me uneasy with the potential for the shipment to get lost, but there may be times when it makes sense for you. Both Milk Stork and FedEx offer hassle-free options. Colleagues of mine have used Milk Stork to transport breast milk home during business trips and they’ve shared great reviews (many employers cover this service). You can also DIY for a potentially lower cost by purchasing the materials individually (shipping box, styrofoam cooler, and dry ice or ice packs) and shipping with your carrier of choice. Packing the milk for shipping would generally follow the recommendation I covered above for flying.

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