Whether you pump for work, for an occasional bottle, or you pump exclusively, there are a few things you should know if you’re planning to travel with your milk.
Flying: Bringing breast milk on board
Back in 2006, when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) adopted restrictive policies regarding liquids brought on board planes, mothers who were traveling without children reported being told to dump out their pumped milk before boarding.
Fortunately, things have improved significantly since then. The TSA policy is now as follows:
We recommend that you print out and bring a copy of the TSA regulations with you in case an agent has questions.
Flying: Checking containers of breast milk
Breast milk can also be packed in your luggage and checked. If you do pack it in a suitcase be sure to enclose it in multiple layers (several zip lock bags inside an air tight plastic container, for example) to guard against spillage.
Some mothers who are transporting a lot of milk opt to check a well-sealed cooler of milk. Bear in mind that frozen milk will likely thaw, partially or completely, in transport. To keep the milk at refrigerator temperature or lower, we’d recommend packing your milk in ice or dry ice.
Traveling by car
If you’re traveling by car and expect to need to pump, you’ll want to either plan for periodic pumping stops or invest in a cigarette lighter adapter in order to pump while driving (check to make sure one is available for your brand of pump). Obviously, it’s safest if you pump while someone else is driving, or stop to pump. We’d caution against pumping while driving if you find it distracting enough to make driving unsafe. We want you to get there safely!
Milk you pump on the road will stay good in an insulated cooler pack with ice packs for up to 24 hours. See below for milk storage guidelines once you get the milk to your destination.
If you’re planning to be on the road with already pumped milk, your options are much like those for flying with breast milk. Fresh milk can be transported at refrigerator temperature in a cooler bag or cooler with ice, and then stored in the refrigerator at your destination (see below). If your milk is frozen, you can pack it in a cooler with ice or dry ice. It will likely partially or fully thaw. See below for milk storage guidelines once you get the milk to your destination.
How long is it good after I get it home?*
Since fresh milk can be kept in the refrigerator for five days, fresh (not frozen) milk that is transported at a temperature at least as cold as a refrigerator should be good for up to five days (in total).
And since frozen and thawed milk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after thawing, frozen milk which thaws in transport but remains cool (refrigerator temperature or lower) should be good in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after thawing. It’s not recommended that milk be re-frozen.
*Milk storage guidelines from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s protocol, “Human Milk Storage for Home Use for Healthy Full-Term Infants.”
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