Traveling with breast milk, whether chilled or frozen, can be a major hassle – especially if you haven’t planned ahead and don’t know what to expect. But, as with most things in life, a little planning goes a long way toward reducing stress, navigating travel delays or difficulties, keeping your cool, and keeping your breast milk cool, too (hello, travel-friendly Stasher ice packs. So to ensure your experience of traveling with breast milk is as seamless and waste-free as possible, read on.
Traveling With Breast Milk By Plane
If you have a flight on the horizon, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the TSA’s policy on traveling with breast milk (we’ll give you the rundown!) and give yourself a refresher on how long breast milk can remain at room temperature versus chilled or frozen.
How To Pack Breast Milk For Carry-On
While TSA limits other liquids to 3.4 ounces, breast milk is exempt from this rule because it’s classified as a medically necessary liquid. Likewise, breast pumps are considered a medical device and thus can be taken into the cabin without counting towards your carry-on allowance. You can travel with both breast milk and a breast pump regardless of if your child is present, too.
While fresh breast milk is allowed through airport security checkpoints, the TSA’s safety measures aren’t the only guidelines to keep in mind. It’s important to remember that fresh breast milk (either chilled ahead of time or from pumping breast milk at the airport or on the plane) must be either consumed within 24 hours or frozen. And while doctors suggest that breast milk can remain at room temperature for up to four hours, it’s best to have a plan for keeping it chilled throughout your travels in the case of a longer-than-expected flight or other travel delays. (We’ll walk you through our DIY Stasher ice pack solution below!)
How To Travel With Frozen Breast Milk
When traveling with frozen breast milk, keeping it frozen – or as frozen as possible – is crucial. The good news is that frozen breast milk that’s been properly packed can usually stay frozen all the way to the end destination, where it can then be transferred to a freezer. Of course, if your breast milk has started to thaw, it shouldn’t be refrozen – instead, make sure it’s consumed or disposed of within 24 hours.
Make sure you use pouches or reusable containers that are suitable for the freezer and leak-proof, like the Stasher Go Bag or Stasher 1-Cup Bowl. Pack the frozen breast milk pouches into an insulated cooler bag, and fill any air pockets with homemade ice packs prepared ahead of time by freezing water in Stasher bags. The fuller the cooler is, the better your chances of everything staying frozen. This is important for preventing your breast milk from going bad. It also helps slow down the melting process of the ice packs – and ice packs that are melted or slushy are typically not allowed (or, at the very least, are subject to extra screening) through the airport security checkpoint. To be extra safe, you can also get a travel-friendly thermometer to help you monitor the temperature of your cooler, ensuring that it stays in the “freezer” range as opposed to the thaw-inducing “refrigerator” range.
Traveling With Breast Milk By Car
Compared to traveling by plane, traveling with breast milk by car is a little more convenient because you have more space to store it and more opportunity to access it. But the basic rules of traveling with breast milk by car are the same as by plane:
- Keep frozen breast milk frozen
- Don’t let fresh breast milk sit at room temperature for longer than 4 hours
- Make sure chilled breast milk is consumed within 24 hours or frozen
- If your drive is a long one, use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your breast milk cooler.
To avoid single-use plastics, DIY Stasher bag ice packs or reusable freezer packs are a great way to keep breast milk chilled or frozen on shorter drives, while dry ice might be the best solution for those extra-long road trips across state lines.
Feeding Your Baby While Traveling
Fresh breast milk can be kept at room temperature for about 4 hours, which is extra convenient when you’re pumping breast milk on the road or on the plane and don’t have a means of heating up chilled breast milk from the cooler. But some babies do prefer warm milk to room temperature milk, so if your little one has a preference, then be prepared to heat on the go.
How To Warm Milk On The Go
TSA restrictions on liquids mean you probably can’t bring that thermos of hot water through security, so to warm milk at the airport or on the plane, use a battery-powered portable bottle warmer instead. While in the air, you can also ask the flight attendant to heat the bottle for you, or to provide a cup of hot water that you can use to warm a chilled or room-temperature bottle.
To warm milk while on the road, you can also use a portable bottle warmer (battery powered or plug-in via the car adapter). Or bring a thermos of hot water along and warm a chilled bottle from the cooler by popping it inside the thermos (if the thermos is large enough) or by safely pouring hot water from the thermos into a bowl and immersing the chilled bottle in the hot water. Alternatively, if you’re making any stops along the way to your destination, you can stop into the nearest coffee shop or restaurant and ask for a cup of hot water for warming breast milk.
Benjamin Franklin once said that “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” While spills, melted ice, leaking bottles, or under-packed coolers don’t make you a failure, the point is that planning ahead can have a big impact on how your travel experience unfolds. While some things will always be out of our control – like weather delays, canceled flights, long lines at security – you’ll be a lot better equipped to handle them if you’ve planned ahead and packed with intention. Safe travels!