How to Travel With Breastmilk

Tips for Nursing and Pumping While Traveling

Your baby's nutrition needs and your own need to empty your breasts doesn't stop just because you head out of town. Traveling with breast milk involves a little more preparation than your average trip, especially if your nursing baby isn't traveling with you. Having a plan for pumping and storage that matches your travel itinerary makes the process easier.

What to Bring

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How to Use the Avent Manual Breast Pump

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If you're taking a solo trip without your little one, you need a pump to express milk. This prevents engorgement and helps keep your milk supply up while you're away from your baby. An electric pump is easiest, but a manual pump is functional if you don't have access to electrical outlets. If you're traveling out of the country, consider the electrical differences in your destination.

You also need storage containers that seal tightly, such as milk storage bottles or bags. Keep in mind that bags could rupture with rough handling. Bring ice packs and a cooler bag to keep the milk cold if you plan to bring it home. Other supplies you may need include breast pads and a cover-up in case you need to pump in a public area.

Storing the Milk

Storing the expressed breast milk can be a challenge on the road. Breast milk is usually safe at room temperature for at least six hours, so your little one can have the breast milk from a bottle if he's traveling with you. If you need to store the milk, it's safe in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs for about 24 hours.

Staying at a hotel with a refrigerator in the room? Your expressed breast milk lasts for up to five days in the refrigerator. Keep it in the back of the fridge, so it stays as cold as possible. For longer storage, you can freeze your breast milk in a freezer or with dry ice. If the frozen breast milk thaws, use it within an hour. It's not safe to refreeze breast milk after it thaws fully.

If you don't have safe storage options during your trip and your baby isn't with you, you may need to dump the breast milk instead of taking it home. The thought of throwing out such precious product may seem frustrating, but it's important for your little one to have safe breast milk.

Considerations for Air Travel

Baby Boy Sleeping In Bassinet On Airplane

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Traveling by air complicates the situation. You have the right to carry on your breast pump as a personal item and store it under the seat in front of you. It's treated somewhat like a laptop.

Expressed breast milk gets an exemption from the 3.4-ounce limit for liquids in carry-on bags. As a breastfeeding mom, you can carry on reasonable amounts of breast milk regardless of whether your child is traveling with you. It doesn't need to go in a zip-close bag. Ice packs and accessories to keep breast milk cool are also allowed on the airplane.

If you're carrying on breast milk, you should remove it from your carry-on bag when you go through the security checkpoint. The TSA agent may inspect and test the breast milk for explosives. If you don't want the milk to be opened, sent through the X-ray machine or opened for inspection, let the TSA agent know. You may have additional screenings performed, potentially including a pat-down. TSA agents should know the rules on breast milk, but it doesn't hurt to print a copy of the TSA guidelines to show the agent in case you have any issues.

You may need to pump in the airport if you have a long day of travel or layovers. Finding a place to pump in the airport can be a challenge. Some airports may offer nursing rooms where you can pump in private. If a nursing room is not available, ask your airline if there is a lounge or other private area where you can pump. Another option, although less private, is to find a corner of an empty gate. You can use a nursing cover-up if you want to keep yourself covered. Use a hands-free pumping bra to make the job easier.

Considerations for Car Travel

Pumping on a road trip is a little easier because you're traveling in the privacy of your vehicle. You can keep a cooler with plenty of ice on hand to keep the milk cool until you reach your destination. Some breast pumps have car adapter options, so you can pump in your car without stopping to find a place with electrical outlets. Hand pumps or battery-operated pumps are also options.

Considerations for Boat Travel

Taking a cruise while breastfeeding or pumping? It may pay to upgrade to a cabin with a refrigerator so you can store the milk easily. Keep in mind that mini-fridges may not stay cool enough to store the breast milk long-term. Breast milk needs to stay at 39 degrees F or cooler to stay safe. Some cruise ships may have a medical refrigerator or other refrigerator options to keep the milk cold enough.

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