Flying with Breast Milk

When I first decided to do a girls’ trip in the middle of my larger Minnesota vacation to see family, my biggest concern was thinking about how to get enough breastmilk to MN to feed Harvey for the roughly 80 or so hours that I would be away from him. I’m leaving him with my parents on a Monday morning and returning on a Thursday afternoon, and since Harvey eats around 8x/day and 3-4oz a time, that meant I’d need to get around 100 oz of frozen breastmilk from Colorado to Minnesota.

Assuming a completely smooth travel day for us (*knocking on ALL the wood*) it will be 10-12 hours door to door on our trip there, including 2 flights and a layover in Denver. I decided that I do not trust the airline to not lose my checked bags, so I’m going to have to carry on this frozen milk AND lug it through the airports along with two kids, but it will be worth it to ensure it arrives safely in MN as intended.

According to the FAA’s handout on hazardous materials, packing the milk with dry ice would be allowed, but I’d have to package it in a special box that would allow venting of the carbon dioxide gas.

FAAregs

However, since our travel time should hopefully be less than 12 hours, I decided that I didn’t really want to dink around with it. If that is an option you would like to consider, I found a great post about traveling with milk on dry ice for you to check out.

At any rate, I decided that rather than paying to overnight ship my milk via UPS/Fed-Ex or trying to pack my milk with dry ice and bring it on the airplane, I wanted to try the old fashioned route of a simple cooler + ice packs in a carry on bag. I meant to buy this cooler based on MomPharmD’s recommendation, but I totally dropped the ball and failed to order it in time, so instead we picked up a soft sided cooler at the local discount store for $10 yesterday, and I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that it works well enough for our purposes.

A few tips I’ve found in my research about this:

  • Cold air sinks, so put the ice packs on TOP of your frozen milk in the cooler for transport.
  • Fill all the extra air space in your cooler with newspaper to help keep things cold longer.
  • If your milk has any ice crystals left in it when you arrive at your destination, you can still re-freeze it without issue.
  • If there are no ice crystals left, it is recommended that it be used within 24 hours because of the loss of antimicrobial activity.
  • See more milk storage guidelines here
  • Here is the TSA’s handout regarding traveling with formula, breastmilk, and juice for infants and toddlers.

We are traveling on a Friday and the milk will be needed that following Monday – Thursday, so it really NEEDS to stay frozen during transport or we’re screwed. I’m pretty confident we will be fine though, partly because of how much milk I’ll be traveling with. All of that frozen liquid will help keep everything around it frozen as well. In all honesty, if I had 100 ounces of fresh milk available I’d rather travel with it that way as fresh milk can handle temperature variations better than frozen can and there are more nutrients in fresh milk. However, that’s not an option, so dipping into my frozen stash (thank you early pumping this time around!) is the best option.

Also, while I’m away from Harvey I’ll of course be pumping to keep up my supply, but since we’ll be drinking quite a bit as well, I don’t anticipate having more than around 50 ounces of fresh milk to bring back to Mom & Dad’s on Thursday because of having to pump & dump after drinking. As an aside, that is going to make me want to cry. GAH! At any rate, at this point I think my plan will be to use it those last couple of days as needed (yes, this is definitely a drinking trip) and then freeze any extra in their deep freeze to have on hand already when we go to MN for a week over the Christmas holidays. Harvey will be 11.5 months old at that point and still drinking breastmilk, not cow’s milk, so it will be nice to have some reserves up there already so we don’t have to travel with milk again!

So what do you think? Have I missed any crucial parts? Do you have any tips for traveling with breastmilk via airplane?

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8 comments

  1. kaseypowers · · Reply

    I think you have it all covered. I flew with ice packs and fresh milk in June. At one airport they opened the cooler, on the way home they did not. I’m pretty sure I sent it through the X-ray both times. So when you declare that you are traveling with breastmilk, it might help to mention that it’s frozen so maybe they won’t open and will keep that cold air in.

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  2. Mihaela · · Reply

    I flew with fresh milk also and they opened and inspected it at both airports. But it’s a quick process, so hopefully won’t lead to any thawing.

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  3. I travelled to Las Vegas and back the same day. They inspected my ice packs on the way there and milk and ice packs on the way back. They had to call a supervisor over to confirm that it was ok, so that slowed me down a bit. Prepare for a delay but I doubt that there will be a fight. Also, I believe I read that the ice pack have to be frozen to travel in a carry on, so be careful on the way back if they are no longer frozen (you might want to pack them in checked luggage if they are not, but look this up to confirm).

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  4. mcmissis · · Reply

    This only concerns your next trip, and I know it’s not your preference, but according to our doctor, you could give him cow’s milk two weeks before his first bday if, for some reason, it came down to that. We gave it to both Gracie and Lyla at 11.5 months once a day, and they’re both fine 🙂

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  5. I wish it wasn’t so expensive to overnight milk and that it was a service that was affordable and available in all areas! I give you big kudos for hauling a cooler of milk through the airport with a baby + diaper bag. I remember flying with Aiden and hauling our carseat through DIA. OMG, it was a nightmare! I didn’t realize that carseat carts were available to wheel the carseat through. So literally my airline (because we flew in on a 8 seater plane at the END of the terminal) was across the damn aiport, I was holding Aiden + lugging our diaper bag/carseat…I was in tears when we finally reached our gate. NOT FUN. Good luck and safe travels! I can’t wait for you to update how your flight and mini vacation went!

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  6. WOW, look at you! You’ve really done your research. Sounds like you’ve got a great plan, I hope it works out well for you! Also, good idea on stocking up for Christmas too.

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  7. I got some milk testing strips before I went to Vegas to test to see if the breastmilk was okay to use or not. That way if I wasn’t sure (you know, you have two drinks then pump three hours later – OK or not?) I had an objective measure. Also, in cases like that when you feel fine but might question if you REALLY are fine (obviously not when you KNOW there is a lot of alcohol in the milk), you can mix with other known “safe” milk to dilute out anything that could possibly be in there. http://www.amazon.com/Home-Test-Detect-Alcohol-Breast/dp/B009YKIMCA/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1406786048&sr=8-3&keywords=breastmilk+alcohol+test+strips. I do have a few leftover, can I get them to you in time? LMK if you want them – I won’t be using them again!

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    1. Thank you, Nic! I just sent you an email.

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