11 answers

Breast Milk and Flying

I am flying to a 4 day conference this week. I am still nursing/pumping so I wil have to pump about 4x/day while I am there to keep up supply. I would rather NOT check my bag, but would also rather NOT dump 4 days worth of milk. (I do have about a 1/5 months frozen for my 11 month old, so milk is not as precious as it once was but OMG dumping all that pumped milk!). Can I take the milk with me in my carry on bag? how to store? I won't have the baby with me? Any tips from fellow mom travelers would be appreciated!!

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I carried on a bag full of frozen breast milk along with my pump (didn't count as a bag). if you are able to freeze it, I would and bring it back home. You should double check with your airline to be sure on carrying it on though.

good luck,

I'm a daycare provider and when one of my mom's had to go away on business she made sure she had a freezer/fridge in her hotel room and then the day she can home she had it shipped to her home, the milk will stay frozen with dry ice. Not sure what company she used considering her business trip was to Alaska and I'm sure that made it easier but you should be able to find a shipper with a little research of the area your traveling too. Hope this helps. :)

Hey S.!

I traveled with my little one over thanksgiving and we are traveling again for Christmas. I know they let you carry on milk and baby food. They never told me specific amounts if there was a limit. I took two 9oz. bottles with me. I just kept them in the cooler/thermal bag. It was 8 hours worth of traveling and they stayed cooled in there with an ice pack. You can also give your airline a call and see how much they will allow you to bring on, since i'm sure you will have a good amount of milk over 4 days. Good Luck!

I am a flight attendant and when I went back to work from my maternity leave I had to re-train for five days. I came home from the training with loads of milk in my carry on. When TSA first checked my i.d. I asked them how they wanted to deal with it. The TSA agent said that they wanted me to declare it (put it in a gray bin) along with my ice packs. I did and no one at screening even gave me a second look. I will say this, each city's TSA office is different and they are allowed to be. So I always ask whenever I am going to be carrying something questionable.

Most hotels will have a few refrigerators for rent or for free. Call ahead to be sure that you can get one, especially now that so many people have different food allergies and are forced to carry their own food, I'm finding it harder and harder to get a refrigerator in every hotel.

One thought about checking the milk in your carry on, it's cold out now, so your bag won't be getting warm in cargo or while it's waiting to be loaded, so it might be a good idea just to check a cooler. Check the weather for all your through cities and destinations because if your bag gets stuck without you, it will be inside getting warm waiting for you to catch up with it. Don't let your pump out of your sight though! :)

Good luck leaving your baby for the first time. It's so heartbreaking.

I have never gone for 4 days, but I routinely go for 2 and have been pumping exclusively for awhile now. You have the right to carry your pump, breast milk, and ice packs with you on the plane. As the security explained to me, you don't even have to declare it verbally, unless they ask (having said that you may want to do it if you're anxious given some bad experiences from the answers below - having said that, I think it is outrageous and I wonder if those TSA people were in violation of their own rules - might want to check with them or their website in advance - I've NEVER had a problem and I travel almost every week). Keep in mind though that it'll be quite heavy and take up most of the space in your carry-on on the way back. I actually had good experiene checking my bag with all the milk, even on longer flights, but I certainly can't recommend that - it's a rik, no question.

Support all the advice regarding arranging with the hotel to have a working fridge in your room. Good hotels are very accommodating - I negotiate late check-outs as well, when necessary - explaining that I need to use the room to pump.

I would NOT freeze your milk for the road unless a) you are 100% sure it;ll stay completely frozen when you get home (and mind you - I had more than one airport delays in my experience - be prepared for those); b) you are going to feed it all in 24 hours upon return. Remember, you never re-freeze thawed milk, even it thaws just a little bit. From this perspective shipping on dry ice, if you can arrange it, might be a good idea. What worked for me was keeping it chilled in the fridge for as long as I could and then making sure I had plenty of ice with me to keep it cool in the mini-cooler. All of these should be easier this time of the year. BTW - from the handling perspective I personally always prefer bottles with good tight screw-on caps to even the best of milk storage bags.

Finally, from personal experience, be prepared for flight delays (as mentioned above) and for having to pump in a non-sanitary conditions in the airport. Please G-d you don't have to - it is one of the grossest experiences ever (and certainly dump that milk!), but you may need to do it to release the pressure and sustain your milk supply if caught on a long delay. From this perspective might be a good idea to have the pump and at least 2 empty bottles in your carry-on (even if you dared to check in your milk) and plenty of sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer in your bag.

Good luck and don't worry, it'll work just fine. Just don't forget to pump every 3-4 hours regularly.

Hi S.,

My husband and I flew to Costa Rica at the end of October. We travelled with our child, but you could certainly pretend that you and your child are traveling separately for safety (my parents used to take separate flights when we were kids). Anyway, as far as I experienced, all the rules about liquid amounts etc. for flying are relaxed when a baby is involved. I travelled with my pump with the cooler and 4 medela bottles filled with milk. You could certainly bring those milk storage bags and then carry them on with you and tell the security that they are for your child. I can't imagine they'd make you throw them away. You might even be able to contact someone at TSA. Here's a link that talks about travelling with breast milk - and even mentions that if you are travelling without your child, it is still ok to travel with breast milk:

Good luck! I have a 9-month old and can't imagine leaving her for any longer than an overnight. I hope your trip goes well.

- L.

In July, I was at a 4 day conference and in the same situation as you. Call the hotel ahead and tell them you are a nursing mother and will need a refrigerator in your room. They should provide it at no charge. I froze as much as I could then packed it in a small cooler hoping that I could use the cooler as a carry on. Nope.

The funny thing is that they will let you take larger quantities of milk on the plane with you IF you have the baby! Not one, but TWO airline workers said to me "Where's the baby?" I said, "If I had the baby I wouldn't have this much milk!" So, I pulled out my duct tape and taped the cooler shut and wrote in big obnoxious Sharpie letters B R E A S T M I L K on the duct tape, put a luggage tag on it and checked it as a piece of my luggage. It was still frozen when i got home!

If you go to the TSA website, they may have more information for you as well, but this is what worked for me!


Check with the airlines or the airport security before hand but I think you should be OK. Bring a cooler with lots of ice packs. Either buy the ice packs at your destination and freeze them there or check them on your way to your conference. On the way back it shouldn't be an issue - you will of course have the pump with you. I don't know how long your flight is but I would try to freeze the milk before you leave.

L. M

Hi! I did the exact same thing. I carried on my breastpump plus a soft cooler filled with bagged/dated milk. I didn't freeze it b/c i didn't think it would stay frozen solid. In my hotel room I kept it on ice. It stayed really cold & didn't freeze. I had the concierge freeze my cooler ice-packs so they were ready for the way home. TSA did not give me any trouble at all. You are allowed to carry breast milk even if you don't have a baby with you! The things we do for our kids... haha.... Good luck!

Like the others said, check with the airline first to see if there is a limit. I traveled for business when I was breast feeding and was able to bring it in my carry-on. I'd be nervous about putting milk in my checked bag in case of spillage or if your bag gets lost for any reason.

Since you are bringing it back with you I suggest you freeze it solid and keep it in a cooler along with a checked bag. They just don't want it as a carry-on. You last day won't be frozen but the rest of your milk should keep it cool enough until you get home. Nat

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