Expressed Breast Milk on a Plane?

Breastfeeding 8 month Veda in New Work (in the Moby wrap)

Question: I am traveling in a month with a one month old baby from New York to Peru.  I have had a problem with my breast milk production so every ounce of my expressed breast milk is precious.  I was thinking of pumping and freezing it but I am terrified of the travel time.  Maybe freezing it is not the best idea in this case?

Answer: I have traveled with a cooler with ice-packs along with me as a carry-on (about 36- 40 ounces total between 4-5 bags or bottles) when I have had to pump and have a stash ready for baby because I have to work when arriving at my destination.  This is allowed by TSA; you can have more liquid than the standard 3.4 oz contained within a one quart bag if it’s for baby or medical reasons.  Just be sure to keep the milk in a separate container from your other liquids in your carry-on and DO NOT send it through the x-ray- hand it over to a security officer and let them know what it is.

You can keep your milk refrigerated up to one week (8 days) before using it, so if you plan on using it within that time that would be a better option.  Once you freeze your milk and thaws you have to use it within twenty-four hours, which complicates things.  For a long flight keeping previously refrigerated milk in a cooler with ice-packs might keep it cool, but frozen milk is likely to thaw by the time you arrive.

If you need to freeze a larger amount and keep it frozen, you can pack it in a small cooler with ice packs.  Check with the airline you are flying.  They usually have a freezer on board with checked bags.  You might be able to ask your doctor to write a medical note that requires the airline to put your milk in a freezer for the duration of the flight for medical reasons (E.g. that’s your baby’s liquid gold).
So, if you know you’ll use your pumped milk within 8 days of pumping it, it will be much easier to carry it with you in a cooler on-board and just keep it refrigerated once you arrive, otherwise I would check with the option of having the airline keep it frozen with a doctor’s note for you for the flight!
If it is possible and you don’t need to pump, the easiest solution is to just breastfeed directly.  No bottles, no ice packs, no extra things to carry and forget– it’s the easiest, quickest, and most convenient way to get milk to baby while flying.  🙂
Related Pages

3 thoughts on “Expressed Breast Milk on a Plane?”

  • another quick tip for traveling with milk – you can pack frozen breast milk in a cooler with dry ice in your checked baggage. I believe the limit is 5 pounds of dry ice, but check with your airline. You just have to notify the agent when you check the bag, confirm the amount and contents, and they’ll put a sticker on the bag noting its contents.

    I did this on my recent work flight from Hawaii to DC. Not only was the milk still frozen solid, all of my clothes were, too! I used a lightweight igloo cloth cooler in my suitcase, so I didn’t have any weight restriction problems.

    • Sara- thanks so much for the tip and sharing your experience! I will integrate this information into my post. I will have to try this out for my next international work trip this summer!

      Not knowing much about dry ice myself, do you know if this something that would also stay frozen for a longer (let’s say 24 or 26 hour + flight)?

Leave a Reply to jlmenon Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *