Traveling is a modern joy many of us enjoy. From trains to automobiles, boats to planes – most of us like to get out and see the world. That joy should not stop when you have children, even if you are breastfeeding and pumping. No matter how you get there, here are the regulations, rules and some tips to help you navigate how to travel with Pumped Breast Milk.
How to Travel with Pumped Breast Milk on a Plane
9/11 changed America forever, especially when it comes to flying commercial aircrafts. Long gone are the days when you could be dropped at the curb and zip to your gate in 10 minutes flat. Now, for the safety (and annoyance) of all, we are relegated to realm of the TSA. This involves rules and standards of travel that everyone must abide by, including nursing moms.
Taking Pumped Breast Milk onto a plane is perfectly legal – as long as you follow the rules.
According to the TSA, an infant is defined as a child who must be carried by an adult through the screening process, while a toddler is defined as a child who receives assistance with walking by an adult throughout the screening process.
Breast Milk, formula and juice (for children) are considered under the guidelines as liquid medicine, and thus not subject to the 3.4oz rule for liquid carry-ons in reasonable quantities. Just what defines a ‘reasonable quantity’ is up for interpretation, though a general rule is to pack only as much as you will need on the flight. These bottles will be scanned by X-Ray.
- Notify the TSA Agent
This one is very important. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say. Letting the Agent know ahead of time that you have Fresh or frozen breast milk is paramount to making sure the process goes smoothly.
- Separate and declare everything
Take your breast milk bottles, empty bottles and your pump out of your carryon, separating them in the bins provided.
- Breastmilk will be X-Rayed
While no TSA agent should require you, or your baby, to taste the breast milk, there may be additional tests required for explosive screenings. This may include a request for you to open the containers during the screening process. You can (and should) ask the TSA agent to don clean gloves prior to handling breast milk containers.
From the TSA Website:
TSA officers may need to test liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items. Officers may ask you to open the container and/or have you transfer a small quantity of the liquid to a separate empty container or dispose of a small quantity, if feasible.
Inform the TSA officer if you do not want the formula, breast milk and/or juice to be X-rayed or opened. Additional steps will be taken to clear the liquid and you or the traveling guardian will undergo additional screening procedures, to include a pat-down and screening of other carry-on property.
- Ice-packs and Cooling supplies
Ice-packs and cooling implements required to transport breast milk are allowed in your carryon, though they may be subject to the above, liquid screenings if they have defrosted at all.
Additional Advice and Resources
Getting through TSA should not have to be a hassle, yet, as we have all seen from the news, for breastfeeding moms, it can be a true challenge. These tips can make it easier.
Know your rights
Print out a copy of the official TSA policy regarding Breast Milk, Formula and Juice.
You can find it here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children
I have also made the above page into a PDF, if you would prefer that. You can find, download and print it here:
If you have a problem
IF you do run into an issue during the Security process:
- Remain calm
- Show them the printed regulation
- Explain, again, what you are carrying – and why
- Submit to additional screenings, within reason
- Ask for a Supervisor and explain the situation again
- If all of the above steps do not resolve the issue, take action after the fact:
How to travel with Pumped Breast Milk on a Train
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Traveling with Pumped Breast Milk appears far easier on a train as opposed to standard air travel.
Breast Pumps are medical devices, and thus allowed onboard Amtrak trains with declaration. This includes all bottles (empty or full), freezer bags and power cords needed for the unit.
Amtrak Breastmilk Policy:
Amtrak respects the rights of mothers to breastfeed their children on trains and in stations.
Because that covers all bases…. right? Oh boy. Yet, perhaps it does. While tales of TSA mishaps abound, horror stories of traveling via train with Pumped Breast Milk are far less common. In fact, Amtrak recently installed Lactation Suites for Nursing Mothers in 5 of their major train stations. This was in response to a massive push and online campaign organized by two moms who found themselves without clean rooms to pump. You can read more about their story here.
All that said, you still need to know HOW to travel with pumped breast milk.
How to pack Pumped Breast Milk for travel
Expressed milk should be stored in any clean, air tight containers. You can wash these bottles or containers with mild soap and water, rinsing them completely prior to use. While Breast Milk bottles and travel containers decorate the baby section of any mass market store, the truth is – you can use ANY container, as long as it is clean and seals TIGHTLY. You don’t want the tragedy of spilt milk because you didn’t check it before use. Tip: fill whatever bottle or container you wish to use with water, close it then shake it all around – see if there are any leaks.
Carry your pumped breast milk in either a insulated breast milk travel cooler, a standard travel cooler, or with frozen cooling packs. You can also transport frozen breastmilk in dry ice.
Related: Breast milk Storage Guidelines
Freshly expressed milk is food for consumption for 6-8 hours, even when stored at room temperature. Insulated milk is good for 24 hours while fully refrigerated breast milk is usable for up to 5 days.
Clean your pump
If you plan to use your pump while traveling, then you need to clean it. This can be handled like you normally would at any available sink, or by using special spray or wipes designed for the task. Medela has a convenient spray sanitizer that works well, and fits easily in any diaper bag. You can find it with this affiliate link.
No matter how you choose to travel, making sure you have enough expressed breast milk to tide you over till you can nurse or pump again is important.
Kellymom.com has a great resource page (find it here) which lists this handy formula to help you decide how much milk you need to bring.
The following is based on infants between 1 – 6 months of age. Younger or older will need some adjustment, though this rough calculation will work for most.
- Estimate the number of times that baby nurses per day (24 hours).
- Then divide 25 oz by the number of nursings.
- This gives you a “ballpark” figure for the amount of expressed milk your exclusively breastfed baby will need at one feeding.
Example: If baby usually nurses around 8 times per day, you can guess that baby might need around 3 ounces per feeding when mom is away. (25/8=3.1). – source = Kellymom.com
Though presented as a formula for working moms, this estimate tool can be used for travel purposes as well. If you will be unable to nurse or pump for 6 hours and your baby normally nurses every 3 hours (I shudder to think of cluster feeding while traveling!) then it would be advisable to pack at least 6oz (25/8=3.125). This is based on the notion that the average amount most babies drink in a 24hr period is 25oz (ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT – this is just average). Nursing every 3 hours equals 8 times in 24hrs. 25oz divided by 8 = around 3oz per feed. Traveling for 6 hours equals 2 feeds, or at least 6oz. Packing a bit more couldn’t hurt though, travel can be stressful for babies, and feeding can help soothe and calm.
You can also adjust this formula to suit your particular circumstance. If you have been pumping for some time and know that your babu drinks at least 4oz of pumped milk at every sitting, eats every 3 hours and you will be unable to nurse or pump for at least 10 hours – then pack 12 to 15oz, at least.
How to travel with Pumped Breast Milk in a Car
….Everything in the above Train section – do that. =)
….Plus a Car Seat
Ok, so maybe the Car section needs to be fleshed out a bit more. Mainly, when it comes to Breastfeeding and Car Seats.
First and foremost, make sure you are using a Car Seat that is safety rated and suitable for your child. You can find your states regulations and laws regarding Car Seat use and safety here.
Second – do not EVER attempt to Breastfeed while the car is in motion. If you want to nurse, PULL OVER! Find a rest stop, a restaurant, a parking lot – anything, THEN breastfeed to your heart’s content.
Traveling with a Breastfeeding Infant or Toddler requires preperation and forethought – but it can be done, and often, it can be much easier than traveling with formula.
What about you? What adventures have you taken your little ones on? Have any advice for us? Leave a comment, let me know! I would love to talk to you about it!