While breastfeeding is often the best way to feed your baby, nursing and pumping during travel can be overwhelming for many moms. Whether your baby is tagging along or not, you need to figure out how to pump on the road, milk storage, and adhering to travel regulations.
In addition to the act of pumping on-the-go, you may be traveling with previously pumped milk that needs to stay frozen for the remainder of the trip, or you may have freshly pumped milk that needs to remain safe to ingest.
How you pack and store your breast milk on the road depends on the duration of your journey. For instance, you can keep freshly pumped breast milk in a cooler with ice for shorter trips, but you’ll need to freeze it if you are going for a long trip.
As per the CDC (Center for Disease Control), freshly pumped breast milk will stay fresh at room temperature for up to 4 hours from after the time that you pump. After that, you’ll want to keep it colder than 40 degrees F where it can last up to 4 days at this temperature.
Since breast milk stays fresh for a short time, and you do not want to risk wasting the milk by having it stored improperly. If you need to learn how to keep breast milk frozen while traveling and prevent it from thawing, here are some tips to keep your baby’s milk safe:
Storing Breastmilk on a Road Trip
If you are going for a road trip, you may not encounter travel restrictions, but you’ll still have to navigate how to travel with frozen breast milk, stopping at certain increments, and finding a portable breast pump.
Freshly pumped milk: Depending on the time of year that you’re traveling and the current weather conditions, you’ll want to ensure that room temperature maintains around 70 degrees and doesn’t get much warmer than that. You can keep milk at this temperature for up to 4 hours.
Refrigerated milk: When you carry extra breast milk, you’ll probably need to keep it for extended periods of time. In order to do this, you’ll need to keep a cooler bag in your car so you can pack the milk in small containers and store them for freshness.
Use freezer packs to keep the inside cold. When using a cooler, pack it to capacity with enough ice to reduce air gaps that would cause melting.
You’ll want to regularly check your coolers’ temperature to ensure the milk stays fresh until you get home, but don’t open the cooler too much as this can lead to the temperature inside warming up.
If you’re traveling in an RV or large vehicle that can accommodate a small refrigerator, make sure that the temperature stays at or below 40 degrees and it will stay fresh for 4 days.
How to Travel With Frozen Breast Milk on a Road Trip or Flight
Pumping or breastfeeding while traveling can be tricky. You’ll typically need to bring along extra breast milk to maintain your baby’s feeding routine.
Unfortunately, previously frozen, but thawed, breast milk has a short shelf life (1-2 hours at room temperature, 1 day if refrigerated). Therefore, you need to keep your breast milk frozen on long trips since you cannot refreeze it after thawing.
It can be difficult to keep items frozen when they’re not in a freezer, however it is possible. For starters, with high temperatures in the car, you’ll need a very efficient cooler. Now it’s not enough to just keep breast milk cold, but it has to be kept freezing cold.
You’ll also need to ensure that your overnight accommodations include a freezer to keep the milk in a frozen state overnight. Your cooler just won’t cut it for long term freezing.
Besides a great cooler, here are some tips for how to keep breast milk frozen while traveling:
Use Dry Ice – Dry ice can keep your breast milk frozen for more than 12 hours on the road. However, you need to handle your milk carefully during storage.
For instance, ensure the dry ice does not come in contact with the milk bags since it may cause the containers to rip open from friction. Use a towel to wrap the plastic bags before putting them in the ice.
Ship Your Breast Milk – If you plan to drive for more than 12 hours, you should consider shipping your breast milk to your predetermined destination. A shipping service like Milk Stork can ensure that the milk remains frozen until you arrive at your destination.
This is a great idea if you will be gone for an extended period of time and have a lot of breast milk to bring with you. While you’ll have to dig deeper into your pocket to transport the milk, it eases some stress.
Related Post: How to Increase Breastmilk Supply After a Sudden Drop
How to Travel With Frozen Breast Milk on a Plane
Apart from storage, you’ll need to understand the airport regulations on handling breast milk. Read through each airline and airport’s regulations as they may vary. They should have detailed information about what is allowed on the plane. However, most airlines are compliant with nursing moms and are more than accommodating.
Will Your Breast Milk Pass Through Airport Security?
Breast milk will be allowed through airport security whether you bring your child with you or not. Since it falls under the medicine category, you don’t have to worry about volume restrictions. However, it is still subject to screening.
You should notify the security agents that you are carrying breast milk and remove it from your carry-on bags. While there is no harm in passing your milk through x-rays, you should keep an eye on it throughout the process to avoid contamination.
How to Store Milk During Air Travel
If you plan to pump breast milk during your flight, you can pack empty bottles and a cooler as a separate carry on bag that you will not be charged for. Pack your breastmilk in bags, as opposed to bottles, to decrease the amount of space it will take up.
While you can carry as much expressed milk as you want, most airlines expect you to travel with a reasonable amount. That means you may need to ship your breast milk beforehand if you plan to travel with substantial amounts.
You can store your breast milk in a cooler and request ice to keep it fresh on your flight. Most airlines will allow you to carry icepacks, gel packs, and cooling accessories on your carry-on without additional screening. These items are in addition to your personal items and carry ons so you will be able to bring other items on the plane with you.
Frozen breast milk will undergo extra screening at the airport, but it is the safest way to transport milk. While you may have to remove it from the cooler during screening, you should keep it closed until you arrive at your destination to avoid increasing temperature inside the cooler.
Feeding Your Baby During Travel
Pumping and air travel can be stressful and cumbersome, especially when you have to pump milk at the terminal or onboard.
Most airlines do not have restrictions on carrying a breast pump on your flight, and in fact, you are allowed to bring a breast pump bag as an additional carry on item, separate from your personal item or carry on.
What makes flying and pumping difficult is finding a comfortable place to pump.
If you are traveling with your baby, ensure they have sufficient milk throughout the flight by bringing extra breast milk and keeping it cool or frozen. You don’t want to be stuck with a crying baby, no milk, and having to scramble to pump it out before feeding him.
Heating Milk for Feedings
Babies feed at regular intervals, and they need warm breast milk. If you pump milk while traveling, you can keep it at room temperature for over four hours.
While you can feed the baby with fresh milk from the cooler, it may be too cold. Instead of stopping by a restaurant to request hot water, you should use a portable bottle warmer like the Baby’s Brew to warm it up to a tolerable temperature for your baby.
The Baby’s Brew is a rechargeable bottle warmer that can heat cold or frozen milk to a desired temperature without electricity! It’s definitely a must-have for traveling with a baby.
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Important Tips When Traveling With Breast Milk
Because milk can get spoiled so easily and become unsafe for your baby, there are several important things to take into consideration when traveling with frozen breast milk.
1. Determine the Safe Storage Duration
Breast milk can remain fresh for up to four days in a refrigerator and longer when frozen. However, maintaining low temperatures while traveling can be tricky. While a cooler can keep the milk cold and fresh, you need to watch out for temperature fluctuations that can ruin the milk.
You can measure the temperature at regular intervals and add ice packs when it rises to 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, ensure that your baby consumes all the thawed frozen milk within 24 hours since you cannot refreeze the milk and don’t want to waste any either.
2. Have All the Items You Need on Hand
If you need to pump milk on the go, you will need a breast pump and storage containers. You can also find tote-style coolers to keep the milk fresh. Other items you may need include freezer packs, breast pump accessories, batteries, and milk collection bags. If you are traveling with your baby, ensure you have a portable bottle warmer to warm frozen milk before feeding.
3. Watch Out for Contamination –
Ensure that you keep the breast milk clean throughout your travel to avoid contamination. If you express milk on the road, make sure that the milk bags are sterile before storing milk. When flying, check that no one dips anything into the breast milk containers during airport screening. They should only pour the milk onto their test strips. It’s also important to keep all pump parts clean and sterile in between pumping.
4. Use breastmilk bags for storage
The easiest way to store breastmilk, whether it’s fresh, frozen, or refrigerated, is in bags. These take up the least space which is a crucial point for traveling. Get adapters for your breast pump to pump right into the bags instead of transferring from bottle to bag.
Related Post: Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Babies and Toddlers
Regardless of your mode of transportation, thorough research on the travel restrictions and careful planning can ensure that you know how to travel with frozen breast milk. Before you depart, freeze your milk to ensure it remains fresh on the road. Frozen milk is easier to transport, but you will definitely need a high quality cooler to keep the milk frozen during transit.
Author Bio: This article was written by Conor O’Flynn of O’Flynn Medical. Conor has over two decades experience advising new mothers on breast pumps.