Traveling with Frozen Human Milk
Whether you are moving a large frozen stash or traveling for work with a weekends worth of milk, you need to know how to pack it safely.
Things to consider
- How much milk will you be transporting? Will you be transporting the milk you pump while away from your baby for a weekend, or are you moving across the country and taking a freezer’s worth of milk with you?
- How long will it need to be kept cold? A few hours or an entire week?
- Do you have access to a freezer along the way? At your destination? Is this a short drive between two residences? Is it a road trip with multiple hotel stops along the way? Will you be in a location with no electricity at all?
Packing your frozen milk
If you are traveling by car, consider using the following process to pack your milk:
- Use a well-insulated cooler that will hold your milk.
- Line the bottom of your cooler with newspaper.
- Place your milk bags in the cooler.
- Fill any extra space with more crumpled newspaper. Packing your cooler as tightly as possible ensures that it stays cold for as long as possible.
- Place another layer of newspaper on top of the milk.
- Place frozen gel packs or ice blocks on top of the newspaper.
- Consider sealing your cooler with duct tape to improve the seal and prevent it from opening up and spilling out the milk, if knocked over.
- Keep the cooler closed until you have reached your destination freezer.
- Try to keep the cooler out of direct sun or in a hot car as that will accelerate any defrosting.
Using this method can keep your milk cool for 24-48 hours.
Dry ice may be used in place of gel packs or regular ice. Dry ice can be hard to find and does require additional safety precautions when handling. Dry ice should never come in direct contact with the bags of milk, as it will rip the bags and spill the milk.
Flying with Human Milk
The Transportation Security Administration allows human milk in both carry on and checked luggage within the United States, with some qualifications. The TSA website states: “Formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.”
The TSA continues, “Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above.”
When traveling by plane, it is important to check with your airline for specific requirements especially if you are using dry ice.
Possible complicating factors
- Some hotels or lodging do not have freezers available in guest rooms. Not all hotels are willing or able to add your milk to their kitchen freezers. Be sure to contact your lodging and receive written confirmation about what they can offer to you.
- Countries differ in how they handle flying with human milk. If you have stops outside of the US, be sure to check with their rules for transporting human milk too.
- As stated above, the TSA allows “reasonable quantities” of milk in carry-on bags. This can be subjective and change depending on the screener. Some families found it helpful to have the TSA guidelines printed and ready when there are questions about their milk.
- Do not be surprised if a TSA agent tests your milk if it is fresh or partially defrosted. Usually testing consists of X-raying the cooler and sticking a testing strip into the milk storage container.
- If you need to use some of the frozen milk while traveling, consider storing that milk in a separate cooler so that the other cooler can remain closed (and cold) for the trip.
Breastfeeding in an Emergency, LLL USA
What Can I Bring: Breastmilk, TSA.gov
Traveling with Children, TSA.gov
Storing Human Milk, LLL USA
Working and Breastfeeding, LLL USA
IS YOUR CONCERN OR QUESTION NOT COVERED HERE?
Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.
Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.
Page updated September 2020