Traveling With Breastmilk
Traveling without your little one soon? Dont fret, I am here to help. I recently flew from Los Angeles, Ca to New York City. Knowing in advance I would be away from my baby for 4 days, I did a lot of research on traveling with breastmilk / my breast pump. I didn’t really find anything that answered all of my questions, which is what has landed me here. Hopefully I can answer all of your questions so you aren’t caught off guard like I was.
Before leaving, thinking about how and when I would pump was my main concern. With an 7 hour flight which included an 1 hour layover, I knew I would have to pump either at the airport, on the plane or maybe even both.
Tip 1: When booking your flight, try to book with an airline that has outlets in the seats. On my way to NYC I flew with American and unfortunately they did not have outlets. Flying back however I was with Jetblue and was happy to find their seats were equipped with outlets. Below is a list of airlines that offer traditional power outlet compatible with a breast pump.
- 1. JetBlue
- 2. Virgin
- 3. AirCanada
- 4. Alaskan Airlines
- 5. American Airlines (on select aircrafts)
- 6.Delta (on select aircrafts and only in first/business class)
- 7. United (On most of their aircrafts)
I tried to plan my sessions out the best I could. I pumped right before leaving for the airport but left that breastmilk at home. This gave me roughly 4 hours until I would need to pump again. As I mentioned above, my inbound flight to NYC did not have any power outlets. Which meant I would have to wait an extra hour before pumping. Once I landed for my layover in Indianapolis I knew it was time to pump again.
Most airports have breastmilk pumping rooms now. However, the rooms may not be anywhere near the boarding gate you need. Be prepared for this. Or as in my case, you could have employees who have no idea there is a nursing / pumping room. In either case, always be prepared. I ended up pumping on the ground while hundreds of people walked past me (see photo above). Luckily for me, breastfeeding four kids has made me a little less concerned about others watching. But since not all mommas are willing to go full on breast out for the ‘gram don’t be like Jazmyne. Make sure to check the airports website in advance. Because although one would think the employees would have a good handle on the amenities of the airport they work at, one can never be too sure.
When it was time to leave New York, I frantically searched high and low for a styrofoam cooler at a local store. Only to be informed New York has banned all styrofoam which was probably why I couldn’t find one after calling several different locations. But let me tell you why was I so frantic, as this will move us into tip number two.
During my time in New York I stayed at two separate hotels. At the first hotel they offered to freeze my breastmilk for me in their restaurant freezer. I would pump in my room and leave the breastmilk in the mini frig and then call room service each night. They would then bring it down to their freezer. It was amazing! So of course, I just assumed the same would prove at the next hotel. Boy was I wrong.
Tip Number 2:
- Call your hotel and request a mini frig in your room. A lot of hotels have them already in the room, but these are usually filled with drinks and I have noticed are nowhere near as big as the ones they provide for you if requested.
- It may be worth it to call ahead and inquire about what accommodations they can provide for your breastmilk. You’ll be surprised how helpful they can be, or at least I was.
- If the hotel has a restaurant they will probably be able to freeze your milk for you. Having frozen breastmilk going through TSA is way better, believe me.
So what do you use if the a styrofoam cooler isn’t available? I ended up using a regular cooler (more like a lunch pal to be exact). If you are planning to bring your breastmilk on as your carry on / personal item, which I highly recommend, then this option should be fine.
The cooler I used was purchased from The Container Store and came with 6 gel ice packs. I requested the hotel I was at put them in the freezer as well as provide me with ice if possible. Before I left for the airport, I packed my breastmilk in the cooler and then added the gel ice packs around it. Once done, I had the hotel staff put ice on the top before closing the cooler. I chose not to use dry ice because of an article I read where the TSA agents at the very airport I was flying from made a new mother dispose of her cooler who dry ice, leaving her with a cooler full of breast milk and no way to keep it cool.
Going through TSA with your breast pump and breastmilk can be rather daunting. First, per TSA guidelines, breastmilk is allowed on a plane but there is no set limit for the quantity permitted. Which, is some cases, won’t matter. But if you have an oversupply like me, that could mean a number of things. I was worried sick that I may or may not have to disregard some of my breastmilk. After speaking with several TSA workers this is what I was told.
Always inform the TSA agent you have breastmilk, before they start going through your bags. This will keep it from going through the x-ray machine. Per the Food and Drug administration there are no adverse effects to breastmilk being x-rayed, but for me I was a little uneasy about it.
- If your breastmilk is frozen, the quantity no longer matters.
- Most TSA workers are not going to request you disregard your breastmilk as long as you corporate with them. If the breastmilk is slushy or in a liquid state it will need to undergo some testing.
- The testing depends on how the milk is being stored. I had most of my milk in breastmilk storage bags. I later found out that having it in bottles may have been more helpful. As with most things TSA, this will depend on the actual TSA agent.
I had to deal with quite a few TSA agents while they inspected my breastmilk. One began by putting my breastmilk in a machine to check for explosives. However when the machine wouldn’t register the bags, she had to call over a supervisor. The supervisor, a male who no children (I asked), began opening the bags and smelling the milk. At one point he even stuck his finger in. At which point I got very angry and proceeded to ask for a supervisor and record what was going on.
The next TSA agent that came to help was a breastfeeding mother herself. She took a wand over my bags and let me go on my merry way once they didn’t set off the alarm. While she was inspecting the milk she made sure to tell me, it is always better to travel with frozen breastmilk when possible. But if I can’t, she has noticed that the bottles seem to do better in the machine then the breastmilk storage bags. This way the breastmilk doesn’t have to be handled so much. Also, you have the right to request your breastmilk not be opened or x-rayed. This may result in you having to go threw a few extra steps security wise, but if you have the time, go for it.
Overall, my experience traveling with breastmilk was frustrating but luckily I learned quite a few things to help improve my next trip. I hope the tips above can help you and keep you from having to experience what I did.