Flying and Traveling While Breastfeeding

December 11, 2013
Flying and Traveling While Breastfeeding

With a little extra planning, traveling while breastfeeding or pumping is totally possible – but it’s not always easy. Fortunately, companies are starting to take note of this reality and are providing nursing moms with increased support and accommodations. For example, Burlington International Airport in Vermont recently introduced a “Lactation Station” pod designed to give breastfeeding moms a bit of privacy and Chicago’s Hard Rock Hotel offers a Nursing Mothers Amenity Program, which includes a hospital-grade pump, safe breastmilk storage, and more. Even if you don’t come across these types of amenities in your travels, you can still be proactive and prepare for liftoff with the right information.

Tips for traveling while breastfeeding, with or without your little one:

  • Get to know breastfeeding resources surrounding your destination. Search our locator to find Medela retailers, lactation professionals, and nursing centers so you can know where to turn if you run into troubles at any point in your trip. iPhone users can also use Medela’s iBreastfeed app to find breastfeeding and pumping-friendly locations nationwide.
  • Call ahead. Request a refrigerator in your hotel room and let your airline know you’ll be traveling with a pump and/or breastmilk. It never hurts to give a heads-up, plus they might be able to arrange for special accommodations, making your trip even smoother. You absolutely can use a breastpump or breastfeed on an airplane, but you can ask if they have any specific policies or recommendations regarding breastfeeding.
  • Prepare your breastpump + kit. Make sure you have all the breastpump parts and accessories you need, as well as some extras just in case. Also pack a traveler’s health kit or a few first aid supplies and a printed copy of the TSA’s official policy on traveling with breastmilk in your pump bag.
  • Prepare for storage. Storing your breastmilk in an insulated cooler bag with an icepack will keep it safe for up to 24 hours. You can ask a flight attendant for ice, or on a longer flight, see if they’re able to refrigerate your milk for you. Once you reach your destination and depending on your trip length, you may consider shipping your breastmilk home in dry ice.
  • Stock up on on-the-go cleaning supplies. Quick Clean Wipes remove breastmilk residue without soap and water. Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam bags disinfect breastpump parts in just 3 minutes. You can also use a Micro-Steam Bag to store pump parts between sessions.
  • Consider using a baby sling if you’re traveling with your little one. Keeping baby close not only provides comfort in unfamiliar situations, but it allows for discreet breastfeeding. Baby slings also free up your hands while letting you be more in-tune with your baby’s cues.

What to know when going through security with breastmilk:

  • As soon as you can, tell the officer or inspector at the security checkpoint that you are carrying breastmilk and present it for inspection.
  • Because breastmilk is considered liquid medication, you can carry on more than 3 oz. However, the TSA encourages you to only carry as much breastmilk as you need to reach your destination. Icepacks used to cool breastmilk are also allowed under this exemption.
  • Security officers cannot ask you to taste or test the breastmilk, but they can ask you to open bottles during your screening. Keep milk in clear storage bags or bottles to make the inspection process as smooth as possible.
  • Portable, personal-use electric breastpumps such as the Freestyle or Pump In Style Advanced are considered personal items and may be carried on and stowed under your seat, similar to a diaper bag or purse.

Have you traveled with your baby and/or with your breastpump or breastmilk? What tips can you share with other moms?

16 thoughts on “Flying and Traveling While Breastfeeding

  1. Regarding TSA’s ability to test the milk–to be clear they can take a bottle/bag of milk and put it in a scanner, but they won’t actually take the liquid out of the storage container to test it. It only happened to me on one of 12 trips through security, but they have every right to do it. I think the male agents usually don’t because it makes them uncomfortable 😳 I was nearly in tears thinking the lady was telling my that she would dumping out several of my full storage bags, but it was really just placing them fully sealed and intact into a machine that scans it and does nothing to the milk.

  2. A warning – milk shipped on dry ice might not be as appealing to baby. I shipped home 2 days worth of breastmilk – I was fortunate to take a trip to a research institution, and they stored and shipped my pumped milk home via overnight fed ex. It arrived frozen and my husband put it in the freezer immediately. Baby didn’t like it – eventually she took it, but some she refused.

    • Hi Yanira – Because breastmilk is considered liquid medication, you can carry on more than 3 oz. However, the TSA encourages you to only carry as much breastmilk as you need to reach your destination. Freezing your milk is okay, however, once your breastmilk thaws you need to use it within 24 hours. Icepacks used to cool breastmilk are also allowed under this exemption. Safe travels!

  3. A pump is considered a medical device and does not count as a carry on. Neither does the cooler you pack your milk back in. I have a pump in style backpack and take two sets of parts with me. I keep a travel sized bottle of soap and my lanolin with the pump bag. I also pack a bunch of ziplock bags. I dump the ice out right before going through security and then refill ziplock with ice right after or I get it from flight attendant once on the plane if short on time (but don’t ask till after takeoff b/c they get mad if you interrupt their boarding/takeoff process). Google which airports you’re going through to see if they having nursing rooms/lactation pods and be sure to note what gates they are located next to. My last trip through Chicago the POS wasn’t near my gate and security line was slow so I had to wait and pump on the plane (bathrooms were disgusting in the terminal). I book window seats and flight attendant gave me a blanket and I was completely covered. I gave them a heads up as we boarded and I was able to pump during boarding/taxi/takeoff with no issues. Next time I plan to board with the special group that needs extra assistance so I can let them know what I’m up to and get settled before the boarding rush so I’m not holding up the line with my extra bags. I have been asked by gate agent about having more than 2 items and I just tell them it’s a medical device and they haven’t given me any issues. If I get to the gate before boarding starts and the gate agents aren’t too stressed I let them know ahead of time I have a medical device as an extra item. The only issue I’ve had with security was the quick clean wipes showed up as liquid on their screens so they removed those and rescanned them. Just give yourself extra time through security than usual.

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