For some moms, the idea of traveling with breast milk can seem overwhelming. From airports to hotels to road trips, it may seem like it might just be too hard, but it really doesn’t need to be.
Whether you’re traveling for business, heading out for vacation, or venturing across the country to show off the newest addition to your family, you may need to hit the road with breast milk from time to time. Depending on whether you’re traveling by bus, airplane, or a private vehicle, your primary concerns are probably keeping the milk cold so that it doesn’t spoil and preventing the packaging from busting. You may also want to keep your milk within eyesight to ensure that tampering isn’t an issue.
How to Pack Your Breast Milk for a Trip
If you don’t expect your trip to last more than 12 hours, you gel-based ice packs are adequate to keep your milk cold. Start by freezing the milk in bottles or freezer breast milk bags with leak-proof closure and side seams. Freeze one ice pack per bottle, and then layer the bottles and packs into an insulated cooler. You may want to put each ice pack and bottle in a freezer bag to protect against spills and to limit the impact if the bottles hit against one another.
Traveling with Frozen Breast Milk
Some people recommend placing your cooler of milk in the center of a larger bag and arranging clothing around the edges, but you may want to keep it in a portable cooler if you’re checking your luggage at the airport or placing it underneath a public bus. You want to keep your milk with you as a carry on to ensure that your baby always has nourishment, the milk isn’t tossed around carelessly, and no one tampers with the milk.
What to Expect at the Airport when Traveling with Breast Milk
When flying with breast milk, you will have to go through security and explain that you’re carrying breast milk. Keep in mind that milk doesn’t count toward the limit on liquids that TSA now enforces. Make sure that your milk is frozen so that no check is needed to verify that it’s breast milk, and openly declare what you have. You don’t want the agents to think that you’re trying to slip something in by leaving it in a larger bag or cooler and not telling them what is inside.
Your breast pump counts as a medical device, so you can take it with you on the airplane without it counting as your carry-on. You will need to pack your breast milk, bottles, and other accessories into the carry-on, so make sure that you follow the rules in terms of size.
If you’re heading off on a long flight and flying with your baby, you may want to consider purchasing an extra seat so that you don’t have someone sitting right beside you. This will make it easier to breastfeed with a cover without concern of offending someone or exposing yourself momentarily. You want to keep your baby happy while feeling as comfortable as possible while flying the friendly skies.
How to Handle a Hotel Stay
When traveling with breast milk, you will want to find a hotel that can accommodate breast milk storage. Call ahead and see what you will or will not be able to do.
Some hotel rooms have a fridge with a freezer area in it that can keep the breast milk safely frozen until you return. Even if you do not have that option, a refrigerator can keep the milk for up to 5 days if you are there for just a short time.
Shipping Breast Milk Home when Traveling
There are cases where moms are gone for a longer period of time and may want to ship the breast milk home instead of traveling with it. This is not a cheap option, but there is a company called Milk Stork that can help.
Instead of weaning a baby too soon, pumping and dumping or needing to rely on formula as a backup, moms can overnight the breast milk home shipped straight from their hotel in a cooler provided by the company to keep the breast milk from spoiling in transit.
Successful Road Trips with Baby and Breast Milk in Tow
If you’re riding on a public bus or train, keep in mind that storage areas will put your baggage through a lot of shaking and rattling. This isn’t a safe place for glass baby bottles, your breast pump, or other breakable supplies. You also want to keep your breast milk within sight at all times to ensure that it isn’t tampered with, lost, or misplaced along the way. Calling the train or bus service in advance to ask about their guidelines for carrying breast milk or carry-on bags is a great idea.
You have the greatest freedom when traveling in your personal car for a road trip, but you still have to think about safe placement of your breast milk. Moms can use gel-based ice packs for shorter trips, but dry ice may be a better option if you plan to be on the road for more than 12 hours. Place your cooler in an easy-to-reach place rather than in the trunk so that you don’t have to stop the car each time you want to feed your baby a bottle.
While it’s tempting to breastfeed while you’re traveling in a car, it’s important that you don’t remove your baby from his or her car seat while the vehicle is moving. If you’re in an accident while breastfeeding, your baby is more likely to be hurt if he or she isn’t secured in a seat belt. Wait until you can stop at a rest area or a safe parking lot to feed your baby, or go with bottle feedings while you’re on the road.
Before you leave on a road trip, make note of restaurants, rest areas, and other stops where you can fill your cooler with clean ice, buy dry ice, or refreeze your breast milk packs for a short period of time. This will help you keep your breast milk cold for the entire duration of the trip. It will also help you plan out your trip so that you stop at family-friendly destinations that will make your family feel comfortable and safe.
Finding Space to Breastfeed on the Road
Now that you know how to safely pack your breast milk and keep it sanitary while away from home, perhaps you’re wondering where you will breastfeed when at a truck stop, airport, or rest stop. You can never assume that all of these places will have a dedicated space for breastfeeding mothers, so make sure that you’re prepared to discreetly breastfeed at any moment.
You can wear a breastfeeding bra covered by an oversized top that makes it easy to slip your baby underneath. Coverups, scarves and slings may come in handy as well. You have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever you have the legal right to exist, but these tools will help you attract as little attention as possible.
However, if you’re packing breast milk, you also have the option to bottle feed your baby when you can’t find a safe, comfortable place to breastfeed.
When You Need to Pump When You Travel
When you are away from baby and need to pump in strange places, you will need to plan for the circumstances. Sometimes you can call to plan ahead and know where you will be able to pump. Will there be a designated area you can pump? Will you have access to a private bathroom?
Other times you may need to use a car adapter, battery-powered breast pump or even a manual pump to be able to pump in some less-than-convenient places. That is ok! Moms become good at improvising! If you have a pump with these accessories already, you can be prepared for anything. Otherwise, make sure to plan for this before you leave so that you are not caught surprised and unprepared.
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way When Traveling With Breast Milk
There is no need to postpone a trip or wean a baby early because of fear of traveling with breast milk, getting it through the airport or needing to be away for too long. The key to traveling with breast milk is just to plan ahead so when the time comes, you can just enjoy a worry-free trip.
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