Flying With Frozen Breast Milk

Posted September 28, 2015 by Julie in Parenting, Tips and Resources / 10 Comments

I recently had to fly back to California to help with a funeral for my Grandmother, and I chose to go alone, leaving Baby H with Hubby at home. This was my first time being away from the baby, so I had to pump and freeze the 3 days I was gone. I wanted to share some quick tips based on what I learned during that experience.
Flying with Frozen Breast Milk

Pumping and Freezing Breast Milk

I brought my pump as a carry-on (kind of a guard it with your life and don’t trust the luggage people situation) even though I didn’t actually pump on the flight or at the airport. I did, however, pump in the car ride immediately after leaving the airport (as passenger) so I prepared and had everything set up and ready to go. I brought along a box of those lovely breast milk storage bags to use for freezing pumped milk. This was actually my first time freezing breast milk and using these, so here’s what I did.

  • Prior to pouring pumped milk from the collection container into the storage bag, write the date and time. This is much easier to do on a flat bag. Use a permanent marker, not a regular pen.
  • Use a fresh storage bag for each pumping session, but do combine pumped milk from both sides.
  • Push out excess air prior to sealing, and lay flat in the freezer. This saves space and allows for easier transport.

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 Flying with Frozen Breast Milk

As it turned out, the airline I got my last-minute (somewhat affordable) tickets from nickel-and-dimed you for everything, including carry-ons outside one personal item. Since I already had to pay for a checked bag and had my pump and purse in a “personal” backpack, I didn’t want to also pay for an extra carry-on for my cooler full of frozen breast milk. I packed a soft lunch box style cooler directly in my checked suitcase on the way there, with room-temperature freezer packs. I froze them while at my parents’ house, and the plan was to fly back with my breast milk as a carry-on.

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Well since I didn’t want to pay double for my luggage, I packed my frozen breast milk back into my checked suitcase in between the freezer packs in the cooler. Our breastfeeding support group nurse actually recommended checking the milk anyway, since the luggage compartment on the plane stays much colder than where the passengers sit. That helped me skip any hold ups with the TSA as well.

When I got the breast milk home, it was a bit slushy and no longer completely frozen solid, so to be safe we fed it to Baby H within the first day after I got home (since I don’t make very much, him drinking it all in one day wasn’t a problem). I have been told that as long as it is still solid, the frozen breastmilk is safe to re-freeze and continue using. If it melts, then it must be used within 24 hours. I haven’t gotten a good answer on partially frozen, though. I’ve heard some people mention they flew their pumped breast milk packed with dry ice to keep it fully frozen, so that might be something to look into if you have more time to plan the trip. It worked out well enough for me, and I’m glad I did pump during that time since a break like that could have dried up my supply completely.

Do you have any tips or experiences about flying with breast milk to share?

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JuliepicI'm Julie, a new mom who works full time and blogs, all while wishing I had more time to read fun books. I write about being a first time working mom in order to help myself and other working moms in our journeys to find balance between family, responsibilities, and hobbies so we can thrive both at home and at work.
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10 responses to “Flying With Frozen Breast Milk

  1. Dear Julie,

    May I say a massive thank you for sticking with me on #BreastfeedignandI despite my recent irregular posting of the linky. I’m finding my feet again and things should hopefully go more smoothly from now.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and contributing to the story pool that breastfeeding mums can dip into as they find their own way. 🙂 #BreastfeedingandI

  2. Fab tips as usual! Brilliant job keeping your supply whilst away and it must have been so lovely that Baby H was able to drink it all. I wonder if the airplane might have helped with freezing it on board. 🙂 #CommentLuv

    • Ooh that’s an interesting idea. If I end up needing to carry my cooler on sometime I’ll ask, maybe that’s something the flight attendants can do.

  3. Great tips! I never froze my milk, and I never had to fly with it either, so I’m not much help. You know it’s so funny I never thought to actually write the date of the milk on the outside of the bag before pumping though, I always used to write it afterwards!

    • I started out writing after on zippy bags with frozen puree food I made (in ice cube trays) but it was too hard to get the writing to show up on lumpy wet bags, so I learned to write beforehand.

  4. Great tips! I never could produce much for the pump, but who knows what position I’ll find myself in next time around. I’ll definitely keep this in mind!

    Thank you for sharing with us at #mommymeetupmondays!

  5. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!

    I don’t travel much by airplane but I never even thought about what a mom would do if she had to fly somewhere away from a baby! This would be super hard because you would have to pump but then you wouldn’t want it to all go to waste. What a good idea for packing it in your suitcase!!

    • Definitely didn’t want it to go to waste, all that hard work and magic milk heh. It is great to have options and be able to bring the pumped milk back with you.

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