Frozen Breast Milk: Shipping and Traveling With it

PSP members share advice about frozen breast milk, from shipping it to packing and traveling with it.

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Important:

 

Be sure to follow CDC guidelines about How to Keep Your Breast Pump Clean and their tips for the proper handling and storage of human milk.

 

Shipping frozen breast milk:

 

Milkstork:

Milk Stork is the first and only breast milk delivery service for traveling moms, providing no-fuss, refrigerated, express shipping or easy toting of your breast milk. More information >

  • “Milkstork! I shipped from LA to New York and it worked wonderfully!”
  • “I have also shipped via milkstork which was great. I used both the small and the large containers. One I had frozen milk the other just cold and both worked well.”
  • “I've used and loved milk stork. It has to be scheduled a week in advance but my milk wasn't picked up and was away from me for 75 hours and was still 34 degrees.”

 

FedEx:

  • “I have a friend who went to Walmart, bought dry ice and a cooler, sealed it and put it in an overnight FedEx box and it was fine when it got home. One thing she highlighted was to NOT let the dry ice come in contact with the milk bags directly as it can apparently sear the packaging. She put newspaper in on top of the dry ice then sealed it all in ziplock baggies. I believe she found a video on youtube that explained how. FedEx was the shipper of choice.”

 

Traveling with frozen breast milk:

 

Tips for how to pack frozen breast milk:

  •  “I put some breast milk in a cooler bag on ice in my checked luggage and it was frozen enough when I arrived to go into the freezer. It wasn't much and I didn't make much of an effort and it was still fine after 6ish total hours of travel, door to door.”
  • “Checked luggage does stay cold. I haven't traveled with frozen milk, but when I visit home, my mom always sends me home with frozen food, wrapped in plastic bag, then wrapped in newspaper, no added ice, and the food is generally still frozen by the time I get back home to NY. My mom lives in Barranquilla, Colombia, so door to door it's sometimes most of a day, depending on the layover.”
  • “No experience with shipping - mostly because I couldn't find any good information on how to do it from abroad when I needed it, but didn't want to throw out all the milk I had pumped on my trip either. So I flew home from Amsterdam with about 2.5L on pumped breast milk. I put it in cooler bags, surrounded on all sides by thick icepacks. When I got home, all the milk was still mostly frozen and good to go in the freezer. From freezer to freezer, the travel time was about 15 hours. The most annoying part about this was how heavy the milk and icepacks were to carry, but glad I did it! Good luck!”
  • “I went to an out of town wedding a couple months back that I had to fly to and had to bring a supply of milk for the whole weekend.  I put the bags of frozen milk in the cooler that comes with the pump in style along with an ice pack and packed it in my suitcase I checked on. I probably had this out about 10 hours before getting to the hotel.  It was all still frozen when I unpacked it so I think you all should be okay on a driving trip with a cooler and ice pack.”
  • “I got these great freezer bags (think they're called playtex on the go or something similar). You put the whole bag in the freezer instead of using ice packs. I brought two of those with me - one frozen, one not. I used the frozen one to store milk I pumped on the way. Then, when I got to the hotel, I had them put both coolers in their freezer (since you likely won't have a freezer in your room). I filled one with milk I pumped while there and put it in my checked bag - and then brought the other one with me on the plane for milk I pumped on the way home.”
  • “I found it easier to travel with ziplock bags and just use ice. Fill up at hotel, dump before security, refill with ice at any food vendor or in the plane. I also added ice while keeping my cooler in the hotel mini fridge- many of them are not cold enough on their own.”
  • "I would add to transport the milk back in the freezer bags rather than bottles. I would bring a pack of the bags and only a set or two of the bottles (enough to have a clean set at each pumping session in a day) to cut down on the bulk of the items. You can wash the same sets of bottles each day and then just transfer into the bags to store. Depending on how long you are gone the bags are more compact to put in the cooler so you can fit more. I also found that the TSA people would see the bags and be so freaked out to touch them/attempt to open them they would just look and let me go on vs. bottles which they tended to want to open."
  • "As far as traveling with milk, if you can freeze it before the return trip, I've often put frozen milk in an insulated bag inside a checked bag.  This time of year, it probably won't be in your bag long enough to defrost before your flight takes off and the cargo hold of the plane is freezing."
  • "I am a freelance tour guide and events coordinator so i had to learn how to pump on the go, particularly second time around since i went back to work after he was about 5-6wks old. I brought a nursing cover and a portable pump and tried to find a secluded space/bench/ table/ bathroom stall etc etc. I typically carried my expressed milk in Lansinoh storage packs dug in a cup full of ice. Milk stays fresh for up to 8hrs in an ice pack or a fridge. If you freeze and defrost you need to use it within 8hrs as well."

 

Travel with Hard Sided Ice Packs, not Gel:

  •  “I've flown with hard-sided ice packs (I don't think the gel-pack kind would be permitted) to keep my pumped milk cool, and they weren't confiscated by security. However, I wasn't able to find anything in the TSA's guidelines specifically allowing ice packs, so it's possible that I just got lucky and had an understanding TSA worker inspect my cooler bag. I think you'd run into the same issue with frozen baby food (they'll probably let you through, but if you have a difficult inspector you might be in trouble).”

 

TSA Notes:

  • “Not sure if this has been covered, but just a note on the ice packs-this may have changed, but TSA made me throw mine away.  You might not want to bring them, as you'll have to toss them. I found the flight attendants and even restaurants in the terminal to be very helpful with providing ice--maybe bring some zip lock bags for this purpose.”
  • "Re:ice packs- it is correct, they are allowed to cool breast milk. However, I had lots and lots of TSA personnel refuse to follow policy and if you want to catch your flight, then you can't spend all day "waiting" for supervisor.”
  • “I just flew this morning with frozen ice packs.... And the TSA guy said "they're frozen, so you're good!"
  • “I've flown a number of times in the last two months and never had an issue with a frozen ice pack (although they sometimes got scanned in the same machine as the milk). I believe they are expressly allowed to cool expressed milk.”
  • "Frozen ice packs are ok. A defrosted/soft ice pack may be considered a liquid."

 

But remember, different countries have different rules:

  •  “US security has allowed my reusable ice pack (the hard shell kind) on the plane, but while transiting through Tokyo security they made me throw it away. From then on I just bought ice at the cafes (after passing through security), and use them in a resealable bag/bottle. The ice usually last for a while, if you have one of those storage carrier.  And you can ask for more ice on the plane.

 

Other frozen milk tips:

  • “I have carried on frozen - and they opened and checked every package which wasn't fun. They didn't do the same when it was not frozen - they did a random test on one bag.”
  • “From what I hear, if there are still frozen crystals in it, the milk is fine to go back in the freezer.”

 

Related Reading on PSP:

Flying with breast milk and pumping