Traveling and Breast Milk Storage….

Only a few years have passed since I nursed our youngest child myself.  Now maybe I am just hyper-aware of lactation progress because of my job -OR- just maybe we are REALLY, FINALLY starting to see the changes and support needed for nursing mothers. 

On a recent family vacation, I couldn’t help but notice the Mamava nursing pods located in the airports as well as other various Mother’s Rooms. These areas can be used for changing diapers, pumping, and breastfeeding.  These advancements are great for giving a mother privacy, allowing space for pumping, but overall, just helping bring awareness to breastfeeding to everyone else passing through.

Along with the pods and the infant/family rooms, I also noticed several women nursing in public.  It was discrete and nonchalant! Some mothers were using covers and some were not, but regardless it was NOT a big deal! 

Several years ago, I remember feeling alone and a little anxious when nursing in public. Not that it stopped me at all, but I often times felt like I was the only one and nervous that someone would approach me and say something (we’ve all heard those horrible stories!). Anymore it seems that there are many advancements making it easier and a little less frightening. We are seeing an increase in these pods, mother’s rooms, changing rooms, and now there are even genius clothing lines specifically for nursing moms that make nursing in public a little less panicky and more stylish (and that caused me to kick myself for not coming up with the idea myself when I was nursing!).

With all of this, I am just happy to see more acceptance and more advocacy for breastfeeding mothers. I think we have come a long way, even in as little as the past few years. For all of you mothers using the Pods, Mother’s rooms, and/or nursing in public…you are doing your part in making breastfeeding less of “a thing” and normalizing it even more. So, thank you!

Traveling can be hectic in its self, let alone to be traveling with children or traveling and trying to pump/store/transport breast milk. Regardless, there is a lot to think about! Below are my tips for storage and traveling within the US:

  1. First, It is hugely important to understand the (above) basic storage guidelines for expressed breast milk. The CDC has this great table outlining the proper storage timelines for freshly expressed breast milk, refrigerated milk, as well as thawed frozen breast milk. CDC breastmilk storage table
  2. According to the TSA guidelines, traveling with breast milk, juice, and formula for infants is permitted through security checkpoints and is exempt from the 3-1-1 rule. 
    • Notify TSA at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying breast milk. 
    • Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to keep breast milk cool are allowed in your carry-on cooler. 
    • Typically your pump, breast milk, and any cooling packs are going to be screened separately. 
    • If your breast milk is screened, The Food and Drug Administration states that there are no known adverse effects from eating food or beverages screened by X-Ray. 
  3. With a breast pump being a “medical device” it does not count as a carry on item however, if you are traveling with a separate cooler and ice packs, this cooler will be considered as a carry-on. 
  4. You can request a hotel room with a freezer or you can ask the hotel desk for the possible options to store milk in their hotel freezer. I always think it is a good idea, to discuss these options with the hotel prior to booking to see what their accommodations might be. 
    • For packing and thawing purposes, I always suggest storing smaller quantities at a time. Example: It is less wasteful to thaw two 2-oz bags than to have to thaw out a larger 6 oz bag and end up wasting several ounces of precious milk. Plus, smaller quantities tend to lay and pack better in your cooler. 
  5. Once frozen breast milk has been thawed, it has to be used within 24hours.  This can make traveling home with frozen breast milk tricky. You can attempt to keep your cooler cold enough to travel home with frozen breast milk (using ice packs, gel packs, or ice) or you also have the option to ship your milk home. Along with a few other companies, Fed Ex has an actual process for shipping home frozen breast milk!!  
    • If you are traveling for work, some companies will reimburse expenses necessary for shipping breast milk. 
    • Note: there are other options/companies that offer this shipping service as well. It is always a great idea to explore options and pricing based on the area of where you are visiting. 
  6. Lastly, it is very important when traveling to either pump or nurse as frequently as you would if you were at home. When traveling (with or without your baby) it gets very easy to push back feeding times or pumping sessions. For supply purposes, it is very important to try to stay on your normal schedule as much as possible. Breast milk production is all about supply and demand; the more you pump, or the more you feed, the better your production will be. It is best to avoid long stretches between feedings when trying to maintain supply.

Based on previous blogs, you all know that I am always an advocate for planning and being prepared! So, I always think it is a good idea to come up with a plan before travel: Call the hotel to discuss storage options, go over the TSA guidelines before traveling with breast milk, and look ahead at your shipping options.  

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