On August 6, 2011, the United States Breastfeeding Committee declared August to be National Breastfeeding Month. As we celebrate and continue to work toward the normalization of breastfeeding everywhere, we’ll be touching on different topics of interest to breastfeeding mamas. One question that always comes up in our Mothering forums is about what you need to know when flying with breast milk. We’ve gotten in touch with experts from Akron Children’s Hospital to give traveling mamas several tips for flying with breast milk and passing through security in airports.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 80% of mothers nurse their babies right after birth, and we’re loving that the percentage keeps growing. This means mamas are feeding (and/or pumping) milk every two-to-three hours a day.
So what happens to that liquid gold when you are traveling and have to go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the airport? It’s one thing when they dump your water bottle or even a favorite essential oil.
But the thought of something happening to pumped milk you may have and be traveling with? Unspeakable.
So what can you do? What do you need to know about when flying with breast milk? Liz Maseth is a nurse and internationally board-certified lactation consultant with Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. She’s given natural-minded mamas like us some tips for traveling safely and confidently through airports when carrying breast milk. You want to keep it safe, and you want to keep it, so here are six tips to remember when flying with breast milk.
1. You ARE allowed to carry formula, breast milk and juice, and in quantities larger than the traditional 3.4 oz. liquid maximum in your carry-on. The TSA allows this in ‘reasonable quantities,’ and while that is subjective, the odds of anyone debating what is reasonable for your child are slim.
2. You can take freezer or ice packs to keep your breast milk cool in your carry-on. You just need to make sure the packs are frozen solid, or else they may be subject to additional screening.
3. Breast pumps are considered medical devices. They are allowed in your carry-on, though you should know that individual airlines may interpret that rule differently. Just be sure to tell the airline it’s a medical device, not a carry-on. When in doubt, best to just have a carryover or a fanny-bag (they’re always cool!) to keep your personal information/licenses/etc. and have your pump in your diaper bag carry-on.
4. TSA is allowed to handle breast milk to check for security issues, but you can (and should) ask the agent to put fresh gloves on before handling your breast milk containers or anything that’s associated (pump, pieces, parts, cooler, etc.) with your breast milk so you can prevent any contamination.
5. You do NOT have to let breast milk go through the X-Ray machines or the containers be opened but you may likely be asked to move aside for additional screening. Be adamant. They don’t need to open secure containers to check for security. The TSA website says that the CDC has deemed no adverse effects of breast milk going through X-Ray screening, but you can ask for an alternative screening. Do so.
6. This may be the most important tip for flying with breast milk: you do NOT have to be traveling with your baby (or any baby) when you are flying with breast milk. In this day and age, many mamas travel without their littles and pump to ensure their babies have that precious milk. Not having your baby with you should not be a profile tag, and though your breast milk will be subject to the TSA guidelines, that you don’t have a baby with you cannot stop you from flying with breast milk.
Related: 4 Tips for Breastfeeding in Airports
It’s never a bad idea to actually print out the TSA guidelines for traveling with children so you can pull them out if there’s a question about regulations. It’s amazing what happens when you show a TSA agent the regulations from their own website.
All in all, flying with breast milk may take some additional planning and preparation, but it’s getting easier and easier to do. Follow the tips and enjoy the friendly skies!
Photo: Nor Gal/Shutterstock