The ABC's of Flying With Breast Milk
Breastfeeding • by Rita Tarnate • Sep 28, 2020 • 3 min read
Anyone that’s traveled by air knows the mental checklist that goes on while waiting in line at airport security. Take off the heavy coat, empty your pockets, chug that iced coffee…
But, there’s good news for parents. While the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) 3-1-1 liquids rule bans liquids over 3.4 ounces in carry-on bags, the rules don’t apply to “infant and child nourishments” such as breast milk, formula, water, juice, baby food jars, and even gel teethers.
Have an upcoming girls’ weekend or work travel? There’s even better news for breastfeeding moms. On top of breast milk being a-okay in your check-in or carry-on bag, your infant doesn’t need to be flying with you.
Knowing your rights when flying with breast milk can help you avoid contamination and unnecessary waste. We’ve broken down the TSA’s guidelines to help you easily get breast milk through airport security.
TL;DR for Busy Parents
- You’re allowed to fly with breast milk and your infant doesn’t need to be with you.
- Bring enough thawed milk to get you to your destination and freeze the rest.
- Separate breast milk from your other belongings when going through security.
- Frozen breast milk will be visually screened and thawed milk is typically X-rayed.
- Breast milk can also be checked-in or shipped.
Before You Fly
Know your limits. The rules don’t specify how much breast is milk allowed in your carry-on bag. Use your best judgement and bring an amount you can comfortably hand-carry. Realistically, you only need enough to get you to your destination but you should pack a little extra in case of delays or accidents.
If you’re gone for a long time or have a large amount of milk, there are other options we’ll get into later.
Freeze what you can. If your baby won’t need expressed milk during travel, freezing it will make your life easier. At security, a visual inspection will suffice since it’s frozen solid. You’ll also need to freeze breast milk for journeys that extend beyond 24 hours.
Ice packs should definitely be frozen prior to departure. Thawed or slushy ice packs become subject to the 3-1-1 rule and will cause additional screening or get tossed.
Pack it last. Make sure your breast milk is easily accessible so you can quickly pull it out when you get to security.
Print a copy of the rules. It’s a good idea to have print-outs of the TSA guidelines in your bag in case you encounter an agent who isn’t familiar with the rules. Keep in mind that the rules vary by country. We’ve only covered the U.S. guidelines so, if you’re traveling internationally, be sure to check your destination airport’s policy.
Arrive early. Even if you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck, give yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes. It could take a while to find an available TSA agent who can screen your breast milk, and the worst-case scenario would be requiring additional screening. Best-case scenario, you’re quickly through security and you’ve got extra time to relax before your flight.
The Screening Process
Separate your breast milk. Before putting your belongings through the X-ray, place your breast milk in its own bin.
Flag an agent. Let a TSA agent know that you are carrying breast milk. If they need to touch your breast milk bags or bottles, you can kindly ask them to put on a fresh pair of gloves.
X-ray screening. Thawed milk goes through the standard X-ray screening method and this is no reason to worry. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that breast milk that has been through an X-ray is safe to consume.
Additional screening. In rare instances, you may be asked to transfer a sample of your breast milk so that it can be tested for explosives.
Handle your breast milk. The majority of the time, screening the container is enough. If the breast milk itself ever needs to be screened, agents should always have you open and handle it versus handling it on their own.
Right to refuse. You have the right to say no to your breast milk being X-rayed or opened. Simply inform the TSA agent and they’ll take additional screening measures to clear you and your breast milk.
TSA Contact Center. Flying should never be stressful, especially for new parents. If you have a bad experience getting breast milk through airport security, reach out to the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673. Having more information allows them to better train their agents to prevent similar situations in the future.
If you’re still unsure about having breast milk in your carry-on, you have other options that don’t involve staying at home and avoiding travel altogether!
Check-in your breast milk. If you have too much for your carry-on or don’t like the idea of security agents handling your breast milk, you can freeze it and pack it in your check-in bag.
Ship it. Send breast milk through any shipping company that accepts dry ice. FedEx also offers cold shipping boxes that make the packing experience super easy.
Specialize. Breast milk shipping services like Milk Stork have packing solutions for both carry-on and shipping.