Traveling with breastmilk by car or plane is not an easy task due to its delicate nature. This is why if you are exclusively breastfeeding, transporting breast milk tends to be your biggest challenge, especially when taking a long journey.
However, with the right tools, you can easily travel while carrying breast milk without any worries. For instance, items such as a cooler bag or a mini-fridge may come in handy to ensure the milk remains fresh throughout the journey. We shall talk more about this in this article as well as give you some important tips on how to travel with breast milk safely.
What you need when traveling with breastmilk by car or plane?
1. A Cooler with Icepack
The most important item you need to bring along on a long journey with breast milk is a cooler. According to Mayoclinic.org, breast milk that has been freshly expressed can last up to 4 to 6 hours at room temperature.
If you are bringing your baby along and you are sure he or she will consume the milk within the 6 hours, then you might not need a cooler.
However, you need to consider the temperature inside your car so as not to take unnecessary risk.
Breast milk is very delicate and can easily go bad if left in a hot or warm place over an extended period of time. So if it is on a hot day and the temperature inside your car is above room temperature, consider putting the milk in a cooler with an ice pack.
You can opt for a small milk cooler such as the Medela Breast Milk Cooler, which comes highly recommended by physicians. It comes with a bag, a cooling ice pack, and 4 (5oz) bottles with lids.
2. Breast Pump and Accessories
You can choose to breastfeed your baby while on the go or bottle feed. If you are planning to bottle feed, then you will need to carry a breast pump.
Pumping will ensure that you continually add to the amount of milk you have so that you don’t run out.
If you don’t have your baby with you, you can pump and pack the milk in a cooler that will keep the milk cold enough until you get home and freeze it. Choose dry ice for your cooler rather than the normal ice because it keeps the milk cold for longer.
Most importantly, as you pack your breast pump, don’t forget to include all the essential accessories. Things like flanges and valves and other spare parts.
Moreover, it is important to pack a good quality pumping bra for convenience when expressing.
3. Storage Bags and Pouches
Breast milk storage bags and pouches come in handy to store the pumped milk.
The good thing about storage bags is that they come already sterilized and ready for use. So you do not have to worry about how clean they are before putting milk while on the go.
Some storage bags such as the Kiinde Twist Pouches can be pumped into directly from any type of pump. Also, your baby can feed directly from them.
Another advantage is that breastmilk bags take less space during storage. Thus, several of them can fit perfectly in your cooler bag with icepacks.
In addition, milk thaws faster in breast milk bags compared to other containers.
The only drawback is that they are not reusable. However, this is an advantage for you when traveling because you do not have to worry about cleaning and sterilizing them.
Bottles come in handy when traveling to pump into or feed the baby. If you get the Medela Cooler Bag that we mentioned above, it comes with 4 bottles so you may not need more.
However, feeding your baby using bottles has its downside because they need to be cleaned and sterilized. You can choose to pack a travel sterilizer, use sterilizing tablets or sterilizing bags that can be used in the microwave. The microwaveable sterilizing bags may be the most convenient if you go are going to stay in a place where you have access to a microwave.
Alternatively, go for disposable bottle liners, which come clean and pre-sterilized. The most widely used disposable liners for traveling are the Playtext Drop-ins, which you throw away after feeding. You only need to clean the nipple and the part it goes through.
FAQ about traveling with breast milk by car
1. Do you keep breast milk frozen while traveling?
No, you do not have to keep breast milk frozen while traveling unless it is already frozen.
You should ensure that the milk remains cold throughout the journey by keeping it in a cooler with icepacks. Then freeze it immediately you reach your destination. This applies to milk that has been freshly pumped or that was already at refrigerator temperature but not frozen.
However, if you are traveling with already frozen milk, it is important to ensure that it remains frozen throughout the journey. This is because once thawed, you should never refreeze it. See the CDC guidelines in the chart below for storage duration.
2. How to use frozen breast milk on the go
When traveling with frozen breast milk with your baby, you may have to thaw and warm it before feeding.
It is not advisable to thaw frozen milk at room temperature since it gets exposed to bacteria.
So if you are at home, the best way to thaw it is to let the bottle or bag sit in the fridge, which may take 12 hours.
However, when on the go, the best method is to let the bottle or bag sit in a bowl with warm water for a while. You can opt to carry a flask with hot water and a bowl for this purpose or get a travel bottle warmer like Tommee Tippee travel bottle warmer. It comes with a thermal flask for storing hot water to use on the go and does not need electricity. It is also compatible with most bottle sizes.
See also: Best bottle warmers for frozen milk
3. Can you fly with breast milk without a baby?
Yes. According to the TSA guidelines, you can travel with breast milk without your baby. However, you must pack it in your carry-on luggage. You are allowed to carry breast milk, formula, or juice in quantities over 3.4 ounces as well as ice packs, frozen gel packs, freezer packs and other accessories needed to keep the milk cold.
4. How long is breastmilk good for after defrosting?
If the breast milk defrosts or thaws while on transit, it can stay for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature and up to 24 hours in the fridge.
So if the frozen milk thaws while traveling and it remains in an insulated cooler with dry ice, it can stay up to 24 hours. Once you reach your destination before the 24 hours are over, put it in the fridge and do not refreeze it. Alternatively, feed it to your baby and discard the remaining milk when 24 hours are over.
Important Tips for traveling with breastmilk by car or airplane
1. Understand the safe storage duration of breastmilk.
There are general guidelines that the CDC has provided for storage of breastmilk at different temperature. These guidelines take into account several factors such as the volume of the milk, the temperature and how clean the environment is.
See the chart below by cdc.gov for better understanding.
2. Choose disposable bottle liners over bottles
If you are traveling with your baby, cleaning and sterilizing the bottles after feeding may not be possible. Thus, a good option is to bring disposable bottle liners like Playtex drop-ins or the Kiinde twist pouches as we mentioned earlier.
3. Pack all breastfeeding supplies in your hand luggage if traveling by plane
You can carry several bottles or bags of breastmilk and formula in your carry on luggage. So pack as much as you need since they will come in handy in case of possible delays and to feed the baby in the plane.
The liquids must, however, be screened and you may be asked to open or allow the contents to be screened.
Traveling with breastmilk by car whether from work or taking it to daycare needs one to take into account several factors. The most important thing is to ensure the milk remains as fresh as possible by following the CDC guidelines about breastmilk safety standards. An essential item that you should never forget to bring along is a cooler with icepack to keep the milk cold and you will not have to worry about its freshness.