Breastfeeding moms often worry over how to keep breast milk frozen on road trips, as well as how to fly with frozen breast milk. Traveling with frozen milk is one of the best ways to be sure that your baby will have easy and immediate access to his or her food source as soon as you get where you’re going, and it can be done simply by knowing how to keep breast milk cold.
Of course, as long as you are traveling with your baby, he or she will have fresh breast milk practically on demand. But how do you pack frozen breast milk to keep in a breast milk cooler? What if you wanted to ship it frozen? There are a lot of things to consider when traveling with breast milk, and although it is very similar, there are some differences from keeping food cold while traveling.
The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC states that you can safely store breast milk in an insulated cooler with ice packs or dry ice for up to 24 hours. After that length of time, any that has not been used or moved to a freezer should be discarded. Here are some other things that you should know.
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How to Freeze Breastmilk
Before you can travel with it, it is important to be sure that you know how to freeze breast milk properly. Traveling with your milk frozen is fine as long as it was prepared correctly, making it one of the safest ways to store breast milk.
1 – Pick your storage container.
There are a few types of containers to choose from to store this precious liquid. You might pick from milk bags, empty bottles, breast milk trays, or plastic containers. Always be sure to store in small containers, since you don’t want to thaw out more pumped milk than you will need at a time.
Any containers used to store frozen breastmilk or transport milk should be sanitized, BPA-free, seal tightly, and considered safe for food storage by the FDA. If milk is being expressed for freezing, it should never be stored in containers or plastic bags that have not been approved for this purpose. This can lead to leakage and contamination of the milk.
2 – Wash and sanitize.
Wash your hands. Before expressing and storing milk, you will need to thoroughly wash your hands or sanitize them with a product that is at least 60 percent alcohol.
Check your equipment. You might choose to express your milk naturally or with a breast pump.
You will need to be sure that any equipment that you are using, such as pump parts, a breast pump kit, and electric pump tubing, is clean and sanitized.
If mold is found on any equipment, it should be replaced immediately.
3 – Pumping and Storing
Express the warm breast milk into the chosen containers. According to the FDA, this freshly expressed milk can be stored as follows:
-Up to 4 hours at a room temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, or less.
-Up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
-From 6 to 12 months in the freezer, with 6 months being the most favorable.
Leave at least an inch of space at the top of the container to allow for expansion when the liquid freezes. Most recommendations say to fill containers only about two-thirds full for freezing.
Be sure that the storage containers are clearly labeled with a permanent marker. Include the date and time that the pumped milk was placed into the freezer.
Packing With Ice Packs for a Car Trip
One of the most popular ways to travel in a car with frozen human milk is to pack it into a cooler with ice packs. This can be done with traditional ones made of frozen water, or with gel-type packs, and is a great way to travel with stored breast milk.
Make sure that the milk is frozen solid before packing. It is best to store breastmilk in a cooler with a car adapter to keep your breast milk cool. Here are some other things to remember.
Be Sure Everything is Sealed Up Tight!
Check to see that all the milk containers are sealed tightly before packing them into your luggage. This includes all milk containers as well as any frozen ice packages, ice blocks, or gel packs. You can store milk in a small cooler bag that is centered in the middle of your other belongings in a suitcase if you wish, or in its own bag.
Prevent Leaks and Cover All Containers
Place each bottle or milk bag into its own sealed storage baggy so that any leakage that could occur during your trip will be contained. Each container of frozen breast milk should be touching ice packs, and the ice or freezer packs should completely cover the tops of your milk containers and storage bags so that it will stay frozen.
Tuck Them in Snugly
Before closing the cooler bag or hard cooler, stuff towels or newspapers in to fill any empty spaces. This will help prevent the milk containers from being tossed around during your trip. It will also help soak in any leaks, if they do occur.
Using Dry Ice to Pack Breastmilk for a Plane Trip
It is a bit different if using dry ice. You cannot seal containers with this type of ice in them as you can do with regular ice. This is because dry ice containers need to be vented when you ship breastmilk. Here’s a few tips for using this method.
Contact the Airline for Guidance
One of the first things that you need to do is call the airline that you will be flying with to learn what their policies are for dry ice usage. In most cases, you can check such containers, as long as there is some way for the carbon dioxide to vent, such as in a foam cooler.
Use Heavy Gloves
Be sure that you are wearing thick gloves when handling dry ice, and never allow it to come into contact with your skin. The Stanford School of Medicine suggests packing the blocks in newspaper before placing them in the cooler.
Pack Containers the Same Way as a Car Trip
You will pack the containers for this method in much the same way as you did for a trip in the car. Layer the bottom of the cooler with the newspaper-wrapped blocks of ice. Place your containers on top of the blocks and then seal in any spaces with more newspaper or towels. Cover the top of the containers with more blocks and close the lid of the cooler.
Seal It All Up
Use duct tape to seal the cooler, crisscrossing the tape over the lid of the cooler. Remember to bring more tape with you in case the airport security unseals it for inspection and you need to seal it back.
Make sure that you label the cooler as breast milk and dry ice, as it is important that it is clearly marked. You should note that some airlines may charge extra for those who are traveling with dry ice.
Tips on Traveling With Frozen Milk on a Plane
Speaking of flying, there are several tips you can follow for traveling on a plane with it, or shipping your milk to keep it cold until you can get to a hotel freezer or mini fridge. Here are a few things to keep in mind when delivering frozen breast milk on a plane.
Be Sure to Bring Breast Milk Properly Contained
While transporting breast milk or traveling with frozen breast milk in a car ride, you can carry it in a cooler bag, or high quality cooler. You can even put it in your suitcase if you choose to do so.
On a plane, you might want to store at least some in a carryon bag, or other carry on property that is considered safe for transporting your hard earned milk. That way you can keep it with you throughout the trip.
Follow All Federal Guidelines to Travel With or Ship Breast Milk
The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has stated that a breastfeeding mama can carry both baby formula and breast milk in carry on bags “within a reasonable amount.”
Your milk, pump, etc., will need to be placed in a separate carry on baggage from your luggage so that it can be screened separately if you wish to carry it on a plane with you. This is true of coolers and bags.
If Needed, Keep Enough With You for Baby’s Trip
The TSA guidelines are relevant even if your child is not traveling with you on the flight. These instructions only apply to a carry on bag or cooler containing reasonable quantities of milk, and supplies such as pumps, pump parts, or a medical device.
If the baby is traveling with you, remember to keep a bit of fresh milk that is not frozen in extra bottles in case he or she gets hungry during the flight. You may also want to take a nursing cover with you on the plane in case you need to nurse your child, as many moms do.
You need to make sure to pack extra so that if any of this precious liquid gold is spilled, you will still have enough for your child’s trip. Covering any accidents that may occur is the best way to be sure you can satisfy the needs of your breastfed baby.
We hope this article has helped you to understand more about how to keep your milk frozen on road trips and airplane travel. Feel free to explore our site for more informational articles on breastfeeding and having a healthy, happy baby!