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Traveling these days is no joke. Between the multiple security screenings, long lines, COVID-19 concerns adding the stress of traveling with your infant or young child adds a whole new dimension to the chaos of navigating airport travel. If you’re taking your baby along for the ride, you’ll might need to bring your breast milk, too.
The good news is flying with breast milk is fairly straightforward (as far as travel goes these days!) but there are a few things to prepare for and think through before you board...
How many times have you had to toss something at the last minute at the TSA checkpoint? This is all because of the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule which says you can only bring 3.4 ounces (or 100 milliliters) of liquid onto a plane and they must fit inside one quart-size bag.
However, the 3-1-1 rule doesn’t apply to breast milk. We repeat: It does not apply to breastmilk. You’re allowed to bring any reasonable amount of milk with you through the checkpoint and onto the plane, so long as you let the TSA agent know. And this is true whether you bring your baby with you or not.
While any reasonable amount of breast milk is welcome on the plane, you might need to allow the TSA agent to examine the milk for explosives and dangerous chemicals. This is for your safety, the safety of other passengers and the crew. Let’s dive into what you can expect at the security checkpoint.
It’s best to hold onto the amount of milk you’ll need for your flight, any layovers, and the amount of time you’ll spend in the airport before and after your flight. The rest of your breast milk is safe to travel in your checked luggage, where it won’t be touched or handled by the TSA agent.
Worried about putting your breast milk in your luggage? You can freeze your breast milk in freezer bags and store them inside an insulated bag to prevent leaks. Or, use milk containers with tight lids instead of milk bags.
It’s also a great idea to put freezer packs inside the insulated bag to keep your milk cool. This is especially helpful for longer flights or layovers.
Want to keep your breast milk with you? Easy-peasy. Simply pack your breast milk in milk bags or bottles and then add it to an insulated bag or cooler. You’re able to bring an insulated bag or cooler in addition to your carry-on bag.
When you reach the security checkpoint, you’ll need to remove the breast milk from your carry-on bag. Then, you’ll need to tell the TSA agent that you have breast milk over 3.4 ounces with you.
The TSA agent will likely X-ray the breast milk to check for explosives. They’ll also look over your insulated bag and freezer packs to ensure they’re travel-safe.
Tip: Although breast milk is typically allowed in-flight, it’s best to reach out to your airline and ask them about their restrictions.
Once you reach your destination, store your breast milk in a fridge or freezer. And don’t forget about your freezer packs!
While breast milk does not have to follow the 3-1-1 rule, you are still at the discretion of security screening officers. And we know that’s not always the best feeling. However, they’re very unlikely to give you trouble.! In some rare cases, the TSA agent may request that you open your breast milk bottles. They may also request that you pour out a small amount so they can test it for explosives. The screening process is often left up to the TSA agent based on their evaluation of risk. So, the real takeaway here is—be prepared for anything.
You can request that your breast milk not be x-rayed (even though x-rays do not harm your breast milk). The TSA agent will then screen your breast milk by opening it or through another method.
Now, let’s talk a bit more about milk storage options while flying. The most common two methods for storing breast milk include:
Milk bottles or containers: Bottles or milk containers have a tight and secure lid as well as measurement markings to show how much milk is in each. They come in various sizes and are typically made of glass or plastic. They’re perfect for fridge storage and only a few types are considered freezer-safe.
Milk bags: Milk bags feature measurement markings as well, but are made of plastic. They typically have a zip seal or are self-sealing like the Willow milk bags. They’re great for freezing your milk as they’re freezer-safe and easy to store in large quantities.
Which is best for you? It depends on your travel needs and preferences. If your baby uses the same bottles for feeding as you do to store your milk, it’s easy to pop on a nipple and serve dinner while in the air. If they don’t use the same bottles, you’ll need to transfer milk from the container to another bottle.
If you plan on checking your breast milk in your luggage, pre-frozen milk in milk bags stored in an insulated bag is a great way to prevent leaks. Then, you can bring containers along with you in your carry-on for in-flight feedings.
You can also opt for a small cooler as a carry-on instead of an insulated bag if you so choose. Coolers typically hold cool air longer than insulated bags, making them a great choice for breast milk storage (they’re even great for packing home your breast milk from work). Just make sure your airline allows coolers onto the plane.
Yes! They just have to be frozen solid when they reach the TSA checkpoint. If they’re not, they must follow the 3-1-1 rule. Small gel packs are the best option as they’re durable, small and last longer.
Yes! Just make sure you let the TSA agent know that you have a breast pump with you, so they can screen it properly.
The TSA follows the same rules for formula as breast milk meaning you can bring any reasonable amount in your carry-on.
The only kicker is that water isn’t allowed in quantities over 3.4 ounces. So, it’s best to mix up your formula in bottles and place them in your cooler or insulated bag before reaching the checkpoint.
You can also buy some bottled water or use the water fountain to fill up your bottles after you pass the checkpoint.
Tip: Make sure to keep all of your breast milk or formula separate from your other liquids such as shampoo. Those toiletries should be in a quart-sized bag as they must follow the 3-1-1 rule. Plus, this makes your milk easier to screen.
The idea of lugging your heavy hospital-grade pump onto the plane spoiling your fun? Flying with breast milk is easy with Willow. To learn more about Willow, visit our Help Center or Shop Now.
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