I recently had to fly back to California to help with a funeral for my Grandmother, and I chose to go alone, leaving Baby H with Hubby at home. This was my first time being away from the baby, so I had to pump and freeze the 3 days I was gone. I wanted to share some quick tips based on what I learned during that experience.
Pumping and Freezing Breast Milk
I brought my pump as a carry-on (kind of a guard it with your life and don’t trust the luggage people situation) even though I didn’t actually pump on the flight or at the airport. I did, however, pump in the car ride immediately after leaving the airport (as passenger) so I prepared and had everything set up and ready to go. I brought along a box of those lovely breast milk storage bags to use for freezing pumped milk. This was actually my first time freezing breast milk and using these, so here’s what I did.
- Prior to pouring pumped milk from the collection container into the storage bag, write the date and time. This is much easier to do on a flat bag. Use a permanent marker, not a regular pen.
- Use a fresh storage bag for each pumping session, but do combine pumped milk from both sides.
- Push out excess air prior to sealing, and lay flat in the freezer. This saves space and allows for easier transport.
Flying with Frozen Breast Milk
As it turned out, the airline I got my last-minute (somewhat affordable) tickets from nickel-and-dimed you for everything, including carry-ons outside one personal item. Since I already had to pay for a checked bag and had my pump and purse in a “personal” backpack, I didn’t want to also pay for an extra carry-on for my cooler full of frozen breast milk. I packed a soft lunch box style cooler directly in my checked suitcase on the way there, with room-temperature freezer packs. I froze them while at my parents’ house, and the plan was to fly back with my breast milk as a carry-on.
Well since I didn’t want to pay double for my luggage, I packed my frozen breast milk back into my checked suitcase in between the freezer packs in the cooler. Our breastfeeding support group nurse actually recommended checking the milk anyway, since the luggage compartment on the plane stays much colder than where the passengers sit. That helped me skip any hold ups with the TSA as well.
When I got the breast milk home, it was a bit slushy and no longer completely frozen solid, so to be safe we fed it to Baby H within the first day after I got home (since I don’t make very much, him drinking it all in one day wasn’t a problem). I have been told that as long as it is still solid, the frozen breastmilk is safe to re-freeze and continue using. If it melts, then it must be used within 24 hours. I haven’t gotten a good answer on partially frozen, though. I’ve heard some people mention they flew their pumped breast milk packed with dry ice to keep it fully frozen, so that might be something to look into if you have more time to plan the trip. It worked out well enough for me, and I’m glad I did pump during that time since a break like that could have dried up my supply completely.
>> You may also want to read about how to thaw breastmilk correctly.
Do you have any tips or experiences about flying with breast milk to share?