Travel Tips with Littles: Breastmilk, Pumps, and Formula

Laura’s recent trip caused her to do a bit of research and she wanted to share the wealth with y’all. And as many of you are planning trips for the holidays, we’re kicking off our Travel Tips with Littles series with information about air travel with breastmilk, pumps, and formula.

Air Travel for Breastfeeding & Pumping Mamas

First off, it’s important to know your rights. From the TSA website: “Formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do need to not fit within a quart-sized bag. These items should be separated from other liquids, gels and aerosols.

Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.

Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in your carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”

Travel Tip: pack a baggie of frozen grapes or berries to double as an edible ice pack. Pre-cut them if you’re little one has started solid foods and can eat these foods!

Yes, you can travel with frozen or thawed breastmilk. We recommend that you pack it separately so you can easily pull it out and allow it to go through security. TSA reserves the right to test the liquid and may open it (yuck). You may refuse this, but then it will be subject to additional testing. There have plenty of scandals recently, so I hope that with additional training, agents are getting more discerning in assessing risk within reason.

We recommend that you pack enough milk or formula to get your child through the flight and any delays or lost luggage that may impact you! Additionally, you may check frozen breastmilk in your luggage. You are allowed to bring breastmilk INTO the US through customs, but every other country has different rules, so check beforehand if you can declare this at customs if you would like to pack a stash of frozen breastmilk in your luggage if you are traveling outside the US. Both DHL and FedEx do ship breast milk internationally, but you’ll want to make sure they deliver to your location first.

Breast Pumps and Air Travel

If you decide to pack your electric pump in checked luggage, take a manual pump in your carry-on! You don’t want to get stuck in a pickle if your luggage gets lost. Contact your airline to see if your pump and its bag (manual or electric) is allowed as an extra carry-on that does not count against your “per person” quota.

Fun Fact: Starting in 2020, all medium and large airports will be required by law to provide lactation spaces for traveling moms. Austin airport had ONE lactation pod, and it was BUSY. I stood outside of it to breastfeed my daughter for five minutes before I found a quite spot to nurse her using a cover. About 10 minutes later, one pumping mama came out and another had lined up to use it right after she was done! Popular spot. It really speaks to the need for MORE lactation spots for traveling mothers who pump or breastfeed.

Formula and Air Travel:

You may bring powdered or liquid formula with you through security in quantities larger than 3.4 oz. Again, pack enough to get through your flight, any delays, and lost luggage. Water for babies is allowed in reasonable quantities in carry-on bags. Remove this item from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. (TBH, we’ve heard this can be a hassle and that it’s easier to buy water beyond security or fill your own bottle.) You may also purchase 2 oz bottles of pre-sterilized water that is sealed from several formula manufacturers. Because these are obviously for babies, they may get through security a bit easier. Many formula-feeding moms swear by the formula dispenser bottles to keep life easier.

Feeding in the Air:

If you need to warm up your breastmilk or formula, ask your flight attendant for half a cup of hot water. They typically get water super piping hot for their tea service, so a little will go a long way and won’t get your bottle get TOO hot.

I sat in the window seat and my husband was in the middle. I used a nursing cover that I wore as an infinity scarf for the entire flight. I nursed my daughter each flight, mainly to help her drift off to La-La land. We gave her a pacifier for the ascent and descent and her ears didn’t seem bothered by the pressure changes.

Other Handy Dandy’s:

Whether using formula or breastmilk, if you bottle feed, you may find disposable liners handy so you don’t have to pack so many bottles to wash and use on the plane or in the airport.

Don’t forget your bottle brush and a small bottle of dish soap if you will need to wash while traveling or at your destination! We love the Boon travel drying rack! Note: We are part of the Amazon affiliate program, and we earn a small percentage from any purchases from this link.

If you will have a microwave at your destination, you may want to use a microwaveable sterilization bag for any bottles you have with you.

We know you've got a lot going on, so we wanted to create a resource that would help you nourish your body while breastfeeding that precious babe. Click here to request our free download all about nutrition while nursing!

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