Retaining your breast milk supply while travelling for work. Here’s how.
What to pack:
- Breast Pump, preferably
- Any handsfree solution you are currently using
- 3-4 milk collection bottles
- Sufficient breastmilk bags
- Batteries and back-up
- Leak-resistant bra
- Nursing poncho
- Travel pump cleaning kit
- Pump wipes
- Cooler bag with freezer packs
What to do before the trip
Check with the hotel if there is a freezer suitable for storing your breast milk or if they can arrange one for you. You can freeze the milk while overseas.
Check Your Airline’s Regulations – Your airline may consider it a medical device and not count it as a carry-on but count your cooler as a bag.
Pick Your Milk Storage Method – Figure out the biggest threat of milk spoilage while on your trip and choose the storage method to best combat it. If you’ll be spending hours in summer temperatures, a plug-in car cooler may be your best bet.
Confirm with a HR representative of where you’ll be visiting to see if they have breast pumping facilities or a nursing room.
In most airlines, you are allowed to bring breast milk in quantities greater than 100 ml onto the plane in their carry-on as long as they declare it for inspection at the security checkpoint. Check with your airlines before you fly.
At the Airport
If you plan to bring your ice packs through security, rather than checking in, make sure they are frozen solid to reduce the likelihood of additional screening.
If it is a long haul flight, plan to carry on your breast pump for a couple of pumping sessions on board. In the States, the Transport Security Administration’s policy s that breast pumps can be carried on or checked in. Some airlines would require all devices with a rechargeable battery to be properly labelled before allowing them on board.
During the Trip
If you are working out of the office, stick to your office pump routine. Try to pump whenever possible, including 1-2 times in the night so that your milk supply is not too affected by your travels. Transfer and freeze your milk as soon as possible, or keep chilled, transfer and freeze upon returning to the hotel room.
If you’re going to be gone for three weeks, and if it is an option, you could even consider mailing batches of breast milk home throughout your stay.
When it’s time to come home pack your milk with frozen bags of ice or ice packs. If you are using ice or a pack in danger of leaking, place it in a Ziploc bag to avoid messes in transit. Pack your milk securely in a dedicated luggage lined with ice packs or more ideally, in a large cooler with the ice packs.
At the check-in, you should check in your frozen breast milk as the temperature in the cargo storage area is at freezing temperatures.
You may want to consider purchasing additional dry ice. If you use dry ice to keep your milk cool, be aware of carbon dioxide gassing. Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide and can be dangerous if you do not keep it in a well-ventilated area. Milk bags should be wrapped in newspaper or a towel before being placed in a container with dry ice. Dry ice sucks up moisture and can damage plastic milk bags in direct contact.
When going through screening, inform the customs officer that you are carrying breast milk. They may ask to send it through the X-ray machine. There are no detectable adverse effects to your milk from going through the X-ray machine; but if you prefer for it not to go through the machine, ask if they can do an alternative mode of screening. They may request you transfer a small amount of your milk to a separate container to test for explosives. After testing, the sampled milk will need to be discarded as it may be contaminated.