Travel While Breastfeeding: How to Bring Milk Home
Picture this. You are a mom and you are breastfeeding, but work/family/etc requires that you to travel internationally. For most Americans, an international trip means a trip longer than 3 days.
Now here comes the problem: breastmilk can only be safely refrigerated for around 4 days (some say 3, some say 5, so I’ve settled on 4). You can’t guarantee shipping since breastmilk will get stopped at customs. So you either dump your milk or you come up with another solution.
I found that solution.
I had the opportunity to go to Switzerland for work. The trip was short, 7 days total, including the 14+ hours of flights. It was an important project professionally and personally since my parents were actually involved in our video shoot. What did I do? I went!
AND I GOT ALL MY BREASTMILK BACK SAFELY.
(Read my Blog about Breastfeeding during International Travel for the full checklist)
Keeping Cool During Transit
When I pumped on the plane, I stored all my milk in this refrigerated backpack. I used a Cooler Shock freezer pack in this backpack, which is guaranteed to stay cold for 24 hours (AND IT DOES). This set up allowed me to get my expressed milk to the hotel during my trip there, and home during my return, perfectly chilled.
Freeze Half, Refrigerate Half
While in Switzerland, I pumped 4x daily and put the milk in the in-room mini fridge. However, I needed to FREEZE some milk and REFRIGERATE the rest. Since I was there for 7 days, my goal was to freeze all the milk from Day 1-3 and then carry home the refrigerated milk Day 4-7.
How to Freeze Half
My first hotel, the Four Seasons des Bergues in Geneva, was gracious enough to let me borrow a freezer in my room. Now I don’t expect that this is common but it is worth asking. This is the ideal scenario. In order to move my milk from hotel to hotel, I used the Cooler Freezer Bags mentioned above, and a cooler bag.
Hotels will also usually let you store important items in their freezer. My second hotel in Vevey allowed me to store my cooler bag in their freezer. I zipped it up and told them it was very fragile, needed to be upright and shouldn’t be opened. When I needed to add milk, I waited until the end of the day and added all the new milk at once.
How to Refrigerate Half
Your in-room mini fridge is your new best friend. I removed all the items that I was able too from it (like waters etc) and left a note that I needed to use the refrigerator to store things. I was now refrigerating milk from the second half of the trip up until day of departure.
Now on departure day, I had around 50 ounces of milk that I had to take on two flights, a train and an uber before it would arrive home with me. To keep this milk perfectly refrigerated during this time, I used Milk Stork.
Transporting Frozen and Refrigerated Milk Home
Now that you have your full trip’s worth of milk, the hardest part is getting all of it home in usable condition. Here’s how I managed to get 100 ounces home safely, half frozen and half refrigerated.
Milk Stork is Your Best Friend
Milk Stork took care of the refrigeration part easily. Domestically, Milk Stork allows you to FedEx your milk home. However, shipping breastmilk internationally is a different story. Their service allows you a safe, guaranteed refrigerated situation where you can check your box of breast milk and know that it’ll be just a cold when you pick it up at baggage claim on the other side.
At the time of ordering my Milk Stork package on their website, I put in my hotel address and when I arrived, a box was waiting for me in my room in Switzerland! No need to worry about carrying anything on the plane with you there.
Milk Stork provided me with refrigerated box that could hold 108 ounces of milk and keep it refrigerated for 90 hours (if your trip home takes longer than that, then… you might be going to the Moon and back). They also gave me a cute duffle bag to put the box in, with branded luggage tags.
I was able to pack in the newer milk from the second half of my trip in the refrigerated Milk Stork box. On my departure day, I just had to pop the button on the box to activate the refrigeration, pack in my bagged milk, seal the box and place it in the duffle bag. I brought the bag to the check-in counter and checked it right there. Milk Stork made it so easy and boarded the flight, relieved.
When I got to my final destination, my bag of milk came out the other side, untouched. In the future, I’d suggest putting a twist tie or a luggage lock on it if you want to make doubly sure it was not opened.
Carry On your Frozen Milk
*THIS IS HEAVY.
If you are a mom, there’s a good chance that you have some serious arm muscles, but this definitely is difficult even so. Frozen milk is heavy.
The upside is that most securities around the world do not care if your liquid is frozen. I didn’t even have to show them or explain anything in Geneva or Zurich.
I used my AO Cooler bag with the Freezer Packs. I made sure to use at least 2 Freezer Packs (use more if you can fit them). The bagged milk needs to be touching the freezer pack.
I carried it onboard and put it in the overhead. My total travel time was over 20 hours and when I got home, all the milk was still mostly frozen and a few were a little slushy. From my research, if it is mostly frozen, it is still safe. Into the freezer it went and we’ve been using it all ever since.
Are you planning on traveling while breastfeeding? Leave me a note if you have questions!