Flying With Breast Milk Over the Holidays?

By: Morgan Annandale 

hate to admit it, but most the time the holidays are more stressful than they are fun. Traveling with a baby to multiple houses, in multiple states, to visit family during the holidays is challenging. And for me, it becomes a bigger challenge when my in-laws start insinuating we are not spending enough time at their house during the Christmas vacation…

Last year I was close to calling off our Christmas travels and just staying home with my husband and son. However, I knew we both wanted to see our parents for our son Luke’s first Christmas. So, we followed through with our plans and learned A LOT about traveling with a baby. Hopefully some of what I learned on how to tackle the holidays – and TSA – as a new mom will help other moms be a little more prepared than I was!


Traveling with Breast Milk

What I was least prepared for last year was the struggle of flying while you are breastfeeding. It is important to do your research before flying to understand what is permitted and what will most likely happen when you are flying with breast milk.

  • Per TSA regulation, you are permitted to fly with a reasonable amount of frozen or sealed breast milk. The containers the milk is stored in may be over the usual 3.4 oz. liquid limit.
  • Be upfront with security and tell them you are flying with breast milk in your cooler. If frozen they will simply inspect it (you can ask them to put on new gloves to inspect). If it is semi-thawed they may test it for explosives by using paper to swipe the containers.
  • Your breast milk cooler counts as a carry-on, so plan accordingly. However, if you are traveling with your breast pump carry bag, that bag does not count as a carry-on item since it is a medical device. Again, be up front with security about this so the process can move quicker and they don’t try and stop you for traveling with too many bags.
  • If you need more ice after security to get through the flight, food vendors like Starbucks are typically glad to fill your cooler with ice if you explain it is for breast milk. It is a good idea to seal your cooler with duct tape once you have completed security and added what you need.
  • It is good to know that your milk will stay fresh for up to 24 hours if in a cooler with ice packs/sufficient ice. Milk stays fresh for 3-8 days if refrigerated and frozen breast milk stays fresh for 6-12 months. It is important to remember that if you started with completely frozen breast milk and it happens to thaw too much during traveling, you should use that pack of milk in the next 24 hours for safety’s sake.
  • It is worth asking an airport official if there is a breastfeeding lounge or private area where you can feed/pump if needed.
  • These tips are for domestic travel only, for international travel I would suggest further research on the country’s consulate websites.
  • TSA regulations on traveling with children can be found here:

This can be a lot to take in for new moms. I know I was overwhelmed last year when I was not upfront with security, thinking they would know how to walk me through the process. They did not, and that extra twenty minutes of wait time in security caused us to sprint to our gate and of course created a crying mess out of my son. Needless to say, I learned to be more prepared for the next time.


Finding the Right Supplies for Traveling

Having the right breast pump is crucial when planning your next holiday vacation while breastfeeding. I would suggest asking friends that have traveled while breastfeeding and also a lactation consultant for advice on how to find the right breast pump for you. The smaller and quieter the pump, the better. Additionally, an electric one versus a plug in is a bit more suitable for traveling. Many frequent traveling moms told me that Spectra breast pumps are very portable and quiet, so I decided to try that out. I enjoyed the ease of use on the Spectra pumps and thought it was one of the better investments I made to make my trip a little bit easier.

I would also suggest getting a soft breast milk cooler bag to travel with so you are not limited by the bulkiness of a traditional cooler that can be hard to fit under the seat, or in the overhead cabins.

Finally, and the most obvious one, find the right travel outfit to accompany your baby and breastfeeding. You want to be comfortable and also be able to quickly remove some buttons or straps to feed/pump when needed. Button downs and tank tops are key when flying. It is probably smart to get a nursing cover as well, so you do not have to pump or feed in a restroom if you do not want to. It is sad to see there are not more comforts for traveling moms that are breastfeeding, but hopefully in the future this will change!


Don’t Let the Stress Ruin it All

I think the most important thing I learned last year during this stressful time of the year was that I let the stress of it all really affect my favorite holiday. While you are sitting in the airplane with a screaming child it may seem like it’s not worth it, but being prepared for your trip can save a ton of time and prevent stress and tears. Plus, at the end of the day spending the holidays with loved ones makes it totally worth it!


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