How to Ship Breast Milk: Tips for Traveling Moms

6/27/2018

When returning to work, many moms transition back into a routine that oftentimes includes professional obligations, traveling, business trips, and other events that require you to be away from your baby for longer periods of time. While breast milk feeding can be challenging during times away from your baby, continuing to provide breast milk to your little one is certainly not impossible - particularly when shipping breast milk is an option. If you are a working and/or frequently traveling mom, we encourage you to continue breast milk feeding as best you can as your baby grows - it's a commitment, but you've got this! There are many ways to ensure that you don't skip a beat and that your baby still receives your breast milk, even while you're traveling or away for extended periods. During overnight trips or longer, shipping breast milk is always an option. Knowing when you will be traveling and for how long can help you pre-plan when to pump, what supplies to pack, and how to ship breast milk. 

How Can I Ship My Breast Milk for My Baby?

Shipping breast milk isn’t drastically different from shipping other sensitive items. A bit of caution and care go a long way to ensuring your baby will continue to receive all the great benefits of your breast milk, even if you’re away for a period of time.

As a first option, consider MilkStork for safe, seamless delivery of your breast milk from anywhere in the world. MilkStork offers several convenient shipping options and makes it easy to choose what works best for getting your breast milk home to your baby. 

You can start an order here for national shipments, while international orders can be started here - First, by selecting how many containers you'll need and whether you plan to ship your breast milk, check it with baggage at an airport, or tote it with you as carry-on during your travel home:

  • After entering your name and e-mail address, MilkStork will ask for your hotel information, including check-in and check-out dates, to ensure your coolers arrive promptly. In most cases, your coolers will be waiting for you at the front desk upon check-in! 
  • Then you'll simply enter the address where you'd like your breast milk shipped, whether it's your home or a caregiver's address. Once your coolers have been delivered to their destination, they can be unpacked and your milk can be stored for use. 
  • Finally, you'll be prompted to log in to your newly-created MilkStork account for easy coordination and management of your breast milk shipment(s). 

In many instances, women who use MilkStork are reimbursed through their employer when shipping breast milk is necessary during a work trip. Be sure to review your company's employee handbook or speak to your employer ahead of time to find out if your milk shipping can be expensed! We also encourage you to visit NewMomsHealthyReturns.com for additional resources that can help you continue breast milk feeding after returning to work.

What are Some Other Options for Shipping Breast Milk?

If you have time, there is also a way to create your own cold shipping package using dry ice. Though it certainly doesn’t hurt if you have the ability to freeze your breast milk after pumping (such as by using a freezer in your hotel room), your breast milk does not have to be frozen if shipped with dry ice right away. Keep in mind that this option can get time-consuming and pricey, so it’s usually recommended to send one big package with a larger supply of breast milk – rather than shipping just a few containers at a time.

The amount of dry ice needed depends on the size of the cooler you’ll be shipping and how long it will take to transport. You may want to contact ahead of time both a dry ice supplier and a shipping center near where you’ll be staying, so you have an idea of the cost and logistics associated with properly packaging and shipping your breast milk. A Google search or the Dry Ice Directory can be helpful for locating suppliers near you.

Below is a general guide for creating your own cold shipping package, but don’t hesitate to reach out to a nearby shipping center with questions or for further direction:

  • Packaging Supplies

    • Strong, sealable plastic bags

    • Dry ice

    • Thick Styrofoam cooler

  • Shipping Supplies

    • Box or container

    • Newspaper or packing paper

    • Shipping tape

    • Shipping labels

  • Miscellaneous

    • Gloves

  • And most importantly…

Once you have all your supplies, follow these guidelines for packaging and shipping your breast milk from any location:

  • Pump your breast milk into storage bags or containers and freeze completely.

  • Insert your bags or containers of frozen breast milk into a strong, sturdy plastic bag that zips or seals shut and then secure as tightly as possible (some moms even double-bag their containers for extra protection).

  • Place bags into a Styrofoam cooler that is thick and durable enough to keep your breast milk frozen while ensuring protection during the shipping process.

  • For your safety, it is imperative to wear gloves when handling dry ice! Make sure your hands are protected before layering your dry ice and breast milk throughout the cooler. An ideal shipment will have dry ice along the bottom and sides of the cooler, as well as on top of your breast milk bag(s).

  • Fill any extra space in the cooler with newspaper or packing paper for additional insulation and to prevent your breast milk bag(s) from shifting while being transported.

  • Using your shipping tape, secure your cooler but don’t seal it completely – you’ll want it to be secure enough for shipping, but not taped so tightly that no air can escape. The dry ice should vent as it slowly changes from a solid to a gas. Otherwise, pressure can build and potentially damage your shipment or prevent it from reaching its destination.

  • Place your vented cooler inside your shipping box or container and fill any extra space with more newspaper or packing paper before sealing your box.

  • Bring your sealed, labeled box to the nearest shipping center that accepts dry ice packages. You may have to call ahead of time to confirm that they accept this type of package, as not all shipping centers take dry ice shipments.

  • Tell the associate at the shipping center that you are sending a dry ice package carrying human milk, so they can ensure your shipment is properly labeled and stored.

  • Finally, plan your shipment so it arrives at its destination on time. Remember, Saturday deliveries may be more expensive and there are no Sunday deliveries. Planning ahead so your package isn’t in transit over the weekend may help avoid any delay in reaching its destination while getting your breast milk to your little one faster.  

Generally, milk shipping companies like MilkStork will take care of these logistics, as well as shipping costs, for a flat fee. This can often make shipping breast milk easier and more convenient for working moms!

What About Traveling with Breast Milk?

Now that you know how to ship breast milk, your next question may be what recommendations there are for traveling with it. Flying in particular can be confusing and even stressful with a pump and/or stored breast milk in your carry-on, but knowing what to expect ahead of time can make the security process much easier. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, has provided these official guidelines:

“Formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. 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 a 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 or processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”

Make sure to allow yourself ample time to pass through all security checkpoints. Guidelines can change at a moment’s notice, though you can check TSA's website directly for the most up-to-date information. Partially frozen gel or ice packs may not be approved to pass, though this is generally at the discretion of individual TSA associates. Don’t be afraid to ask questions while in line if you’re not sure what to do or where to place your stored breast milk and pumping supplies for screening.

We understand that life with a little one can be a balancing act. Between breastfeeding, work, outside commitments, and your baby’s milestones, it can be difficult to keep up with it all. You’re doing a great job and we are always here to support you in your breastfeeding journey so you can continue to easily provide breast milk to your little one for as long as you choose - even after going back to work!

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