Spring is (sort of) in the air (for some places), which means that many of us are looking to plan spring trips, either for spring break, Easter, or to go find warmer climates! If you're planning an air travel vacation while breastfeeding, and need to carry breast milk with you, it helps to know the laws, potential challenges, and tips. Traveling by plane with stored breast milk should not be an issue, but despite protections and laws in place, some people experience difficulties. We're giving you the information you need to travel by plane with breast milk aware and prepared!
TSA Regulations for Flying with Breast Milk
Perhaps the most important part of flying with breast milk is knowing the rules and regulations issued by TSA. While some parents have experienced inconsistencies with rules while going through security with breast milk in airports, TSA spells out on their website the official rules for traveling with breast milk. In summary, they are:
- Breast milk in quantities over 3.4oz are allowed to be carried on with you on the plane
- You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk
- You must inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process that you are carrying breast milk
- Breast milk must be taken out of your carry-on bag to be screened
- TSA may ask to test your breast milk; you do not have to agree if you are uncomfortable, but if you do not allow the testing, additional screening may be necessary
- Ice packs are allowed; they are also subject to routine screening
- FDA states that there are no known adverse effects from screening breast milk by x-ray
- Alternative screening procedures that do not involve x-ray are available
Some commonly reported problems that we read about online that should not actually be a problem, according to TSA’s website, include:
Testing breast milk by drinking – you do not have to drink your breast milk to show that it is safe/real
Dumping out breast milk – you do not have to dump out your breast milk; TSA says you are allowed to travel with over the 3.4oz limit; however, it says “reasonable quantities,” which could be left up to interpretation by the officers on duty
Traveling without your child – the TSA website specifically states “You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.”
Tips for Flying with Breastmilk
- Print out TSA's rules. Visit TSA’s website and print out their screening rules and information related to traveling with breast milk. If you encounter any disagreements, you can present these for clarification.
- Head to TSA’s family line. It’s not mandatory, but you mind find officers who are more familiar with special needs and traveling with breast milk.
- Pack breast milk in a water-tight, insulated cooler with ice packs.
- Your breast pump and cooler are fine to bring through TSA, but may count as extra carry ons with your airline. Call your airline in advance to find out.
- Partially thawed milk is ok to refreeze once you get home. Fully defrosted/thawed milk must be consumed within 48 hours and should not be refrozen.
- Rules for flying with breast milk – with and without your child – varies from country to country. Review guidelines before traveling to know what is permissible. Some countries require declaring large amounts of breast milk before traveling, and require that it be “checked” and stowed in the aircraft hold.
Help Is Available
If you find that you are traveling with breast milk and experiencing difficulties, you can reach out to TSA by phone through one of their resource lines:
- TSA’s toll free helpline, TSA Cares, enables travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions to call 1-855-787-2227 with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint 72 hours prior to traveling. The helpline is staffed weekdays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
- TSA Contact Center is a customer call center that is available to answer questions by email at TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov or toll free phone at 1-866-289-9673. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends/holidays; and an automated service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
While passengers who experience difficulty when flying with breast milk receive a great deal of media attention, most often, people traveling by plane with breast milk experience little or no issues at all. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you should be able to enjoy your trip and transport your breast milk without incident!