Air travel presents its challenges, and for breastfeeding mothers, flying with breast milk and a pump is one such puzzle. From rules and regulations to practical tips, understanding how to fly with breast milk can make your journey smoother.
Here at AirAdvisor, we understand the unique considerations and challenges that come with air travel, especially for nursing mothers. In this article, we outline some regulations and policies regarding flying with breast milk, share some tips on how to practically prepare and package breast milk for flights and answer some frequently asked questions about flying with breast milk.
The quantity of breast milk you can bring onboard varies based on several factors, including the arrival and departure locations and the specific airline's rules for flying with breast milk. There technically aren’t any limitations to the quantity of breast milk in checked luggage, but for carry-on luggage, there are often limitations.
Below, you can review the general regulations surrounding breast milk in carry-on-luggage for the US, Canada, UK and European countries:
Breast milk is considered a medical necessity in the US and therefore has slightly more lenient rules compared to other liquids. When travelling with breast milk in the US, you're typically able to bring more than 100ml or 3.4 ounces of breast milk in your carry-on luggage, along with ice packs, frozen gel packs and other items that help you transport breast milk.
If you do bring more than 100ml of breast milk on board, you're required to inform a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer. The officer is likely to test the breast milk for concealed prohibited items and materials. The way TSA tests breast milk does not affect the nutritional or sanitary elements of breast milk.
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The regulations surrounding breast milk onboard planes in Canada are essentially the same as regulations in the US. You're permitted to carry with you over 100ml of breast milk, provided you inform a screening officer before boarding. The regulatory body governing breast milk rules in Canada is the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA)
The regulations in the UK are slightly different to those in the US and Canada. When travelling in the UK, there's technically no limit to how much breast milk you can take. You're essentially limited by the weight capacity of your carry-on luggage. If your ticket allows you to have a total luggage weight of 40kg, you can technically take 40kg of breast milk with you.
When travelling with breast milk aboard UK flights, a single container can hold no more than 2,000ml. If you do take breast milk onboard the flight, expect to be screened at security checkpoints. Security officers may open and inspect the containers, particularly if you're carrying large quantities.
When travelling through European countries, you're typically allowed to carry more than 100ml of breast milk, provided the quantity is deemed 'reasonable'. This is a bit subjective and usually at the discretion of security officers. If a security officer believes you're carrying an overly excessive amount of breast milk, they may take action to remove and inspect your breast milk containers.
As with most countries, if you're travelling alone, the maximum amount of liquid you can take onboard is 100ml, so if you're not travelling with your child, you might not be able to bring as much.
Packing breast milk properly before flying is of paramount importance to ensure the safety, quality and nourishment of breast milk. If not packed properly, there are several things that could go wrong. Your container may leak and the contents may become contaminated or spoiled during transit.
Did you know which items are not allowed in a hand luggage?
Below, you can review some steps on how to pack properly when traveling with breast milk:
Packing frozen breast milk for air travel might require a bit more planning to maintain its frozen state and ensure its safety for your baby's consumption. Here's a guide on how to pack when flying with frozen solid breast milk:
Find out how far in advance to book a flight.
For many countries and airports, the procedure for passing breast milk through security checkpoints is relatively standard. In general, if you're carrying more than 100ml of breast milk onto a flight, or breast pumps, you're required to declare it at security checkpoints. The security officers may ask to inspect your containers and the rest of your carry on baggage to ensure there's no trace of prohibited substances, materials or items hidden within.
Security officers at airports perform a non-invasive screening process, so you don't need to worry about contamination or spoiling during screening. A tip to consider when flying with breast milk is to ensure you facilitate enough time for additional security screening. Passing through security checkpoints can take additional time, so incorporating this into your journey can help ensure a smooth trip.
Check out our general rules and tips on food you can bring through TSA.
Storing breast milk in your checked luggage essentially involves the same steps as storing it in your carry-on luggage, except you won't have an opportunity to inspect your containers mid-flight. For this reason, it's important to ensure you use a sturdy container that won't leak, ample ice packs and zip-lock bags to store the containers.
You might also check the regulations of the airline you're flying with regarding packing breast milk in checked luggage. Some airlines may have specific guidelines or restrictions.
The answer to this question is subjective, as it depends on the circumstance of your journey. Breast milk has its advantages, like less equipment and general convenience. But, it also has some downfalls, like storage challenges, security checks and limited quantity.
For a breast pump, you're not necessarily restricted by quantity regulations, which may be helpful for those longer journeys across various countries. You also don't need to worry about storage mishaps, like leaks, thawing and contamination. On the other hand, though, you have pumping gear to consider and pumping breast milk on a plane isn't always the most private of activities.
How long your breast milk lasts depends on many factors, like whether it's fresh or partially frozen breast milk. It can also depend on the temperature onboard. A rough guideline may be 2-3 hours for fresh breast milk and 24 hours for refrigerated and frozen breast milk. This is only a rough guideline, though, as many factors can influence the duration. Also, you should be aware that sometimes flights can get delayed or even cancelled. In the event of a delayed flight you might also be eligible for compensation.
Below, you can explore some frequently asked questions about flying and breast milk storage guidelines:
Yes, you can. The quantity of breast milk you carry is dependent on the country and airline, but breast milk is usually allowed onboard.
Typically, yes. X-ray machines at airports are often not powerful enough to alter the nutritional and compositional state of breast milk. If you don't want this screening process, you can usually inform the security officer and they can conduct alternative testing.
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