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Pumping on a Plane

Pumping on a Plane: Everything You Need to Know

Nicolle Harwood-Nash
5 minutes read
Last Updated: September 18, 2023

Juggling the responsibilities of motherhood with the demands of travel can be challenging, especially when it comes to managing breast pumping while thousands of feet in the air. Is a breast pump allowed onboard? Are there specific airline regulations for using it during the flight? And what about storing pumped milk?

In this article, AirAdvisor delves into the topic, aiming to address all your concerns, ensuring that you can comfortably and confidently manage breast pumping on a plane. Whether you're a first-time flying mum or a seasoned traveller looking for current guidelines, this information can streamline your journey and ensure peace of mind.

Also read: 10 Essential Tips for Flying for the First Time

Can I Bring a Breast Pump on a Plane?

Travelling, especially by air, often comes with a multitude of questions and considerations. For breastfeeding mothers, this invariably includes the feasibility of bringing and using a breast pump on a flight. Fortunately, breast pumps are classified as essential medical devices.

While it's permissible to have your breast pump on board, it's important to let the airline know ahead of your travel or, at the very least, alert security during the checkpoint procedure. This measure often paves the way for a smoother security clearance, minimising potential hold-ups or inquiries.

Am I Allowed to Use a Breast Pump While Flying?

Certainly, you're entitled to use your breast pump while airborne. As with many in-flight activities, judiciousness and timing are pivotal. It's advisable to steer clear of pumping during crucial phases like takeoff or landing, owing to safety stipulations. Using a breast pump during the cruise phase of the flight is typically the most convenient.

Prior to commencing, it's always a mark of courtesy to notify the flight attendants, and perhaps even those seated adjacent to you, if you wish to pump in your seat.

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Where Can I Use the Breast Pump?

Your chosen location within the aircraft largely hinges on your personal comfort and the facilities the airline extends. Many mothers feel completely at ease deploying their breast pump in their assigned seat, particularly if they're ensconced in a window seat. However, the bustling activity of a flight might deter some from using their pump publicly. As such, a significant portion of travelling mums opt for the relative seclusion of the plane’s restroom.

Wherever you decide to pump, maintaining stringent hygiene standards is imperative. Being equipped with sanitising agents, be it wipes or gels, is non-negotiable, and taking a few moments to clean your hands and the area can make a world of difference.

For mothers relying on electric pumps, it's paramount to be seated in proximity to a power outlet or to have batteries fully charged. Ensuring your pump is easily accessible will further streamline the process.

Should I Just Bring Breast Milk Instead?

It's a valid option but comes appended with its own set of considerations. Flying with breast milk is subjected to specific regulations. Within the UK's precincts, for example, passengers are permitted to ferry breast milk in containers, each with a capacity of up to 2,000 ml.

For those flying internationally, it's essential to acquaint yourself with the destination country's stipulations on liquid carriage. Before choosing to bring breast milk instead of pumping breast milk onboard, weighing the benefits against the logistical considerations is crucial.

Opting to transport pre-pumped milk might be a tactical move for seamless feeding during the flight, yet it mandates methodical planning. Considerations span storage techniques and the potential additional security verifications you may subject yourself to by carrying milk on you. While breast milk freshly extracted during a flight enjoys a grace period wherein refrigeration is unnecessary, pre-pumped milk demands cooling interventions, so ensuring you have a plan in place for this is also crucial.

Related: What To Do On A Long Flight


Here, we've collated some of the most frequently posed queries, endeavouring to shed light on the intricacies of flying with breast pumps and milk:

Can I take an electric breast pump on a plane?

With evolving aviation guidelines, airlines are becoming increasingly accommodating to the needs of breastfeeding mothers. Electric breast pumps certainly have the green light for air travel. Carrying it in your cabin bag is advisable for hassle-free presentation during security protocols if deemed necessary.

Moreover, a pre-flight check ensuring its charge, or the availability of auxiliary batteries, is crucial, especially if you project the need to pump en route.

Does a breast pump count as a carry-on?

Generally, breast pumps are categorised as medical apparatus, which means they often enjoy a special consideration and aren't typically counted within your standard cabin baggage allowance. Yet, the nuances of airline policies can differ, and while many carriers are understanding and accommodating of breastfeeding mothers, some may have specific guidelines or restrictions.

To ensure a smooth check-in and boarding process, it's important to verify beforehand with your specific airline. By doing so, not only do you evade potential misunderstandings regarding your carry-on items, but it also offers peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your journey and the well-being of your little one.

Where can I store milk on a plane?

Post-extraction, breast milk storage becomes paramount. Freshly pumped breast milk enjoys a shelf life of approximately 4 hours at ambient temperature (like that of the temperature onboard a flight). For enhanced longevity, it's a great idea to ask the cabin crew about potential options for refrigeration. Remember, while some airlines are equipped with refrigeration facilities, not all are guaranteed to offer this service.

Always store your breast milk in an air-tight container or dedicated breast milk pouches, and ensure it's labelled with your name and the date. Alternatively, an insulated bag filled with cooling packs is a commendable choice. It’s pivotal to remember that gel-based ice packs should be in a frozen state to seamlessly navigate security procedures. Remembering these little details can significantly ease your travel experience.

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