Traveling With Breast Milk? [Keep it Cold, Frozen, or Warm On the Go!]


If you and your family are taking a trip while you are pumping breast milk, then keeping breast milk cold while traveling will be extremely important. This is everything you will need to keep in mind if you are on a trip or traveling for business. Whether you are flying or driving, we have you covered.

How you handle breast milk while traveling will depend on the distance and mode of travel. For short trips, the simplest solution is to pack your breastmilk in a cooler with ice. For longer trips, including air travel, you may need to freeze your breastmilk, use dry ice, or purchase an active cooling device that you can power in your vehicle. To keep breastmilk warm, you will need a high-quality insulated container or an electronic warming device.

Read on to learn more about how to handle different situations and modes of travel!

Keeping breast milk cold while traveling

If you breastfeed, then you are going to have to face traveling with breast milk. This is something a lot of mother’s face, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult or tedious to do so. Mothers have been doing this for years, you can have a life on the go too.

Most mothers use a cooler in order to keep breast milk cold or frozen while on the go. You will need to pack a good quality cooler with ice. Put the sealed containers with the breast milk in the middle of the ice to ensure the milk stays extremely cold.

Whether you are pumping and putting it in bottles while you are traveling or you have pre-pumped, then you will need to know how to keep the milk cold while using different modes of transportation. It is extremely important to keep breast milk at a proper temperature, just like other types of milk and milk products.

While driving in a car

If you would like to bring a few bottles of breast milk in the car, then you will need to ensure that it is at a safe temperature. You will need a cooler to put inside your car. You may want to bring two coolers. One cooler for the milk that you are taking with you, and the other for any extra milk that you may pump later on during your travels.

If you need to take more milk, then you can pack the milk inside of a larger sized cooler. Think of the cooler being the size of a cooler you would use at a barbeque. You need the cooler to stay as cold as a refrigerator, which is no warmer than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The milk will be good for up to four days at this temperature.

In order to know if the milk is staying as cold as it needs to be, you will need to use a thermometer. There are different types of thermometers that you can use and some coolers even have a thermometer built-in which is incredibly useful for this job.

Lately, the bag or tote-style coolers have become very popular and they are a great choice for a travel cooler because they are extremely portable and affordable. We’ve used a similar style in the past and it has worked great. This (read the positive reviews on Amazon) particular cooler is waterproof and can hold up to 25 soda cans (or a LOT of breastmilk along with snacks and drinks for the rest of the family) and it’s less than 30 bucks.

While flying on a plane

Being prepared to board a plane with breast milk is crucial. Preparing will ensure that you do not have to throw away the milk you have expressed for the trip. One thing to keep in mind is that the breast pump is not considered to be carry-on due to being a medical device. This means that you can still have your typical carry-on.

Ensure that you use a very good quality cooler to make sure that it is watertight. Pack a good amount of ice packs and the bottles of cold breast milk. The cooler does count towards your carry on. The bottles are allowed to be more than 3 ounces, unlike any other liquid you may be taking with you like shampoo.

Don’t forget that you will need to declare the cooler at security. Ask that the TSA agent wears clean gloves before the cooler is inspected. Once the security has completed its process, you may want to seal the cooler using duct tape to prevent tampering or any accidental spillage.

Out and about and on the go

When you are just out and about like shopping, then the tote-style cooler might work for you. Of course, most diaper bags these days will offer some kind of insulated pocket for bottles that will do a great job for short trips around town. The best options will include an ice pack that fits into the pocket, but be sure that you can at least add your own ice pack to keep the breast milk cold for a couple of hours without having to worry!

Keeping breast milk frozen while traveling

If you are traveling for an extended period of time, then you may want to take frozen breast milk with you. Traveling with frozen breast milk is not much different than traveling with cold breast milk. You will use a different type of ice but still use a cooler. However, if you are only going to have the milk in the cooler for a few hours, then you can use regular ice.

If you are traveling for three hours or less with frozen breast milk, then you can use regular ice. However, if the trip is longer than three hours, then many campers suggest you use dry ice in your cooler. This will ensure that the milk stays frozen throughout your travels.

When you are traveling a long distance with frozen breast milk dry ice is a reasonable option. Dry ice is made of carbon dioxide and is much colder than typical frozen water. The temperature of dry ice is -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas regular ice is 32 degrees Fahrenheit. As the dry ice melts it dissipates and does not leave behind any water. The biggest potential issue with using this method is that you have to be quite careful when loading up the ice and it’s not something that you will just have lying around the house. Still, it could make sense in certain situations.

While driving in a car

If you are traveling in a car with frozen breast milk for three hours or less, then you can use the regular ice from your freezer or a convenient store. However, if the trip is over three hours you will need to purchase dry ice or use an active cooling device.

Pack your breast milk underneath the dry ice. Wrap up the dry ice using layers of random newspapers or newspaper ads. Put the dry ice on the top of the bottles. Fill the cooler using more newspapers or newspaper ads.

When handling the dry ice you will need to use gloves and wear a long-sleeved shirt. Ensure that it does not touch your skin at all. It will instantly freeze your skin and cause major harm. Keep the cooler in the trunk. Make sure that no one else has access to the cooler to ensure they do not touch the dry ice.

If you don’t want to mess with dry ice then you could purchase an electric cooler that you can plug into your car while you are driving. These little coolers are pretty handy and can get down to near-freezing temperatures. If you put frozen breastmilk into one of these, it is likely to stay frozen for quite a while. Here is a great example that can be had for less than 50 bucks:

While flying on a plane

Typically a flight is three hours or under. To ensure that the breast milk stays frozen you will need to pack it in a cooler that is the size of a carry on baggage. Declare the bag at security. Make sure that you ask the security guard handling your breast milk to wear clean gloves.

Once you are through security, make sure you get to your gate. Before you board the plane, visit one of the many restaurants that are available. Ask for fresh ice and repack the frozen milk. This will ensure that it stays frozen during your flight. Make sure that you refill it with fresh ice when you land.

If your flight is longer than three hours, then you may want to ship the breast milk to your destination address. This can be sat up through a delivery service like FedEx. Make sure that you have someone there to take in the breast milk and place it in a freezer while you are in flight.

Out and about and on the go

If you are out and about with frozen breast milk, then you can typically just use regular ice made of frozen water. Keep in mind that you will need to replace the ice every 2 to 3 hours in order to keep in frozen. You can purchase a small over the shoulder cooler or electric cooler for this specific purpose to ensure that it is easier while you are running your errands.

Keeping breast milk warm while traveling

Traveling can already be a pain, but traveling with warm breast milk can seem to add to your pressure. Luckily, we have your back. We are going to go over keeping breast milk warm while traveling.

Breastmilk is good for up to four hours at room temperature so you might not need to worry about a warming solution, depending on your trip. For longer trips, there are specially made bottle warmers or insulated containers that can be utilized while you are traveling.

The way you will be keeping breast milk warm while traveling will depend on how long you plan on being out. There are bottle warmers that can accommodate multiple bottles, but there are also ones that will allow you to take one or two. Make sure you calculate the amount of time you will be out so that you take enough milk for your baby.

While driving in a car

Assuming that you are going to be out for less than three hours, you will use a traveling mug that offers many hours of temperature control. Similar to the full-sized versions, these insulated bottles are made of stainless steel and use air insulation to keep your breastmilk warm for many hours. We typically use stainless steel bottles and sippy cups for our babies so this is something we would already have around the house and you should expect to be able to get a lot of use out of it!

If you want to check out a great example of one of these bottles then you can do so right here. This bottle is super cute, non-toxic (BPA, PVC, Phthalates), made from 100% food-grade stainless steel, and promises to keep your milk warm for 10 hours or longer. It’s also very highly reviewed. Can’t beat that.

While flying on a plane

You do not have to check breast milk as a carry on during a flight. You will have to go through security. Just declare the breast milk and place it into your carry-on bag or purse. You can even bring more than 3 ounces (unlike other liquids!)

Unless it is an extremely long flight, I would recommend using the insulated bottle that I mentioned above. It will be good for 10 hours which is long enough to get through airport security, fly, and then get to wherever you are going with time to spare.

Out and about and on the go

If you are just running errands around town for the morning or afternoon then the insulated bottle will work well and should get you through your errands!

How long can you keep breast milk warm?

Knowing how long milk can be warm is crucial when feeding your baby and ensuring his or her safety. It is also a good idea to know how long breast milk is good in a refrigerator or freezer.

Here are the general guidelines for breastmilk temperature:

  • Pumped or Freshly Expressed Breast Milk: Countertop is good up to 4 hours. Refrigerator up to 4 days. The freezer is up to 6 months, but 12 months may be acceptable.
  • Thawed Breast Milk: Countertop is from 1 to 2 hours. The refrigerator is up to 1 day. Never refreeze breast milk after it has been thawed out.
  • Leftover after feeding the baby is up to 2 hours once the baby has finished.

When you are dealing with cold breast milk is should be held between 33 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit. If the breast milk is frozen it should never go up past 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do you warm up breast milk on the go?

Bottling the breast milk before you leave is the best way to ensure you are prepared. But how do you warm up breast milk on the go? When your baby is hungry and you are on the go you may find it can be a pain; however, there are some convenient ways that you may not have known.

When you are out and about there are sinks everywhere. Every establishment has a bathroom. You will need to turn the hot water on in the sink. Run warm, not hot, water over the bottle and rotate the bottle to evenly heat the milk. A better-prepared way is to bring a cup that the bottle fits in. You can fill the cup up with warm water and put the bottle inside. This will be easier than rotating it under the running water. There are products available specifically for this need, such as this one. But really, any large cup or container will work for this purpose!

Josh

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. With 10 years of parenting experience across three children, I am constantly learning how to raise children more naturally. I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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