EPISODE 65

Flying with Breastmilk

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Episode Transcript

July 09, 2021

Can I take my breastmilk on an airplane?!

This is Maureen Farrell and Heather O’Neal and this is The Milk Minute. We’re midwives and lactation professionals bringing you the most up-to-date evidence for all things lactation. So you can feel more confident about feeding your baby, body positivity, relationships, and mental health. Plus we laugh a little or a lot along the way.

So join us for another episode. Welcome back to The Milk Minute Podcast everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about travel, traveling with your breastmilk and TSA because summer’s coming. So we want to make sure that you guys are prepared and that you’re not afraid to travel because a lot of times I think that we feel imprisoned by our breastfeeding relationship and you shouldn’t feel that way. You should be able to have breast milk and travel at the same time. Absolutely, so before we dig into that, we are going to answer a listener question. And if you stick around to the end, we will have an award in the alcove.

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Today, our listener question comes from Julie N and she asks, “does anyone have any advice when bringing a breastfeeding toddler to Disney? I have no issues breastfeeding in public. She’ll be 14 months when we go and I’m guessing she’ll be very distracted. I was thinking about getting a manual pump because I don’t want to bring my spectra to the park. And then how do you keep everything clean?”

Okay. So we have some advice. First, I’m going to say if you baby wear, absolutely do that and breastfeed in the carrier with like a little hood or a hat on your baby, like horse blinders so that they can’t see out of their peripheral vision and they can just focus on what’s in front of them.

Yeah, that’s a good idea. And then also this is part of the reason why we love¬†Ceres Chill¬†is because it’s discreet and it’s simple to use and you can just pump directly into it and the least amount of milk transfers as possible is the cleanest, technically. There’s going to be less chance for bacteria to get into the different containers.

So when you’re transferring, transferring, transferring, and you’re not in your own home and you’re around foreign bacteria, I just don’t really like that. I think that the least amount of transfers in a foreign environment is better. Yeah, absolutely. And if you do bring your pump and you need to clean it, this is a good time for those like cleaning wipes.

You know,¬†I think Medela sells them¬†and it’s kind of not the most ideal way to clean things, but you’re kind of in a pinch, you’re certainly not going to have reliable access to hot water and soap at all times. But really,, I would say if you don’t absolutely have to pump don’t bother because this is going to be kind of a pain in the butt at Disney to lug around like a pumping bag and the parts and the bottle.

Even if you are using something like the¬†Ceres Chiller, just try to make a little bit of time for some quiet nursing. They do have breastfeeding rooms at Disney, but, you know, or you can just find a bench in a shady spot, even just bring a blanket to kind of like give your toddler a little bit of some kind of screen between them and whatever’s going on.

So they stop giving you nip lash. Ha! Nip lash, that’s funny. And you know what, when you’re breastfeeding a toddler too, if you go, you know, a little bit longer than you normally do between breastfeeding, it’s okay. Yeah, you’re at 14 months, your milk is super regulated now. So I wouldn’t stress about it. And Disney is one of the better companies that supports breastfeeding moms because they want you there.

So they’re going to make it super nice. Exactly. So I, if it were me and I went to Hershey park with my son around this age, I just brought a carrier and I brought a really wide brimmed hat for him, so it could block his vision while he nursed and he could just like focus on me and it was no big deal.

Great. Well, well, let’s dig in. Traveling with breast milk sounds scary. Yeah, it sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be. You can do this, you guys. Okay. So the first thing you need to know about traveling with your breast milk is that you are allowed to travel on an airplane without your baby with you. So that’s a common misconception is that you have to have your baby with you in order to bring breast milk onto the plane.

That’s not true. Yeah. And we want to say outright that the limits on traveling with liquids do not apply for breastmilk and that breast pumps count as a medical device. So when you’re carrying these things, that doesn’t count as a carry on. Right. And you do not have to pack your pump in your checked bag.

So please do not do that. Let me just put it a different way because checked bags get lost. And then if you arrive at your destination without your $300 pump and no baby to drain your milk for you, then you’re going to be in a brand-new location with no breast pump and giant, full boobs and a limited amount of time to figure out how to get a new medical device.

That’s not good. Yeah. And I’ll say first, we’re going to be talking about the TSA guidelines for the United States. If you’re doing international travel, you are going to have to look up the guidelines for those countries, because I don’t know what it’s like to bring breast milk through customs to another country.

But if you’re traveling within the US the¬†TSA website has a printable page about the guidelines. And I actually recommend that you print it out and bring it with you because the person that you meet at your security check through may have never had to deal with breast milk before. And it’s a really good idea for you to be like, Hey, here’s this little piece of paper that actually your bosses wrote.

And here are the rules that you need to follow right now. So they will typically screen these liquids that you bring. So if you have breast milk that’s already pumped. So like say you’re waiting, you know, and you’re in the parking lot before you even go in and you have to pump and then you’re going to bring it with you.

They will typically put those through the x-ray machine. So, if you decline that option, they might have a TSA officer request to test it and put like a little litmus test in there. You do not have to consent to that. That’s optional. So just so you know, and I know that can sound really like you shouldn’t have to fight for your rights like that, but with everything that we’ve been through as a country, you know, like I kind of understand where they’re coming from on that one. And it sucks to be singled out as a breastfeeding parent, cause it’s already hard. And you probably, if you do have your kid with you, they’re probably screaming at this point.

But just to prepare yourself that that’s what could happen, but you know, if you’re bringing through a reasonable amount of breast milk and that’s what they have on their website is a quote unquote reasonable amount. So I’m guessing that means don’t try to come through with like a cardboard box filled with breast milk that’s frozen that you’re trying to bring somewhere else.

That would be a little bit much. In that case, I would probably ship it ahead of time, like freezer pack it ahead of time and ship it. But we’re just talking about like milk that your baby is going to need either while you’re on the plane or once you get to your destination, right.

Yeah. And, and for me personally, leaving the discretion as to what is a reasonable amount to whatever TSA officer we meet on that Monday or Tuesday or whatever would make me pretty nervous. So if you have more than a couple of days of milk yeah, just ship it. It, it is going to be expensive, but there are companies that specifically catered to breastfeeding parents to ship that milk and, and they have it all figured out.

Like you, you don’t have to figure out the details. Yeah. And let me just say, if they do request to test your milk, they will ask you to pour it into a tiny little container. Like if they have a medicine cup or a little cap, like a bottle cap or something, they won’t be sticking a litmus paper with a dirty TSA finger into your bottle of milk.

They will have you pour a tiny amount for testing into a separate container. Which for me, it’s not that big of a deal. Like if you truly don’t have explosives in your breast milk, then like you can do this in like less than five minutes. Sure, whatever, dude, let me, here you go. Here’s a tiny little bottle cap of breast milk, test away.

Yeah. And if you do have kind of more milk than is easy to fit on a carry on, you can check frozen milk. You know, some people get something like one of those flexible Yeti coolers, right. That will keep things frozen for a long time. And the best advice I have for traveling with frozen milk, even if it’s in your checked bag or carry on, is that whatever cooler you have, you absolutely fill it to the brim.

Right? You do not want to extra airspace in there because if you fill it and then tape it shut, and then you probably want to label it breastmilk, that will keep it frozen for the longest amount of time. And also if, if they do x-ray your milk, there have not been any adverse effects that we’ve seen from that.

So you don’t have to worry that your milk is now radiated. This is strictly like a screening process. It’s not diagnostic, so it’s a little bit different than what you would go through at the hospital. But again, if you’re not comfortable with that, that’s fine. They’ll probably just put you through additional screening procedures.

Like they will definitely pat you down and they might just screen your other carry-on property to make sure that you don’t have any like, you know, bombs. Yep. Yep, absolutely. So, you know, I guess maybe let’s also talk a little bit about like pumping on the plane because if we’re flying with breastmilk and it’s more than a two-hour flight, we’re probably going to be pumping as well.

And how the heck are we going to do that? So you are going to need a battery pack for your pump. Some of them come with them, like my new Medela Pump In Style already came with a battery pack, which was great. But you might have to order that separately if you’ve never thought about it. And you haven’t seen one in your pump box that you threw in the closet, and then you’re going to have to think about sanitation.

So you might bring some of those wipes that sanitize it. You might just bring an extra set of pump parts if you don’t think you’ll be able to wash. And I don’t know what you think there’s other options or that’s kind of it? Well, I guess we could probably do an entire episode on what you would pack in your pumping bag, but since your breast pump is considered a medical device, and a lot of those pumps are built into the bag itself, I think that’s a pretty good way to kind of sneak some extra equipment in there that you’re going to need, that you could definitely claim as medical.

Like I love the little two-zipper pouches for one side is for clean breast pads and the other side is for the dirty ones. That way you’re not contaminating the breast pads that you use. That’s a good way to keep dry on long flights, especially, oh my gosh. If you hear somebody else’s baby cry on a flight you might start leaking and then you’ve got these wet pads on you and you don’t want to put them with your clean stuff. So having these two-zipper pouches with two separate areas is wonderful for keeping those things separate and clean and dry. So I like that.

I always pack grocery bags like plastic grocery bags. I know that’s like silly, but I pack at least four of them because if you have to rinse things out just to keep the sticky milk off of it and then just throw it in the bag for sanitization later, you can do that, but I would probably bring two sets.

And something you can fit in your pumping bag is a collapsible wash basin. You can just get a little silicone one, and you can ask on a plane, you can ask a flight attendant for a bottle of water and you can rinse like that and then pour it down the toilet because you don’t really want to use whatever running water is on the plane.

You don’t know how sanitary it is. It’s not like drinking water. Is it not? I don’t know what it is, but you don’t want to. You want to drink the water that comes out of the sink in the bathroom, on your airplane? Definitely not. I’ve never thought about that though. That’s a really good point. Yes. So just, just ask for bottled water or, you know, buy some at the airport before you get on the plane.

Something you can also do if you either need to warm up a bottle, like at the airport or on the plane or whatever you can, you know, once you’re through security, you can get more liquids. You can usually ask restaurants for hot water, even for rinsing pump parts or heating up a bottle to feed your baby.

And you know, because they, they have that stuff and there’s always a bunch of restaurants before your terminal. So there’s another thing to think about. Yeah, get yourself a nice little glass of wine, pump at the restaurant, rinse it out with your collapsible wash basin in borrowed hot water from the restaurant.

I think it sounds nice. Yeah, exactly. You know, and, and you can totally, you can do it. I know it sounds super intimidating, but there’s some more resources that can help you with this¬†ExclusivePumping.com¬†has a great guide to all kinds of travel with breast milk. And they have lots of tips for sanitizing and washing and storing in some unconventional circumstances.

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And, you know, just, just be prepared. This is not a circumstance where you want to hope for the best. This is absolutely the kind of thing that you want to print out your TSA guidelines. You want to have a super solid plan, like make sure you make time to do that before you hop on that plane. Yeah. And also if you have not traveled before and your boobs have not done this before, and maybe it’s your first time away from baby, you might want to bring like a little massager or a little electric toothbrush or something that vibrates with you.

Because you’re, you could get a clogged duct while you’re gone and you won’t have the baby there to remove it. And your pump is just never going to be as good as the baby. So I don’t want you to be stuck somewhere in a new location with limited resources in helping you get that clog out. I don’t want you getting sick with mastitis on your trip.

So if that happens to you and you start to get some pain, it usually starts with just a little bit of pain in one localized area on your breast. I want you to do a hot compress on that breast, and then I want you to do a little vibrating massage on the outside and then hand express and really kind of focus on that area of discomfort and really do it until you feel better.

Try not to take ibuprofen or Tylenol because we don’t want to be masking a fever at that point in time. So if it’s uncomfortable, we would rather, you like remove the clog rather than just take medication because mastitis can happen pretty quickly. And I definitely do not want you somewhere new with an infection that’s worse because you masked it with ibuprofen or you didn’t catch it soon enough.

So, and a lot of places, if that does happen, a lot of places have tele-health now that are in your network. So before you go to an urgent care that’s out of your network for mastitis, with a physician that doesn’t know jack shit about breastfeeding, I would probably call your primary care provider first from where you’re from and they might be able to call medication in for you where you currently are.

And if you are say on your return trip from a vacation or business or whatever, you know, you’ve been staying in a hotel. Obviously it’s ideal if we can freeze breast milk solid before trying to get on a plane with it, just to keep it cold longer.

But I get it. You’re in a hotel. There’s a mini fridge, may not have a freezer. It might, it might not work very well. But most hotels have ice machines. Or if they don’t, you know, you can always ask at the front desk, if they, if they’re the kind of hotel that has breakfast, they’ve got ice somewhere. Pack it in as much ice as you can before you leave the hotel.

When you get to the airport, dump out the ice, cause you can’t go through security with that. And then when you get through security, go to the nearest restaurant, and ask for ice. That’s a really good point. For sure. That would stress me out, not going to lie. Yeah. It’s definitely not easy, but again, this is the kind of situation where you just need to make that plan, you know, think through it in your mind.

You’re like, all right, I have a 12:15 flight, you know, out of Pittsburgh, blah, blah, blah. You know, you’re going to have all your special ice packs and everything for the way out. But think through it, you’re like, okay, I’m there for four days. I’m going to ship milk on this day, but then I’m going to have 48 hours of milk I have to bring home with me. You know, I’m traveling from this hotel to this airport. Like what, what are my options here? What kind of ice can I get? Do I have to, you know, can I freeze my ice packs? You might be able to travel with ice packs. And then like ask your hotel to store them in their freezer or something.

Just, you know, don’t be afraid to be like, look, I’m a breastfeeding mom. This shit is really complicated and stressful. Like help me out. Yeah. I think most people would be inclined to help. You know anytime I ever see a breastfeeding mom out in public, I’m always like, Hey, you’re doing a great job. Anything I can do for you?

Yeah, and don’t be afraid to call ahead, call the airline ahead. Double-check that they know you’re coming in with breast milk and that they know the guidelines. Call your hotel, tell them you’re breastfeeding and you’re going to need X, Y, and Z. You know, last time I checked into a hotel and my husband called and he was like, Hey, my wife has a newborn.

She’s not going to ask you for help. Go carry her bags in for her. Oh, that’s sweet. And you know, on another thought with that, you could call ahead and ask to be put in a room that does have a freezer. Yeah, exactly. So this is one of those cases, or we are going to encourage you to advocate for yourself and make sure you make the time and space to plan out adequately.

I feel like first-time moms are so much less inclined to do this for themselves because they’ve never done it before. If it’s their first travel time with baby or with pumping. And I could just see like second- and third-time moms calling ahead and being like, yep, breastfeeding mom, give me the room with the freezer. Thanks bitches. Because it’s like, I’m not messing with it.

So just if you’re a first time, mom listening out there, just pretend like you’ve done this four other times and that you just are entitled to get what you need because you are, and you’re working hard enough. Exactly. And honestly, like sometimes airlines are a huge pain in the ass, but for the most part I’ve found that hotels are extremely accommodating, you know?

Cause that’s their whole job. Their whole thing is to make you comfortable. So you call and you’re like, here are my needs and what can you do to accommodate? Yeah, I’m at the point in my life where I would go straight up to the check-in and be like, I’m a breastfeeding mom. Any chance you want to bump me to first class?

Yeah. Why not? Worth a shot. Do you have those seats with the plugs in them? So I could just like pump in my seat. Exactly. I mean, don’t be afraid to ask, you know, There’s this like meme going around Facebook a lot about ask culture, versus I don‚Äôt know, not ask culture, whatever, where some people are raised to be comfortable to ask for everything.

And other people are raised to like never ask directly for things. This is the kind of situation where if you fall into that latter group, you have to kind of reprogram yourself a little bit. You have to ask directly and you have to advocate directly for yourself. Yeah, because just picture, if you don’t do this, what could happen?

Like if you don’t pull yourself up and like actually demand that people help you who are paid to help you, by the way, all these people that work at the airlines are literally paid to make sure that you have a good experience. If you don’t, you could end up with a clogged duct on your vacation, which leads to mastitis, which leads to decrease supply on that side, because God knows whatever, or you have to come home early and your plans are just totally ruined and you didn’t have a good time. All because why? You know, like we didn’t want to inconvenience people?

Well, listen, I’m sorry. I’m not sorry, like, this is what we need. And I swear if anyone asked me for help, no matter what industry I’m in, I would be like, oh my God. Yes, thank you for saying something. Like, I want to actually make a difference in my day, instead of just punching tickets all day and being bored, I can make a difference, you know, like don’t rob people of that experience to help you.

Yeah. And you know, often if I get the answer, that’s like, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. My response is okay, bring me to someone who can help me. Yeah. Right. Somebody can help me or put someone on the phone who can help me, you know, it, and it is a much nicer way than it’s a much nicer thing to say than like, you know, show me your manager. My head, my head just spins around on my body and I go “take me to your leader!”

And also like maybe that’s not the most helpful person. Right. So, you know, we’re going to advocate for ourselves, we’re going to ask directly for what we need and we are going to make a solid plan for every step of the way. Yeah, absolutely. And don’t, just for fun, don’t go to the woman at the counter, go to the dude, go to the unsuspecting dude and see what happens and then tell us, you know, like I want to hear these stories.

So you better email us at [email protected] and tell me your experience. Who has helped you when you were traveling? Who has been your game-changing person? We want to dedicate a win to that person and an award to you for being bold enough to ask. I think that’s great. Yeah. Or tell us your horror story and what you did to, to manage all the challenges you faced.

Right? Tell us about that. We love to hear it. We want to share it with everybody. I really like to have all of your stories to share. Just like you enjoy listening to our stories. Speaking of, tell me your travel story, Maureen. I have never pumped and traveled before, but I have traveled with a breastfeeding infant several times.

How’d that go? Well, the most interesting time I can remember I was flying to my grandfather’s funeral. Oh no, it was before he died. I was flying down to see my grandfather for the last time before he died with my son. And my son was about maybe almost two. And for whatever reason, we got bumped up to first class, which was hilarious.

And he was small enough that he, I just had him riding in my seat. I didn’t buy a seat for him. So he was like one or something. And it was like all business dudes in suits in first class and then me like tits out the whole time, feeding this, this toddler, right. Who’s like a total boob monster and loves to eat like, you know, like makes noise. He’s like, you know, dribbling milk he’s wiggling he’s, you know, ridiculous. And like nobody said anything in first class, but like all these old, you know, white dudes in their suits were just very pointedly looking straight ahead and nowhere else. I think it’s good for them, you know?

Yeah. Thanks for doing that. Thanks for representing. Oh yeah. Well tell me, tell me your story. Oh, no, I, I don’t go places. Oh, that’s not true. I did. I went to. Yeah, here we go. I do have a story. I traveled with my son to see my great aunt who lived in Connecticut, where she lived. She lived in Litchfield, Connecticut, and she actually lived in a geo dome that she built herself when she was in her seventies, in the middle of a cow pasture. Actually love that more.

Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re going to be her when you’re older. She also side note, my great aunt Catherine Davis was her name. She’s wonderful woman. She won the lifetime democratic achievement award in Litchfield and she was very proud of that. Yeah, she was really, she was actually a, a big bad ass, but anyways, I could probably talk about her forever.

Like she, she palled around with Andy Warhol and she had like sketches. Little sketches that Andy had done on napkins that she had just kept, you know, not because they were worth anything, but just because they’re from Andy, I was like we love her. Yeah, we love her. You know, before she died, she was like, do you want this clay oven?

I was like yes, I do. She’s like, okay. Do you want this vest? She had three vests and two pairs of pants and that’s all she owned and she would hang them up on her bookshelves. Because the majority of the geodome was just bookshelves and she worked out every morning. She slept on a little mattress on the floor and she said, I stayed, I stay fit.

Because first thing in the morning, I just roll out of bed and I do pushups and crunches. Oh my God. This is our goal for being old. I love it. Okay. Anyway, what’s the story of breastfeeding? So I, I go up there to visit with my family and my son was probably about six months old, so, right, right when your milk starts kind of increasing in calorie and they’re more exploring and starting to crawl around and I got that pain in my boob.

And I was like, oh no, it’s going down. So in her bathroom that thank God had running water at this point. Cause it didn’t always, she had just had it installed. I think probably for our visit, I was in the bathroom with a hot compress on my boob, hand expressing into her little geodome bathroom. Ducking because of course it’s like in a corner. And then I latched my son on that side after I did a hot compress and a little massage and he eventually did get it out. I just pointed his nose towards the clog and he was able to remove it, but it was kind of a close call. And if I didn’t know what to do that could have gotten nasty real quick.

And then I would have been eight hours from home, you know? Oh my gosh. Yeah. I’m glad that turned out well. Yeah. So the most interesting part of that story is my aunt, but still could have gone differently. Yeah, I didn’t, I didn’t ever go on a plane. I honestly, I was so anxiety ridden during my postpartum period that it was just, I wasn’t going anywhere.

Yeah, no, I get that. I actually, you know, I would not have planned to travel with my son at that age, but it was just what happened. I went on a plane a couple of times with him to like see family around when my grandfather died. Yeah. I mean, I always envy those people that do though. Like those people, I see pictures of people that are like, oh yeah, just took my kid to New Mexico and we’re hiking and look, he’s on my backpack and we’re having the best time.

And I’m like, wow, God, I wish I could do that. I mean, not that I couldn’t but like, I won’t because my craziness. Totally, we did a lot of car trips when my son was young, but I just like we don’t have a ton of money, so I’m always like, I don’t want to pay for this plane unless it’s going to be cheaper than driving. So yeah, basically.

And usually it’s not cheaper than driving when you have to fly out of some stupid, tiny airport like Pittsburgh, you know? Yep. Well, I hope this helps you all and that you feel emboldened to travel and ask her what you need along the way you deserve it. If what you want is to travel, then you shall get it.

Yes. So should we do a quick award for our listeners now?

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I never leave my people hanging. If you need more than a group support chat, my students also get 25% off private consults. So pop on over to¬†Breastfeeding for Busy Moms¬†and prepare the best way you can. I’ll see you in class. And the link is in the show notes.

All right. Today’s award goes to Leanne M. Her baby girl is 10 months old and last night was the first night that she slept with no bra and no leaking. 10 months! She says my body has officially slowed down. That’s reminding me of the movie, The Regulator. Oh my gosh. There’s like a, there’s like something exploding in the back.

It’s like, it’s me The Regulator. Wait, is that the award she’s getting? The Regulator. She’s getting, she’s the regulator. Yeah. Good for you, girl. I mean, that’s a big moment. I am totally not a bra sleeper and I was so annoyed to have to sleep with a bra when I was breastfeeding. Let them fly. You know, so if you’re, if you’re still stuck in that time of your breastfeeding journey, where you’re just leaking all over the place and you’re struggling to wear a bra at night, just wait it out. It’ll be fine. You’ll be able to do it soon.

All right. Well, thanks for joining us for this little episode. And if you guys have questions, comments, whatever, as always, you can email us at [email protected] Yes. And tell us what your wins are, especially your travel wins. We want to see where you go this summer.

All right guys. See you next time. Toodles. Thanks for listening to The Milk Minute. If you haven’t already please like, subscribe, and review our podcast wherever you listen. If you’d like to support our podcast, you can find us on Patreon at¬†Patreon.com/MilkMinutePodcast. To send us feedback, personal stories, or just to chat, you can send us an email at [email protected]

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