Flying with expressed breastmilk

By Bel Moore

The last few years there have been a few highly publicised cases of women being made to discard or taste test their hard pumped liquid gold breastmilk when travelling through security or customs when flying. The vast majority of mum’s encounter no issues but its best to educate yourself on your rights as a breastfeeding/ pumping mother and the rules of travelling with expressed breast milk (EBM), so you are confident if you come across any problems.

Whilst trawling airline, airport and customs websites, I found the rules vary country to country and depend on if you are travelling with or without your baby. Each individual airline can also have additional rules and regulations about storing and traveling with EBM, so it’s best to check with your carrier prior to flying, so there is no added confusion!

When travelling domestically in Australia with your baby or child there is no restriction on amount of EBM you can take in your carry on or checked baggage. Without your baby/child, you may still take EBM on board but it must be in containers (bags or bottles) of less than 100ml and you can’t have more than 1 litre in total. If you need to carry extra EBM, it can be checked in and stored in the hold in a suitably insulated container. Most airlines do not have the facilities to refrigerate EBM on board, so make sure you have a cooler bag and ice brick to transfer it safely. If you need to give the EBM to your infant inflight, they can provide you with hot water to heat the bottle. Remember, if you are connecting to an international flight or leaving from the international terminal, international restrictions apply instead.

If travelling internationally with your baby/child, you are allowed ‘a reasonable quantity’ (determined by security screening officers) of EBM for the trip in your carry on. Without a baby or child on the flight, you are only permitted to carry a total of 1L of EBM, which needs to be in 100ml of less portions. They must be carried in a transparent, resealable plastic bag (where the four sides add up to no more than 80 centimetres). If you need to carry extra EBM, it needs to be checked in.

If you are traveling from or in the USA, the TSA policy on Formula, Breast Milk, and Juice states you may travel with EBM in ‘reasonable quantities’ in your carry on baggage. There is no mention of what form (liquid/frozen) it needs to be in. They do explain they may need to test or x-ray the EBM for explosives or concealed prohibited items. The UK Government, after consultation with breastfeeding experts, brought in a new policy in 2017 for flights in and out of the UK, that allows mothers to travel with an unlimited amount of EBM (in liquid form only) in their hand luggage but it must be stored in individual containers of less than 2L.

Here’s a few tips to keep your EBM as safe as possible when checking it in:
•    Freeze your breast milk
•    Pack in a solid plastic/fibreglass eskie or Styrofoam box with a secure lid.
•    Seal the containers of EBM in watertight plastic bags
•    You can include additional frozen ice packs to ensure that it stays frozen – the hold (where the checked baggage is kept, doesn’t get above 7 degrees so it should stay frozen).
•    Put absorbent material in the base of the box/Esky- such as paper towel
•    Mark as fragile/ contains breast milk (breastmilk is NOT a biological hazard like other body fluids)
•    Have your details (name and contact number at least) inside and outside the box/esky so you can be easily identified or contacted if need be
•    Check with your airline if additional costs will be charged for checking in your box/esky of EBM (as some airlines only allow one piece of checked luggage but some let items for baby travel for free if baby is traveling with you).

Babywearing on the plane can also make life a little easier when flying. 
If you need to pump during the flight, you may do so when instructed that electronic devices are allowed to be use (usually after take off when the seat belt sign has been turned off). Most airlines will be happy to provide you with some ice to keep your expressed milk cold for the remainder of the flight.

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