Flying With Breast Milk: What You Need to Know

Oh, the paraphernalia required to travel with a baby or a child. You’ve got the toys. The diapers, the clothes and the snacks. The never-ending list of things to keep your little one entertained and comfortable during the journey. Add on the sometimes-confusing world of TSA rules and regulations, and flying with breast milk and a little one just feels overwhelming.

But wait! Before you cross airline travel off your bucket list until the kids are older, it may help to know that you can bring breast milk and other liquids for children with your carry-on luggage. We are all trained to carefully measure our liquids to ensure they don’t exceed 3.4 ounces, but these rules don’t apply to kid-related nutrition (and many mamas don’t know this!).

Related: Flying with baby? 10 tips to make air travel with kids a breeze ✈️

The rules and regulations about flying with breast milk apply if you are traveling with or without your baby. This means if you are pumping while away, you can still bring your milk on the plane without hassle. The trick is knowing your rights ahead of time because sometimes, even TSA agents don’t appear to understand the rules.

Here’s all you need to know about flying with liquids for babies and kids so you can spend less time stressing at the airport and more time enjoying your trip.

You can bring “reasonable” amounts of breast milk, formula, or even juice on the plane

  • According to TSA guidelines, breast milk and formula are considered “medically necessary liquids.” This means that you are not limited to the usual liquid limitations for carry-on luggage.
  • Pumping equipment is also considered medically necessary (although it’s still sometimes considered a carry-on, so check with your airline).
  • The TSA rules also expand to juice or milk for toddlers. So if your kiddo has their favorite sippy cup, it’s fine to bring it on the plane.
  • All the supplies like frozen ice or gel packs needed to keep your breast milk cold are also OK. Just expect a little extra scrutiny if the ice melts or the gel becomes slushy, as they will likely need additional screening.
  • Breast milk is screened by an X-ray machine, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assures parents is safe. But if you feel uncomfortable, it’s OK to decline.
  • According to the CDC, let the TSA agent know that you don’t want the X-ray (you’ll go through additional screening like pat-downs or other searches).
  • And contrary to what you may have heard, you don’t have to taste the milk in front of the agent to prove it’s safe.

So how much can you bring with you? The guidelines state you can carry “reasonable quantities,” which means you can bring as much as you need to get you through a flight with an infant or young child, with some to spare in case of delays.

Related: A sleep scientist shares her best sleep tips for traveling with babies and kids

It’s your mama right to safely feed your baby at the airport

If you are traveling with your little one, transport milk is just one of the many things you have to juggle. Once you get to the airport, you also want to be able to comfortably support or bottle feed your baby. Some mamas feel fine nursing in public or with a nursing cover, but others prefer a little more privacy.

Either way, the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) act guarantee you have a spot to do so (because no one should have to nurse their baby in a bathroom stall).

The FAM act requires airports to accommodate parents with a lockable, private area with electrical outlets and a sink in every terminal. You may want to look ahead at your airport’s website or call ahead to see what specific areas are available.

Something else to research ahead of time is Mamava. Mamava is a women-founded company that is working towards a future with better lactation options. Download their free app to find lactation pods in airports all over the 50 states and beyond.

Keep airline travel stress-free (or at least a little less stressful) with these tips

Traveling already takes a lot of planning ahead, but with a few extra steps, you can make flying with liquids for babies and kids so much easier:

  • Print out the TSA rules to have with you just in case anyone questions what is and isn’t allowed.
  • As you go through screening, let your TSA agent know that you are carrying breast milk, formula, milk, or juice, and remove it from your belongings for easy screening.
  • It’s absolutely OK to ask the TSA agent to use a new pair of gloves before touching your bottles, cups, or bags.
  • Be ready to tell the agent you’d prefer to avoid an X-ray if this is your preference, so you don’t feel pressured into doing something you aren’t comfortable with.
  • You may be asked to open or take out a small amount of breast milk to be tested (frozen won’t require this step), but you can also ask for screening alternatives if you don’t want to do this.

As a note—these guidelines are specifically for domestic travel within the United States. International travel will have different rules and policies, so check with the individual airlines if traveling out of the country.

Flying with a child can feel a little daunting, but knowing these TSA rules and regulations in advance can hopefully make your trip as easy and stress-free as possible.

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