Guide to Travel for Breastfeeding Moms

Your guide to traveling while breastfeeding, whether you’re bringing baby or not.
Mother breastfeeding child on the beach (Photo: Shutterstock)
Mother breastfeeding child on the beach (Photo: Shutterstock)

Breastfeeding can be exhausting for moms, which means traveling while breastfeeding provides an even bigger challenge. But it can be done—easily, in fact. Based on my own experience and tips from Katie Clark, Certified Lactation Educator and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, I’ve created this go-to guide to travel for breastfeeding moms, whether you’re bringing baby with you or not. 

Booking Travel: Best Options for Breastfeeding Moms

  • Vacation: If traveling for vacation, book a vacation rental where you’ll have access to a full-size fridge and freezer for milk storage. 
  • Work: If you’re traveling for work and a vacation rental isn’t an option, find out if your preferred hotel offers suites with full-size fridges with freezers. Alternatively, look for all-suite hotels that offer this option. Homewood Suites, Staybridge Suites, and Extended Stay America are all good options with refrigerators and freezers.

BOOK LIKE A PRO: 10 Best Hotel Booking Sites for Families

How to Fly With Breast Milk

If you’re wondering if you can fly with breastmilk even with the airport security liquid restrictions, the answer is yes. Here’s everything you need to know as a breastfeeding mom, from what to pack to what to expect at airport security.

What to Pack

  • Breast Pump Storage Bag: There are dozens of options available, but you don’t need to buy a specific breast pump storage bag. Just get a bag that fits all of your parts and is comfortable to carry at the airport.
  • Pump and Pump Parts: Triple-check you’ve packed all of your breast pump parts, including your breast pump charger. It may be helpful to pack extras of any essentials just in case anything gets lost in transit (and for extra peace of mind). 
  • Wet Bag: Pack a wet bag for dirty breast pump parts you’ll clean when you arrive at your destination. I recommend the Skip Hop Waterproof Wet Dry Bag.
  • Breast Milk Storage Bags: Be sure your milk storage bags are sealed as tightly as possible. While the goal is for your milk to remain frozen during travel, the bags are prone to leaking as soon as the frozen milk begins to defrost. An insulated cooling bag (either a small one that you can stash in a bag or a larger one if you’re bringing significant amounts of frozen breast milk; more on this below) is also helpful.
  • Breast Pads: Since you might go longer than usual without pumping, wear some disposable breast pads in case your breasts leak.
  • Breast Therapy Pads: In case you aren’t able to pump as soon as you’d like and your breasts begin to feel full and tender, it’s a good idea to have some gel pads on hand. Put them with your frozen milk (if packed) to keep them cold and ready for use in transit.
  • Nipple Cream: Don’t forget any comfort items you regularly use at home, such as nipple cream
  • Breastfeeding Supplements: If you use Sunflower Lecithin or any other supplements you find helpful for boosting milk supply and maintaining milk production, be sure to pack them as well. 
  • Breastfeeding Cover-Up: We love the buttery softness of the KeaBabies Multi-Use Cover and the Copper Pearl Multi-Use Cover, both of which provide full coverage for mom and baby. Their versatility makes them especially ideal for travel, too. 

EVERYTHING ON HAND: The Complete Baby Packing List for Travel

Best Breast Pumps for Travel

If you regularly use an electric pump, consider also bringing a manual pump or a battery-powered pump that can be charged in advance and packed in your carry-on bag. (Your electric pump can then go in your checked luggage). Here are some great options for breastfeeding mothers:

  • Medela Harmony: A tried-and-true manual breast pump, the Medela Harmony is perfect for travel. 
  • Motif Luna or Motif Duo: These breast pumps are battery powered, quiet and lightweight (so lightweight, in fact, that the Motif Duo weighs less than half a pound). 
  • Elvie: This hands-free device comfortably fits right into your bra, allowing you to discreetly pump on the go. Willow and Freemie make similar options.

Of course, you can bring your electric pump on the plane and forgo the additional manual or battery-powered pump. These pumps are just bulkier and often trickier to use on the go.

Airport Security

  • Per the TSA, breast milk is NOT subject to the 3.4-ounce liquid rule, which means you can bring breast milk in “reasonable quantities” through security and on to the plane, frozen or not, and whether you are traveling with your baby or not. You’ll just need to remove any milk from your bag as it will need to be screened separately from the rest of your luggage. 
  • You can also bring ice packs through airport security, but if they aren’t frozen, they are subject to the 3.4-ounce rule.
  • The TSA may ask you to test your breast milk, “but you can say no and they can swab the outside of the milk,” advises Clark. 
  • Clark also recommends printing off the TSA guidelines for breast milk since travelers often get questioned about it. 
  • If traveling with bagged/frozen breast milk, bring a cooler bag as your carry-on bag (and then another bag, such as your purse or a backpack, as your personal item). A rolling cooler bag is a convenient and ergonomic option.
  • Most airlines consider breast pumps to be medical devices, and they are permitted in your carry-on bag.

Breastfeeding at the Airport

It is legal to breastfeed anywhere you like at the airport or on the plane, with or without a cover. “However, if you want a quieter and cleaner place, look for a lactation pod (usually powered by Mamava). The Mamava app helps you find a place near you,” says Clark. “You can also look for dedicated breastfeeding rooms.”

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How to Drive With Breast Milk

If you’re a breastfeeding mom on a road trip and you plan on pumping, a cooler is vital to store milk. To keep your milk frozen, “brick” it in gallon-size freezer storage bags. Stop to buy ice and add it to your cooler as needed. Bring resealable plastic bags to contain the ice and make it easy to swap out ice as needed.

How to Ship Breast Milk

If you want to completely avoid any hassle of flying or road tripping with breast milk, you can ship it to your destination. There are a few options for shipping breast milk:

  • Milk Stork: Milk Stork is the only service solely dedicated to shipping breast milk. Everything can be done online, and Milk Stork ships all packaging essentials right to you. You can ship milk to your destination, and then back home if you have excess milk at the end of your trip.  
  • FedEx: FedEx also provides shipping services for breast milk. You’ll need to place an order for a cold shipping box a few days in advance of departure, and then package and drop off your milk at a FedEx location. 

You can also seek breast milk donations ahead of your trip by visiting Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets on Facebook. These groups have state-specific pages where parents can look for milk, either by browsing recent posts or posting a request. Breastfeeding moms donate excess milk free of charge, and you can feel free to screen moms—ask about their diet, current medications, etc.—to help ensure their milk is a good fit for your baby. Just steer clear of of scams in which you’re asked to pay for the breast milk.

Whether you’re sticking to exclusive breastfeeding or use human milk in conjunction with infant formula, planning ahead will help smooth the way to a happy baby and happy mom while traveling.

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Amanda Norcross
Amanda Norcross is a travel journalist and spokesperson. Her expertise has been featured in major media outlets including Bloomberg, Cheddar, Family Vacation Critic, NBC News, Red Tricycle, SmarterTravel, The New York Times, USA Today and The Weather Channel. Amanda looks forward to traveling with her baby boy, Isaac, and seeing the world through his eyes.