Travel Recommendations for Nursing Families
Continue breastfeeding your baby or expressing milk when traveling.
The thought of traveling with your breastfeeding baby can feel overwhelming, but breastfeeding provides several benefits to parents and children traveling together. Breastfeeding can provide a source of comfort for babies whose normal routine is disrupted due to travel. In addition to providing the ideal nutrition for your baby, breast milk keeps babies hydrated. Breastfed babies under 6 months do not need to drink water or any other liquids, even in hot weather.
By planning ahead, you can successfully continue to breastfeed and/or express milk for your baby.
- Breastfeed your baby during takeoff and landing when traveling by airplane. This will help to protect your child from ear pain due to cabin pressure changes.
- Feed your baby on demand. The best way to maintain your milk supply is to breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry.
If you are traveling without your child and plan on continuing breastfeeding, you will need to take certain steps to maintain your milk supply. Working with a lactation consultant or pediatrician may also be helpful to plan for your specific situation.
Prior to departure
- Express breast milk in advance so that your child may continue to have your milk while you are apart.
- Babies who have never drank milk from a bottle or cup should practice with another caregiver.
- You have many options for what to do with your milk while traveling. You can express milk and store it, send it home, or “pump and dump” (throw it out).
- If storing and/or shipping breast milk is not possible, “pumping and dumping” can allow you to maintain your milk supply so that you can continue breastfeeding when reunited with your baby.
Maintaining a full milk supply can be a concern for many traveling parents. Here are some tips for preserving your milk supply while traveling:
- Take regular breaks to express your milk, as frequently as you would normally feed your baby, if possible.
- To maintain an abundant milk supply over a long period of time, you may have greater success using an electric breast pump.
- If you plan to use an electric breast pump, consider whether you will need an electrical adapter and converter.
- Plan for a back-up option (such as hand expression or a portable manual pump) to express milk if needed.
- Before expressing milk make sure to wash your hands with soap and water. When soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used.
- It is important to keep your breast pump parts clean while traveling. Plan in advance how to best keep your pump kit parts clean given your specific travel settings.
- Know your rights. The Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) ActExternal requires all medium and large airports in the U.S. to have clean, private, non-bathroom lactation spaces in each terminal for expressing breast milk.
- If you need to pump milk while traveling by car, plane or other transportation, a manual or battery powered breast pump may be the best option. Some pumps can also be powered with car adapters.
- Check with your hotel or lodging accommodations in advance to request a compact refrigerator for your room if needed.
- Store expressed milk in milk storage bags or clean food-grade containers with tight fitting lids made of glass or BPA-free plastic.
- Store milk in the back of the refrigerator or freezer where the temperature is more likely to stay constant.
- For additional storage options and information on how to properly thaw milk see Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk.
- If you expect to have expressed milk with you during travel, carefully plan how you will transport the milk. The type of transportation (e.g., airplane, car, train, bus) you take may influence what policies you need to be aware of and follow.
- You can carry freshly expressed milk in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours. After arriving at your destination, use the milk right away, store it in the refrigerator, or freeze it.
- If you carry frozen milk in a cooler with frozen gel packs or ice, check your milk when you get to your destination. Upon arrival, if the milk has ice crystals, you can refreeze it.
- Keep in mind that previously frozen milk should be kept cold and used within 24 hours from the time it thaws completely. This will depend on the time spent traveling and the temperature of the cooler. If possible, check the milk after a few hours in the cooler to see if it has thawed.
Considerations for Air Travel
- In the United States, expressed milk and related baby and child feeding items are exempt from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations limiting quantities of liquids and gels.
- Passengers are allowed to carry with them all expressed milk, ice, gel packs (frozen or unfrozen), and other items required to transport expressed milk through airport security checkpoints and onboard flights.
- You do not have to be traveling with a baby to be able to carry milk and supplies.
- At the beginning of the screening process, inform the TSA officer that you are carrying expressed milk or related accessories, and separate them from other liquids, gels, and aerosols that are limited to 3.4 oz. (100 mL) each, subject to TSA’s Liquids RuleExternal.
- Having a printed copy of the TSA regulations for expressed milkExternal may help the screening process.
- For more information on breastfeeding and international travel visit CDC’s Yellowbook (Chapter 7).
Getting Back to Your Breastfeeding Routine After Traveling
- Even if your milk supply begins to decrease while you are away from your breastfeeding child, you can continue breastfeeding when you return and in most cases your milk supply will return to normal after several days.
- Occasionally, during long separations, babies who have adapted to using a bottle or cup may find it difficult to go back to breastfeeding. Support from a lactation provider may be helpful if you experience breastfeeding challenges after reuniting with your baby.