Traveling While Breastfeeding or Lactating
by Anne Eglash MD, IBCLC, FABM
Summer trips are right around the corner! Some breastfeeding families are apprehensive about travel, not knowing the accommodations for nursing or pumping in all the places they will be.
The US Center for Disease Control has a new webpage dedicated to travel recommendations for nursing families. The page has tips on breastfeeding, such as discouraging water or other liquids when breastfeeding in a hot climate. The CDC also recommends breastfeeding during airplane take-off and landing to help manage ear discomfort related to cabin pressure changes, in addition to breastfeeding ad lib.
Breastfeeding mothers who are traveling without their children need to make decisions on what pump to bring, how to pump on the plane, whether to store or toss their expressed breastmilk, and how to store it safely. They also need guidance on how to navigate through the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) system with their expressed breastmilk. TSA recommends that families bring a printed copy of the TSA rules for breastmilk or other liquids brought in their carry-on baggage.
- The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act requires that all medium and large airports in the US have clean, private, non-bathroom lactation spaces in each terminal for expressing breastmilk.
- Expressed breastmilk needs to be declared at US Customs upon return to the USA.
- It is legal in an airport to ask a mother nursing her infant to move to a lactation space provided in each terminal.
- In the US, expressed breastmilk is exempt from the TSA regulations limiting quantities of liquids and gels.
- TSA officers are allowed to request evaluation of breastmilk for safety.
- The US Food and Drug Administration states that x-ray screening of breastmilk does not alter its quality and is safe to consume.
- According to the International Air Transport Authority, shipping frozen breastmilk requires following their regulations for biological substances.
- Dry ice is not allowed in carry-on baggage.
See the Answer
This website is a good reference for families who have questions regarding breastfeeding and expressing milk when traveling. It is not legal to request that a mother move to a lactation space to nurse her child. US federal legislation protects mothers’ and children’s right to breastfeed anywhere they are otherwise authorized to be while on federal property, which includes US Customs areas, embassies, and consulates overseas.
Although the TSA is allowed to evaluate breastmilk, individuals are allowed to ask the TSA agent to put on fresh gloves, not open or taste the milk, and to not put it through x-ray machines.
The International Air Transport Authority does not consider breastmilk a biological substance, so it can be shipped just like any frozen food.
Dry ice can be placed in carry-on or checked baggage, no more than 5.5 lb per package. The package must allow the release of the carbon dioxide gas.
The CDC’s website on travel and breastfeeding does not provide guidance for how to express milk on a plane, train or bus. An airplane bathroom is a disgusting place to express milk. I have heard many mothers describe their techniques for expressing milk discretely while in their seats, even when seated between 2 strangers. If you have a story, please share as a comment!