Breastfeeding and pumping hacks for flying in 2024

Who is ready for some sunshine and a few days at the beach?! From getting your breastmilk through security, to storing your milk midair, we've got answers to all of your travel questions!

How early should I arrive at the airport?

You don't want to feel rushed, especially if it's your first trip with your little one. You know what works for you. So, give yourself plenty of time to load and unload your luggage, stroller, car seat and diaper bag (and don't forget the pump parts)! Remember most airlines will not charge you to check car seats or a stroller. However, if you have a tight connection you may want to gate check your car seat to make sure it arrives when you do. If for some reason your car seat gets lost, you can check with rental car companies to see if they have one available to rent. 

Can I travel with breastmilk or formula?

Yes! Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler foods (including puree pouches) are considered medically necessary liquids, according to the Transportation Security Administration. So, that means even if they’re more than 3.4 ounces, they are allowed in your carry-on bags. They do not need to fit in a quart-sized bag. This rule also applies to ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs whether or not there is breast milk. If they’re partially frozen or slushy, they will have to go through a screening. Your baby does NOT need to be with you to bring breast milk, formula or other related items.

What should I know before going through security?

First up, give yourself some extra time to get through security (especially if this is the first time you and your baby are taking a trip to the airport). If possible, put your formula and breast milk in clear, translucent bottles instead of plastic bags or pouches. Plastic bags or pouches may not be able to be screened by Bottle Liquid Scanners, so you may have to open them. Agents will not put anything into the medically necessary liquid (which both are considered to be). Tell the TSA agents you are carrying formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (including those puree pouches) and that it’s more than 3.4 ounces. Take all of these items out of your bag. They’ll be screened separately from your other items.

Can I pump or nurse in the terminal?

Yes! You can pump or nurse anywhere you want! It's your right! However, if you're looking for a place that is more private, many airports (depending on their size) provide a private, non-bathroom space in each terminal building for you to pump breast milk. You can visit the airport's directory map to find the locations of these pumping spaces (some may also look like pods placed throughout the terminal).

Can I board early with my baby?

Yes, on most airlines you can board early with your child through family boarding. That means you can get on the plane, head to your seat and get situated before most other passengers. When you get to your gate ask the agent when they offer family boarding because it varies by airline. The extra time can be really helpful and allow you and your child to get comfortable before take off. Many airlines offer this option for free and for those traveling with children under the age of 5.

Any tips for breastfeeding on the plane?

When I was flying with my little ones I would typically nurse them when we started to taxi away from the gate and many times they fell asleep quickly. It was comforting to them and helped them relax after the rush of getting through the airport. Nursing during takeoff and landing can also help protect your child from ear pain due to cabin pressure changes. I also kept our little ones in a sling or carrier while we were flying. It helped them feel safe, secure and they could nurse on demand. 

What do I need to know about pumping on the plane?

If you'll be pumping midair, plan ahead. You can switch to a manual pump for your trip or a battery powered breast pump. Some planes have power outlets at your seat so you may be able to use that power source as well while flying.

If you pump while flying, make sure your ready to transport and store your milk. The CDC notes that "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."

See their full recommendations here.

How should I store my breastmilk while traveling?

Check with your hotel or vacation rental to make sure they have what you need to store your milk. Some hotels will provide a compact fridge to your room if you request one. Keep in mind, it's best to store milk in the back of the refrigerator or freezer where the temperature is more likely to stay constant.

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