Between packing, securing visas, and navigating customs, international travel can be stressful for new and seasoned parents alike. Breast/chestfeeding parents have the added challenges of pumping on the go and transporting breast milk between countries. And to make things more complicated, every country has its own rules when it comes to flying with breast milk.
Ultimately, these rules come down to:
- The quantity of milk you are traveling with
- The state of your milk (frozen or liquid)
- Whether or not your baby is traveling with you
We know, that’s a lot of variables, and enough to make your head spin. Let’s take a deeper look at how each of these factors can vary and what you can expect when carrying your breast milk through airport security internationally.
How much breast milk you can bring through airport security will depend on the country. Some countries explicitly state how much breast milk you can bring on board, while others have made breast milk and formula exempt.
However, most guidelines ask passengers to limit the quantity to a “reasonable amount” to what’s needed for the duration of your flight. And who gets the final say in what’s considered a “reasonable amount”? The security personnel at the airport.
Frozen breast milk is still considered a liquid. Many countries treat frozen breast milk as a liquid. For example, if you travel with frozen breast milk through London Heathrow where frozen breast milk is not permitted in your carry-on, you will be required to check it with your checked luggage or—worse—dump it.
You might only be allowed to bring breast milk in your carry-on if your baby is with you. London Heathrow and Mexico’s policies both state that your baby must be present for you to bring breast milk on board. In Mexico, you will be asked you where you baby is if carry-on milk but are traveling without your baby. Again, it’s up to the airport security officer to make the final call.
Airport security agencies for most countries have policies posted online. If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t have its carry-on breast milk policies available, contact your airline to find out what’s allowed on board.
It’s important to know that even with clearly written policies, they may be inconsistently enforced by security personnel at the airport. We strongly recommend printing out the policies of the countries you are traveling to and through, and carrying them with you in the event that you need to advocate for proper handling of your milk.
Skip airport security altogether by shipping your milk home with Milk Stork! Explore our full lineup of medical-grade coolers for frozen and refrigerated breast milk here.