If you are reading this it probably means that you are planning a holiday somewhere and are trying to figure out the logistics of feeding your breastfed baby. You probably have a freezer stash of frozen breastmilk saved for emergencies, but what do you do if you are on vacation and have a “breastmilk” emergency. Your freezer is a million miles away. What do you do in this situation?
When my baby was only 5 months old we decided to take a three-week trip over Christmas to the US from Singapore. There were many factors I knew might pose a breastfeeding obstacle for both of us: (1) The 6 month growth spurt, (2) Teething, (3) Jet- lag for both of us, (4) A new environment, (5) Extra stress on me, (6) Late nights out, and (7) Not enough free time to pump.
In addition to taking a few bags of frozen breastmilk on the plane, I decided that I wanted to take some of my emergency freezer supply with me as “check-in” luggage. There is not much information regarding how to travel with frozen breastmilk on the internet, so I decided to write about it here. This is what I did and I hope it helps you with your planning.
How To Plan For Your Trip:
Call Your Airline. Call the airlines and ask them about their rules regarding dry-ice. Most will be clueless. Tell them to check and call you back. Make sure you get the name and ID of the agent on the phone. Under TSA regulations, 5 pounds (2.5kgs) is the maximum amount of dry-ice you can have for checked in luggage. 4.4 pounds (2.2kgs) is the amount of dry ice for carry-on luggage, however, you are not allowed to take so many bags of frozen milk on the plane (only enough to feed your child for the duration of the flight).
Note: When I spoke to Singapore Airlines on the phone, they told me that if there was a dog travelling on the flight, then I would not be able to check-in any item with dry ice. WHAT!! This statement kept me up many nights. But I decided to take the risk. If they wouldn’t let me check-in the milk I was planning on using my persuasive lawyer skills to allow me to take it on the flight.
Contact your local dry ice people. I did some Google research on my own. If you are not sure, call up Haagan Daaz or Ben & Jerry’s, or any other ice cream shop that sells pints of their ice-cream or ice-cream cakes. Ask them who their dry ice supplier is. If you speak to the manager, I am sure you can arrange to buy dry-ice from these places. However, the tricky thing about dry ice is that you need a special container for such a long journey, otherwise the dry ice will just evaporate.
If you are in Singapore you can use Zenaco. I spoke to the manager at Zenaco when I first started my research and he was extremely nice and helpful. He spent a long time on the phone explaining the various options that I had (and trust me I ask a lot of questions). Just make sure you plan well in advance.
Travel Day Logistics: On the day of our trip my husband went to pick up the container and the dry ice from the dry-ice distributor. I filled one breastmilk freezer bag with 5 ounces (150ml) water the night before. He took the frozen bag of water with him to show them. My husband explained to them that I would be travelling with 20 of these frozen bags. The people at the dry-ice place were able to assess the amount of dry-ice and the size of the box that we would need for my journey.
Cost for the Dry-Ice: The total cost was S$20 for the container and about S$8 for the dry ice. It is totally worth it for your child to be able to have an extra supply of breastmilk.
Airport Check-In: The box of breastmilk was considered a piece of luggage, so pack your other bags accordingly. I actually packed more dry-ice in the container than I needed because of the estimated time to the airport, etc. Also, when they asked me I told them I only had 2.5 kgs in the box- which was the maximum (I probably had 3.5 kgs in the box (but I was not sure how much had melted already). They marked the box with a special “dry ice” label and put it on the conveyor belt with the rest of our luggage.
Arrival at Destination: When we arrived in the U.S.A. and finally opened the container about 25 hours later, the box was freezing cold – it was colder than my normal freezer at home. The special box and the dry ice had caused the container to go into a deep freeze mode, even though there was no dry ice left.
What would my trip have been like without the pumped milk? Honestly speaking, if I didn’t have the extra bags of milk my son would have definitely started formula. I was physically tired and stressed. Handling a 2 1/2 year old toddler and a 5 month old baby in a new environment is no easy task. Even though I was taking a zillion lactating supplements, my body was in overdrive.
Would SuperMommy do it again? I was extremely happy that I took all of the frozen breastmilk with me. I actually wish I would have taken some more bags.
Good Luck & Happy Travels!