TSA Breast Milk Rules

By Jodi Thornton O'Connell

Tips for traveling with infants and tiny tots

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Going anywhere with an infant as a nursing mother would never fall into the category of "easy." But trying to plan for TSA security checks as well as packing for your little one's needs can sometimes raise the bar one notch further toward "overwhelming." Learn the ins and outs of packing to travel with an infant and get the lowdown on everything from breast milk to baby food.

How much breast milk can you bring on the plane?

Don't let TSA's 3-1-1 rule scare you, because breast milk is one of the exceptions. There's no actual limit to how much breast milk you can bring on board the plane – TSA just says "reasonable quantities for the flight," meaning whatever you anticipate your infant needing. Breast milk does not need to be in a plastic bag.

How to pack breast milk

If you're pumping before passing through security, you won't need to refrigerate the breast milk for four to six hours, according to La Leche League International. If your flight is longer or may be delayed, store breast milk in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs. Make sure your ice packs are completely frozen, not slushy, or they will have to undergo screening.

Getting through security

If the airport has a special line for families or those needing extra screening, head for that. When you get up to the checkpoint, inform the security officer that you have breast milk.

Your milk will typically go through the X-ray machine, and a guard might need to open it to test for explosives. Although the Food and Drug Administration says there's no adverse effects from consuming milk that's been through the X-ray machine, let the security officer know if you you're not okay with that. You'll undergo alternative screening procedures, such as a pat-down and scrutiny of other carry-on items.

Pumping and flying

TSA allows both manual and electric breast pumps to come aboard with you in your hand-carried luggage or ride in your checked baggage. Before heading to the airport, check your airline's breast pump policy. Some, like United Airlines, specify that your breast pump carrying case doesn't count against your allotment of carry-on baggage. Others, like American Airlines, allow carry-on medical devices but don't specify breast pumps. American does, however, let you pump in-flight and will provide an electrical outlet if one is available should you need it.

If you don't want to pump in mid-air or an airport restroom, there's an app for that. MAMAVA and Moms Pump Here both have smartphone apps to direct you to the nearest private lactation room or pod where you can lean back and let down. Check the Moms Pump Here online airport lactation room locator on its website, too.

Transporting pumped milk with no traveling infant

Business can call you away from your little one's side, but you'll still need to maintain your pumping schedule to avoid mastitis. Don't pump and dump. Bringing your milk home for baby is fine according to TSA, whose website page states that "you don't need to travel with your child to bring breast milk."

Other nutrition for children

When traveling with your child, there are a few other exceptions to TSA's 3-1-1 rule. Juice and baby food fall under the same rules as breast milk. You can also bring a gel or liquid-filled teether to console your little one.

About the Author

Indulging her passion for vacation vagary through the written word on a full-time basis since 2010, travel funster Jodi Thornton-O'Connell guides readers to the unexpected, quirky, and awe-inspiring.