My experience traveling with breast milk

Last week was my first trip away from home since I had my baby. One of my big concerns was traveling with breast milk. The TSA rules are pretty straightforward, but I’ve heard that in practice they are not super consistent (shocker right?). The rules from the TSA website are:

  • Breast milk is exempt from the 3-1-1 rule (because it’s considered a medicine).
  • You can travel with freezer packs, and they can be frozen solid or partially frozen.
  • Separate your breast milk from your liquids toiletry bag.
  • You do not have to be traveling with your child to travel with breast milk.
  • You may be subject to additional screening.

Sounds pretty straightforward right? When I got to my home airport I did all of the stuff I normally do, pulling out my laptop, taking off my shoes, etc. I also pulled out my cooler full of empty bottles and freezer packs. I told the TSO that I was traveling with medicine and had a freezer pack. He said, “No problem, we’ll just have to check that the freezer pack is completely frozen.” Uh, okay. Since I had just left my house it was completely frozen, but it likely wouldn’t be the next night when I flew home. As I was waiting for them to check it (holding up the line, of course. Cringe.) I asked what would happen when I flew back home and the freezer packs were only partially frozen and repeatedly told that they had to be fully frozen. I said, “On your website it says that when traveling with medicine they can be partially frozen.” And the lady quoted the 3-1-1 rule to me. Ugh.

So I was pretty anxious about what would happen when I flew home. At that point, I had the mostly frozen gel packs, plus a quart sized bag of ice, in my cooler. I let them know I was traveling with medications, they said, “Ok thanks for letting us know,” and then slid all of my stuff through. No waiting, no extra screening, no questions about the gel packs or the ice. All that worry for nothing.

When I traveled again this past Monday, it was the same thing. I let them know, they slid it through the X-ray machine, no waiting. Easy peasy!

Obviously YMMV. I have a print out of the TSA’s guidelines in my pump bag just in case. It sounds like it will never be consistent, but that doesn’t surprise me.

Also, be sure to check out Corporette’s post about how to ask for a place to pump during travel.



  1. I think you’re smart to print off a copy of the TSA’s guidelines on breast milk. It’s also probably a good idea to be ready to ask for a manager/supervisor if the TSA agent you are dealing with refuses to follow the guidelines that the agency published.

  2. glad it went smoothly for the most part. the inconsistency in adhering to the rules is the most frustrating part about the TSA. on my first trip, i declared i had breast milk. they told me to put the pump motor in its own bin. thankfully my pump isn’t attached to a bag. i don’t know what i would’ve had to do in that case.

  3. Glad it turned out OK for you, but what a pain! All that worry over some miseducated employee… you would think being consistent on the rules would be something they train TSA to do. I mean they are supposed to be keeping travelers safe right?

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