Tackling International Travel: Tips from a Flight Attendant!

 By Ceres Chill mom, Katie Lecuivre

Photo from Chiara Sotille

Getting back to work as a breastfeeding mom is already tough. When you throw travel back in the mix, *especially* international travel...it can feel near-impossible.

Unclench your jaw and lower your shoulders...it's going to be okay! 

I've been an exclusive pumping mom for 13 months, and I travel every week for work. Most of my travel is international. When I was just starting to explore the ways in which I could keep my breastmilk safe through my travels, in hotels and during long work days abroad, my first feeling was of panic.

If you've ever tried to put your leftovers in a hotel room fridge, you know the temperatures are inconsistent at best. The memory of a frozen salad or warm yogurt is enough to send you into a spiral over how you'll keep your milk at safe temperatures. 

The first thing I did was buy a fridge thermometer, but it doesn't do much good to know what temperature my milk is at if I have no way of getting everything colder. It'll just add stress to the whole situation. I then tried a heavy duty lunch bag with heat-sealed seams to pack my milk bags inside with ice. This worked great, as long as meetings didn't run long, I didn't sleep more than 6 hours without changing the ice, and didn't take impromptu lunches or drinks after work. Again, back to the drawing board we go... 

I asked my fellow coworker moms how they stored their milk, and every single one of them said they never found a good solution and ended up weaning. I wasn't ready to head down that road just yet. I then learned about the Chiller and purchased 4 (one for each day, plus overflow).

My weekly travel days, from the moment I leave my house to the moment I get to my hotel room, are typically 17-20 hour days. There isn't an icepack around that can stay cold for that long, and ziplock bags of ice are messy, but the Chiller works perfectly for my traveling needs. 

What are my hacks for those extra long travel days? 

I use a large, 2-compartment tote bag - one side holds my 4 Chillers, while the other side holds my flanges, my pump, my 2 Ceres Chill washbasins, my bottle brush and my dish soap. We need a lot to make it through a day!

Domestic travel is a breeze. Tell TSA you have breast milk, open the container, do a vapor test, and be on your way. 
International travel is a beast of its own, since each country has its own security standards and rules. You can always go to the website and find information for traveling with baby, but what about when it's just us? For the working moms who don't have our baby with us, here's the answer.

I have been to 17 countries with my breast milk and no baby, and have not had to dump any milk yet!

The first thing I do is go to the airport website - you will likely NOT find the information you need there, but you will find the contact us link. I always email them, and say something along the lines of,

"Hello, I will be traveling through your airport on X date with expressed breast milk and my baby will not be with me. I will not have access to dry ice or a freezer to package my milk. Can you please tell me how I can package my milk to go through security? I typically use a 2 chamber metal flask - one chamber is filled with ice and one is filled with breast milk. Would this be acceptable to carry through security?"

I ALWAYS attach a picture of the Chiller - this helps to get a clear answer of what you need to do. 

Once I get the all clear, I favorite that email just in case I have issues at security. And there you have it - your milk is safe for the journey home! The only country I have been told no in is the UK, but I have had great success in Europe and Asia.

A few things I have learned along the way: 

I always keep breast milk bags with me in case I have to repackage it for screening, then pour back into the Chillers. 

Airport restaurants and coffee shops are the best place to replenish your ice. Many countries don't allow airlines beverages to be unsealed on the ground so flight attendants will not be able to provide ice right away.

Have your doctor write you a letter that states "*name* is a lactating mother. In my professional opinion, it is necessary for them to carry expressed breast milk home to their child to provide adequate nutrition". This will be necessary in the UK, but I keep it in my bag all the time just in case other countries need something similar.

And that's that, moms! These are the best ways to make it work when traveling internationally!

Have any travel tips? Share them with us at info@cereschill.com!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.