Travelling and Expressing

Expressing while travelling is very much possible and I would like to share tips which I have learnt from my experience as well as from other mothers who have traveled extensively locally as well as abroad. Fear not, with a little guidance and useful tips, you will eventually find out your own way to go about doing it.


1. May out your journey

It would be useful to take some time to write down your itinerary of your trip from the time you leave home, which airport, how long your waiting time, the place, the mode of traveling from one meeting to another, meeting place, accommodation type, mode of transport and the duration. Your would have an idea how often you will need to express and this will give you an idea when and how to store you EBM.


2. Preparation

What do you need? This will depend on the no. of days you will be away, your mode of traveling, your accommodation and your storage area. From here you can decide whether it would be worthwhile to express and bring back vs ‘pump and dump’ and yet can still come back and continue to breastfeed. If you decide it’s possible to bring your milk back, then you need to calculate the rough estimate the amount of EBM for further planning. Email the hotel, airline or meeting area to find out where you can pump. You could ask the meeting secretariat to arrange a place for you to pump. Just ask!


3. Equipment

  • Breast pump – (both manual and battery/motor operated. Manual pump is important for places with no electrical outlet or when you are pumping on the go. Battery/motor operated can be heavy and cumbersome but quite useful).
  • Breast milk storage bags, containers – it would be useful to get those presterilised plastic bags.
  • Cooler bags and/or good quality cooler box – suggest to bring along a small cooler box for daily use and the large cooler box (depending on the quantity of EBM you will be bringing back) for storage in the hotel freezer room as well as for transporting back.
  • Lots of ice bricks/ice packs.
  • Thick towels or newspaper
  • Misc – rubber bands, market pen for labeling name, date and time.


4. Sterilizing breast pumps

  • Sterilizing tablets – the most convenient way and you can sterilize the pumps and bottles in the small cooler box.
  • Boiling them in a big electric kettle.
  • Antibacterial wipes – to use when on the go.
  • Hotel’s sterilizer – some hotel may provide so ask and you may not be disappointed.


5. Expressing on board

Express in the cabin toilet when everyone is having their meal thus you will have at least 30 mins of peace. Inform the cabin crew what you will be doing and ask them to keep the meal for you to have it later. They could also help to store the EBM in their fridge in the mean time.


6. Keeping it frozen in the hotel freezer

Those expressed during the day can be kept in the room fridge or in your smaller cooler box with ice packs and later transferred it in the hotel freezer at the end of the day.

In my experience, the hotel will ask you to call room service dept and they will keep it in the cold room in the bakery section. However, I usually request to speak to the in charge and ask them for permission to see the cold room where my EBM will be stored. I also will insist that I bring down the EBM and store it in the freezer room myself every night. I also gave very specific instruction on when I would like it back. I have had bad experience due to poor communication with the hotel staff and they sent the frozen milk to me on the morning of my departure.

I usually keep my breast milk in the cooler box inside the cold room if space permit. Packing on the day of departure is best done in the cold room or outside of it to ensure that the frozen EBM will be kept frozen till we reached home.


7. Packing the frozen milk

The ice packs should be frozen and it should be lined all around the cooler box, at the bottom and finally at the top before closing. The frozen EBM should be individually wrapped with a thick paper and again reqrapped with a thick towel.

You can also line the ice packs with thicker towel and also add more ice into the cooler box on top of the EBM before closing. All this will add bulk but it’s the best way to keep it frozen throughout the journey. Don’t keep chilled milk with frozen milk as it will thaw the frozen EBM quicker.


Usually, if it is packed well, you can keep it frozen for at least 6 hours from fridge door to fridge door. After that, there is no guarantee and some will start to thaw. So it is worthwhile to do a bit of homework and decide if you want to bring it back frozen or chilled.


8. Transporting EBM back home

If you are planning to transport frozen EBM, then you must make sure the last batch needs to be well-frozen at least 12 hours before departure. Those expressed on the day of departure should be carried as chilled.

If you are traveling by flight, you would need to confirm whether you can carry your milk on board. With their recent ruling of not more than 100mls per pack, some airlines are very strict ie SIA including their airports. It would be wiseto call up and get written confirmation that they allow you to do that in preparatory phase. On an earlier trip from Singapore, they allowed me to carry the frozen milk (about 100 ozs) as a hand luggage on board but on another similar trip, they said no so I chose to pump and dump.


The alternative would be to pack it well and check it in. You could pack them in those Styrofoam boxes. It would be cumbersome to bring along so in a foreign place, get the hotel to source them for you but be ready to pay the expenses.


9. Custom / security issues
Check out this webpage for more info if you are traveling to and from US. The rule does not apply for all countries and each airport and country will have their own rules so do a check first or you will be disappointed.

Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia – will likely allow you to bring the frozen milk on board as it will not show up as liquid when it passes through the xray but it would be helpful if you let them know earlier and say that it’s for “medical purposes”.


Singapore – very difficult recently. Earlier I was able to bring nthe frozen milk on board but then recently, they just refused to allow any fluid (frozen  or otherwise) be carried on board if not packed in the 100 mls bottle rule. I pump and dump for that trip.


Australia and NZ – very strict rules about bringing in unprocessed food so better to pump and dump when entering the country but it shouldn’t be a problem to bring it out since they are so breastfeeding friendly. you just need to check on the airline you are traveling on. If via SIA, then they could pose some difficulty again.


10. Travelling by car

Fill up a large coleman box full of ice (can be bought at convenient store) and place the EBM in the middle of the ice cubes after wrapping with paper and towel. It should be able to be kept well frozen from fridge door to fridge door. Alternatively, you could transport it chilled.


* Shared by a MMPS member during MMPS gathering.

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