If you’re a nursing Mom that’s traveling away from your baby, planning for how to transport your pumped breastmilk can be a challenge. Pumping and dumping, or having to build up a sizeable reserve before you travel is too often the norm for traveling Moms. Using dry ice to pack, freeze and ship your breastmilk is a solution that’s easy and will get your breastmilk back home safely.
Dry ice comes in either blocks or pellets. For this project you will need one dry ice block and one insulated shipping container.
Always handle dry ice with care and wear gloves whenever touching it. An oven mitt or towel will also work if gloves are not handy. If touched briefly, dry ice is harmless, but prolonged contact with the skin will cause injury similar to a burn.
Find more safety information on our dry ice safety page.
Nurse according to your own schedule and store your breastmilk in either a fridge or freezer.
It’s best to freeze your breastmilk before packing it for transport. If you’re staying in a hotel, and you don’t have a freezer in your room (many mini-fridges have them), you can ask the concierge to put your breastmilk into the kitchen’s freezer.
If you can’t fully freeze your breastmilk before transport - don’t worry. It’s not essential that your breastmilk is frozen (refrigerated is fine as well).
Pack your bottles or bags of pumped breastmilk into the bottom of an insulated shipping container.
On top of your bottles or bags of pumped breastmilk, place a thin layer of insulation. Newspaper, paper towel or a cloth towel will work great for this insulation.
A full block of dry ice doesn’t fit into most insulated shipping containers, so you’ll next need to break your dry ice block into smaller pieces (directions on this page). This is done easily, by simply dropping the block onto the ground. Each block is delivered pre-wrapped in a plastic bag, so the dry ice pieces will stay contained.
Place the larger pieces of dry ice into your insulated shipping container, on top of the insulation layer and above your pumped breastmilk. You will not need to use up all of the dry ice, usually 3-4 pieces of dry ice fit into the insulated shipping box. Throw any remaining dry ice into the sink and run warm water over the ice to cause it to disappear.
You’ll want to make sure that you don’t overpack the insulated shipping container, so keep checking that the top of the container fits snugly.
Place the top onto the insulated shipping container. Then close the box around the insulated shipping container and tape it shut. It’s important to not completely tape the every seam of the box (making it airtight). Leaving a portion of the seam un-taped allows for the release of carbon dioxide gas as the dry ice sublimates within the insulated shipping container.
Once sealed, the dry ice will keep your breastmilk frozen or cool for up to 48 hours, depending on the quantity of breastmilk and dry ice within the insulated shipping container. We recommend that you play it safe and use an overnight or next-day delivery service to send your breastmilk back home.
If you’re traveling by plane, it’s possible to carry on your packed breastmilk onto a flight. If you do carry on your insulate shipping container, you’ll want to check with your airline to confirm that they allow dry ice on the flight (it’s not illegal or banned by the TSA, but can sometimes be restricted by the airlines). When you arrive at the check-in desk, ask the airline agent for a Dry Ice sticker -- it will say “Carbon Dioxide Solid” or “Dry Ice” -- to place on the box, along with the net weight of dry ice in the insulated shipper (the limit is five pounds).