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Avoid the dreaded security line milk dump with these tips from a travel pro and mother of two

By Aoife Anderson, a former journalist with more than a decade of international experience who previously supported communications at companies, including Airbnb, Salesforce, Google and SAP, helping launch new initiatives and craft strategic messages for both internal and external audiences. A proud mom of two.

Flying with babies is stressful, even if they miraculously spend a lot of the flight sleeping. Luckily, one thing you don’t need to worry about when it comes to air travel is whether you can bring enough formula or breast milk to keep your baby happy and well-fed throughout your trip. 

While passengers are usually allowed to bring a maximum of 3.4 ounces [100 mls] of liquid in their cabin luggage, thankfully that rule doesn’t apply to milk and food for infants and young children.

The Gist

Bring twice as much milk you think you’ll need. Formula, breast milk, juice, and baby foods in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces [100mls] are allowed in carry-on baggage and don’t need to fit in a quart-sized bag.

According to Transport Security Administration [TSA] guidelines, you’re permitted to bring larger amounts of breast milk and baby formula in reasonable quantities for your trip. Security screening officers have the final say on what’s considered ‘a reasonable quantity’ but are unlikely to bat an eyelid at an entire carry-on bag full of your baby’s milk of choice, sterilized water, juice, or food in liquid, gel, powder or paste form, such as yogurts and purees.

Double up

Experienced travelers know that snacks, and lots of them, are key to keeping kids relaxed mid-flight. Extra feeds can be a great source of comfort for babies in unfamiliar surroundings too. That’s why we suggest packing twice as much milk as you think your baby will need, even if you’re taking a very quick plane trip.

Doubling up will reduce the stress of any unexpected delays, annoying spills, long lines, or lost luggage upon your arrival. It’s always better to be prepared.

Inspections, what to expect

Everyone wants to get through airport security as fast as possible. So how can you avoid any hurdles with your milk stash?

Declare your baby’s milk and foods to security officers at the beginning of the checkpoint for inspection. Then, remove them from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your stuff. You don’t need to be traveling with your baby when transporting breast milk. You may be asked to open any bottles of milk for further inspection as liquids are typically screened by X-ray. You could also be asked to transfer a small quantity of milk to another container or dispose of a small amount, if feasible. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that there are no known adverse effects from eating food, drinking beverages and using medicine screened by X-ray.

Don’t be afraid to advocate

If you’re not comfortable having your baby’s formula, breast milk and/or baby food X-rayed or opened, you’re well within your rights to decline. The TSA states additional screening steps can be taken to clear your liquids, such as a pat-down and further screening of your other carry-on luggage. If your breast milk is frozen, a visual inspection is usually sufficient.

Once on-board, most cabin crew won’t mind warming up your baby’s milk or food during your flight. In our experience it’s often too hot when you get it back so try to plan for extra time to cool it back down to a suitable temperature and give it a quick rub with an anti-bacterial wipe before feeding it to your baby. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories used to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in your carry-on, but may be subject to additional screening if slushy or partially frozen. You can also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers.

Everywhere is different

Rules can vary from country to country so be sure to research what’s permitted at your specific destination when it comes to international travel. Airport websites are usually a great place to find out everything you need to know about what you can and can’t bring for your baby before traveling through.

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