Flying solo, sans baby

Before my flight to St. Louis I was totally frazzled about leaving Truman for my first night away, and also worried about pumping and bringing breast milk back home with me. I definitely learned a lot for my first flight as a breastfeeding mom and maybe this post can help some others out there. My next flight will be WITH Truman, so that will be a completely different ballgame I'm sure.

I spent an obscene amount of time researching (who, me?) TSA's guidelines for traveling with breast milk before I left. Friends and commenters spoke of the unthinkable happening when going through security with milk, but without a baby: having to dump out all of your precious liquid gold. The horror! I decided that if I was going through all of the trouble to pump while I was supposed to be partying at a bachelorette party then I was going to bring my beloved cargo home with me no matter what. I knew at the very least I could check my milk in a bag but didn't really want to deal with a checked bag (or paying for it) so I was hoping I could just carry it on.

So when I found this page on TSA's website, I was intrigued. Apparently they've recently changed their policy on breast milk because I know a few of my friends had to put the milk in 3 ounce portions, and it all had to fit in one quart size bag. But now, as the website clearly states, you do not need to divide the milk into 3 ounce portions at all. As long as it's a 'reasonable amount', you can just announce that you have the milk before you go through security and they will test it to check for hidden explosives or something, and you can be on your way. I was still very skeptical of getting a security guard that didn't know the new rule so I went above and beyond my call of breastfeeding duty and printed out the page from the TSA site. I had it ready to go if they questioned me and even considered highlighting important points, but decided that was a little bit much even for me:)

So here is what I packed for my 24 hour trip:
-my breastpump bag, which acted as my 'personal carry on' and my purse. I just put my wallet, phone, and chapstick (ie the essentials) in one of the zippered pockets and ditched a purse all together. I did pack a small clutch for our night out on the town, though, since I figured the breast pump bag might knock me down a few points on the badass spectrum of partying moms.

-my pump, it's charger, the insulated cooler, hands-free pumping bra, and four bottles (two of the small 5 ounce containers, plus two of my big 9 ounce containers). I also packed 3 milk storage baggies just in case, thinking those would store nice and flat if I needed extra room.

-my nursing cover to use while in STL and if needed in an airport bathroom, in case of a flight delay. This is when my pump with internal battery comes in handy---no need to find an outlet!

- extra ziplock bags to make ice packs for the trip home. For the way down, since all of my bottles were empty, I didn't have to worry about it yet.

-then my other 'carry on' was an actual smaller suitcase with my clothes and stuff. I managed to pack just the right amount of stuff this time somehow which was amazing.

So I nursed Truman before the boys dropped me off at the airport, and then once I landed in STL and got settled in it had been about 4 hours since I last nursed. I went ahead and pumped for the first time and put the big bottles inside my cooler and then inside my friend's fridge. I pumped two more times before we left for dinner that night and decided to keep all of my paraphernalia at home while we were out and about. Good move on my part, so much easier than trying to sneak a pumping session in an empty limo outside a bar.

By the time we got home that night it had been about 7 hours since I last pumped and I was pretty full and uncomfortable. Although I wasn't drunk I had about 6 drinks throughout the course of the night and figured it was better to be safe than sorry. So I had to pump and dump 7 ounces for the first time in my breastfeeding career and it was heartbreaking to watch it drop through the drain. Oh well. The price you pay to have a few brews, I guess.

The next morning I pumped when I woke up from my glorious 6 consecutive hours of sleep and got ready for the airport again. I had 25 ounces total to take home, so I put 20 of it in my bigger bottles (yes, they supposedly only hold 9 ounces each but you can squeeze in a few extra ounces into the top of the bottle no prob) and the remaining 5 in one of my smaller bottles. Then I put all three of those containers in my insulated cooler and made two ice bags from ziplocks to pack around the bottles. I put my cooler in my pump bag but this time I put the pump itself into my actual suitcase carry on, just to cut down on bulk.

When I stepped up to the security line, I told the dude checking my license and ticket that I had breast milk with me and then I held my breath, hoping this would not be an ordeal since I obviously had no baby with me. He said, 'Okay, that's fine, just tell them when you get to the xray machine.'

So I did just that--as I took off my shoes, and pulled out my quart bag full of toiletries, I told the guy at the conveyor belt that I had breastmilk with me and pulled out my cooler from my bag. He was very nice and thanked me for alerting him and then called a lady over for a 'liquid test'. She pulled my stuff aside and asked me to come over to her, too. I got a little nervous and almost busted out my printed page from TSA's site but resisted the urge. She pulled out the three milk containers full of milk and asked me to unscrew the tops. So I did, and then she whipped out these little paper strips and held them over the top of my bottles for a 'vapor test'. Then she took those strips and held them to another machine and said, 'Okay, that's it.' No big deal, apparently, since I wasn't packing a bomb inside my boob juice. She didn't say anything about my homemade ice packs, either, even though I was worried they'd put my liquid content over the allotted amount. Apparently not and I was home free with 25 ounces of milk to take home to baby boy.

Which, by the way, Truman ate about 3o ounces while I was gone so if you count my 7 ounces of dumped milk I was able to successfully match his intake even with longer stretches between pumping sessions. When I returned to work on Monday my output was still the same as always, so my supply didn't drop from one night away from baby boy and spaced-out pumping times.

And that is how I made it through security with breast milk, sans baby. I hope some of you out there have the same type of positive experience and no longer have to dump or check milk if you are without your baby. When in doubt just print the page from TSA's site for added comfort and be prepared to educate the guards as needed--nicely, of course. :)

Finally, a pictures of the milk drinker in all his glory:


  1. Glad it went well! It's good you were prepared with the "rules" just in case.

    I pumped 'n dumped once...but like I said, I didn't mind. Knowing the way I felt after two beer margaritas, there was NO way I was going to give my baby boy that milk.

  2. I'm exhausted just reading that. These are the things you never think of pre-baby!


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