- After pumping, if possible, chill milk in the fridge.
- Keep chilled while carrying it to and from the hospital by using a thermal lunch kit with frozen gel packs.
- Keep milk in the fridge until you are ready to come to the hospital and then pack it in the thermal lunch kit for transport.
For short trips of about 1 to 3 hours:
- Pack frozen milk in a thermal lunch kit or a sturdy walled cooler with frozen gel packs.
- Remove extra air by packing tightly with crumpled newspaper or paper towels.
- Bottles that are only partly filled need extra frozen gel packs, especially on a warm day.
- Bottles filled completely with frozen milk will stay frozen longer.
For longer trips or for shipping milk that takes between 4 to 24 hours you will need:
- A cardboard box
- Frozen gel packs
- Crumpled newspaper or styrofoam peanuts/chips
- Packing tape
- Address label and pen (if shipping)
Use a sturdy, hard-sided reusable cooler or place a styrofoam cooler into a cardboard box and line the cooler with foam chips or crumpled newspaper. This helps keep the milk frozen. Tightly pack the frozen milk into the smallest cooler you can. Add frozen gel packs and remove all air with Styrofoam peanuts/chips, towels, or newspaper. Do not use regular ice.
When shipping by courier, seal the styrofoam cooler with packing tape. Full bottles of milk will remain frozen for about 18 to 24 hours depending on the temperature outside. Milk will thaw faster in warmer weather, if bottles are only partially filled, or when only a few bottles are packed together. Address the box and place it back in your freezer. Leave it in the freezer until as close to pick-up time as possible.
If shipping will take more than 24 hours use dry ice. Check with the shipper about how much dry ice you can use. Containers with dry ice should not be transported in a closed car as dry ice is a hazardous substance. If transporting dry ice in a car, place in the trunk and keep car windows open.
Call a shipping company and ask for their pick up and arrival times. Ask for a package pick up. A late pick-up or overnight delivery is best.
Couriers for transporting human milk
Outdoor temperatures should be considered when packing milk for shipping. Milk must be shipped frozen overnight by courier or bus. The hospital is not able to cover the cost of shipping. The milk should be placed in a freezer as soon as it arrives. If you are shipping human milk to your baby in BC Women's NICU, ask the shipping company to bring the milk directly to the NICU.
Rules about carrying milk through airport security change. Check with the airline if you:
- Wish to carry on board more milk than your baby would need to reach your destination
- Are flying without your baby but wish to carry greater than 3 ounces of milk.
Otherwise, let security know you are carrying human milk at the security checkpoint so they can inspect it. Separate the milk from any other liquids, gels, and aerosols in zip lock bags. Gel packs must be less than 100 mL. Be prepared to check your milk if the airline will not permit carry-on.