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Hand Carry Expressed Breast Milk On Singapore Airlines

Recently I returned from a work trip to Bangkok. Initially, I was quite reluctant to travel alone because I was still pumping Breast Milk religiously three times a day. I was afraid of leaving my comfort zone and having to deal with a strange environment.

Though it was a short 3 day training workshop cum conference, I was worried whether I have the time to continue expressing my breast milk at the hotel and bringing my breast milk home. Different immigration customs and airlines have different policies on carrying liquids on flight. I assume breast milk is no exception. It would be a heartache if they made me discard my hard earned "liquid gold" at the customs. This time, I travelled with SIA; I thought it would be useful to share my personal experience on how I pack my expressed breast milk and hand carried it home.

breast milk bottle
My boy enjoying his milk
Before the trip, I searched for SIA online policies on carrying breast milk and came across this website. It states that breast milk fall under the category of fluids and we would not be allowed to carry more than 100 ml on board. Doesn't sound good. Some mummies told me they hand carry on the flight and there was no issues. Others claimed that the immigration customs made them taste their own breast milk before letting them pass, or some nasty airline crew made them discard the breast milk because they insist it is liquid. Worst come worst, I'd just check in my frozen breast milk with my check-in luggage (that's my backup plan).

breast milk cooler bag
Fridge To Go Cooler bag
To prepare for my trip, I purchased this Fridge to Go bag - this is highly recommended and used by several mummies. If you transport breast milk pretty often, I suggest you get one of these.  It is supposed to keep your milk at fridge temperature for up to 12 hours. The difference between this and the traditional cooler bag is that it has an all-surround panels to keep its contents cool. The panels are removable; so you can remove them to put in the freezer instead of placing the whole bag in. This bag retails at sgd 79 and available at many locations. I got mine from kiddy palace.

Here are the items I pack for my trip:
  • Fridge to go (with a thermometer placed inside)
  • A packet of empty breast milk bags - I bought from Qoo10
  • My trusty portable breast pump (spectra 9+)
  • Pump parts and milk collection bottles
  • Charger for breast pump with international adaptor
  • Baby detergent to clean the pump parts and bottles
Upon arrival, I spoke to the airline crew and the Thailand customs officer. I asked them if I am able to hand carry my expressed breast milk on board. The air steward assured me there would be no issues and he would keep my milk in their fridge throughout the flight. The Thai immigration staff also said I can hand carry my milk and cross the customs. After I got their reassurance I felt so much better. So let's see what happens when I board the plane 3 days later.

At the W hotel Bangkok (that's where I stayed), I expressed the milk and kept in the fridge. At the end of the day, I called the hotel reception to send a porter to fetch my Fridge-to-go for keeping in the freezer. On the first night, I waited for quite a while (close to 20 minutes) for the porter. The second night was faster. However, they refused to let me follow them to the freezer. If you are staying in other hotels, you may try asking them to show you where they keep your milk. This is in case they misplace your milk and you know where to look for it. In my case, I ask for the name of the staff handling my milk. Also, put a sticky label (name, room number, contact details) on your Fridge-to-go. I improvise with the baggage claim sticker I got from SIA. This is to prevent incidences of mix-up in case there are two mummies with similar looking bags who stay in the same hotel.

expressed breast milk in storage bag
Expressed breast milk in storage bag

On day of return, all went smoothly. The Thai customs took a look at my contents. The milk was frozen; they asked me what it was and let me pass. The SQ staff kept my fridge to go in their refridgerator throughout the flight. I left the hotel at around 330 pm in the afternoon and reached home around 11 pm. By the time I reach home, the milk is still frozen and my thermometer reads 4-5 degrees.

breast milk bags
All the breast milk bags

frozen breast milk
Still frozen

Thermometer reading after I cleared the bags

Tips for pumping mummies to bring home their expressed breast milk
  • Invest in a good cooler bag or carrier. Fridge to go is a good one.
  • Fill tap water in empty breast milk bags and freeze it. Use it as ice packs in between your milk bags to keep it even cooler. You can do this if there is still some space in between your milk bags.
  • Some mummies told me they pack their milk bags in Styrofoam boxes with dry ice. If you can get dry ice at your destination country, that would be another option.
  • Check with the airline and the immigration customs upon arrival. So just ask them politely if there would be an issue with hand carrying your breast milk on the flight.
  • Its better to pack your breast pump and pump parts in one hand carry luggage because you never know if your check-in luggage gets delayed or missing. That's what happened to me. I arrived at the hotel without my check-in luggage because of some unexpected delay.
The World Health Organisation  states that "Exclusive breast feeding  is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond".

Pumping milk is hard work for all mummies. It is a known that the benefits of breast milk extends beyond 6 months of age. We strive to give our best to our babies with our best efforts. Please give every mummy a pat on our shoulders!

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This post first appeared on Dr Donna Chow | Mummy. Doctor. Blogger, please read the originial post: here

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Hand Carry Expressed Breast Milk On Singapore Airlines


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