Breast milk is a vital food for a baby and the only source of nourishment for a baby younger than six months. It is essential that an infant receives breast milk even when it is not possible for the mother to be nearby. In such cases, shipping breast milk could be a viable option.
Shipping breast milk requires extra care to prevent it from spoiling. There are several courier services and companies that may ship breast milk. But how to pack breast milk and ship it appropriately?
Read on as we tell you about the scenarios when you may ship breast milk and how to go about packing your breast milk before shipping it.
When To Ship Breast Milk?
Shipping breast milk may usually be required when the baby does not have immediate access to breast milk in both stored and direct-from-breast form. Below are some reasons why a baby may not have access to breast milk, making shipping breast milk a suitable alternative (1).
- Traveling mothers: New mothers who travel significant distances for an extended duration may not be able to breastfeed their baby. A few examples are cases where the mother works in the armed forces or emergency services.
- Surrogate mothers: If the baby is being looked after by a surrogate mother, the biological mother may consider shipping breast milk to the child.
- Non-lactating parents: A non-lactating couple may consider receiving shipped donor breast milk for their adopted baby.
- Breastfeeding contraindications: If breastfeeding is not recommended for some reason, such as maternal infection, the baby may receive shipped donor breast milk.
In less common instances, shipping breast milk may be required if you intend to send it to a laboratory for testing or a research study.
Breast Milk Shipping Kit
Below is the list of items that you will need to pack your breast milk before shipping. These items are crucial for preventing breast milk spoilage (2).
• Breast milk storage bags
• Styrofoam cooler
• Sticking or duct tape
• Cardboard box
• Dry ice
• Insulated gloves for handling dry ice
• Markers and labels to write/stick details on the shipping box
• Shipping company details
You may require additional stickers and labels based on the courier service you intend to use for shipping breast milk. Most leading courier services ship breast milk and provide detailed information on prerequisites for appropriate packing of breast milk.
Steps To Follow For Shipping Breast Milk
Below are the steps to pack and ship breast milk (3).
1. Pumping the breast milk
Prefer expressing or pumping a fresh batch of breast milk before packing it for shipping. Packing stored breast milk is not advisable since it may spoil faster. Ensure that all the pumping materials are sterile. If you do not have an electric breast pump, you may consider the manual expression of milk with hands.
2. Packing the breast milk
Store the expressed milk in BPA-free breast milk storage bags or pouches. Storage bags could be preferred over bottles since they are easier to pack and stay in place during shipping. Label each bag with the date and time of expression of milk for the recipient’s information.
Fill and store the pumped breast milk in the bags as soon as you are done pumping. Do not fill the bags up to the brim. Keep some room for the milk to expand when frozen. Try to freeze the milk immediately.
3. Storing in coolers
Styrofoam cooler boxes provide excellent insulation and are ideal for storing breast milk. Below are the steps to follow when packing breast milk in the Styrofoam box.
- Place a layer of newspapers on the base of the Styrofoam box.
- Wear gloves and spread a thick layer of dry ice on the newspapers.
- Cover it with newspapers to insulate the dry ice.
- Arrange the frozen breast milk bags neatly. Make sure you pack them snugly so that they do not move during shipping.
- Place a layer of old newspaper on the bags and top it with more dry ice. Remember to wear gloves when handling dry ice.
- Add the last layer of newspapers on the dry ice before closing the lid of the Styrofoam box.
- Use duct tape to seal the grooves around the lid. Leave a small section of the groove untaped to allow any carbon dioxide from dry ice to escape.
You may add more dry ice and newspapers if the destination is significantly farther. Make sure you buy a Styrofoam box of appropriate size and have an adequate supply of dry ice to prevent any last moment shortcomings. Use a generous number of old newspapers to insulate dry ice. It will also prevent the breast milk pouches from coming in direct contact with dry ice.
4. Packing the shipment
Place the Styrofoam box into a cardboard box of relevant size. You may stuff bubble wraps or newspapers to fill any gaps between the Styrofoam box and the cardboard box. Close the lid and seal with duct tape.
You may have to stick labels or write specific information related to the package’s contents based on the rules of the courier service and local laws for shipping human milk. In any case, make sure you do specify somewhere that the package contains human breast milk so that it is handled appropriately at all stations of the courier supply chain. Since the package contains dry ice, you may have to declare it on the outer packaging as per the local laws.
5. Shipping the package
Once done with packing, drop the package immediately at the nearest courier service outlet. Certain courier service providers have cold storage delivery vehicles, which may pick the package right from your doorstep. Some may even provide you specialized cartons or containers designed to hold the temperature of frozen milk without the use of dry ice. You may contact your chosen courier service provider to learn more about it.
Keep the recipient updated with the shipment details and other tracking-related information. It will ensure the recipient is prepared to receive the package in advance and immediately transfer the contents to a freezer.
Cost Of Shipping Breast Milk
The cost of shipping breast milk varies across courier service providers. It may depend on the following factors.
- Distance to destination
- Gross weight of the package
- Use of specialized packaging material
- Special requests for delivery, if any
You may contact the courier service provider for more details to determine the precise cost of shipping breast milk.
Points To Remember For Shipping Breast Milk
Below are some general points to keep in mind about shipping breast milk.
- Always research the local rules and laws of shipping breast milk in your region and the region you intend to ship the milk.
- Do not cut costs by choosing inferior quality packaging material or skimping on dry ice. The quality of packaging material could significantly influence the life of breast milk.
- Avoid shipping small quantities multiple times since it may turn out to be more expensive. Plan the expression of milk so that you may ship a large quantity at a time.
- Many organizations may provide financial support for shipping. Women working in armed forces or emergency services may receive yearly allowances for shipping breast milk (4). Research these privileges and allowances before shipping breast milk.
- If you happen to be the recipient of shipped breast milk, ensure the sender observes all the relevant steps for packaging and shipping the breast milk.
What If I Want To Travel With Breast Milk?
You may carry expressed or pumped breast milk with you during air travel. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) of the United States permits carrying breast milk in bottles or containers of 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) each in your cabin baggage. All bottles must fit easily into a quart-sized (quarter gallon or one liter) resealable bag.
You may also carry ice packs or frozen gel packs to preserve the milk. The milk and other accouterments will be subjected to the same X-ray screening processes as other items. It is best to keep the milk in a separate bag for ease of security screening (5).
Breast milk is the best food for the baby, and a baby must have access to it to reap its benefits. Shipping breast milk is a great way to ensure that the baby has a supply of breast milk if the mother is not accessible for some reason. Make sure you do adequate research on the local laws and the rules of the courier service providers to ship breast milk without wastage safely.