Storing breastmilk throughout the work day

During the workday


Packing for a trip

Printable pack list (here).

  • Fill ziplock bags with ice
  • Fill half-gallon day-vessel with ice bags
  • Pack day bag
  • Pack cooler (room temp)

Waltzing through the airport

Printable pack list (here).

  • Check cooler
  • Bring day bag with day-vessel as a carry-on
  • Replenish any missing ice (after security)
  • Contribute pumped milk to the vessel

Pumping on the plane


On The Flight 

  • Contribute pumped milk to the vessel
  • Cool it down in a pre-chill vessel or leave it out to get to room temp before adding it to the vessel to keep lowest possible temp


Arriving at the hotel

  • Give hotel bag filled with ice packs to freeze
  • Give hotel gift box with milk bags (from trip) to freeze


At the end of each travel day

a. Roll milk into sushi mats, tape or tie, place into 

b. Replenish day vessel ice with ice each morning

c. Clean and parse pump parts into sets 

Each time I sat to pump on an international trip, I would finish by pouring all of my pumped milk into soft bendable breastmilk bags. The bags were then added to a vacuum insulated vessel to chill. Bag after bag a liquid mass of milk rode along with me throughout the day. A single ziplock of ice kept the whole day of milk production cold inside my day bag. At the end of the day, I’d lay the bags out onto sushi mats and roll them into cylinders. This step took nine months to come to. Molding the milk into a compact cylindrical shape in the freezer nearly doubled the volume of milk I could get home in one run.


Packing breastmilk archive for depature

  • Get all of the frozen milk back
  • Assemble vessels with frozen milk (quickly)
  • Put them into cooler and surround them with ice packs (quickly)
  • Add explanatory note on top (for security) 
  • Slide in any last recently pumped milk (note with sharpie that it is still liquid)
  • Check the cooler at the airport


Two 9.5″ sushi mats rolled six 6 oz bags of breastmilk which fit nicely into a single 11″ packing cube. In a perfect world, each packing cube would start the journey filled with clothing for a single day. As an outfit came out, two sushi rolls of breastmilk would go in. As each cube emptied, it would promptly be filled with milk and head down to the hotel freezer where it could live all week until I started packing for home. On departure day the now frozen milk chunks would be tightly nestled inside double-wall vacuum insulated vessels. Nothing but frozen milk and foam strips lived inside, minimizing air gaps so that the whole of the interior was one frozen mass.



These vessels are then packed into a cooler with two large sheet freezer packs. The combination of both a frozen environment inside the vessel and freezer packs outside of the vessel help keep the milk frozen in transit. On shorter run domestic trips this double layering approach is not always necessary. But on international journeys where the flight time plus the travel time plus a work day on either side can quickly add up to 24 hours or more, this cooler within a cooler approach is helpful.


Some of this is interchangeable, any high-density insulated cooler, any double-walled vacuum insulated vessel (though I’ve only come across two gallon-sized options), any sheet ice packs (though cooler shock is particularly impressive), any foam or filler, any bendable bags, etc.. But one thing that has been a constant is the need for a freezer. Any trip over three days starts to stretch towards the refrigerated breastmilk spoilage point, especially when you add time at home before your baby consumes the milk. Bringing home two days of chilled breastmilk still takes at least two days for your baby to drink. My girls always wanted to nurse more than usual when I returned home from a trip, further slowing the pumped milk consumption rate. Thus migrating frozen milk from a freezer in a different country to the freezer at home reduced the stress of when the milk would need to be consumed.


Unpacking breastmilk at home

  • Migrate all frozen milk to the freezer
  • Migrate any still fresh (never frozen milk) to the freezer
  • Put any partially thawed milk into the fridge









If you want to share: