Packing Checklist for Flying With Bottles and Breastmilk or Formula

I have written extensively in the past about breastfeeding or breastmilk pumping when you travel, but I've never written about what to pack if you intend to feed your baby expressed breastmilk or formula on your trip.

Traveling With Expressed Breastmilk
As of this writing, mothers are able to clear security in US airports with expressed breastmilk even if they are not traveling with their baby. You may also bring ice packs to keep the milk cool. The milk must be declared at the security checkpoint. Rules change frequently, and if you are concerned about this issue, it is worth reading the latest guidelines and printing out a copy to bring with you:

Bottles on a Plane or Road Trip
If you plan to feed your baby from a bottle in flight, you will need to bring the following items on board:

  • Enough clean bottles for your flight (I like Medela Breastmilk Storage and Feeding Set because the bottles are compact and because I can also use them with my Medela Breastpump. A bottle-liner system is also a good option if you don't mind waste. For older babies, Take and Toss Sippy Cups work well because they nest inside one another.
  • A way to clean your bottles (airplane water is not considered safe). I like Medela Quick Clean Wipes
  • Ice packs to keep expressed milk or formula cool. If there is space, a flight attendant will sometimes be willing to store your bottles in the galley, but make sure that your milk is clearly labeled and to make sure that it is stored properly. One one flight, a flight attendant stashed my expressed milk on a counter for a minute and another flight attendant "helpfully" heated it up. Baby E was asleep, so she'd just degraded the quality of 12 hard won ounces I'd prepared for the next bottle.
  • An insulated bag to store expressed breastmilk or prepared formula

Traveling With Formula
  • Formula It's easiest to travel with powdered formula, it's lighter than liquid formula and you don't need to declare it at the security checkpoint. Pack extra in case your flight is delayed or your checked baggage is lost. I like pre-measured individual formula packets
  • because they are less likely to spill than a large container, and because your bag will get smaller and lighter as baby drinks.
  • Water Bring your own water onboard. Airplane tap water is not safe for drinking, and bottled water supplies can be limited. Buy bottled water after security, or bring your own empty bottles and fill them once you've cleared security.

Related Links
Reader Questions: Nursing and Pumping on an Airplane
Finding a Quiet Place to Nurse or Pump at the Airport
Practical tips for Nursing and Pumping at the Airport
Practical Tips for Nursing and Pumping on an Airplane
Packing Checklist for Breastmilk Pumping When You Travel

 Subscribe to our feed

Subscribe by email:


  1. Christie Hagerhjelm on August 11, 2009 at 5:29 p.m.

    Thank you so much for posting this. We are expecting our second baby, due in the spring, and I feel like I am learning this stuff all over again!

  2. Jennifer on August 15, 2009 at 8:11 p.m.

    We travel through London Heathrow frequently. I have been required to taste every bottle of formula/milk that we've had with us, including those that were premixed and factory sealed. The agent did not find it acceptable for me to feed it to the babe, so I had the honor of contaminating 12 hours worth of formula with my germs.

  3. Debbie on August 15, 2009 at 9:26 p.m.

    @Jennifer what a terrible policy! It seems like so often it is up to the discretion of the individual agent. I have been waived through at Heathrow with a sippy full of water (that I offered to dump), and I have also had every item in my cosmetics bag tested for traces of explosives.

  4. Alexander on August 16, 2009 at 8:19 p.m.

    We fly between Seattle and NYC (JFK and Newark) frequently, totting along our little one for the past 8 months. Luckily, she was born after the lifted ban on carrying on more than a few useless ounces of formula or breast milk, so we never had a problem. But I did want to mention that each time we've successfully brought a 1 liter bottle of pre-boiled water (for dry formula mixing, once she was old enough) along with us through the airport security scrutinization. All they've ever done is pour out a small sample which they test with a chemical strip (testing pH, I'd guess.)

  5. Sarah on April 2, 2010 at 9:35 a.m.

    Thanks for this post (and the one on nappy changes). Looking forward to taking my then 4-month old on his first trans-Atlantic flight here soon...

  6. Isabelle on January 30, 2012 at 4:27 a.m.

    Hi ! Is there a possibility to warm up a bottle in a plane?my bb is 13 month and only likes her bottle slightly warm...

  7. Debbie on January 30, 2012 at 1:20 p.m.

    @Isabelle It really depends on the flight. A long haul flight is likely to have the equipment to warm up food (or a bottle) but not every flight attendant wants to be responsible for a child's bottle. A shorter flight might not have a way to warm up food.

  8. Aditi on February 1, 2012 at 5:53 p.m.

    I will be taking a 22 hour flight to Inida shortly with my 9 month old. He takes only formula and I am really confused about taking the dry powder ( how will I clean the bottles) or how many extra bottle I should have with me. One of my friend suggested to take the pre-made liquid formula (but not sure if they will allow and it will just add on to my weight). Any suggestions? BTW I loved your website it is very helpful and is filled with useful information.

  9. Debbie on February 1, 2012 at 8:36 p.m.


    You can bring along liquid formula in "reasonable quantities," but at some airports security will open and test the bottles. It is easier to bring powdered formula and extra bottles.

    You can wash the bottles using the hot water used for tea service, but then give them a final rinse using bottled water before you use them again (because the tea water is not necessarily sterile)

    I hope thi shelps

  10. Emily on February 24, 2012 at 3:28 p.m.

    I am really quite worried about the sterilizing of bottles and good quality water. I always pre-boil the water for her bottles at home and she is a bit of a reflux spitter upperer so am always super careful to clean the bottles well after use. I really dont want to sit on a plane smelling like sicky milk spit for 13 hrs.

  11. Debbie on February 24, 2012 at 9:19 p.m.


    You may want to buy bottled water in the airport for use in flight. If you're really worried about the reflux, a change of clothing might be a good idea too...

    Good luck!

  12. Leah on October 10, 2012 at 4:55 a.m.

    I'm going to be travelling with my 5 month ok by myself for the first time. He only drinks breast milk but I am considering bringing powdered formula to make it easier for travel/security. I plan on bringing my pump and feeding him breast milk during the trip but only using formula for travel. What is your opinion? Has anyone else done this?

  13. Debbie on October 10, 2012 at 7:13 a.m.


    My opinion is that it's easiest to nurse him in flight, that way you don't need to worry about clean bottles, the right amount of formula, or water supply.

  14. Sarah on March 21, 2014 at 6:07 a.m.

    Hi, I am traveling on a long haul flight in a couple of weeks time. I would like to know if the boiled water supplied by the cabin crew is safe to mix with powdered formula, she is five months old.

    Thank you.

  15. Arc on December 23, 2015 at 3:01 p.m.

    I have 2 months old baby, I'll b travelling to USA from India on Monday. My baby s completely on formula feed, I am bit worried about the bottles t get. Since in India I didt get disposable bottles. Please kindly suggest how many bottles shld I allowed t carry on board. And I am travelling by Qatar airways which is of 23 hour journey. And am I allowed to get stain steel flask for hot water on board?