Transporting Breast Milk with Dry Ice
Bringing a baby into the world brings on a slew of new logistical challenges for mom and dad: how to change a diaper in the back seat of a car (trust us, it’ll happen), deciding what to throw in the diaper bag when you have 30 seconds to get out the door (don’t forget snacks… and backup snacks) or when you or your partner can actually get some real sleep (spoiler: sleeping when the baby sleeps is a myth).
The challenges only multiply when mothers who work outside the home return to their jobs after maternity leave. If a new mother is breastfeeding or pumping breast milk for her own child or to donate to a milk bank or hospital, she will need to adopt a pumping routine at work and then decide how to keep the milk cold enough to transport between where it was pumped and its final destination. For a short commute home, a standard lunch box with an ice pack can do the trick, but what if you need to safely ship the milk to a milk bank or hospital, or keep it cold for a few days while you travel for business, a hospital stay, a military deployment–or even a vacation? (A mom can dream, right?)
When breast milk needs a flexible, portable, shippable cooling solution, Penguin Brand Dry Ice® can help. To find a Penguin Brand Dry Ice supplier near you, use our store locator.
What you’ll need:
- Breast milk packaged in sealed bottles or storage bags
- Penguin Brand Dry Ice®
- Strong plastic storage bags meant for liquids
- A hammer (if necessary) to break up the dry ice
- A thick-walled Styrofoam cooler
- Newspaper or packing paper
- A shipping box
How to prepare breast milk for shipping
- Pour the breast milk carefully into storage bags, remove excess air and seal.
- Place the sealed bags in your household freezer overnight to freeze
- Place the plastic bags with frozen breast milk into the styrofoam cooler
- With gloves on, wrap the dry ice in newspaper and place it on the bottom, sides and top of the bags of breast milk. Fill any excess space in the cooler with newspaper.
- Seal the styrofoam cooler closed with packing tape, leaving a small opening to allow carbon dioxide gas created by the dry ice to escape
- Place the cooler inside a cardboard shipping box and fill any remaining space between the cooler and the sides and top of the box with packing paper
- Seal the shipping box and bring it to your post office or shipping center with any pre-printed shipping labels you require
A few helpful tips
- Always wear gloves when handling dry ice to prevent contact with your skin because dry ice can be a skin irritant.
- When preparing breast milk for shipping, do not fill the breast milk storage containers to the top. Breast milk expands when it is frozen, so to prevent the bags or bottles from bursting, you should only fill your containers 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.
- When selecting a cooler to ship your breast milk in, choose one that is approximately 2” to 3” thick. The cooler has to be thick enough to maintain the cold temperature and withstand shipping.
- Shipping breast milk can be expensive. Instead of shipping only a few containers of breast milk at a time, you may want to wait until you have a larger quantity of breast milk to ship at once.
- The amount of dry ice that you will need depends on the size of your cooler, and how long your package will be in transit. According to the United Postal Service website, “as a rule of thumb, expect five to 10 pounds of dry ice to sublimate every 24 hours,” so keep this in mind when determining how much you need.
- Since dry ice may be classified as a hazardous material and breast milk is a human body fluid, call the shipping company you plan to use to confirm their packaging and labeling requirements. Special labeling will most likely be required for both.
- Here are a few other shipping considerations:
- When you are shipping breast milk to a hospital, especially a NICU, the staff may provide you with specific instructions.
- If you are shipping your breast milk to a donor milk bank, carefully follow any handling, storage and shipping guidelines for that particular milk bank.
- Make sure someone is going to be available to accept your breast milk when it arrives at its destination. It will need to be removed from the shipping package, and properly stored once it is received.