How can breastmilk be packed for shipping?

For a visual on how to pack breastmilk for shipping, please watch this video. A transcript can be found here. Also see these instructions for packaging and shipping breastmilk.1

On dry ice

Always handle dry ice in a well ventilated room. Dry ice vaporizes to carbon dioxide and can cause poisoning in enclosed spaces.
  • Please read these safety precautions.
  • Have ready: gloves and/or tongs, mallet or hammer, regular screw driver or ice pick for breaking up the block of dry ice, paper and paper bags (optional, for grouping milk and added insulation).
  • Determine the amount/weight of breastmilk to be shipped and purchase a fitting Styrofoam or other insulated cooler which does not have a complete sealing lid. It is important that dry ice is able to vent the carbon dioxide gas which results from warming. It is best to then place the cooler in a cardboard shipping box for ease of labeling and reduction of the chance of the lid being dislodged and losing the contents.
  • Locate the nearest dry ice dealer by asking at the local convenience store, grocery store etc. or by consulting the dry ice directory. Bring an appropriate sized cooler to carry the dry ice in. Ask the attendant for the appropriate amount of dry ice (see chart). Be sure to have the cooler and milk ready to pack as soon as possible so that the dry ice does not evaporate while preparing the milk.
  • Break up a small amount of dry ice into a flat sheet or into small chunks and spread evenly in the bottom of the cooler. Begin layering the milk evenly without packing tightly. Milk can be put in paper bags for easy grouping of milk by month or volume, for insulation and for easy taking out of the cooler. Place the oldest milk into the cooler first, and the freshest milk on the top. This way the oldest milk is placed into the freezer last and positioned to be used first while cutting down of the amount of handling and potential for thawing or damage.
  • If shipping a large quantity of milk, layer milk, dry ice, milk etc. to ensure that all the milk has an even freeze for the duration of shipment.
  • If the milk and dry ice do not fill the entire cooler (or if shipping glass bottles), loosely crumple packing paper or paper grocery bags and use it to fill in all remaining space to keep the milk securely packed and provide some additional internal insulation.
  • Break any remaining dry ice into small pieces. Spread or sprinkle it into the cooler, making sure that it is filling in the empty spaces/top of the cooler.
  • Once the dry ice, milk and any necessary packing is in the cooler, place the lid securely on the cooler. Placing a piece of tape across the top of the cooler (one across the length and one across the width, making an “X”) will secure the lid adequately for shipping. Do not seal the seam of the lid.
  • Place the cooler in the cardboard box, again loosely packing paper to fill any space that would prevent the cooler from shifting a lot within the box. Make sure that the top of the packing box is securely shut with heavy duty packing tape while still allowing movement of gas from within the cooler. If the shipping company does not provide a label for perishables, make one from a red piece of construction paper or note card. Clearly write “PERISHABLE – BREASTMILK” on a couple of labels and if using containers rather than bags, indicate which direction is up.

With Gel Packs

  • As with the dry ice packing, place a layer of frozen gel packs on the bottom of the cooler. Begin layering milk, starting with the oldest milk on the bottom, and the freshest milk on the top. This way the oldest milk is placed into the freezer last and positioned to be used first while cutting down on the amount of handling and potential for thawing or damage. If sending a large quantity of milk, alternate layers of frozen milk and gel packs. If there is space left in the top of the cooler or along the sides, place loosely crumpled paper in these spaces to secure the milk for shipping.
  • Place the cooler in the cardboard box, again loosely packing paper to fill any space that would prevent the cooler from shifting a lot within the box. Make sure that the top of the packing box is securely shut with heavy duty packing tape while still allowing movement of gas from within the cooler. If the shipping company does not provide a label for perishables, make one from a red piece of construction paper or note card. Clearly write “PERISHABLE – BREAST MILK” on a couple of labels and if using containers rather than bags, indicate which direction is up.

Below a picture of the end result:

For more dry ice and gel pack shipping information, please visit this website and this website. For home made gel packs, please visit this website.

For insulated shipping boxes in the US, please visit this website and this website.

For making you own box:

  • Create an insulated box with a styrofoam container and a cardboard box. Cut and tape the styrofoam box with duct tape if needed. Do not tape the lid shut!
  • Use styrofoam from an appliance store and cut to fit a box. Again, do not tape the lid shut!

Next section: ‘How much is being shipped?’

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  1. Please note that the information from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on this website is outdated. For current information see ‘Travel By air.’ []

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