I just got back from a short trip to Europe for a second interview for that "cool outreach" position I mentioned (this is following an interview last month via video conference). I'm aparantly now one of two candidates - so keep your fingers crossed. Anyway travelling internationally away from little one posed some interesting questions and I thought it might be helpful to post my findings here. I'm still nursing little one morning and night (and other times if she demands it - which she often does). I didn't want 3 days away from her to mess up this part of our relationship, and I didn't want to be uncomfortable from stopping breast feeding while away, so I wanted to pump. Since breast milk is so great for babies I also wanted to bring this milk back with me from Europe so little one could have the benefit.
Question 1. Do all countries have such nice helpful policies as the TSA about allowing breast feeding mothers to carry on milk when travelling without their baby.
Answer - NO! I called the security helpdesk at Heathrow airport to check their policy and was met with confusion that anyone would want to do this. Oddly I think in some ways this is a good thing. In Europe maternity leave policies are much more generous. It's common for working mothers to get a year home with their babies. So that means there are many fewer working mothers who are still breast feeding - so many fewer who travel away from their little ones and need to travel home with the breast milk they have pumped but without a baby. The help desk had to call me back with the answer - which was that their policy of allowing reasonable amounts of milk for babies only applies if the baby is travelling with you. I could have the usual ziplock bag with small containers and that was that. Turns out my Medela bottles are 2.7 oz in size, and 6 of them will fit in the standard 1 quart ziplock (this still works in the UK where the limits are 100 ml bottles and a 1 litre bag). In three days away I pumped 8 Medela containers worth, so I packed 2 with ice in my checked bag and brought the rest along with me. That worked fine. I still think that the rules should be changed to mirror the helpful TSA policy change of August 4th 2008 - and in my copius spare time I will write the Heathrow security people a letter suggesting that.
Question 2. Can I bring breast milk through US customs?
Answer - YES! This I thought would be a big problem, but it turns out that breast milk is exempt from the normal rules on transport of food as you can find out at the helpful FAQ section of the US Customs and Boarder Protection website. Great news, and not at all what I expected. Way to go USCBP!!
I have to go to Australia next month for an observing trip, so you will be getting part two of International Travel soon. Will the Ozzies be more breast feeding friendly than the Brits. We'll find out!
Oh, and as a little extra note - Medela Pumps don't have plugs you can use in Europe. Luckily I have a friend with a US-UK converter I could borrow and I found this out by reading the info on the plug and not trying it out and frying something!