How to Pack and Ship Breast Milk

Breast milk in bottles

JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images

It's never easy to leave your child, especially when you're breastfeeding. But, if you have to be away from your child because of a business trip, a vacation, or a deployment, and you would like your baby to continue to get your breast milk, you have the option of shipping your milk to your child. 

How to Ship Breast Milk

To ship your breast milk, first collect it and freeze it, making sure to leave some space in the containers for the milk to expand. Next, pack it securely in a styrofoam cooler with dry ice. You can put this into a cardboard box for shipping.

Supplies You Will Need

The supplies you will need to pack and ship your breast milk include:

  • A hammer to break the dry ice, if necessary
  • A shipping box
  • A thick cooler
  • Dry Ice
  • Gloves
  • Newspaper or packing paper
  • Packing tape
  • Strong, sealable plastic zip-type bags
  • The proper shipping labels
  • Your frozen breast milk

Packing and Shipping Instructions

Follow these steps:

  1. Collect your breast milk into breast milk storage bags or containers designed to withstand freezing and thawing.
  2. Do not fill your 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 up.
  3. Freeze your breast milk.
  4. Place the bottles or bags of frozen breast milk into a plastic zip-type bag.
  5. Pack them into the plastic bag as tightly as possible, remove the excess air from the bag, and seal it. You may want to double bag your breast milk for extra protection.
  6. Put the plastic bags filled with your breast milk containers into a styrofoam cooler that is approximately 2” to 3” thick. The cooler has to be thick enough to maintain the cold temperature, and also withstand shipping.
  7. Put on the gloves before you begin to work with the dry ice. Wrap the dry ice in newspaper and place it into the cooler with your breast milk. Do not put the dry ice only at the bottom of the cooler. When placed at the bottom of the package, the cold air does not circulate. If you are layering the dry ice and the breast milk or placing the dry ice on the bottom, sides, and top of the cooler, then it is OK to put some of the dry ice on the bottom.
  8. Fill in all the extra space in the cooler with newspaper. This prevents your breast milk from shifting while it is begin shipped, and it also helps to slow down the process of the dry ice turning from a solid into a gas.
  9. Tape up the styrofoam cooler, but do not seal it completely. Dry ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide. As it changes from a solid to a gas, the carbon dioxide needs to vent from the package.
  10. Place the cooler inside a cardboard shipping box. Again, fill in the remaining space with paper to prevent the cooler from moving around too much inside the shipping box. Seal the shipping box.
  11. Prepare all the proper labels and bring your package to a shipping center that accepts dry ice shipments. Not all centers accept dry ice, so call ahead to find out where you need to go.
  12. 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.

Additional Considerations

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.

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. For more information about the amount of dry ice you will need, contact a dry ice supplier. To find a dry ice supplier near you, use a dry ice directory

Call the shipping company that you plan to use for instructions on the proper packaging and labeling of dry ice and breast milk. Dry ice can be classified as dangerous goods or a hazardous material, and breast milk is a human body fluid. Special labeling will most likely be required for both.

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.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.