What Are the TSA's Rules on Breast Pumps?

By Kathryn Walsh

Updated August 24, 2017

Baby bottle with milk and manual breast pump at background


Pack Your Pump for a Smooth Trip Past Airport Security

Don't let a trip force you into altering your baby's eating schedule or weaning before you're ready. Keep up your milk supply by bringing your breast pump with you on your next flight. No regulations prevent you from packing this all-important piece of equipment, but as a nursing mother, there are a few things you should know before your next out-of-town adventure.

What Does the TSA Say?

Good news, pumping mamas: The TSA doesn't impose any special regulations on breast pumps. You're allowed to pack them in your checked bags or in carry-on luggage.

The TSA is also accommodating when it comes to breast milk and other necessary liquids for young children. Although passengers are limited to no more than 3.4-ounce containers of liquids, gels and aerosols, and all containers have to be packed in a single 1-quart bag, exceptions are made for parents of infants and toddlers.

You may bring breast milk, formula and/or juice through security in larger quantities when you're traveling with a child who is young enough to require your assistance walking through security. (That's the general guideline TSA agents use to determine whether a child meets the criteria for this exception.) Tell an agent that you have larger quantities of these liquids when you arrive at the screening area. Your containers will still be inspected, but you should be allowed to bring them through security without issue.

Even if you're not traveling with your baby or toddler, you're still allowed to bring breast milk through security in quantities that exceed the usual limitations for liquids. You can pack breast milk in an insulated bag with ice packs. Just know that if the ice packs aren't frozen solid when you arrive at security, they'll probably have to be screened separately.

How Should I Pack It?

Checked bags go AWOL all too often, so pack for your trip with the possibility that your bags will go missing in mind. If you're actively using your breast pump, pack it in your carry-on bag, just to be sure that you'll have it handy when you need it.

Wrap the pump in a sweater or scarf to protect it from breaking as your bag gets bumped and shuffled. Pack portable pump wipes so you can clean the parts when you're on the go. Bring a few travel packs of detergent too, so you can thoroughly wash your pump in your hotel room sink.

What Else Should I Know?

Many major airports have nursing rooms or other facilities that are available to moms who need to pump. Even if yours doesn't have a dedicated nursing room, airport staff might be able to direct you to a private room that's available to nursing moms.

For longer flights, pack a small blanket or shawl in your carry-on and arrange all your pumping supplies near the top of the bag you stash under the airplane seat. That way you can discreetly pump during the flight, if necessary. Pumping in the lavatory is also an option, but that cramped, unpleasant space isn't an appealing location for this task. Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids during your flight.