Shipping Breast Milk

Donating milk to a momma across the country, or around the world? Then this article is for you! Here are some tips and tricks on sending breast milk through the mail.

To Ship FROZEN Breast Milk
Keep it frozen and well protected, and ship it quickly.
You will need:
  • a styrofoam cooler
  • packing materials
  • a large cardboard box
  • dry ice
  • duct tape
Dry ice can be found at most grocery stores. Here, the brand is called Penguin Brand Dry Ice. Calling around is your best bet to find this at a store in your area. You’ll need a small cooler; styrofoam will work fine.
Don’t skimp on the dry ice. It evaporates quickly so a good bit is needed, around 5 to 10lbs., depending on the distance. Keep it in the plastic that it comes in and put it in the bottom of the cooler. Place newspaper or brown kraft paper over the top as an extra barrier. If dry ice touches the milk bags, it will damage them INSTANTLY.
Place frozen milk on top (inside of gallon zippered storage bags is best). You may choose to do another layer of dry ice if you wish, depending on how much breast milk you’re shipping. Be sure to put a barrier between each layer. Put the lid on the cooler and duct tape it securely closed. The lid has to stay on! Place the cooler inside of a cardboard box, sliding extra newspaper, bubble wrap, brown kraft paper, etc. into any gaps to try to keep the cooler in place.
Mark it “^This Side Up^” and tape it well. It will be shipped by weight. It needs to be sent overnight or no longer than Express 3 Day. Shipping cost can be pricey. A shipment of about 200 oz sent from LA to GA has run about $75 through FedEx. In my experience, USPS is much more expensive.
From a mother who shipped regularly:
“I shipped about 200-250 ounces on multiple occasions from New Orleans to Georgia. I got an account with Fedex and paid about $65-$75 each time. (I shipped) Two day AM. I also forgot to mention the cost of the ice chest and dry ice. Probably Adds another $10-$15.
I think the trick is to get a Fedex account. It was free to do and I got a big discount each time I used them. I always shipped to Christine Rushing and she commented that my shipping was cheaper than others she was dealing with. Did the foam cooler and something like 5 lbs of dry ice. And like I said, each shipment was between 200 and 250 oz.
I did everything online and then just dropped it off. I made an account, used my baby scale to weigh the package, filled out the info, made the payment, and printed the label. Then I taped it on using clear packing tape and taped up the box. We Have a local Fedex pickup where I can drop off for $1 or I can bring it another 5 miles away to the Fedex Kinkos. Since I had already done everything, I Literally just handed them the box, no questions asked. I did that like 5 times, at least. Easy peasy.
I think the box + cooler + 250 oz + 5ish lbs dry ice was never more than 25 or so lbs. And we had no problems with melting at 2 day AM shipping. I found there was a big break in price between overnight and 2 day AM (like even less than half the price). I just did a pretend one with a 25 lb box from NOLA to Savannah with 2 day AM and it’s saying $55.23.”
Alternatively, I have shipped a larger quantity of breastmilk farther by purchasing a large, hard plastic cooler that would fit greater quantities of dry ice (around 20lbs) and accommodate more frozen milk (around 350oz). I also purchased a combination lock. I drilled holes in the cooler and installed the lock so that it could be sealed. I sent the combination to the lock to the recipient in a separate message. It was shipped over 1000 miles, but made it still perfectly frozen. This was shipped through the USPS, 3 Day, and the cost was around $290.
Shipping breast milk can be expensive, but it is an incredible gift to the recipient mom and baby!

Low Milk Supply

One of the most common concerns of the breastfeeding mother is that they aren’t making enough milk for their baby. Let me assure you, true low supply, or the inability to produce adequate milk, is rarely the problem. What signals your body to make more milk? Removing milk!

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“But he wants to eat all the time!”

Ok…Let’s look at the whole picture:

  • Is baby very young? Newborns have a stomach that, at 10 days old, is still only the size of an egg, and he’s eating a perfect food that is completely digested quickly.
  • How old is he? Just like a teenage boy that eats all the time, babies are growing…and fast! There are several physical and developmental spurts that occur, usually around the same time for each child. Take a look at the Wonder Weeks chart (http://www.whosthatmom.com/wonder-weeks-week-by-week/) and see if your baby is either having a growth spurt or about to have one.
  • Is he latched correctly? Can you hear him swallowing? A proper latch is comfortable for you, not painful, and allows baby to efficiently remove milk from the breast. If you have access to an IBCLC, have them check baby’s latch. There are several valuable resources here, as well: http://kellymom.com/ages/newborn/bf-basics/latch-resources/

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“He fusses at the breast. I don’t think any milk is coming out.”

  • Let’s talk about supply and demand. Babies demand milk…and you supply it. Fussing at the breast, beating on you, on-and-off nursing, etc, all signal your body to make more milk. Your breasts don’t ever truly become “empty”, they continuously make milk.
  • Does he need to burp? Is he distracted or overstimulated? Are you distracted or stressed?
  • Is he getting too much milk? Check our document on oversupply to see if it sounds like you.

“I’m pumping barely anything.”

  • Pumping is never a good way to judge what you’re actually producing. Babies are much more efficient at getting milk out than a pump.
  • Also see our document on Pumping Tips for help when pumping at work.

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“My breasts feel empty. I think my supply dropped.”

  • Probably not. Most of us only experience super-full feeling breasts for a limited time. What is most likely happening is that your supply is regulating. Your body and your baby’s demands have come to an understanding and your are meeting his needs without becoming overfull.
  • Your breasts always make milk. When milk is removed, they make more. “Your breasts are a factory, not a storage facility.” They are never truly empty.
  • Babies can typically always get out more milk. Even if it’s minimal; they are very efficient at their job.

“How do I make more milk?”

  • Firstly…nurse your baby more. Most concerns about supply can be fixed by simply nursing more.
  • Nurse baby on demand. Let him decide when he wants to eat.
  • Pay attention to baby’s hunger cues. Rooting, smacking lips, sucking hands, etc, are all signs of hunger. Crying is a late hunger cue.
  • Soothe at the breast. Comfort nursing can be frustrating sometimes, but it is the best means of comforting your baby and ensuring an abundant supply of milk.
  • Nurse until baby lets go. Let him decide when he’s done.
  • Don’t be a clock-watcher. Allow baby to run on his own time.

Signs that your baby is getting plenty of milk:

Birth-2 weeks:

  • baby starts gaining weight after your milk comes in. Remember, weight gain varies with every individual. Don’t compare your baby to your friend’s or yourself.
  • baby is having at least 3 quarter-sized poops per day. These can be spread out over a 24 hour period. More than three is fine.
  • baby is swallowing when he’s nursed.
  • baby is nursing at least every three hours until he reaches about 10 pounds. Again, more is fine.

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2-6 weeks:

  • baby passes birth weight by around 2 weeks. Remember to calculate that by baby’s lowest weight.
  • baby continues to gain weight.
  • still has 3 quarter-sized poops per day. Until around 6 weeks, this is what we want to see. Others may tell you that it is normal for exclusively breastfed babies to go several days or even a week or more without pooping. That is not true until around 6 weeks, and even then, not the norm.
  • baby has gotten the hang of latching on and staying attached.
  • baby is sucking with long, steady sucks soon after latching.

6 weeks on:

  • baby continues to gain weight.
  • baby is meeting developmental milestones.
  • baby has plenty of wet diapers and regular poops (they become less frequent around 6 weeks).
  • baby is getting longer and gaining in head circumference.

What if your supply is truly low?

Sometimes baby really isn’t getting enough milk. It’s important to understand why.

It’s important to figure out if he’s not taking enough because you’re not making enough, or if you’re not making enough because he’s not taking enough, or if he’s taking plenty but not using it well.

Source: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th ed., p.396

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What might be the issue with baby?

Possible causes of baby taking too little milk are:

  • he’s improperly positioned
  • his nursing time is being cut short
  • he’s being fed too infrequently
  • he has a tongue-tie or other latching issue

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What might be the issue with me?

Possible causes of mother making too little milk are:

  • thyroid problems
  • PCOS (Polycyctic Ovary Syndrome)
  • breast surgeries

If your supply is truly low and your baby is not thriving, it is our advice at Milky Mommas to seek out and meet with an IBCLC to identify and correct the problem.

Most of these scenarios are completely reversible, so don’t give up hope. Remember, if you must supplement due to medical indication – and at the recommendation of a professional – there’s a strong chance that supplementation need be only temporary and you can return to being your child’s sole source of nutrition.

Pumping Tips

Many breastfeeding moms want to or need to pump in order to provide breast milk when away from their babies. Never fear, Milky Mommas Blog is here! Check out our top tips for comfortable and productive pumping.
Key Points:
  • Pump output does NOT indicate milk supply. Don’t compare your output to anyone else’s!
  • The frequent removal of milk is vital to maintain or increase production. Breast milk production is based on supply and demand.
  • Hand expression after pumping can increase output by an ounce or more!
  • It is typically best to avoid pumping before 6-8 weeks, unless medically-indicated.
  • Teaching caregivers how to paced bottle feed ensures baby is taking in appropriate amounts, and allows mom’s pump output to keep up more easily.
Use a Quality Breast Pump!
What type of pump are you using? Is it in working order? Most pumps are designed for a single user, single year, and single baby. Avoid sharing an open-system pump, as doing so puts you and your baby at risk for blood borne pathogen transmission. Pumping moms need a sturdy, double-electric pump that is designed for frequent use.
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Aim to express milk (nursing or pumping) at least every three hours.
The key to maintaining or increasing milk production is the frequent removal of milk.
Learn how to use your pump to adjust suction and speed and how the let down button works. Use it frequently. Going longer and possibly allowing your breasts to become engorged may make it harder to express milk and maintain supply.
Pump for at least 15 minutes, or 5-10 minutes after the last drop. Then hand express! Then pump again!
These articles give tons of good information about timing of pumping, how much milk you might need to send and milk storage for future use:
Use Properly-Sized Equipment
Make sure your equipment is properly sized and comfortable and is in good working condition. Are your flanges correctly sized? Your nipple should move smoothly through the tunnel, not be jerked or squeezed in the tunnel. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.407831619385777&type=1
If a flange is too small, this can compress milk ducts and make it hard to express anything at all. Signs that you have a poorly fitted flange include (but are not limited to): purple/white nipples after pumping, a “ring” around the inside of the tunnel that does not blot off or discomfort during pumping.
Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations about care of parts. Some manufacturers recommend boiling parts occasionally, others require the flexible membranes (duck bills, caps, etc.) to be changed every so often. Pay attention to the wear and tear on your pump parts and replace as needed.
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Pumping Should Not Hurt!
Is the suction too high? Remember, you are trying to trigger a let-down reflex, not pull milk from the breast. Turning the pump suction too high in an attempt to get more milk can actually work against you, squeezing the milk ducts shut. Think of trying to suck a thick milkshake through a straw by applying more suction- the straw just folds flat.
Plan Ahead for Pump Part Storage
Keep extra pump parts available at work in case you forget a piece. Many moms have 2-3 sets. Use a lunch box to store parts and bottles. Find a cute purse/bag that all of your gear fits into. Pump setup and breakdown is part of the equation. You will get more efficient at it. Wipe out the milk in the tunnel with a paper towel and just store the entire flange assembly in the fridge without washing. Other mothers use the quick clean wipes sold by pump manufacturers to wipe and go. Store milk at room temperature or in a refrigerator until use or freezer storage.
Tip: Get the free pump kit from the hospital when you deliver. Many of the parts can be used on any pump!
Use your hands!
Pumps are as low as 40% efficient, meaning you may be leaving 60% of the milk in your breasts after pumping! Hands–on pumping or breast massage while pumping may yield higher output. Hand expressing for a few moments after you are finished pumping can help empty your breasts more completely.
Here are some great videos on Hands-On Pumping & Hand Expression!
Hands-on Pumping: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html
Encourage baby to snuggle and nurse while you are together
Many mothers choose to send only the milk they pumped the day before at work and allow baby to “make up the difference” while they are together.  Some babies reverse cycle (http://kellymom.com/bf/normal/reverse-cycling/) and begin feeding more at night to get some extra snuggles and extra milk.
Eat Nutritious Foods and Drinks and take care of yourself:
A diet as close to nature as possible is recommended. No supplements or shakes or shortcuts can replace proper nutrition for a nursing mother. See our post on Diet and Nursing for more info!
Train Your Mind and Love Your Pump
Many mothers find it helpful to train themselves to “look forward to” pumping.  Be it a promise to play a game on their phone, a piece of chocolate before or after pumping, etc.
It takes time for your body to learn to let down for a pump.  Babies have cute, snuggly little fat rolls, smell like angels and grunt like tiny, perfect sumo wrestlers.  Pumps just don’t have that appeal and it takes time to learn to make milk for the pump. Be glad that you are continuing to provide your precious milk for your baby.
Make a “Safe” Place for Pumping
Are you in a “safe” place that is conducive to relaxation?
Think about the environment in which you pump. A closed, locked door may help.  Some mothers find it helpful to use earplugs to drown out any outside noise or the sound of the pump, others enjoy watching videos of their babies or listening to recordings of their babies snuggly snuffling sounds or cooing. Deep breathing, calming thoughts, even thinking of rushing rivers may help.  This is individual for each mother and you will find your groove with it.
Pumping for a NICU/Preemie Baby
Pump every 2 hours during the day and 3 hours at night.
Visit with the hospital lactation consultant frequently.

Returning to Work?

Begin pumping 1-2 weeks before your return. Add in one pump a day. You only need enough milk for the first day. You will pump milk for Day 2 on Day 1.
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Contact your HR rep and boss before your return to inform them of the accommodations that need to be made. Present them with your plan and required pumping schedule. There are state and federal laws to protect you and your right to breastfeed.  Please let us know if you need further help with your specific situation.
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Flexible or Part-Time Work
Discuss your options with your boss. Returning to work doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Ask for a transitional week or use your remaining leave hours to work a reduced schedule at your convenience as you transition from the major life event. This is allowed per FMLA laws.
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