Friday, December 17, 2010
Shipping Breast Milk
Shipping breastmilk can be done safely and easily any time of year. As long as the milk is packed properly, it should be OK for 48 hours in a good cooler. Adding dry ice is extra insurance and a good idea during the warmer months.
I have found two websites that sell Styrofoam shipping coolers fitted into cardboard boxes for shipping:
To decide which cooler to use for your shipment, I have put together this guide.
Many grocery stores and ice cream shops will sell dry ice, but it’s best to call first. I have always used this website to search dry ice suppliers by area code:
While it isn't absolutely required that you use dry ice, it is strongly recommended - especially during the warmer months (or if the milk will be traveling to or from a warmer climate). The dry ice is wonderful extra insurance if the package gets delayed or if the cooler breaks open in transit (this can happen if it's packed too tight).
I personally have shipped without dry ice several times with no issues. Here are some guidelines to protect your milk on a shipment with no dry ice:
- You must ship at LEAST 300oz if not using dry ice. Any less will likely melt.
- You must use a cooler that is the appropriate size to make sure there is not much extra air space. You cannot use a cooler that fits 550oz to ship 300oz of milk without dry ice.
- If there is extra space in the cooler (a couple inches or so), pack that air space with newspaper. Any air inside the cooler will warm up much quickly and begin to thaw the milk.
- DO NOT overstuff the cooler. Do not stuff milk in so tight that it stresses the styrofoam. This will almost always result in the cooler cracking open in transit, allowing the milk to thaw much faster. Milk should always be placed in, rather than squeezed in. It's better to leave a few bags of milk behind than to lose all of it to the heat.
- Make sure you are home to receive the package as soon as it arrives. Milk shipped without dry ice should be put into the freezer as soon as possible.
When shipping breastmilk, it’s important to leave very little extra space in the cooler. If your milk is frozen flat, you can line the bags up in neat rows. Make sure to fill the cooler as much as possible, but don’t fill it so tight that you put stress on the Styrofoam. The air inside the cooler will expand, and the cooler can crack, which will result in partially or completely thawed milk by the time it reaches its destination.
If you have pockets and holes, fill them with crumpled up newspaper (or any kind of paper).
If sent by 2-day shipping, breastmilk should be OK without any dry ice, but it is a good idea if you can get some. If not using any dry ice, ship a minimum of 300oz, or the milk will begin to thaw in transit.
Once the cooler is filled, place the cover securely on top of the cooler and seal up the box with shipping tape.
Sending it Off
Make sure you have worked out ahead of time the shipping details with the mom who will be receiving the milk. Some can arrange for it to be picked up at your home, but the downside in that is that you will usually be given a significant time window.
The moms who have shipped to me brought the cooler right to the UPS store. Once there, they called me on their cell phones (or the store phone) and I paid the shipping bill over the phone with a credit card.
Before requesting 2-day shipping, ask the associate how long it would take the milk to arrive via ground shipping. Depending on how close you are to the receiving mom, it may only take a day or two, and it will be much cheaper to send. Otherwise, it must to overnight or 2-day shipping.
Make sure to ask for a tracking number, just in case.
There! You’ve just shipped off a box full of liquid gold to a baby in need!