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How to Store Breastmilk and Keep it Cold on a Cruise Ship

Updated on July 10, 2014

Yes! You CAN store breastmilk on a cruise ship!

I recently went on a cruise and was panicking ahead of the sailing trying to figure out how to store my pumped breastmilk on the cruise ship--and keep it cold. After several calls to the cruise ship's customer service line as well as polling several of my breastfeeding friends that have traveled both with and without their baby, I came up with a plan to keep my breastmilk fresh.

I'm happy to report that I was able to store my chilled milk while aboard the ship and transport it safely home. Phew- no milk wasted! It actually was pretty easy, as you'll quickly learn.

Photos property of the author; all rights reserved.

Our Ship: Carnival Destiny... - ...with NO fridge

Carnival Destiny
Carnival Destiny

Here's the ship we vacationed on, the Carnival Destiny. We were looking for a cheap vacation as it was just a quick getaway (four nights) with our three-year-old son. Our newborn, who was six months at the time, stayed with Nana and Grandpa. As sad as I was to leave him with them, I was more worried about finding a way to store my pumped breastmilk aboard the ship. As a nursing mother, it was important to me to both not lose my breastmilk supply while vacationing, and to also transport my pumped milk back home to my baby.

I called Carnival's customer service to ask what my options were, and unfortunately, was not presented with many options. As our cabin was not one of the "nicer" rooms (read: we booked a very inexpensive indoor cabin), we wouldn't have a fridge to use. There was a small chance that I could use a medical cooler, however, one was not guaranteed as those are on a first-come, first-served basis with those needing to store actual medication.

One option was always to "pump and dump", which basically means I could pump my milk and dispose of it. This would at least maintain my breastmilk supply. But as any nursing mother knows, breastmilk is liquid gold; dumping it out, to me, was simply not an option.

Have you ever traveled while nursing?

Have you ever taken a vacation while nursing?

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What can you bring on a cruiseship to store breastmilk?

Just a few supplies are all you need

A quick Google search told me that Carnival Cruise Lines allow you to bring on a cooler that is 12"x12"x12". Actually, that's not entirely correct...you can actually bring on ANY size cooler if it's folded into your luggage, you just can't wheel/carry ON a cooler that is larger than 12"x12"x12".

I took a quick inventory of the coolers we had in our garage, and found a collapsible (soft-sided) cooler that was just slightly over these dimensions. Because I could fold this into my luggage to bring it aboard the ship, I figured this would work.

You'll also need something to store your milk in. I immediately thought of canning jars - they are airtight and can hold quite a bit. Perfect for storing breastmilk!

Tip your cabin steward a few bucks at the beginning of your trip. He'll keep your cooler filled with ice. A few extra dollars mid-way through your vacation doesn't hurt, either.

— A nursing mama!

Coolers you can bring on cruise ships - Just make sure they meet the requirements

Carnival Cruise Lines requires that any cooler wheeled/brought on to the ship be less than 12"x12"x12". If you're going to pack a collapsible cooler in your suitcase, however, you can bring any size. Basically, they don't want people bringing on a ton of outside food or drinks.

Carnival isn't he only cruise ship with this rule: Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian...basically all of them all adhere to this standard.

Any of the below coolers are less than 12"x12"x12".

Arctic Zone 30 Can IceCold High Performance Cooler
Arctic Zone 30 Can IceCold High Performance Cooler

This cooler is the perfect size for bringing aboard a cruise ship.

 
AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler with High-Density Insulation, Charcoal, 48-Can
AO Coolers Canvas Soft Cooler with High-Density Insulation, Charcoal, 48-Can

This one comes in 12, 36, and 48-pack sizes. Make sure you select the 12 pack (it's cheaper, too!).

 

Canning Jars to Store Breastmilk - They provide a great seal and hold alot

Canning jars were the ideal choice as I could include several pumping sessions into one quart-sized jar. I brought four of these aboard the ship.

I would pump into my pumping bottles and place those in the cooler. Once those were cold, I'd add that milk to the milk in the jar. That way you are always adding cold breastmilk to cold breastmilk.

Ball Mason Regular Mouth Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12
Ball Mason Regular Mouth Quart Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 12

These are available in both pint and quart sizes (a pint holds 16 ounces, and a quart holds 32 ounces).

 

How did the canning jars work out? - One word: Great!

Breastmilk in Canning Jar
Breastmilk in Canning Jar

We did end up getting a medical cooler, but I'm so glad that I brought a cooler on-board to store my breastmilk. Why? I guess I had no clue exactly what a medical cooler was: it's basically one step cooler than room temperature. It's definitely not as cold as a refrigerator, so I was very grateful to have brought my supplies to store my breastmilk.

I ended up bringing home three full jars of breastmilk!

I'm lucky in that I only live a few hours from port, so we drive to our cruise vacations. If you were traveling by airplane and needed to transport your breastmilk home, it's definitely allowed, but you should research TSA requirements when transportating breastmilk by air.

Don't forget! Bring a small container of dish soap to wash your pump parts and pumping bottles.

— A nursing mama!

Any other tips for traveling with breastmilk? - Please share with other nursing mothers

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    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 

      4 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      This is invaluable information for any nursing mother who needs to be separated from her baby for an extended period of time

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 

      4 years ago

      This is great information. Sounds like cruise companies could do a little more outreach to new parents?

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