Air travel with babies and young children can be stressful, especially if they are still bottle feeding or restricted to puree. Luckily, the Transportation Security Administration allows parents with infants to carry on reasonable quantities of powdered or liquid baby formula on a plane, along with empty bottles and ice packs. In other words, infant formula, along with pumped breast milk and baby food is exempt from the three ounce liquid rules limit for carry-on bags. There are basically no restrictions regarding how much formula can be packed in checked baggage. Read on for tips on how to travel with baby needs stress-free.
The 3-1-1 law for carry-on luggage limits airline passengers to containers of 3.4 ounces or smaller, with all containers fitting inside a single 1-quart plastic bag. This limit does not apply to formula or other items used for feeding infants. According to TSA policy, you may pack as much prepared formula in your carry-on as you want; however, you are encouraged to carry only as much formula as you think you'll need. Liquids are not limited in checked bags, but formula should be made as close to feeding time as possible.
Preparing at Home
It's your choice whether to prepare formula at home or wait until you're on the plane. If you opt for the former, make bottle preparation your last step before leaving for the airport; prepared formula should be stored for no more than one hour at room temperature or 24 hours in the fridge, says KidsHealth.org. Make enough bottles to last 50 percent longer than you think you'll need and tuck them into a soft-sided cooler bag with frozen ice packs. If you prefer to make fresh formula on the plane, measure powdered formula into each bottle and screw the lid on tightly. Disposable bottles and liners are convenient.
Declare with TSA
Declare, when you reach the airport security checkpoint, that you are carrying powdered formula in your carry-on luggage. TSA regulations specify that you must alert air travel personnel as to this fact.
Keep powdered formula and baby bottles separate from any personal items and aerosols. Items that are subject to the three-ounce limit, such as deodorant or shampoo, should be kept in a separate quart-sized bag with a zip top in accordance with TSA regulations. Powdered formula should be kept in its original container for ease of identification.
Allow TSA Inspection
Allow TSA officers to examine the formula dispenser in an additional screening process. Neither you nor your little one will be asked to taste the formula. However, TSA officials are allowed to ask you to open any containers when testing for explosives is warranted.
Buy bottled water after check-in point
Buy bottled water from an authorized vendor after the check-in point, or fill your bottles or a thermos from a water fountain. Use this water to mix with the powdered formula whenever you need a bottle. TSA regulations allow you to carry on a cooler or ice pack for your formula needs, so if you have time before your flight, you can mix up a bottle or two and store it in a cool place. Be sure to review the mixing and storage directions of your chosen formula brand.
- Powdered formula in its original container
- Cooler or ice pack
- Thermos or water bottle, empty
Pack all your formula and feeding gear in one piece of carry-on baggage for ease of inspection as well as convenience while on the plane.
Pack more formula in your diaper bag than you think you'll need -- about twice as much. Remember that plane travel these days often involves delays at the gate, on the tarmac and sometimes even after landing.
Feeding a Baby
Ideally, you'll feed your baby while still at the gate, in the hopes that he'll be content and sleepy by the time you board and will sleep through takeoff, keeping him oblivious to ear pain caused by changing pressure. If he's not ready to eat, then feeding him on the plane is fine too; grab a burp cloth out of your carry-on before sitting down so you don't have to disrupt him after he eats. Even if your little guy is used to having heated formula, try to get him to accept the bottle at room temperature. If he won't drink it, ask a flight attendant if you can get a mug or bowl of hot water to soak the bottle in, but never ask for a bottle to be microwaved. Bag all your empty bottles so you can wash them thoroughly once you arrive at your destination.