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For a new mom, being away from your baby for a couple of days could be a job necessity or perhaps a welcome break from late nights, teething and feedings. But, if you’re breastfeeding, this brings up one major issue: getting the milk back home to the little one.
Many women have different approaches to solving this problem. Some pump enough milk when they’re home to have a frozen stash left behind, pump on the go, and then bring that milk home themselves. But it can be a daunting task — especially if you’re already managing a hectic travel schedule and need every drop to count. These dilemmas are why the company called Milk Stork was created.
The company developed a system where you can pump milk at your destination and ship the breastmilk home in a unique cooling system. The target audience are moms who have to travel for work. But, it certainly can be used any time you are away your baby for an extended period of time.
While I have been around my son every day for the nine months since he was born, I did have some potential solo trips in the works and was curious to test the service. So, I took the opportunity of traveling to Greenville, South Carolina, with my family to try it out. Although the baby was with me on the four-day getaway, I had introduced some formula into his feeds and knew I could forgo some of the breast milk to have it shipped home as a trial run.
Ultimately, the process is simple. But, is it worth the price? Here’s what every traveling mom should know.
Placing an order with Milk Stork is very easy. You log on to its website, click “Plan Your Trip” and you’re given a choice of two options: Pump & Tote and Pump & Ship. For this review, I tried the Pump & Ship option but will provide you with some information on the Pump & Tote choice to help you make the best decision for your travel plans.
For either option, you have the choice of two sizes of coolers, 34 oz. and 72 oz.
To understand what those amounts mean, a 34 oz. cooler holds about a day’s supply of breastmilk while the 72 oz. cooler holds more than a two-day supply. Traveling for a week? You could order three 72 oz. and one 34 oz. Once you decide on the type and quantity, you’ll be led through a series of online forms where you’ll enter contact info, hotel name, check in and check out dates and the address where the milk is being shipped if you choose the Pump & Ship option. Through this process, you create an account with a password.
Once your order is placed, Milk Stork sends an email confirming the information, provides you with FedEx tracking numbers and further instructions. The email is very clear and helpful: explaining the next steps you should take (i.e., calling your hotel to inform them a delivery is coming).
It also explains the Pump & Tote steps with links to how to handle TSA airport security with the cooler. Milk Stork does say that the cooler meets the TSA regulations on cooling accessories for breastmilk. International travel varies so it’s important to look up rules in the country to which you’re traveling.
Pick Up at Your Destination
When placing the order, Milk Stork seems to leave some buffer days to ensure the cooler makes it to your destination in time for your arrival. My order was placed March 1, arrived at the Marriott Residence Inn Downtown in Greenville on March 5 and I checked in March 7. I actually didn’t call the hotel ahead of time, but when I asked for the package, they were able to find it in a matter of minutes. I was also notified via FedEx that my package had been delivered March 5 with the name of who signed for it.
Inside the package is a pre-labeled box with a cooling unit and Lansinoh milk storage bags. Mine (the 34 oz. cooler) came with six bags while the 72 oz. coolers include 12 bags. You can use a preferred brand of bags if you have one, but you will need to pack those in your luggage. It should be noted that the company doesn’t recommend using Medela or Kiinde bags.
Along with the cooling unit and bags, there’s an instruction card detailing how to activate the refrigeration system. The directions were easy to follow, but they also tell you where to find a video to walk you through the process if necessary. This came in handy when I was figuring out the best way to pack the milk to maximize the space.
Throughout the day, I pumped as usual and kept my milk cool in my hotel room’s refrigerator. While the Pump & Ship option provides at least 72 hours of refrigeration from activation and the Pump & Tote provides up to 60 hours, the cooling unit is really only meant to be activated just before shipping. My room came with a fridge, but you can always use the emptied minibar or request a small refrigerator to be placed in your room for medical reasons.
When I was ready to ship my milk home, I pushed the activation button on the cooling unit — which is on the underside of the lid — and placed it back on top of the box. It was cool in a matter of minutes. I then packed my milk per the instructions.
Since I’m in the process of weaning, I didn’t have enough milk to fill all the bags, leaving plenty of space. Other moms who have used Milk Stork said the company is accurate with its measurements and there’s no way to pack more milk than designated. Once packed, I sealed the box with the stickers provided and brought it to the front desk for FedEx pickup.
Milk Stork recommends setting up a FedEx pickup method before your arrival to ensure everything runs smoothly. They might have a specific pickup time and pickup location within the hotel. My hotel wouldn’t arrange a pickup and said I would need to schedule it myself. This was actually the most frustrating part, but that will obviously vary from hotel to hotel.
I had to go on to FedEx’s website, create an account and schedule a pickup time at the hotel. It felt like an extra annoying step but the pickup went smoothly. I dropped off the box at the front desk on my way to dinner, and the front desk made sure it got to the delivery person (I got the confirmation notice that it was picked up.) Milk Stork also says you can drop off the package at any local FedEx approved pickup location if the hotel is unable to assist.
All packages are labeled with a FedEx Priority Overnight Saturday delivery label for an address that allow it. This makes sure your package is available for next day delivery Monday through Friday and that a package sent out Friday would arrive on a Saturday. Some locations don’t allow for Saturday delivery, so be sure you time the shipping accordingly if you’re in such a spot. FedEx doesn’t operate on Sundays and some holidays.
My milk was shipped at 6pm on Friday, March 8, and arrived at my apartment in New York City at 10am the next day. I didn’t return home until Sunday at 3pm due to a delayed flight, and the milk was still very cold.
Taking the Pump & Tote Through the Airport
Of course, none of the shipping information applies to the Pump & Tote option. In that scenario, you would simply activate the cooling system when you head out of the hotel and bring it with you as a carry-on item. It’s best to flag it to a TSA agent before going through security. You can also place it in checked baggage, but it might be X-rayed without your knowledge.
This all sounds pretty good, right? Well, there’s one big hangup with the service: the price. The four options come with different pricing.
- 34 oz. Pump & Tote is $79
- 72 oz. Pump & Tote is $99
- 34 oz. Pump & Ship is $139
- 72 oz. Pump & Ship is $159
Shipping and handling to the hotel/ destination are not included these prices. But, the Pump & Ship price does include the cost of FedEx Priority Overnight shipping from the hotel/destination to the baby’s location. My Pump & Ship 34oz option came to $193.85, including $54.85 for shipping. That means you are paying almost $200 to send home one day’s worth of milk.
Perhaps for a short trip, the price could be worth it. But, if you travel longer or more frequently, the cost can add up quickly. Milk Stork does note that if you’re traveling for work, many employers will cover the cost, so that is something to look into if that scenario applies to you.
The Pump & Tote is certainly more economical. Although, again, if you’re gone for an extended period of time, you won’t want to travel with more than a few coolers. And it’s still around $100.
Ultimately, it’s great that a service like this even exists for breastfeeding moms and it can alleviate many of the hassles of storing the milk on a trip. But, the cost for the amount of milk that is stored and shipped makes it a costly option. Many moms can bring coolers — albeit not as cold as Milk Stork’s —and pack a lot more milk for less. Obviously, hiccups in travel plans could mean the cooler gets warm, and the milk consequently spoils. Milk Stork offers the reassurance that the milk will arrive home cold to your little one, which for some might be worth the cost. Plus, if an employer is willing to pay, that makes the choice to use the service that much easier.
Are you just starting to travel with a baby? Here’s some advice to put to good use:
- Flying With a Baby Checklist
- Getting Ready for Your Child’s First Flight: A Survival Guide
- How to Fly With Breast Milk in the United States
- The Best Airline Seats, Suites, Lactation Rooms and Lounges When Breastfeeding
- Tips for Flying With a 3 Month Old Baby
- Flying With Babies and Toddlers: 10 Tips to Make Your Life Easier
- The Definitive Guide to Surviving Jet Lag With Your Baby
- How to Get a Passport Photo of an Infant
- Flying With a Lap Infant? Here’s 6 Things to Know.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock
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