How to Ship Breastmilk: A Guide for Surrogates

Some surrogates will go on to pump breast milk for the baby they carried once they are born. The good news is that, unless you have international intended parents, the breast milk expression does not have to stop once the baby and family return home. Through the use of dry ice and expedited shipping, many surrogates are able to pump and ship breast milk for an indeterminate time. Here’s how it works.

Required supplies:

  • Frozen breast milk
  • Breast milk Storage Bags
  • Styrofoam Cooler
  • Newspapers
  • Freezing Agent
  • Carrier

Freezing Your Milk

It’s important to consider how you’re freezing the milk at your home and how you ultimately pack the cooler you’ll be mailing. As you fill breast milk bags, try to place a standard amount in each bag, typically no more than six ounces per bag. This ensures that each bag will freeze to a predictable size, making packing the cooler easier. Next, you’ll want to lay these bags flat to freeze them in your freezer. Doing this allows the bags to freeze into flat bricks. These standard sized, uniformly shaped bags, can later be placed in neat lines inside of the cooler.

The Cooler

The simplest way to pack the breast milk is in a Styrofoam cooler placed inside of a shipping box. While major shipping carriers like FedEx have alternative options like the cold pack box, many of our most successful breast milk shipping surrogates tell us it is easiest to just stick with a Styrofoam cooler inside of a box.

You can pick these up almost anywhere, including from the shipping centers directly. There are many useful websites for finding and purchasing these coolers as well.

The reason for creating those standard shaped milk bricks is simple; You need to fill the empty spaces within the cooler. The more empty space inside of your cooler, the harder it will be for the dry ice to keep the milk frozen. In the instance of a delayed shipment or cooler break, those empty spaces will warm up more quickly causing the breast milk to potentially melt and spoil before it arrives. If you must leave empty space in your cooler, try to fill it with newspaper.

While it is very important that you fill the cooler and eliminate any empty spaces, it is equally important that you do not overfill the cooler. If the contents of the cooler begin to place pressure on the walls of the cooler, the probability of the container splitting or breaking in transit increases.

Dry Ice or Techni-Ice

You will want to pack your breast milk with some sort of cooling agent in order to preserve freshness and ensure that the milk arrives frozen. There are two major choices for this: dry ice or techni-ice.

Dry ice is a slow release temperature-controlling agent that allows frozen breast milk to stay cold for an extended period of time. While most grocery stores have some selection of dry ice, it’s best to have a plan and certain source in mind before you try to prepare a shipment. The Dry Ice Directory is a great resource for finding a retailer near your home.

Techni-ice is a newer product that comes in “ice pack” type packs that can be placed directly inside of the shipping cooler. This product is available in both single use and reusable packs. This option typically involves less set up and prep time, and it is gaining in popularity with surrogates and intended parents.

The Carrier

When shipping breast milk, you’ll want to do a little research before dropping that first box off for shipment. Shipments, whether sent via UPS, FedEx, or USPS, need to be sent via 2 day or overnight mail. The important thing to remember is that the breast milk needs to arrive within forty eight hours of leaving your hands. We encourage you to ask for a delivery estimate or guarantee before you choose the carrier you will ship with.

Generally, a flat payment fee for pumping will be discussed during your matching process and may be included in your contract. The intended parents also typically cover the cost of all supplies and shipping associated with the process. If you have additional questions, don’t be afraid to ask your case specialist who will be able to offer hints and tips to make the process even simpler for you.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.