Shipping Breast Milk – When Intended Parents Are Not Local

Shipping breast milk is common in surrogacy when the intended parents and the surrogate mother do not live close to one another. Here are some tips on breast milk storage containers, properly storing breast milk, and how to thaw frozen breast milk for consumption.

Though the ideal situation for a surrogate mother who has decided to pump breast milk for her surrogate babies is for the surrogate and the intended parents to live close to one another, it often happens that this is not the case.

Many surrogate mothers and intended parents choose to deal with the expenses and hassle of shipping breast milk on a regular basis, just for the opportunity to get these perfect baby nutrients.

In situations such as an international surrogacy arrangement, this is often impossible.

In these situations, it is nice for the surrogate mother to pump breast milk for the baby while the new family is in her area tending to birth certificate and passport issues, but is impractical for any further length of time.


Supplies for Shipping Breast Milk

To get started with shipping breast milk, there are several supplies that are needed. The intended parents should pay for all these supplies or reimburse their surrogate mother in full.

Breast Milk Storage Containers
Though I’m all for saving money, when it comes to shipping breast milk, it is important to get name brand, quality, heavy-duty, double zipper breast milk storage containers, little baggies made from trusted companies such as Lansinoh. Stay clear of generic or store brand bags. It would be a shame to go through all the work and expense of shipping breast milk to have it all ruined in the end in an effort to save a few cents on each of the breast milk storage containers. Better safe than sorry.

Also, do not consider using regular Ziploc (or equivalent) storage bags in a pinch; these are not sterilized and should be avoided.

Disposable Styrofoam Coolers
Most grocery stores carry these containers in the charcoal area of the store.

They are generally inexpensive, around $5 each, and are invaluable when shipping breast milk.

If you find a good deal on them, stock up!

Unfortunately, you will need to purchase a new one for each shipment. Get them at least 2-3″ thick.

Aluminum Foil, Cardboard, Newspaper
Stock up on these items for lining your cooler and padding the breast milk storage containers in shipment. If the surrogate mother does not personally read the newspaper, have her talk to family and friends so that she has someone saving them for her.

Dry Ice
While some well frozen milk may survive shipping, it is best to pack it in a cooler with dry ice to insure that it does not go bad before the parents are able to receive it. 5-10 pounds of dry ice per cooler is recommended, and obviously needs to be purchased at packing time.

Federal Express Account The intended parents need to open a Federal Express Account and provide the account numbers to the surrogate mother so that she is able to ship the milk to them. The shipments must be made via overnight mail and are generally the most expensive part of the process of shipping breast milk. With the intended parents the owners of the account, the surrogate mother does not need to worry about paying for the shipment and being reimbursed later.


Storing Breast Milk and Thawing Frozen Breast Milk

Because it takes so much time, not to mention expense, to package and ship breast milk, it is therefore usually done every two weeks.

Again, each surrogacy situation is different.

If you decide that it would be best to ship every week, or once every three weeks, do what is right for you.

But whatever you decide, to prevent running out of frozen breast milk, make sure that you are shipping at the same intervals.

As soon as a surrogate mother has pumped the milk, she should go about storing breast milk in the freezer. If at all possible, she should be storing breast milk in a chest freezer. In lieu of this, she needs to be storing breast milk at the furthest, deepest point in the freezer she has.

When intended parents receive the frozen breast milk, they should again place it into the coldest part of their freezer. Any milk that has partially thawed should not be refrozen; breast milk should never be refrozen. Place this milk in the fridge and use it soon. Any milk has completely thawed should be discarded.

To thaw frozen breast milk, place in the fridge for 12 hours. Swirl it to recombine the milk and cream, which will naturally separate. Reheat the milk by placing it in warm water or in a bottle warmer. Do not use a microwave to heat it. Do not reheat breast milk once it has been heated.


Shipping Breast Milk

The following steps are one method of shipping breast milk. Your situation may call for alterations of this method.

Line the Cooler
Step one is to line the disposable Styrofoam cooler completely with heavy duty aluminum foil.

This foil acts as a barrier to prevent leakage if there is a spill, and also helps to further insulate the cooler.

Prepare Dry Ice
Using a hammer, carefully break up the dry ice into smaller pieces.

Wear gloves and never touch the dry ice directly. Cover the bottom of the cooler with half the pieces of dry ice. Cover the dry ice layer with a thick layer of newspaper.

Double Bag Frozen Breast Milk
Each frozen bag of breast milk should be double bagged in a quality Ziploc baggie. This will help to prevent leaks. Note: do not store breast milk in Ziploc baggies, store in quality breast milk storage containers sold specifically for the purpose.

Wrap in Newspaper & Pack
Wrap each individual bag of breast milk in a layer of newspaper. Place the bundles of breastmilk on top of the dry ice/newspaper layer in the cooler. Make sure that no bag of breastmilk directly touches any dry ice. Layer another pad of newspaper over top of the bundles. Finish off with the remaining half of dry ice. Cover and seal the cooler.

Put Into Cardboard Box, Label and Ship
The cooler will then be placed into a larger cardboard box and padded, if necessary, to prevent movement in shipment. Label the box as required by Federal Express, noting, as necessary, the liquid contents and dry ice. Mail overnight to recipient, and make sure that someone is available to receive the package and open it immediately.

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