Questions about the rules for flying with baby food and milk are among the biggest concerns for parents traveling with young children.
Regulations have tightened considerably over recent years and you’ll hear all sorts of horror stories about baby food and formula being confiscated at security.
Here we help you establish just how the rules affect YOU – and how to avoid running into problems at the airport.
Please note that, whilst the information given here is intended to be as accurate as possible, the final decision about what you may bring through airport security rests solely with the airport security officers.
The guidelines we refer to on this page were originally established in the USA, but have now been adopted globally.
Please bear in mind, though, that there may be some local differences and it’s a good idea to check with the airports/airlines you’ll be flying with for specific advice. You’ll find some useful links at the end of this page.
If you plan to take liquids, gels and aerosols in your hand luggage (and this includes diaper/nappy cream), then they need to be in containers NO LARGER than 3 oz (100ml).
This means that you can’t carry, for example, 3 oz of diaper cream in a 6 oz container. The container itself must be less than 3 oz (100ml).
You must then put your 3 oz containers into a transparent, zip-top bag no larger than 1 quart (or 1 litre) and seal the top.
You are not allowed to use any other type of bag – and your 3 oz containers must fit comfortably into it. You are only allowed to bring 1 zip-top bag per person – so, if you have too many 3 oz containers for one zip-top bag, then you must pack some into your checked bags or they will be taken from you at security.
Please note that – contrary to popular belief – the 3 oz containers themselves do NOT need to be transparent. The zip-top bag, on the other hand, MUST be transparent.
When you get to airport security, you need to remove the zip-top bag from your hand luggage and present it for screening separately. Remember – the zip-top bag MUST be sealed.
Can I take baby food and formula on an airplane? Do these need to be in 3 oz containers, too?
No – baby food and milk are exempt from the rules affecting other liquids and gels…
You are allowed to bring enough baby food for the flight, although ‘reasonable amounts’ are not actually specified anywhere.
There have been occasions where airport security staff have deemed the amount of baby food that parents have attempted to bring through security as excessive – and it is the final decision of the security staff as to the amount that is allowed.
So, tempting as it may be, don’t go overboard with the amount of baby food that you pack in your hand baggage. In fact, the best option is to bring on foods like whole avocados or bananas that you can just open and mash up once you’re on the aircraft – they are not subject to the rules affecting liquids and gels.
DON’T put any quantity of baby food over 3 oz (100ml) in your zip-top bag. Instead, you need to present this separately to security staff and declare that you have it. If you try to put it through the scanner without declaring it, then it may be taken away from you.
You need to declare all jarred, canned (tinned) and liquid baby food, although powdered baby food is exempt from this rule.
You are usually expected to have your baby with you when presenting baby food for inspection – so don’t send hubby off to go through security ahead of you, if he’s the one carrying the baby supplies and you’re the one carrying the baby!
The same rules that apply to taking baby food on an airplane also apply to formula and juice, in that you may bring as much as you need for the journey, but you MUST declare it to security staff and present it for inspection (with your baby present).
There was a time when parents were being asked to taste everything they brought through security for their babies, but this is rarely the case now.
Can I carry on powdered formula and water to mix on board the airplane?
Whilst there are no restrictions on the amount of powdered formula brought through airport security or on to the aircraft, water is a very different matter.
Although we know of parents who HAVE been allowed to take through bottles of water to mix with formula, we also know of many occasions where water has been taken away.
The best option is to buy bottled water from the stores AFTER the security point, or to ask for water on board the airplane.
Breast milk, too, may be brought on to an airplane, in reasonable quantities and following the rules for presentation at security points as described above.
Regulations have changed recently – and now a mother traveling without her child is allowed to bring breast milk on to an airplane, as long as it is declared and presented for inspection at security.
Can I use ice packs on an airplane to keep baby food and milk cool?
There are no specific guidelines about the use of ice packs – however, many of them are gel-filled and are often confiscated at security for this reason.
Our advice is to make your own ice pack by filling a zip-top bag with ice cubes – and to take a spare zip-top bag with you. Throw your homemade ice pack away before you go through security, then ask for ice at stores on the OTHER side of security once you’ve gone through and fill your spare bag.
For short flights, it may be sufficient just to use the ice BEFORE security if you bring frozen baby food cubes. These take about an hour or two to thaw at room temperature.
We have friends who actually use a bag of frozen veggies as an ice pack, since this doesn’t qualify as a liquid or gel and is, therefore, exempt from restrictions. Although they have traveled several times with their baby using this method, we can’t guarantee that frozen veggies will be allowed through security!
Non-prescription medicines for your baby must be in 3 oz (100ml) containers within your 1 quart (1 litre) zip-top bag (in the same way as other liquids). Larger quantities of prescription medicines are allowed through security, but you must declare them and present them at security for inspection, along with a doctor’s letter for verification.
We all respect and understand the importance of thorough screening at the airport – but, as parents, it can be very traumatic if what we see as essential baby items are taken away from us.
We strongly recommend printing out the government guidelines for the airports you’ll be traveling through and taking them with you when you fly – just in case you have followed the regulations but still experience problems at the airport.