Supporting Military Parents: Logistics of Breast Milk Transport

Supporting Military Parents: Logistics of Breast Milk Transport


Military service brings unique challenges for families, especially for breastfeeding parents who must balance duty with their goals to provide breast milk for their infants. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to support these parents through policies that address the logistical difficulties of transporting breast milk. This blog delves into existing laws, emerging benefits, and the ongoing efforts to enhance breastfeeding support for military parents and spouses.

Current Policies: Reimbursement for Breast Milk Shipment

One significant advancement in support for breastfeeding military parents came in April 2022 with a directive that allows for reimbursement of breast milk shipping expenses during temporary duty (TDY) travel. The directive, titled "Breast Milk Shipment as a Travel Accommodation," outlines the specific conditions under which these reimbursements are available:

Memorandum Highlights:

  • Purpose: Reimburse the cost of shipping breast milk as a travel accommodation during TDY.
  • Eligible Expenses: Reasonable commercial shipping fees, excess baggage, disposable storage bags or non-durable containers, cold shipping packages, refrigeration, and transport.
  • Reimbursement Cap: Up to $1,000 when authorized.
  • Effective Date: The changes became effective on April 7, 2022, and were included in the Joint Travel Regulations as of May 1, 2022.

This policy was a significant step forward, acknowledging the critical need for breastfeeding parents to maintain their milk supply while fulfilling their professional duties.

Is Shipping Even What Moms Want?

When I polled the Sarah Wells community, less than 10% of breastfeeding moms in general said that they have shipped milk before, with the majority not yet having employer (non-military) reimbursement for shipment. This brings up the question of how employers requiring offsite work or travel of their employees are or will address transport of breast milk, especially in cases where it exceeds the capacity to carry it by hand back home or needs to be frozen or supplied to baby along the duration of a longer trip away. However, among military parents polled, 20% indicated that they would take advantage of a military benefit to ship breast milk, an additional 10% would consider it if they had control over the shipping process and 10% would not trust shipping milk as a way to transport their milk safely.

Samantha*, a member of the United States Navy Reserve (USNR) who was activated for 8 of her 16 years in service, shared her experience with me. She retired before the benefits reimbursement was put in place, covering the costs on her own to ship breastmilk from training sites because the volume was too much to bring on a flight. While the financial burden was hers, the process did work well for her. Samantha says she would have taken advantage of the reimbursement now offered had it been available to her, and commended the Department of Defense for this important support of military moms. She also highlighted a shared concern among moms about trusting shipping carriers to transport such a delicate item, emphasizing the need for mothers to have control over the carrier option, whether that be a specific breastmilk transport service, or mainstream shipping carrier or both. 

Emerging Benefits: Expanding Support During PCS Moves

While the 2022 directive covers temporary duty travel, it does not extend to permanent change of station (PCS) moves. This gap in coverage poses a significant challenge for families during relocation. However, there are promising developments on the horizon:

Proposed Policy Changes:

  • Reimbursement During PCS Moves: The Department of Defense (DoD) is considering an amendment to extend reimbursement for breast milk shipping costs during PCS moves. This potential change aims to alleviate the financial burden on families who need to transport frozen breast milk during relocation.
  • Current Status: The Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee is evaluating the proposed change. The timeline for a decision remains uncertain.

Conclusion: The Path Forward

Supporting breastfeeding parents in the military is not just about convenience; it's about ensuring that they can fulfill both their professional duties and their roles as parents without undue hardship. The 2022 policy changes were a critical first step, but there is still work to be done. Expanding reimbursement to cover PCS moves and continuing to advocate for comprehensive support systems will be essential in addressing the unique challenges faced by military families.

It will also be important for the Department of Defense to keep the language in their policies flexible to change with the evolving landscape of breastmilk transport; for instance, increasingly there is demand for freeze-dried breastmilk services as another way to preserve milk for longer periods of time, and the availability of breastmilk-transport-specific durable containers, such as specialized cooler bags or milk chillers, presents new options for effective and environmentally sustainable transport, which are not yet covered in the existing directive. 

As a community, we must continue to push for policies that recognize and support the dual commitments of military service and parenthood. Through continued advocacy and the implementation of supportive measures, we can ensure that breastfeeding military parents have the resources they need to succeed both at home and in their service to the country.

Check out these recent news articles and efforts to make a difference on this topic:

Department of Defense: Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee

New Benefit Pays for Troops, Civilian Employees to Ship Breast Milk While on Official Travel

Troops Are Reimbursed for Shipping Breast Milk During Temporary Duty But Not Moves. That Could Change

... and don't forget to pre-order your copy of Sarah's forthcoming book, Go Ask Your Mothers: One Simple Step for Managers to Support Working Moms for Team Success!


* I change names to protect manas who are so brave to share their stories from their workplace!




This is good to know, I am a civilian working for the DOD and sometimes have to travel so this information is extremely helpful. I think I’d be very cautious when shipping my milk but if it is packaged correctly I think it would work out well when needed!


This is great for both military families and civilians. I’ve never had to ship my milk, but it’s great to know the it’s covered if I need it, although I doubt my local travel office knows anything about it.

Charity Wooten
Charity Wooten

I have not had to ship milk, but my husband’s company will provide a shipping container at the hotel for mom’s that are having to travel for work. Depending on the amount of time she have to be away for work depends on how many times they will provide a shipping container for her to send milk back home to baby.

Crystal Nelson
Crystal Nelson

Breast milk shipping services provided at ❤️

Katherine Klaus
Katherine Klaus

I’ve actually been looking into shipping and donating milk currently. Not military but my husband was and I would love to help other moms out!

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