|Hurricane evacuation routes, Google crisis map|
Families in Florida and other locations are evacuating now in advance of Hurricane Irma.
Some who are feeding expressed human milk to their infants are concerned about losing their precious stores of frozen milk. In 2011 Human Milk News wrote about families making preparations to ensure their frozen milk stash was safe while they evacuated from Tropical Storm Sandy, drawing on advice from families who had evacuated in the past with their frozen milk stashes.
There are lots of links to good info in that blog post (see below) but the crucial info you need to know right now is here:
Consider your destination and call ahead to make sure there is freezer space for your stash. Use or purchase a well-insulated cooler that will hold all your milk, but not so big that it allows lots of air space. Think about where it will fit in your vehicle – soft-sided may work better. If you have frozen gel packs they can help keep your milk frozen longer but they are not necessary - ice will work.
1) Line the bottom of your cooler with newspaper.
2) Place your milk bags on top.
3) Use crumpled newspaper to take up any extra air space – that is the key to keeping your milk frozen. Do not use a large cooler for a small amount of milk - it will thaw faster.
4) Place a layer of newspaper on top of the milk, and place frozen gel packs* or ice blocks on the top of the newspaper (remember, cold air travels down, so they’re better on top than on the bottom.) Pack tightly but not so tight as to stress the cooler.)
5) Keep the cooler closed until you have reached your destination freezer! Consider sealing it duct tape to improve the seal.
You may have heard of using dry ice to ship donor milk – it is not necessary and could be hard to find during an emergency, delaying your departure. If you do have easy access to dry ice, be sure to keep the dry ice completely separate from the milk with extra newspaper to keep it from ripping open the bags.
Here’s a list of items to add to your emergency preparedness shopping/checklist:
__ cooler (not much larger than the amount of milk you need to transport)
__ gel packs
__ today’s newspaper
__ duct tape
Don't delay evacuating because of concerns about your milk stash. The sooner you leave, the sooner you can get to a safe location with electricity and freezer space. Families with young children should evacuate early.
*Note, you can use frozen water in your cooler, but know that human milk freezes at a lower temperature due to its salt content, and gel packs are a better option than frozen water if you have them. BUT - don't let this slow you down when you have to evacuate - frozen milk packed tight by itself or with block ice in a cooler that isn't opened will last many, many hours. Kittie Franz writes about travelling with your milk in this 2007 Mothering Magazine article.
** What about dry ice? If you have easy access to dry ice, do use it - your frozen stash will last many, many hours. It is not necessary, however, and you will have to take additional precautions to keep the ice from touching your frozen milk bags as they will burst if they make contact. Breastfeeding in Combat Boots has these instructions for soldiers who are deployed and have to ship milk home in the article Shipping Milk.
This post is part of a larger article written in 2011 to support families evacuating in the face of Tropical Storm Sandy.
Check out our winter storm survival post!