Why TSA Needs Some Serious Professional Development Classes about Breastfeeding

I have to admit that I was completely dumbfounded when I read the article about how a TSA worker required a breastfeeding, working mom to pump in a public airport restroom to save her $200 pump from being confiscated.  Were the bottles filled with over 3.4oz of breast milk (which is completely legal) – NO!  Was her breast pump any different than a battery-operated computer or DVD player – Nope!  So, what was this man possibly thinking?  Apparently, he wasn’t thinking, which is an enormous problem when dealing with public safety.

 

Amy Strand, a breastfeeding mother of four, was forced to pump, next to the sink, in a public airport restroom.   Having just poured out her precious pumped breast milk, so that she didn’t have to justify carrying liquids in her carry-on luggage, a moronic TSA agent made the audacious request that Amy must pump her breast milk into the bottles to prove that this is what they were used for.  Otherwise, he would confiscate them.

 

As a breastfeeding advocate, I am mortified by this news story.  Why?

  1. When society makes life more difficult for breastfeeding mothers, we see a decline in breastfeeding rates.
  2. When breastfeeding mothers feel an increased risk for being humiliated in public for breastfeeding or pumping, we see a decline in breastfeeding rates and an increased risk for postpartum depression.

 

As an avid traveler, I am also disgusted by this news story.  Why?

  1. What type of education level are we requiring for someone to work for TSA and protect my safety as a frequent flier?  Middle School diploma, perhaps?  Now that’s scary!

 

How many of you breastfeeding moms have flown, carrying pumped milk in your carry-on?    

Did you find that this was somewhat stress-provoking?

 

I remember when my son, Ryan, was 6 months old, I flew up to Northern California to visit my newly-born niece, leaving my son at home with my mom.  I wanted to bring my breast pump as a carry-on, just in case.  What if my luggage was lost?  How would I preserve my milk supply without my pump?  Standing in the security line, I began to panic.  What if I had to explain what the pump was used for?  What if they took away my freshly pumped milk?  Sure enough, I got pulled out of line to explain my pump to a kid that looked no older than 21.  While I was mortified as I took out all of the pump pieces and my bottles of breast milk, the TSA agent was obviously more embarrassed.  I explained what everything was and that the liquid in the bottles was breast milk that I planned to bring home to my exclusively breastfed son.  As I put all of my pump pieces and bottles back into the pump case, I remember thinking, “I bet this kid won’t bother another pumping mom again.”  I had hoped it was a little glimpse into the breastfeeding world for that kid.

 

Apparently, I was the lucky one.  At least I wasn’t required to demonstrate how my pump functioned in front of a bathroom full of complete strangers.  Amy Strand wins the Breastfeeding Mother of the Year Award in my mind.  Not only did she withstand utter humiliation, but she stood up for what she believed in. 

 

As for TSA, I think it is quite apparent that it is time to retrain your agents about your policies and procedures.  Moreover, maybe consider hiring the professional development staff from Nordstrom to teach the basics of customer service!

 

Know Your Rights!

 

Moms, here are the TSA Guidelines for Traveling with Children and Traveling with Formula, Breast milk, or Juice.  Maybe we should all print these out and pack them in our carry-on bag, just in case the TSA agent didn’t receive the proper training!

 

What has your experience been with carrying a pump and/or breastmilk onto a plane?