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Traveling with young children can be challenging for any parent, and ever-changing airport security policies can make it even more difficult.
Emily Calandrelli, host of “Emily’s Wonder Lab” 2020 on Netflix, has reportedly called for clearer breastfeeding guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) so breastfeeding moms with breastfeeding equipment can travel without being stopped by security, according to multiple reports.
“Here’s what happened. Yesterday was my 1st trip away from my 10th [week] old son who I am breastfeeding. I’m going through security at LAX airport. I brought my pump and 2 ice packs – only one was cold (I won’t need the other one until I get home when I have more milk),” the 34-year-old wrote Twitter on May 10th.
“I didn’t have any milk at the moment, but I planned to pump at the last second [session] before my ~5 hour flight.”
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It was the West Virginia native’s first time away from her 10-week-old child, so she was hoping to pump before boarding a flight to DC, according to the Washington Post.
But because one ice pack was semi-frozen and another was room temperature, the TSA officer told her she was violating his fluids rule, which states: “Each passenger is permitted to carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel containers that are 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.” Each passenger is limited to one quart-sized bag of liquids, gels and aerosols.
The TSA agent told her to throw away the ice packs or check them in with her luggage, according to the Post.
“Two male TSA agents told me I couldn’t get my ice packs through [because] They weren’t frozen. (That’s the key part of the story)” the mother wrote on Twitter.
The TSA has a separate rule for gel ice packs that states: “Frozen liquid items may pass through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening.” If frozen liquid items are partially melted, squishy, or contain liquid in the bottom of the container, they must meet the 3-1-1 liquid requirements.”
But the TSA makes an exception for gel ice packs, stating: “Note that medically necessary gel ice packs are permitted in reasonable quantities regardless of their physical state (e.g., melted or mushy). Please notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection.”
Calandrelli finally decided to check her ice packs with her luggage and pump when she landed at Dulles International Airport, according to the Post.
“When I left, the manager said, ‘And don’t try to sneak it through a second time because that’s just going to happen again,'” Calandrelli told the Post. “It just wasn’t a fun way to be treated.”
TSA later apologized to Calandrelli last Wednesday after reviewing her case.
“Unfortunately, the screening process that she received did not meet our standards,” said TSA spokesman R. Carter Langston.
“We will continue to work with advocacy groups and community-based organizations to improve our screening protocols. In addition, we will double our training to ensure our screening procedures are applied consistently.”
The incident also brought Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) to action Twitterwho wrote: “I will be speaking personally to the TSA Administrator about what has happened to you and how we can help prevent this from happening to you or other women in the future. Again, I’m so sorry.”
When a breastfeeding mother is away from her baby, the body usually needs a reminder to keep producing milk, so they should try to pump as often as their baby drinks breast milk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
This usually means a mother traveling without her baby has to pump at least once during the transfer time of the trip, factoring in time to and from the airport, time for security screening and actual time in the air, Jennifer said Horne, a lactation consultant with the Lactation Network, which connects moms with lactation support.
Moms who are unable to pump while traveling could experience breast discomfort and their breasts may swell, leading to blocked milk ducts, which could eventually lead to an infection called mastitis, she added.
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“Our bodies are designed to pump milk regularly,” Horne said. “There are definitely some problems they can run into if they don’t.”
If pumping isn’t an option when a breastfeeding mother isn’t near her baby, the CDC suggests “hand expression.”
“With hand expression, you massage and compress your breast to remove milk. While it takes practice, skill and coordination, it gets easier over time,” the agency said.
Horne recommends breastfeeding moms who are traveling bring a bag of frozen peas instead of ice packs, as they are not liquid.
The bipartisan bill known as the Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Act, passed in 2018, requires all large and medium-sized airports to provide accessible private and clean rooms in each terminal for nursing mothers, as well as changing tables in both men’s and women’s restrooms.
And back in 2016, the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Act (BABES Act) was enacted, requiring TSA agents to undergo special training related to breast milk, infant formula and infant formula guidelines, according to a press release.
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However, Calandrelli said current guidelines are insufficient to protect breastfeeding mothers while traveling, urging the TSA to “classify and clearly state on its website that breast milk, formula and associated breast pumps are considered ‘medically necessary'” .
“I want President Biden to direct Secretary of State Alejandro Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security to stop the TSA from discriminating against traveling mothers.”