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Seriously?! That is all that keeps running through my head this morning after I saw on Milepoint the story of a nursing mom who the TSA forced to pump breast milk next to the sink in the airport restroom. According to this story, the TSA told mom, Amy Strand, that she would not be permitted to bring her breast pump through security unless she pumped milk. Seriously?! What difference would some pumped breast milk make to aviation security. If they were truly concerned that the pump was a weapon, then I am not sure what a few ounces of pumped milk would do to save us all from the dangerous breast pump. By all means, inspect the pump itself if you need to, but whether or not the mom can produce the milk to put into it is seemingly irrelevant.
This mom had her nine-month-old daughter with her, and was embarrassed to be next to the sink of the public restroom (where there was an electrical outlet to plug in her pump) with her breast out, pumping for everyone who walked into the restroom to see. Embarrassment aside, the logistics of keeping a (likely mobile) nine-month-old happy while pumping milk in the public restroom has to be a challenge. I breast-fed my daughter the first several months of her life. In fact, I went through quite an ordeal with pumping when she was life-flighted to the NICU at three days old. Not to gross out any non-parent readers, but milk doesn’t immediately stop being produced just because the kiddo isn’t around, so I had a real issue where I had to get a pump fast. The first night I had to go up to the hospital every three hours to pump since they were withholding any food from my daughter, but the next day I was able to get my own awesome pump from the hospital, and insurance eventually covered 80% of it because C was in the NICU.
Breast milk is best for most babies, but many moms can’t be with their babies 24/7, so the pump is invaluable in today’s society to make sure the little ones are able to get the best nourishment possible. However, high-quality electric pumps are expensive, and it is a weird process. You feel a bit like a milk cow being hooked up to the pump. It isn’t very comfortable, and I certainly would not want to pump for the world to see. It isn’t pretty. Plus, it can be hard to pump milk if you aren’t at least somewhat relaxed. I never traveled with a pump, but I did have to bring it to work with me for the first couple months after I returned to work. I had to pump in a little video editing closet every three hours. I felt like a tool carting my pump in there, putting a sign on the door so no one tried to come in, cleaning my equipment afterward in the bathroom, etc. I did it for my baby, but it was not fun.
So, knowing my own experiences with pumping, hearing how this mom was treated by the TSA really makes me angry. I am all for safety and security while flying, but this doesn’t even make sense. She was doing the right thing for her baby, and as a result ends up crying in the bathroom, likely looking like a milk cow in heels on display for others. Not cool. I have no clue what the TSA training process is like, but surely they must cover some relatively common types of equipment they may encounter. If a breast pump isn’t on that list, then I sure hope they add it ASAP. At least the TSA is saying that this was a mistake on their part. Hopefully this story has made the rounds through the TSA and this won’t happen to another nursing mom in the future. Nursing and traveling can be challenging enough without this kind of nonsense.