TSA vs. Nursing Moms

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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.


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  1. I haven’t read the story in the news, but this sounds very humiliating. At the very least she should get an apology and someone needs to lose their job. I don’t know what the TSA training process is like, but apparently it doesn’t include having a brain or using common sense.

  2. Seems to be over the top. This sort of stuff makes me wonder if the “terrorist” have already won the war when we are so “terrified” of breast feeding.

  3. I am a father of two children. I would be irate! Livid! Furious!

    There are so many factors to take in account when pumping breast milk that these guys don’t have the sensibility or faculties to consider.

    TSA is a trash organization that has the discernment of a group of twelve year old boys. This is one of the biggest wastes of government time and money around.

  4. Wow. Just wow. I pumped with both of my kids and took my pump all across the country and even to Ireland and Japan on business trips. It was the only way I could be sure to keep up my supply when away from the child. I got a few questions from TSA but never was subjected to anything approaching this level of idiocy. The most ignorant question I got (more than once!) was why I was pumping breastmilk when I wasn’t traveling with my baby. The men couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that if I had my baby with me I would just nurse her. I rarely traveled with both baby and pump but could easily come up with several reasons why a woman would do so. She should have pitched a fit and asked for a supervisor. Better yet, whip out the boob and pump right there at security and make a national scene. (OK, that might be a little over the top, so to speak.)

  5. And possibly about padding the pockets of politicians.

    Also, if the tsa were a private contractor, I doubt they would get away with this type of activity.

  6. And this is exactly why airport security should be handled by the private sector instead of a self-righteous government entity. Screw the TSA.

  7. I was thinking how grateful I am to you for covering women’s issues in travel here, but then I was thinking this is actually a cultural issue and it affects entire families, not just women. This country needs to develop a culture of family/child/baby friendliness that other developed countries have. The subject of breastfeeding is so alien and taboo to most here, and I really appreciate you bringing it into the public eye in a tactful and tasteful way. We need to normalize it!

  8. My daughter, mother and I recently had a degrading experience with TSA/immigration staff in Chicago. There are many morrons whose questions are downright retarded.My daughter was asked why she did not wear eye glasses when her passport showed she did. I traveled on Canadian passport but a U.S. citizen and was asked why I did have US passport. I said I did not know I needed one when my Canadian passport is still valid. She scolded me and expressed disbelief that I did not travel outside US for the last four years. I believed Bush Jr. did not travel outside US before he became the president. You can not argue with them because they have the power to detain you and make you late for your connecting flight, as we rushed to the gate when boarding just began two minutes earlier.I have low opinion of many public employees because they lack accountability and common sense. We will never want to pass through or set foot in Chicago again. There is a remote chance that they will be fired or disciplined or demoted because of union contract.

  9. My wife and I were traveling to HI with our little one and TSA asked questions about the pump and sent it through the scanner more than once. Certainly nothing as insane as this experience. Scary thing is that people this dumb are actually charged with keeping the traveling public safe.

  10. My husband and I travel with C-pap machines. We carry them on board, can’t afford to lose them. I don’t know how or why the proceedures for a c-pap and a breast pump would be any different.. They hand inspect our machines and wipe them with some solution which I have been told checks for explosive materials. Sometimes I wonder about these agents. It doesn’t seem they are all trained the same. One will let me by with bottled water or protein drinks and the next one makes me surrender these items. But thanks for posting this delicate topic because its a shame this happened to this young mother and you have given her a voice! Good for you!

  11. PizzaGirl, who just got done nursing our son Charlie for a year, says, “TSA doesn’t believe I’m nursing? I’d whip it out and squirt it in their face.”

    My wife is usually a much kinder soul. But, after our run-in with the TSA about 4 months ago, she’s a little bitter. How bitter? The quote I wrote above used to say, “I’d whip it out and squirt it at them.”. When I showed it to my wife, she said, “No. I told you I would squirt it in their face.”

  12. Its amazing to me how little organization the TSA appears to have. One place they take your cupcakes, another they make you prove you can produce milk…other places, and with other agents at the same place, there is no problem.

  13. TSA does not equal safety in flying. Disappointed to read a qasi acceptance of TSA and their outdated, ineffective procedures being acceptable. TSA is a worthless venture to produce a sideshow appearance of safety. You are neither safer nor more secure with any of their measures. The only thing you are is less free.

  14. Very much agree with the sentiments of the comments! It is interesting how much variation there is from agent to agent and airport to airport. I have had different answers to what I can bring through security for my baby/toddler it is almost funny. Ed, tell your wife that is hilarious!

  15. Do you think this would have happened with a female TSA agent? Or the family line if it was open?

    I once overheard a TSA agent/contractor commenting about radiation to a co-worker and choice remarks he would make to those who opt out at screening. His take was that everything has radiation… even his pen… so why worry and make a fuss. This conversation was held right next to the screening machines and queued passengers.

  16. I don’t recall if we ever flew with our weapons-grade Medela, but we never had issues. Our experience with the CPAP is about the same as above. This story is disgusting, though I have to say that the phrase “milk cow on heels” made me chuckle. (FWIW, my wife never wears heels.)

    Really the TSA needs to posts “XYZ is the supervisor on duty” lines at every 2nd or 3rd station. As indicated, there is a fear of getting screwed if you argue with them. It would help consumers and the TSA if there was a posted escalation point for instances like this.

    Surely a manager would know how to deal with issues like this. It gives the agent and ‘out’ to save face when they are unsure. It gives the consumer a way to question the process w/o too much fear of retaliation. And it allows the TSA to employ more people. 🙂

  17. I am a flight attendant, and nursing a 7 month old, so I bring my pump on the road with me. I did it for a few months with my 2 year old as well. . . never had any problems. I just tell them it’s a breastpump, the security guy looks a little embarrassed, checks it out and moves on. I’m sorry TSA had such issue with her – hopefully this is not the norm for breast pump travel!

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