Getting through the Airport with Your Milk Stash

airportAir travel for some is already an arduous process before you add in traveling with pumped breast milk and breast feeding supplies like pumps and coolers. There has been a lot of news in the last few years regarding the problems that many mothers face going through airport security.

After a 2011 lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration that ended in 2014 with a payout of $75,000 to the traveling mother, TSA agents were retrained and required to follow strict standardized protocol. But just this past April, a British mom was forced to dump 500 ounces of breastmilk–enough to feed her baby for two weeks–at her gate before boarding a plane at Heathrow. Her frustrated Facebook post recounting the incident was shared more than 4,000 times.

So although it is legal to take your pump and frozen breastmilk on your flight with you–whether your baby is with you or not–the more informed you are, the better your chances of making it home with your stash intact.

Prior to Travel 
Prior to leaving, decide how you are going to store your milk. Breast milk that has been previously pumped into breast milk bags, then stored in insulated coolers, seems to be the most popular way to carry-on. A lot of moms recommend portioning the milk for feedings and making sure to leave an inch at the top of the bags for expansion that can happen at high altitudes. You’ll want to be sure that you immediately store the expressed milk from your trip in the coolers and then transfer to a freezer as soon as possible. The milk that is stored in a cooler with ice is good for 24 hours. Another good tip is to use the pumped milk from a trip first because it hasn’t been stored in a deep freezer.

Notify the TSA agent ASAP
When approaching security with your liquid gold remember to separate the breast milk from the rest of your carry-on items when it is over 3.4 ounces. Also notify the TSA officer prior to the start of your screening. Just like the formula and other liquids, the items are typically X-Rayed. The sooner the screening officer knows that you are carrying on breast milk, they can pull the cooler out and continue with liquid carry-on protocol.

Speak Up
Officers use X-ray to test for explosives and other items that are prohibited, including all liquids. If you don’t want the milk x-rayed, you must tell a TSA agent so that they can take additional screening preparations, such as enhanced pat downs and searches.  Although the FDA does stress that there is no known risk of X-Ray, if you’re concerned about the potential risks, don’t feel bad about speaking up. TSA agents should be well versed in backup methods of screenings and it is your right to refuse.

Know the Rules
It might seem like overkill, but it can be very handy to have a copy with you of all the specific policies and instructions on carrying breast milk. These policies can be found at the TSA website. Not a well-known rule, but TSA requires that your ice packs and cooler bags be x-rayed if they become slushy or melted, just as other liquid carry-ons. In addition, only passengers are technically allowed to open and close bottles. If you are worried about sterilization, or the way that your breast milk is being handled, ask for a security manager.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a mom to 2 crazy boys, a lover of snow, sleep, and seriously large iced teas.

Tags: air travel, airplane, airport security, breastmilk

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