Breastmilk and the TSA

Breastmilk and the TSA

When my youngest was still breastfeeding, I took a trip for work that involved riding in jump seats of commercial airplanes. I had flown with my pump before, which was always interesting, but this was a new challenge: Was I allowed to take my pump (and expressed milk on the way home) in the cockpit with me? The answer turned out to be the same as for any other part of a plane: yes.

Here’s the lowdown on breast pumps, breast milk, and the TSA. Keep in mind these tips only apply if you’re flying domestic; if your plans involve international travel, check out this helpful article.

First, these rules are the same whether your baby is with you or not–you don’t need to have your child with you to take a pump or expressed milk onboard. The TSA allows medically necessary liquids (this includes breast milk, formula, and juice for babies) in excess of 3.4 ounces through security, and it does not have to be in a quart sized ziploc bag. You are allowed to take a freezer pack as well to keep them cool.

However, if you have liquids that fit this category, you will need to let the agent know when you first start the screening process. You will send your belongings through the regular x-ray conveyor belt, and then after you have gathered your gear an agent will escort you to a separate area. They may ask to open your liquids, and then they will do an explosives check which is simple and fairly quick (they run a small square of cloth over the bottles and process the cloth for explosive material).  Plan to be at the airport a little earlier for this.

Keep in mind that you are still subject to the airline rules of one carry-on and one personal item per ticketed passenger, even if you are toting a pump or milk.

If you have your pump with you, you are not obligated to declare it to the screener, but you may want to give them a heads-up. I alarmed a young screener one time with mine. I think he saw an electrical box and tubing on the x-ray screen and assumed I had dastardly plans. He was even more alarmed I think once he found out it was a breast pump and not a bomb.

Finally, if you need to pump en route, some airports now have nursing lounges. I have personally found these to be more common overseas than stateside, but hopefully more and more airports will be on board soon (pun intended).

Meaghan Howard is a mom to two little boys, ages 3 and 6. She’s currently enjoying the expat life in Japan.

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