Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.
Sunday, March 25, 2007It's tough...trying to figure out how to fly as a nursing mom, especially if you're flying without your infant. While the TSA has pretty clear-cut rules about this issue, they seem to have a lot of problem making sure their own agents know the exact policies.
Now the official TSA policy is NOT difficult to understand.
If traveling with your child, you may bring breast milk on board with you. If you are not traveling with your child, you can either store it in three 3 oz containers in a one quart zip lock bag OR you can check it. Obviously, if you have any quantity of breast milk, it needs to be checked.
Doesn't sound all that complicated, does it?
Apparently, TSA officials can't get it straight. There have been several instances in the last few months of moms being forced to miss flights or to dump their expressed milk. In some cases, that's because the mom hadn't taken the time to familiarize herself with the new TSA rules and is trying to carry breast milk on without properly packaging it. In other cases, the mom was following the rules to a tee and the TSA officers simply didn't understand them or enforced them improperly.
Well, there's another story about this in the news and I'm getting frustrated.
Heidi Souverville of Sacramento is upset because she was told that she could not bring 27 ounces of expressed milk on board with her. (She WAS given the option to check the luggage.)
I can't find any details on how Souverville had her milk packed. I don't know if she had it in three ounce containers and had few enough of them that she could fit them into a one quart bag, or if she simply read the guidelines stating that you could carry breast milk on board and missed the part about needing to have your baby with you. (Yes, I KNOW that rule is idiotic...)
A quote from an article on News10.net:
On the TSA website it said if you were carrying more than three ounces, if it was breast milk or formula, that was OK," Souverville pointed out in an interview at her Curtis Park home.
TSA officers insisted the exemption only applies to mothers traveling with their children, and the rule was stated clearly on one section of the TSA Web site.
CBS13 claims that the TSA updated the site to clarify the policy just last month after the issue happened. Here's what I found on the TSA site today under their general guidelines for what is allowed on board...
Allowed as Carry-On
Baby formula and food, breast milk and other baby items - These are allowed in your carry-on baggage or personal items. You can take these through the security checkpoints and aboard your plane. However, you must be traveling with a baby or toddler. [emphasis mine]
That snippet also linked to the full guidelines on traveling with children (or breast milk.)
The first paragraph on that page has the following line:
If you're not traveling with a baby or toddler, any formula or breast milk you're carrying must meet the requirements for carrying liquids, gels and aerosols (3-1-1).
On the 3-1-1 page:
3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3 ounce bottle or less; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3 oz. container size is a security measure.
Declare larger liquids. Prescription medications, baby formula and milk (when traveling with an infant or toddler) are allowed in quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. [emphasis mine]
Now, I can't go back in time and see exactly what the policy USED to say, but I do know that when I flew to Chicago back in December the TSA site was VERY clear on the fact that you either had to have a baby with you or you had to check your milk. (the option of carrying it on via the 3-1-1 rule did not exist when I took my Chicago trip.) It took me less than five minutes on the site (in December) to find out that if I wasn't traveling with my child, I'd need to check any expressed milk.
However, the articles that I've read state that Souverville was given the option to check her bags. I guess I'm not clear on how the option to dump your milk OR check your bags suddenly becomes "being forced to dump breast milk." (According to Souverville, she didn't want to check her breast pump bag because the bag isn't designed to be checked.)
Let me be clear that I have the utmost sympathy for ANY mom that is forced to throw away hard-earned expressed milk, but this issue has been in the news so much, I guess I just don't see how moms can claim ignorance. I had no problem finding the rules back in December (which were stricter than they are now). In fact, any time that I've checked the TSA guidelines in the last five months (and I've checked at least half a dozen times) it has clearly stated that moms traveling with breast milk but without baby must check the breast milk.
So just to be clear, let's summarize...
Traveling with baby = breast milk allowed
Traveling without baby = up to 9 ounces of properly packaged breast milk allowed... check the rest.
For the time being, these are the rules folks. You don't have to like them, but you DO have to follow them. Otherwise, you're going to run into trouble.
Now, what DOES strike me as odd is a line from KCRA 3 that says it wasn't just about the breast milk.
Souverville said she had never had trouble bringing her breast pump on board a plane, until a February flight from Phoenix to Sacramento.
She said TSA agents refused to let her bring on board her pump and 27 ounces of breast milk.
So wait...she couldn't take her PUMP on board? None of the other articles mention the trouble taking the pump on board, so it could be a mistake in this story, but if that's the case, it's something that I can TOTALLY get up in arms about. There's absolutely NOTHING on the TSA site that says there would be any problem with taking a breast pump on board and I'm flabbergasted that a TSA agent would have an issue with it.