How to Navigate Air Travel When You’re Breastfeeding

Flying with a baby has never been easy, but Netflix star Emily Calandrelli’s recent denunciation of how TSA agents handled pumping essentials in her carry-on this week has brought a lot of attention to the issues breastfeeding faces. mothers while traveling. . In a tweet, Calandrelli, who was traveling without a baby and planned to express her milk at the airport, detailed her accusation that male TSA agents incorrectly told her that she could not bring partially frozen or thawed ice packs through the security checkpoint. It is reported that one of them even demanded to know where her child was.

The TSA rules regarding what breastfeeding accessories are allowed through the security system is just one point of confusion for traveling parents, so here’s what you need to know if you’re breastfeeding and flying, with or without a baby, so you can protect yourself. .

What breastfeeding essentials does the TSA allow you to carry in your cabin baggage?

According to the TSA website , breast milk is “allowed in reasonable amounts in carry-on luggage”, the same goes for formula and juice. “Remove these items from your carry-on baggage so that they are checked separately from the rest of your belongings,” the TSA notes. “You don’t have to travel with your baby to bring breast milk.” (Notably, while the confrontation Calandrelli described was over two half-thawed ice packs in her luggage, she said one agent reported that “it wouldn’t be a problem” if her son was with her.)

The TSA website added a key caveat: “The final decision rests with the TSA officer as to whether an item is allowed through a security checkpoint.”

What other items are allowed – at least until any particular TSA employee decides they are not allowed? Pumps and bottles are allowed, but any bottles of liquid must be removed from the bag. The TSA website also has a page dedicated to gel ice packs, essential for nursing parents while traveling and central to Calandrelli’s story.

Frozen liquid foods are fine at the security checkpoint if they are frozen solid at the time of security, but this only applies to gel ice packs that are not “medically necessary” which, according to the TSA, are allowed “within reasonable limits”. quantities” regardless of their physical condition. The agency asks you to notify the officers at the checkpoint so they can inspect the backpacks. If you’re worried that your cold packs will thaw before you get through security, consider packing your empty packs in your carry-on and ask for ice at one of the restaurants or newsstands you meet before you get to the boarding gate . When passing through a security checkpoint, remove the cooler, all the milk you have packed, the pump and cold packs from the bag so that they can pass through the conveyor belt on their own. TSA agents may want to test your milk if it is not frozen, but you can ask them to use alternative testing procedures or at least wear fresh gloves.

Can I breastfeed on an airplane?

If your baby is with you, you may wonder if you can breastfeed on the plane itself. The answer is yes: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even recommends breastfeeding your baby during takeoff or landing , if possible, to protect your baby from ear pain due to cabin pressure changes. Otherwise, you are allowed to feed your baby on demand.

Most airlines explicitly allow you to breastfeed while seated , although others do not have specific rules. For example, Delta’s website notes that the company “fully supports a woman’s right to breastfeed on board Delta and Delta Connection aircraft and at Delta facilities.” Delta also notes that many airports have separate breastfeeding rooms or facilities so you can pump or breastfeed before boarding.

If you have frozen milk and a bottle with you and you can’t (or don’t want to) breastfeed on the plane, ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water to help you thaw the milk.

How about pumping on board?

Most airports have special rooms or areas set aside for breastfeeding parents to pump or breastfeed, but you are usually also allowed to express milk on the plane while sitting in your seat or on the toilet. Consider letting the flight attendant know what you’re doing if you plan to spend some time on the toilet. They are trained to deal with a wide variety of things and may offer you extra privacy, or at least be less likely to start knocking on the door if you don’t show up soon.

Know your rights and keep receipts

Print out (or save a screenshot of) the TSA rules for breast milk, breast pumps, and cold packs in carry-on baggage, as well as the breastfeeding rules of any airline you will be traveling on.

It is your right to feed your baby where and when you need to, even when you are traveling. If anyone makes this a problem, pull those policies out, but just make sure you follow them literally.


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