A short while after returning to work from maternity leave last year I was asked to travel by plane for a business trip. At that time, I was still nursing my daughter and pumping breast milk. So, I proceeded to contact the airline and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to prepare myself as best as possible for the trip so there were little to no surprises or unnecessary stresses.
With no such luck, I could not get a straight answer on what "reasonable quantities" of breast milk I could travel home with. So, I took to the Internet and mommy blogs (thank you moms) and was able to get some feedback based on other's experiences. While this was not concrete information it was the only thing I had to provide me some comfort, and what I felt at the time, a leg to stand on. I printed out as much of this information to have on hand should I have any trouble at the airport and need something to refer back to.
Well, let's just say that my airport experience was not a great one and eventually it led me to tears. I could not get one person or supervisor there to confirm protocol for breast milk travel including what type of ice packs could and could not be used.
On the return trip home with well over 3 ounces of breast milk in tow I was forced to choose between putting the breast milk through the X-ray scanner or to throw it away. Well, let's just say I struggled hard with this decision and knowing that what mattered most was for me to get home to my daughter, this impossible situation left me in tears as I watched her milk go through the scanner wondering whether it was safe from the radiation.
As a public relations professional representing healthcare clients, the thought that ran through my mind was is there any medical or scientific evidence that breast milk is not impacted when exposed to radiation.
I am a huge proponent of airport safety, and appreciate that the airlines take the necessary precautions to help protect us when we need and want to fly. All I ask is that procedure and protocol be established for mother's traveling with milk and food so that there are no unanswered questions. It's hard enough to travel and be away from your baby, if you need to. So, if policies from the TSA could be put into place this would be a great help.
When I returned from my trip flustered, frustrated and tired I shared my experience with an online mommy group that I have been a part of. As a result I got feedback from a number of moms with similar experiences. One in fact, a freelancer writer, Sara Welch, took interest in my story, and that of others, and pitched it to the New York Times.
See the article that ran earlier this year. NYT article on breastfeeding.
Thanks again Sara for helping to share my story and that of others and do hope this pushes the TSA to institute new policies and procedures for traveling parents.