You might remember the troubling story from a few years ago about Hawaii mom, Amy Strand, who was going through airport security with her breast pump when she was stopped by a TSA agent and told that she couldn’t board the plane with her pump because her bottles were empty.
According to Strand, “I really only had two options: leave part of [the pump] behind or pump. And I’m not going to leave part of it behind because [the agent] doesn’t know the policy and procedures.”
When she asked for a private place to pump, the agent suggested that she go to the public bathroom where the only electrical outlet was in an open area.
“I had to stand at the sink in my heels and dress pumping as travelers came and went. I was humiliated and fighting back tears. It confuses me why an ice pack and breast pump were a threat to national security,” Strand told Today.com.
After the incident, the head of Hawaii’s TSA branch formally apologized to Strand and announced that the employee in question would be receiving “retraining and corrective actions.”
The TSA also addressed the situation in its official blog, apologizing for the incident and clarifying that ice packs and empty bottles are permitted in carry-on luggage.
While Strand’s story is certainly not common, there have been other reports of TSA employees hassling moms who were traveling with a breast pump, so we wanted to clear up some of the misinformation about the TSA’s official guidelines and offer pumping moms some tips for smooth(er) air travel.
Print out and carry a copy of the TSA’s official guidelines on traveling with breast milk.
The TSA considers breast milk, formula, and juice in the same category as liquid medicine, so it is NOT subject to the 3 oz. rule that applies to other liquids or gels.
Separate and declare your breast milk, pump, and bottles when going through the security checkpoint
You (or your baby) will not be required to taste your breast milk, but be prepared for the possibility of additional explosives screenings. TSA Officers might ask you to open containers during the screening process.
Ice packs, gel or liquid-filled teethers, empty bottles and jarred baby food are all permitted in your carry-on
There is no maximum limit to the amount of breast milk you can bring in your carry-on
The TSA does, however, encourage travelers to only bring as much breast milk, juice, or formula needed to reach their destination.
If you feel that there is an issue, ask for a supervisor or manager or contact TSA directly
TSA Contact Center: 1-866-289-9673
TSA Cares: 1-855-787-2227
On a personal note, I routinely fly with multiple breast pumps in my carry-on luggage (sometimes five at a time!) and have had no challenges with TSA. With few exceptions, I’ve found that the mention of breast pump tends to get me waived through the security line very quickly.