July 24, 2010

Breast Milk in the Sky.

I couldn’t imagine them trashing my containers of breast milk out like heavy scented body lotion, perfume, or hairspray.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) . I’m not sure if I want my breast milk sliding through your radioactive x-ray scanning device anyway.

After being away from our youngest son for three days, I had to pump in order to maintain my milk supply. I had never carried breast milk through an airport security checkpoint before, and was a little apprehensive that security would ask me to throw away my precious cargo.

I prepared myself for the worst. I couldn’t imagine them trashing my containers of breast milk out like heavy scented body lotion, perfume, or hairspray, let alone insulting me and putting them in the same category as those products. Tossing out breast milk would be like trashing platinum or gold!

I stood in line holding  my bags of milk and a printout copy of TSA’s guidelines for “traveling with formula, breast milk and juice.” One of my storage bags was black and the other bag stood out, a deep red color with bright fuchsia stripes.  I have no idea where my sister, Malaika, got that bag.

I approached the first guard and handed her my ticket and ID. Automatically stating, “I’m carrying breast milk;” as I recalled that the guidelines suggest that you tell the guards you are armed with milk. The guard directed me to two other guards who were waiting to examine the liquid.

“Open the bags, Ma’am,” said two young, chubby men surrounding me with wands and New York accents. The shorter one quoted the TSA website, “You are encouraged to travel with only as much formula, breast milk, or juice in your carry-on needed to reach your destination.” I had milk for days, so I became even more nervous and prepared to defend my milk, in case my 5 oz didn’t clear through security.

One of the guards then stated, “Breast milk is good for 2 hours.” I said, “It’s actually good for 4 to 8 hours.” “Really?” He replied. “Yes!” I said, smiling. The other guard was in full TSA mode waving his wand inside and along the sides of my bags. “You’re clear to go, Ma’am,” He said. My deodorant had kicked in and I sighed with relief. Thinking to myself, that this is way too much work to bring breast milk in the sky.

The following are some general breast milk storage guidelines from FamilyDoctor.org:

  • At room temperature (less than 77°F) for 4 to 8 hours
  • At the back of a refrigerator for 3 to 8 days
  • At the back of a freezer for up to 3 months

For more details on navigating the TSA screening process with your children, please read information on traveling with children. Nursing moms be prepared to defend your milk and good luck!

Illustration by Erin Bennett Banks.

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