We can all sympathize with this mom and the devastation of lost breastmilk
If you’ve ever pumped and stored breastmilk, you know the sense of accomplishment you feel when you stack those little white bags filled with liquid gold. Could you imagine the devastation you’d feel if those bags you worked your ass off for (or boobs, rather) suddenly went missing?
Kimberly West, a military mom who had to be away from her 9-month-old son during a two-week deployment, pumped the entire time she was gone so could return home with a cooler of breast milk.
Unfortunately, it didn’t unfold the way West planned.
“I just returned home after being away for a deployment exercise,” West writes. “It was only 15 days but was 15 days away from my seven month old. As a nursing mother it was hard knowing I didn’t accumulate enough of a freezer stash.”
West says when she arrived in Honolulu, it was difficult trying to adhere to a regular pumping schedule due to the time zone difference and trying to work around her son’s normal eating schedule. “Three days into the exercise I had mastitis. I’ve had it before but this is the worst it’s been. Terrible fevers and an excruciating pain while pumping. I went to the doctor and fought through,” she writes.
From the get-go, she experienced less than ideal circumstances. Instead of holding her warm, snuggly baby in her arms she was fighting through painful mastitis and letting that cold, uncomfortable machine do the work.
Sometimes, pumping can really suck. Figuratively and literally.
Despite the mastitis, West was still able to pump 12 days worth of breastmilk for her baby boy. She was so proud of herself, she sent pictures of the stash to her husband. “I had wanted to give up and throw in the towel during the worst of the mastitis. Yesterday I filled up that igloo cooler to the top with my liquid gold,” she writes.
After her flight home, she picked up her cooler at baggage claim and realized something was amiss. “See that picture of milk in the igloo cooler? Yeah…not to the top.”
“United Airlines lost over 12 days worth of breastmilk. I went straight to baggage customer service. When I told the woman what happened she threw her hands in the air, rolled her eyes and stated, ‘And what exactly do you want me to do about lost breastmilk?! Who would want to steal THAT?'”
At that point, West says she had been traveling for over 12 hours. “I told her it was unacceptable that any of my luggage should be missing regardless of the contents.”
Damn. Straight. While the airline may not be able to locate or replace that precious milk, her devastation is beyond valid. Pumping that milk takes time, energy, and it means planning out your day in excruciating detail. Having pumped milk means nourishment for your baby, and freedom for yourself — if she were to get mastitis again, for example, she would have had plenty of backup breastmilk.
According to West, the United Airlines baggage customer service manager she dealt with was less than helpful. “She told me I could put in a claim but it probably wouldn’t do me any good because breastmilk is free. I told her my time and energy was not free.”
According to the TSA, checked coolers aren’t allowed to be taped shut. You can bring your breastmilk on board as a carry-on, however, in a “reasonable quantity.” Which is probably why many moms decide to check it in the first place — two weeks’ worth of milk is a much higher liquid volume than you’re typically allowed to bring on board.
West writes she just wants United Airlines to acknowledge their mistake and own up to it. “I am so distraught. I’m exhausted from traveling. This is the last thing I thought I’d be dealing with. Please help me make United Airlines take responsibility. Please share my story.”