A traveling mom was forced to dump hundreds of ounces of breastmilk
You shouldn’t cry over spilled milk, but spilled breastmilk? That’s a whole other story, and the reason one mom is furious after security agents at Heathrow Airport made her dump 500 ounces of her breastmilk in the trash.
Jessica Coakley Martinez is a breastfeeding mom who says she often travels for work and pumps so her son has enough food while she’s away. Since she’s usually able to get through security with breastmilk in tow, she thought nothing of the nearly four gallons — the majority of which was frozen — she had stowed away in her carry on bag. That is, until security officials raised the alarm and made her trash it.
“You made me dump out 500 ounces of breastmilk,” she writes in a now-viral post about the incident on Facebook. “You made me dump out nearly two weeks worth of food for my son.”
Per Heathrow’s rules, moms can only bring a “standard plastic 20-by-20-centimeter or 8-by-8-inch clear bag” of breastmilk on board, and only if they’re traveling with their infant. Martinez was not with her baby and was trying to carry way more than that, and that’s why officials wouldn’t allow the breastmilk on board. Still, it seems absolutely absurd that they couldn’t figure out some sort of a compromise.
“More than 300 oz of that milk was frozen. Solid. Like a rock,” writes Martinez. “I was willing to let go of the liquid milk. But you also wanted the solid milk because it could ‘melt and become a liquid.'” She also says she offered to exit the airport and re-enter so she could check her bag, but they wouldn’t let her do that either. “It was as if you were almost proud to deny me at every possible point of compromise,” she recalls.
Martinez admits some fault in not knowing the rules before she brought her milk to the airport, but says she believes the rule is an inconvenience to working moms no matter how it’s written. “You do not allow breastmilk on the plane if the mother is not traveling with her baby,” she says. “A regulation in and of itself that is incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all of the other working mothers like me who are required at certain times to spend time away from their baby, but intend to continue to breastfeed them.”
Unfortunately, even if Martinez knew the rule she still might have had an issue. In December, a mom traveling with her baby called Delta to ask for their guidelines on traveling with breastmilk. She was told to pack it in a specific-sized cooler with dry ice and followed their instructions to the letter, and still she was hassled and forced to let almost two weeks of frozen milk get spoiled because the employees she dealt with weren’t even aware of their own employer’s policies.
While rules and regulations are necessary — especially when it comes to airport security — these incidents seem to point to a larger issue with accommodating the needs of breastfeeding moms. Martinez is right when she says it’s ridiculous to require a baby to be present in order for a mom to carry around her own breastmilk, and their unwillingness to compromise shows a total disregard for what breastfeeding and pumping moms go through when they have to be away from their kids.
As Martinez writes, “This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry on. This was my son’s health and nourishment. This was the money I would now need to spend buying formula that wasn’t necessary…. And it was the countless hours of my time, my energy, even my dignity in some instances.”
Airport security is vital, but so is 500 ounces of breastmilk. I’d be distraught to lose that much food for my baby, and it’s totally unacceptable that security agents couldn’t work towards a compromise. Hopefully this mom’s powerful story will prevent other moms from experiencing a similar loss and lead to some significant changes in how airports accommodate nursing moms, because there’s no other way to say it: this is complete bullshit.