Given the state of political unrest in some parts of the world, airport security is of unparalleled importance. Regulations regarding carry-on baggage are strict and often a sticking point with travelers.
Most travelers spend some time reviewing the latest aviation laws regarding luggage, but most of us gloss over the details figuring that we’ve got our bases covered.
A working mom found out the hard way at Heathrow Airport in London, that knowing what the rules are at various airports ahead of time will save you a lot of heartache. Jessica Coakley Martinez wrote an open letter to aviation security at Heathrow Airport on her personal Facebook page, detailing the horror of having to dump 500 ounces (that’s nearly 4 gallons if you do the math!) of her breast milk in the trash.
Martinez is a mom of an 8-month-old breastfed baby and routinely travels for work. When she travels, she makes every effort to pump and store her breast milk for her child. She loves her job, but admits some of the challenges of finding the time to pump and the extra effort it takes to find a place to store the milk and carry it with her from country to country.
“It meant lugging this giant block of frozen breast milk through four countries, airports and security checkpoints and having them pull out every single ounce of breast milk and use mildly inappropriate sign language to convey ‘breast’ and ‘milk so that they would let me through. Which they did. Every one of them. Except you.” she laments.
On her latest work trip, she was not allowed to bring her frozen breast milk on board with her because it exceeded the amount of liquids allowable for a carry-on bag. Worst yet, she offered to check the milk, but since it was an already non-compliant item, it needed to be confiscated. She had to throw it in the trash.
According to Heathrow Airport’s aviation laws, a “reasonable amount” of breast milk is allowed outside of the standard plastic 20-by-20-centimeter or 8-by-8-inch clear bag, if you are travelling with a baby or infant. Martinez admits that she should have reviewed the aviation law before she attempted to bring the breast milk on board. Still, it was very painful for her to watch weeks of hard work going into a rubbish bin.
Breastfeeding itself is not an easy task. And, pumping breast milk for storage is time-consuming and a lot of work. It’s a shame Martinez had to dump her own milk into the garbage. For all the working moms out there who are determined to store their breast milk while traveling, what can we learn from Martinez’s experience?
That it is vital to know the airport’s security laws before you enter the country. Martinez had to throw away two weeks of food for her child. Was it fair? For a mother, no.
Perhaps when terrorists cease to exist or when breastfeeding is accepted everywhere, working moms like Martinez will never have to endure the heartache of watching her breast milk being thrown away. Until then, always know your rights and the current rules when traveling.
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