After Nursing Mom Calls Out TSA, A New Bill Addresses The Handling Of Breast Milk At Airports

2022-11-09 16:50:04 By : Mr. meituo zhi

Emily Calandrelli was told by TSA that she had to check her cold packs she brought to chill breast ... [+] milk.

In 2016, the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES) Act was signed into law, making it easier for those traveling with breast milk and related accessories to get through TSA checkpoints at airports. Six years later, according to some reports, TSA agents still force some parents to dump breast milk and ditch cold packs before they can board planes. This treatment occurs despite TSA rules that indicate these items are permitted on flights.

After her own challenging encounter with TSA agents in May, Emily Calandrelli, host of Netflix's "Emily's Wonder Lab," has been working with Congress to address this issue which disproportionately impacts new mothers. Now, a new bill has been introduced to update the 2016 BABES Act. The legislation is aimed at ensuring that breast milk, formula and accessories are allowed on planes and treated hygienically.

Work on the current bill began after a tweet about Calandrelli's run-in with TSA went viral. When Calandrelli took a business trip from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in May, it was the first time she was away from her 10-week-old son. Knowing how important it was to express breast milk every four to six hours, she was planning to pump just before takeoff of the five-hour flight. "If I don't pump on a regular basis, my breasts can get really uncomfortable, and they feel engorged. I can get clogged ducts," she explained. Failure to express milk regularly can also lead to a breast infection called mastitis. She was generally short on breast milk supply, so, after pumping, she needed to save the milk to replenish what would be consumed by her son while she was gone. She brought a frozen gel pack to keep the breast milk cold during the flight.

But traveling to the airport from her home, the frozen pack became soft. Because it wasn't fully frozen, the TSA agents told her she couldn't carry it on the plane and needed to check it or leave it behind. She asked to speak with a supervisor. “The supervisor asked me where my kid was. And I say, at home, I'm traveling for work. And he said, 'If you had a baby with you, this wouldn't be an issue,” she describes.

“Yesterday I was humiliated that I had to explain to three grown men that my breasts still produce milk when I’m not with my child. Yesterday I was embarrassed telling them about my fear of mastitis if I didn’t pump. Today, I’m furious,” Calandrelli described in a tweet after her experience. Ultimately, TSA told Calandrelli that she could either throw the ice packs out or check them, but she could not carry them on the plane. She would not be able to pump before the flight and save the milk as planned.

After tweeting about her experience, Calandrelli says she heard from thousands of women who also had trouble gaining TSA clearance for breast milk and accessories. "I've received thousands of messages from other moms who experienced the same thing. This isn't just an isolated incident. This isn't just me. This isn't just LAX. It's happening at large airports and small airports," she explained.

Among the reports, she heard stories from parents who had to dump breast milk because it exceeded three ounces. Although most liquids carried on planes must be less than three ounces, TSA regulations make an exception for breast milk. According to those who reached out to Calandrelli, all TSA agents are not aware of this exception, and some agents still require parents to dump milk over three ounces.

TSA apologized to Calandrelli and, in a press release, clarified, "Officers are trained to screen oversized liquids such as breast milk, formula and other medically necessary liquids for explosives. Ice packs, freezer packs, gel ice packs, and other accessories required to cool breast milk are allowed in a carry-on when presented for screening." TSA promised to "re-double our training to ensure our screening procedures are being consistently applied."

In order to ensure the proper treatment of breast milk and related items on flights, this week, Congresswoman Katie Porter introduced the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES) Enhancement Act, co-sponsored by Maria Salazar and Eric Swalwell. Senators Tammy Duckworth, Mazie Hirono and Steve Daines are expected to introduce an identical bill in the Senate.

The bill would require the TSA to focus on hygienically treating the bottles and accessories and get the word out to all agents about the rules surrounding these liquids. Specifically, the bill says that TSA would be required to work with leading maternal health groups to obtain "guidance to minimize the risk for contamination of any breast milk, baby formula, purified deionized water for infants, and juice (as well as ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool breast milk, baby formula, and juice)." In addition, the legislation calls for an audit to ensure that the guidance relating to handling these items is followed. Naturally, these items will still be screened to protect the safety of all passengers.

"Too often, I hear stories of new moms being mistreated and denied access to their breast milk and the breastfeeding equipment that they need to pump and feed their babies," Senator Duckworth said in a press release about the bill. "To make things worse, many of these incidents with TSA employees are flat-out inconsistent with the screening policies that TSA already has in place, and it has to stop. That's why I'm proud to introduce this legislation alongside Congresswoman Porter to make sure that TSA does all it can to keep its employees up to speed on their own policies and update these policies accordingly. It's the least we can do to better ensure all new parents are provided with the respect and dignity they deserve while traveling."

Calandrelli points out that allowing parents to travel with these items is essential for parents' mental health and also preserves their ability to pursue careers while parenting. She urges everyone passionate about this issue to contact their representative and senators to tell them to support the BABES Enhancement Act. The bill currently has bipartisan support and will soon be headed to House Committee on Homeland Security.

In the meantime, for parents traveling with breast milk, formula or related accessories, Calandrelli recommends loading the TSA guidelines on their phone, just in case the TSA agent isn't familiar with the protocol.