Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms: Part 1

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms

As I mentioned in Baby President's 8-9 month update, we experienced our first time (x 4) traveling on a plane with an infant.  That also meant that my pump was coming along for the trip.  I wanted to be thoroughly prepared, so I did quite a lot of research online for travel info, TSA requirements, tips, tricks, everything!

This is the beginning of a 3 part series on air travel tips for pumping moms.

My research uncovered some shocking incidents and some comforting news as well.  I was a bit worried that I would be harassed by TSA agents after reading about a pumping mom who wasn't allowed to take her breast pump through security because the milk bottles were empty.  What?!?  So that she could take it with her, she was then forced to pump in a public restroom.  Not in a restroom stall, but by a counter were the only outlet was.

But honestly, I had absolutely no trouble with security.  None at all.  The TSA agents at both the Omaha airport and the Philadelphia airport were very polite and respectful.

Air Travel Tips for Pumping Moms

Part 1: Carrying Breast Milk on the Airplane

1. Breast Milk Storage

Breast milk is an exception to TSA's 3-1-1 rule.  In other words, you can take breastmilk on the plane in the normal 5 ounce pumping bottles OR your baby's bottle if baby is traveling with you.  I carried full pumping bottles, full baby bottles, and empty pumping bottles in the pump bag for convenience.

Check out the TSA's policy on breast milk HERE.  (Note: You can also carry-on formula in containers larger than 3 ounces.)

2. Breast Milk Screening 

At the security area, you will need to declare the breast milk to an agent.  The agent will ask you to remove any containers with breast milk.  You can either allow the milk to go through the x-ray machine like your shoes, laptop, and carry-on


You can request an alternative screening that does not submit the milk to radiation.  I chose the alternative screening process, which was pretty painless, but took an extra minute or two.

One thing to note about the screening: the TSA agents can swab the outside of the full bottles and/or use a different machine (not an x-ray) to check the bottles, but they cannot, let me repeat, they cannot ask you to open the bottles filled with milk or open the bottles themselves.  

3. The Breast Pump

When you take the breast pump through security at the airport, you may be asked to remove it from a suitcase or other carry-on if needed.  (I removed it at one airport and left it in the carry-on suitcase at the other airport.)  It can be sent through the x-ray machine with the rest of your carry-on and personal items.  Breast milk is the only thing that I would be concerned with avoiding the x-ray machine; there's no need to expose the milk to the waves of radiation.  

In some online forums, moms suggested that a breast pump can be carried on as a medical device or medical equipment separate from other carry-on items.  This means that you could carry on your personal bag (purse), your carry-on (suitcase or duffle), AND a breast pump.  I could not find anything on the airlines' or TSA websites to confirm this, so you would want to contact your airline to confirm their policy.

4. One More Thing

I would highly recommend printing the TSA policy on breast milk and taking it with you, just in case.  I took printouts of the breast milk policy as well as all of the policies related to babies and children; I never had to reference them or show them to TSA agents, but I felt more comfortable knowing that I could produce them if necessary.

For more tips and a fantastic checklist for traveling with a breast pump, check out this article at Lactation Matters.

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