TSA Forces Breastfeeding Mom To Pump In Airport Bathroom: Do You Know The Rules?

And the crusade against breastfeeding mothers continues with this deliciously disgusting ditty out of Hawaii: an airport security officer forced a mother of four to pump breast milk in a crowded airport bathroom, saying it was the only way she would be allowed to bring her $200 breast pump onto the plane.

Amy Strand, an elementary school vice principal, thought she was doing something when she emptied out her liquid gold before boarding a plane home to Maui, Hawaii—her attempt to follow the no-liquids policy in American airports. But a Transportation Security Administration worker at Lihue Airport in Kauai told her she couldn’t board the plane with the empty bottles or the breast pump unless she proved to him that the empties were, indeed, for breast milk.

Strand told the Today show that she wasn’t about to leave the pricey machine behind, so she agreed to pump in a private room. But yeah—dude directed her to a crowded bathroom instead and told her to get busy. Mortified, Strand pumped right there at the bathroom sink, while a bunch of strangers peed, pooped, farted and did whatever else it is humans do in public bathrooms. “I had to stand at the sink in my heels and dress, pumping as travelers came and went,” she said. “I was humiliated and fighting back tears.”

The TSA let her board the plane once the bottles were filled, leaving Strand and a whole bunch of folks scratching their heads. “It really confuses me as to how an empty breast pump and cooler pack are a threat to national security and 20 minutes later, with milk, they no longer pose a threat to national security,” Strand told ABCNews.com.

The TSA came correct with a written apology that said, “We accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her.” TSA officials also said they’re sending the offending officer for remediation training and sending a memo to agents at the Lihue airport so that they can get up on the rules for moms with babies and bottles.

Of course, pumping in bathrooms and other unusual and public places is nothing new for breastfeeding mothers; American happens to be ass backwards when it comes to supporting mothers who choose breast milk over formula. Indeed, when I breastfed my daughters, I had to pump in my car—on the corner of 33rd and 10th in New York City. That’s because my then-employer, the New York Daily News, had a massive and gross smoking room for all the editors who needed to suck on their cancer sticks, but no dedicated room for nursing moms. Outside of the nasty ass bathroom stall, that is. But that was 12 years ago. I thought for sure that by now, anybody with as much as a pea-sized brain and the sense of a billy goat would know what a breast pump is and would accommodate moms who want nothing more than to do one simple, human act: feed their babies. I mean, didn’t Michelle Obama help pass some new government measures just last year designed to get everybody on board with breastfeeding in public and pumping on the job?

Why, then, are we still talking about this? Why are judges telling mothers they can’t breastfeed their babies in the courthouse hallways? Why are Target employees threatening breastfeeding mothers with indecency for feeding their kids in its store? Why are pastors humiliating breastfeeding mothers by telling them that feeding their hungry babies is the same as stripping in church? Why aren’t we amped that Beyonce, an African American woman married to a black man with a beautiful brown baby girl, is breastfeeding in public, setting a huge example for the myriad of young black women who have aren’t lucky enough to have a breastfeeding mom to lead them by example?

And why on Earth are there still TSA agents who think a breast pump and a couple bottles of breast milk are going to make airplanes rain from the sky?

Bottom line: Breastfeeding moms have to be up on the law and the rules so that when we get stopped at the store/church/courthouse/airport, we can get everyone else up to speed. Because good grief, they seem to change with every person, from store to store, space to space, depending on the shape of the moon and the exact time of the rising and setting of the sun. Ever. Changing. So how about we shut all this down by starting with TSA rules, shall we? To read Transportation Security Administration rules and information on traveling with breast milk, formula, juice and other baby food and liquids, click here. And maybe the next time you find yourself headed for the airport, you can print out a copy so that you can hand it to the TSA agent—maybe spare yourself the humiliation of having to pump your breast milk in a busy, nasty airport bathroom or, Heaven forbid, toss out your liquid gold so some bonehead who doesn’t know the rules can let you go on your way.

RELATED POSTS:

1. Dear Michele Bachmann: Shut Up About Black Moms and Breastfeeding
2. Nipples and Ninny: An African-American Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey
3. Beyonce Breastfeeds Blue Ivy: Can White Advocates Give Black Moms Our Breastfeeding Victory?
4. Birthing While Black: This African American Mom’s Experience Was Anything But VIP

 

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

6 Comments

  1. I think that if more women sued when incidents like this happen instead taking the half assed insincere apologies that get issued after the embarrassment and.ignorant behavior then we would see a lot more change. We all know that the only time these places take their customers and members seriously is when they start losing money.

  2. Barbara Soloski Albin

    Seems like we are moving backwards! 30 years ago, when breast feeding, there probably wasn’t a place I didn’t do it! I was always discreet, but as I’ve said before, airports, stores, restaurants, ferries, planes, trains and automobiles, Disneyland, Sea World, you name it! My child would not take a bottle! If it bothered people, I must have just ignored them, but today with all the restrictions, shame on those places of business, including the TSA, for making it difficult for a woman to b-feed. Of course Disneyland did having a nursing station and when I was close to it it used it. Many department stores use to have lounges where you could nurse. Time for the public to get over the shock of a mother nursing her child, the way you feed your child is your choice and if you are able to nurse, yea team, saves loads of money. No woman should ever be made to feel uncomfortable for doing what just comes natural.

  3. That poor woman! I’ve brought my pump and empty bottles through airport security more times than I’d like to count, and except for having it swabbed down for explosives every time (it has wires and a battery…it is NOT a bomb). Sometimes you need empties so you can pump on the plane, if its a long flight. I’ve also brought liquid milk and frozen milk, with ice packs through security, with no incident (when my babies are still on breastmilk 100%, there is no way in hell I’m throwing a drop away…once they turn over 1 yr, then I’m not as strict and will pump and dump to save myself the hassle of lugging a week’s worth of milk). I hope this TSA moron was fired. I just really feel for this mom. It is appalling the hoops breastfeeding moms have to jump to feed their babies AND be a member of society and not just stuck in the house 24/7.

  4. Research is key! Know your rights! Plus, employees need to be trained properly!

  5. Not being a butt because I completely agree with breastfeeding… but why would you toss out your liquid gold BEFORE someone told you that you had to…? I don’t care if I drank a half gallon on vodka and my milk was blue, I still wouldn’t toss it until someone told me I need to…

    I so understand about not buying another pump, but… she wasn’t forced to pump in the bathroom, she choose to pump. Me, I wouldn’t I would either force them to get me an area, to get me someone I can talk to or leave the piece and file a claim and make the TSA or airline buy me a replacement piece. Document the conversation, take photos, ask names, and have them write it down. If they won’t do it then you don’t have to do it…

    But that is all beyond the point, it does suck that she had to make such a decision in this day and age. Especially when hospitals are pretty much forcing breast feeding on mothers, and we can’t even get correct information at the security area in the airport…

    Thanks, Iiona

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