The TSA derailed a mother’s breastfeeding plan. Parents everywhere sympathized.

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correction

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the TSA had updated language on its website regarding breast milk cooling devices. The guide has not been updated. Instead, a statement about the incident on their website has been updated.

The Transportation Security Administration said Friday that a recent screening of a nursing mother “did not meet our standards.”

The agency also said it apologized to Emily Calandrelli in the days following a viral tweet about her security check at Los Angeles International Airport.

Calandrelli, host of Netflix’s “Emily’s Wonder Lab,” was traveling on Monday when a TSA agent reported ice packs in her carry-on. Away from her 10-week-old son for the first time, the mother-of-two had packed a breast pump and two gel ice packs ahead of a two-day work trip, and hoped to pump one last time before setting off for a CC theft

Because one was half-frozen and the other at room temperature, the officer said they violated his rule on liquids. He told Calandrelli she should either throw the bags away or check them in her luggage.

“I remember having this problem with my first child a few years ago,” Calandrelli told The Washington Post. “But that was the very first time they wouldn’t let me through.”

The TSA has exemptions for its liquid rule for people traveling with breast milk, formula, or paraphernalia that help them stay cold. Partially frozen or muddy packs may also be allowed, but may require additional screening, which contradicts what Calandrelli says he was told.

The agency has a separate rule on “medically necessary gel ice packs,” which are allowed regardless of their frozen state. However, it was unclear whether breast milk paraphernalia was considered medically necessary and allowed in any state as well.

Calandrelli finally agreed to check her ice packs and decided to risk the long wait and pump once she landed at Dulles International Airport.

“As I was leaving the manager said, ‘And don’t try to sneak in a second time because it will just happen again,'” Calandrelli said. “It just wasn’t a fun way to be treated.”

TSA spokesman R. Carter Langston said in an email Friday that the agency reviewed Calandrelli’s case on Tuesday and apologized to him on Wednesday.

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“The selection process she received unfortunately did not meet our standards,” Langston said. “We will continue to work with advocacy organizations and communities to improve our testing protocols. In addition, we will be redoubling our training to ensure that our selection procedures are applied consistently. »

After the TSA incident, Calandrelli took to Twitter to share his experience. After checking his bag at the United Airlines counter, “I ran to the bathroom and sat on the toilet and cried for about 8 minutes,” she said. Then she started reading the replies to her messages. Hundreds of responses showed she was not alone in her struggle as a nursing mother to navigate confusing and sometimes inconsistent safety rules. Calandrelli said it was empowering to know she wasn’t alone.

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“We all mourn individually in bathrooms, not realizing that so many of us are having this shared experience,” Calandrelli said.

Jordan BentonCEO of production company Oracle Media and mother of two, was one of the people who tweeted his support for Calandreli.

“The last time I traveled with a bag of breast milk I knew it would be okay, I had done that before,” Benston said. “But the guy who worked for the TSA said, ‘Wait a minute, let me make sure you can even take it with you. ”

Benston says the officer brought in a supervisor who let her bring in the unfrozen milk. She said it was more difficult when she packaged milk that was not completely frozen. “They literally open every bag of your breast milk to test it and make sure it’s actually breast milk,” she said.

Depending on their baby’s age, a breastfeeding parent should generally express milk every two to four hours if they can’t breastfeed directly, said Jennifer Horne, lactation consultant at the Lactation Network, which connects families with breastfeeding consultants and products. Given how long a plane trip can take – from the trip to and from the airport to going through security and on to the flight – someone without their baby will probably have to pump at least once, he said. she declared.

“Our bodies are made to express milk regularly,” she said. “There are definitely problems they can run into if they don’t.”

Without being able to pump, the parent may experience pain and discomfort; the breasts can become engorged, which can lead to obstruction of the milk ducts. Ultimately, Horne said, it can lead to mastitis, a breast infection that, if left untreated, it can lead to a breast abscess, which may require hospitalization.

Horne said she worked out plans with breastfeeding parents who needed to travel, a task that typically requires confirming TSA rules and finding places where pumping can be done comfortably. Horne said she recommends parents bring a bag of frozen peas instead of regular ice packs because they’re not liquid.

Calandrelli’s experience sheds light on the challenges breastfeeding parents can face, including finding a place to pump. Legislation passed in recent years ensures that more than 140 US airports provide clean, private spaces for breastfeeding or pumping. Small airports are not required to start offering these areas until this fall.

With more people traveling again, some parents may be traveling as they breastfeed for the first time, and TSA agents may meet more of those parents now, said Sascha Mayer, co-founder and CEO of Mamava, who manufactures lactation pods. This could lead to a steep learning curve for everyone.

Mamava publishes a guide called “Fly Fearlessly With Breast Milk” to help travelers understand their TSA rights.

Mayer said a parent who breastfeeds and works outside the home basically has three jobs: “You have your job, you have your home job, and you have your breastfeeding job. … Doing that while traveling is just exponentially more complicated and difficult.”

Since Calandrelli’s posts went viral, she hopes to work with lawmakers to influence TSA policy. “I want President Biden to direct Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Department of Homeland Security to stop the TSA from discriminating against traveling moms,” she wrote in a follow-up email.

She would like the TSA to “classify and clearly state on its website that breast milk, formula, and related breast pumping equipment is considered ‘medically necessary,'” as well as improve training and work with non-profit groups to improve breast milk and formula testing. .