After being away from our youngest son for three days, I had to pump in order to maintain my milk supply. I had never carried breast milk through an airport security checkpoint before, and was a little apprehensive that security would ask me to throw away my precious cargo.
I prepared myself for the worst. I couldn’t imagine them trashing my containers of breast milk out like heavy scented body lotion, perfume, or hairspray, let alone insulting me and putting them in the same category as those products. Tossing out breast milk would be like trashing platinum or gold!
I stood in line holding my bags of milk and a printout copy of TSA’s guidelines for "traveling with formula, breast milk and juice." One of my storage bags was black and the other bag stood out, a deep red color with bright fuchsia stripes. I have no idea where my sister, Malaika, got that bag.
I approached the first guard and handed her my ticket and ID. Automatically stating, “I’m carrying breast milk;" as I recalled that the guidelines suggest that you tell the guards you are armed with milk. The guard directed me to two other guards who were waiting to examine the liquid.
“Open the bags, Ma’am,” said two young, chubby men surrounding me with wands and New York accents. The shorter one quoted the TSA website, “You are encouraged to travel with only as much formula, breast milk, or juice in your carry-on needed to reach your destination.” I had milk for days, so I became even more nervous and prepared to defend my milk, in case my 5 oz didn’t clear through security.
One of the guards then stated, “Breast milk is good for 2 hours.” I said, “It’s actually good for 4 to 8 hours." “Really?” He replied. “Yes!” I said, smiling. The other guard was in full TSA mode waving his wand inside and along the sides of my bags. “You’re clear to go, Ma’am,” He said. My deodorant had kicked in and I sighed with relief. Thinking to myself, that this is way too much work to bring breast milk in the sky.
The following are some general breast milk storage guidelines from FamilyDoctor.org :
At room temperature (less than 77°F) for 4 to 8 hours
At the back of a refrigerator for 3 to 8 days
At the back of a freezer for up to 3 months
For more details on navigating the TSA screening process with your children, please read information on traveling with children . Nursing moms be prepared to defend your milk and good luck!
Sojourner Marable Grimmett has a BA in communications from Clark Atlanta University and an MA in media studies from Pennsylvania State University. She is a stay-at-work mom and her experience in higher education spans over 10 years working in student services and admissions. Sojourner previously worked at CNN, Georgia Public Television, and as an AmeriCorp member at Harvard University’s Martin Luther King Jr. after-school program. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Roland and two young sons, Roland Jay and Joshua Palmer. Visit her blog sojournermarablegrimmett.blogspot.com follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.