mom looks distraught while pulling down face mask with airport security checkpoint in background
twitter | @TheSpaceGal

Mom Prevented From Breast Pumping After TSA Won't Let Her Ice Packs On Plane

One of the most stressful parts of flying is knowing that your ability to board your plane and thus reach your destination on time is dependent on the whims of whoever happens to be staffing the flight crew and security checkpoints that day.

While some people (and particularly women) have found themselves removed from a plane because someone didn't like what they were wearing, others have found that anything from how they're holding their children to the genetic conditions they have has threatened their voyages.

And those who would cluck at the passengers involved for not keeping abreast of the airline's policies may not understand that those rules can vary wildly in how staff members interpret them.

Furthermore, one mom recently discovered that travelers have little recourse if the TSA agents they deal with are ignorant of both those policies and of human biology.

On May 9, television host Emily Calandrelli took her first flight away from her 10-week old son since he was born.

mom kisses baby's head after 10-week maternity leave in TikTok video
Wikimedia Commons | @TheSpaceGal

And as she told Insider, she tends to pump her breast milk every four or five hours and had planned to do so before boarding this flight.

This requires the use of ice packs to keep her milk from spoiling and while she's found that agents from the Transportation Security Administration tended to hassle her over these packs, they usually let it go once they understood what they were for.

However, that wasn't the case this time as those packs didn't meet two TSA agents' definition of "frozen solid."

mannequin demonstrating breast milk pumping machine at museum
Wikimedia Commons | Science History Institute, Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This referred to the administration's policy that allows gel packs as long as they're frozen solid, while melted or slushy ones are subject to more stringent liquid rules.

However, that policy also states that ice packs used for medically necessary reasons are supposed to be allowed regardless of how solid they are.

And since breasts that are overburdened with milk can engorge and harden to the point that they develop a risk for a serious bacterial infection known as mastitis, Calandrelli's ice packs seemed to fit that bill for her.

However, neither agent seemed to appreciate this nuance to breastfeeding, nor did they honor her request to speak to a female TSA agent who she'd hoped would understand her situation.

mom looks distraught while pulling down face mask with airport security checkpoint in background
twitter | @TheSpaceGal

As Calandrelli recounted in a tweet, they instead summoned a male supervisor who kept asking where her baby was and said the ice packs would've been accepted if she showed up to the checkpoint with the breast milk already pumped.

But of course, proximity to one's infant has no effect on the regularity that a breastfeeding mother needs to pump breast milk.

As Calandrelli put it, "I felt humiliated because I'm trying to explain to these grown men how my boobs work."

Ultimately, Calandrelli had to check her ice packs, which meant she had to go the whole flight without pumping.

jars of breast milk attached to pumping device with books in background
Wikimedia Commons | ParentingPatch

That's because she couldn't do it outside of the airplane bathroom without the right electrical outlet and doing it inside the bathroom would tie it up for about half an hour.

As a result, she felt a painful pressure building up in her breasts, which also made her sweaty and nauseated.

In her words, "I'm trying to be a working mom and feed my kid and also not have an infection while I do it."

In response to the public outrage from her story, a representative from the TSA told Insider they will "look into all circumstances involving this situation and address it appropriately."

h/t: Insider