Flying While Breastfeeding? This Is What You’re Allowed and Not Allowed to Bring

One mom is sharing her story so that all parents know the tricky TSA rules.

By: Amanda Mushro

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Photo by: Jamie Grill

Jamie Grill

Traveling while being a nursing mom is stressful, and unfortunately not all travel experiences go as planned. Emily Calandrelli, a mom of two and the star of Netflix kid's show Emily's Wonder Lab, recently shared how she was "humiliated" by two male TSA agents. While going through security before catching a flight, she was told she wasn't allowed to bring ice packs onto the plane. Calandrelli says those ice packs were the only way to keep her breastmilk cold until she got home to feed her infant the milk.

Even after asking for a female TSA agent, she was instructed to throw the ice packs away or get out of line and check the ice packs. This means she wouldn’t be able to properly keep her milk cold after pumping at the airport.

"Here’s what happened," she wrote. "Today was my 1st trip away from my 10wk old son, who I'm currently breastfeeding. I'm going through security at LAX. I brought my pump and 2 ice packs - only 1 of which was cold (I won’t need the other until I come home, when I'll have more milk)."

She took to social media to share her story, and very quickly, other moms began telling similar stories of flying while breastfeeding. It became apparent that the rules for what you are and are not allowed to bring through TSA security and on a plane are not clear to everyone — moms who are nursing as well as TSA employees.

"TSA rules specifically state that you are allowed to have gel ice packs (regardless if they are fully frozen!!) for medically necessary purposes," she says. "And emptying my breasts on a regular schedule and providing food for my child IS medically necessary (and especially important with the current formula shortage!)"

Calandrelli wrote that the TSA agent asked multiple times "where is the baby?" suggesting "if my child was with me, it wouldn’t be an issue." Ultimately, she was escorted out line and checked her ice packs, which prompted her to share her story so other moms knew they have rights when it comes to breastmilk, formula, pumping equipment, and ice packs.

After reviewing her case, TSA publicly apologized to Calandrelli saying, "The screening process she received unfortunately did not meet our standards," and that TSA employees would step up their training to ensure screening procedures are being consistently applied.

It’s a good reminder that if you’re nursing and getting ready to fly, it’s important to know your rights.

According to the TSA website, "Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag."

While you may be asked to remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened, they are permitted. Plus, you do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk.

Breast milk and formula are considered medically necessary liquids, and all breast milk pumping equipment – regardless of the presence of breast milk are permitted.

When it comes to storage, ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice — regardless of the presence of breast milk — are allowed. No matter the state of these packs, frozen or slushy, they are permitted. Gel or liquid-filled teethers, as well as canned, jarred, and processed baby food in carry-on baggage are also allowed.

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