Adult Nursing Concerns: Air Travel

Mr. S, the children, and I are planning an out-of-state trip, and for the most part, this is an exciting adventure, but, even as the anticipation builds, I find myself facing a few very real nursing concerns.

Over the past year I have learned to balance everyday life with non-maternal lactation; it really isn’t how to discreetly nurse or express or being able to adhere to my schedule that worries me. My biggest concern arose when the Mister and I considered traveling by airplane. At this point in my lactation journey, and because of our impending week-long schedule, I will need to bring my breast pump with me

Unfortunately, over the past few years, there have been reports of breastfeeding mothers traveling without their children coming under harsh scrutiny by airport TSA agents. The most horrific was the case of the woman who was forced to expose her breast and hand express several drops of milk to “prove” that she was lactating and traveling with an electric breast pump was necessary. While these may be isolated cases, situations like this do happen, and I think it would be extremely difficult for me to explain why I had chosen to bring a breast pump along on a trip when it is obvious that my children are well beyond the breastfeeding stage of their lives.

I decided to phone my local airport to ask about electric breast pump procedures, and it was suggested that I review the official TSA guidelines. When doing so, I found information on the procedures of traveling with pre-expressed breast milk and cooling ice packs, but none of this really applied to my personal situation. The flight we were considering fell well within my regular nursing/pumping schedule, so I wouldn’t be pumping on-flight, nor would I be traveling with fresh or frozen breast milk. I wanted specific information on the pump itself, so I called the airport again. 

I was told that my breast pump could be treated as a carry-on item, and it was recommended that I disassemble the equipment, as well as any empty bottles, before reaching airport security checkpoint, and be prepared to undergo extensive screening. (Basically, TSA would be looking for potentially explosive materials.) I was also informed that I could be subject to higher security screening that could include x-rays or physical “pat downs”.

It seemed like an awful lot to endure for a simple three-hour flight, not to mention the fact that discretion would most certainly be out the window if any questions were to arise.

After a lot of consideration, we decided that flying would not be a good option for us. In some ways, this will make our trip a bit more inconvenient (such as an extra 11 hours of travel time that will include at least one expression session), but because I’m really not prepared to leave my pump behind, or disrupt a schedule that has taken a year to establish,  the bigger picture sets my mind much more at ease. My pump can be assembled and loaded conveniently, there will be no fear of prying eyes or embarrassing questions, and we’ll be sure that our private lifestyle choice remains as such.

If you’re planning to travel by airplane, and find it necessary to bring your pump along for the ride, it might be helpful to phone both your departure and arrival airports to learn more about specific procedures, which may vary from the guidelines I discussed above. It’s much better to be prepared! It will help you avoid unnecessary delays and discomfort, and ensure that your trip is off to a wonderful start! 😊


One comment

  • Thanks so much for this post as my wife and I will be travelling overseas soon and didn’t even fathom how difficult it could be. What an unbelievably awkward situation. I can to a degree understand why they do that but it seems overly excessive. I feel so sorry for the poor girl that had to endure that situation. It’s a very sad state of affairs. I think we have a lot of research and indepth working out to do yet. Great post! Thank you so much. 😊