Breastfeeding Mom Claims TSA 'Embarrassed' Her in 'Horrible' Experience

A breastfeeding mom says she was humiliated by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents while attempting to fly with ice packs for her milk at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California.

Emily Calandrelli, a science education television host, shared her story Tuesday in a Twitter thread that has amassed thousands of reactions.

"Yesterday was my 1st trip away from my 10wk old son, who I'm currently breastfeeding," Calandrelli explained. "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)."

The mom was planning to pump before her five-hour flight, she said, but was stopped by two male TSA agents. They said she could not bring the ice packs because they were not frozen solid.

The agents proceeded to berate Calandrelli, she said, telling her, "If you had milk on you, this wouldn't be a problem." They also asked multiple times, "Well WHERE is the baby?"

Calandrelli's requests to speak with a female agent were denied. "They escorted me out of line and forced me to check my cold packs, meaning I couldn't pump before my flight for fear it would spoil," she wrote.

But, as the mom pointed out, TSA rules specify that "medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy)." Regularly emptying her breasts and feeding her baby was medically necessary, she argued.

TSA at LAX
A breastfeeding mom says she was humiliated by TSA agents while attempting to fly with ice packs for her milk. Above, an image of TSA at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California, in 2018. MARK RALSTON / Contributor/AFP

"Yesterday I was humiliated that I had to explain to 3 grown men that my breasts still produce milk when I'm not with my child," Calandrelli said. "Yesterday I was embarrassed telling them about my fear of mastitis if I didn't pump. Today I'm furious."

Mastitis is a painful infection of the breast tissue that usually occurs in women who are breastfeeding. Lactation mastitis is estimated to affect around 10 percent of all breastfeeding mothers, although study results vary widely, with some estimating an incidence of up to 33 percent, Medical News Today reports. The condition usually results from a blocked milk duct.

Medical News Today recommends breastfeeding frequently to prevent mastitis from developing. If left untreated, the infection can lead to complications including abscesses—which require surgical draining—and septicemia or sepsis, which can be life-threatening.

Calandrelli's post ignited an impassioned response from other mothers who had been through similar experiences with TSA.

"I had a TSA worker at Midway tell me I couldn't breastfeed my 6 month old while waiting in the TSA line," said one reader. "We had been in line for more than 30m. I was told I would have to get out of line if I wanted to breastfeed, then get back in line at the end."

Another mom added, "I'm so sorry, Emily. I almost had to dump an entire week's worth of breast milk on a flight home because my ice pack wasn't frozen solid (I had access to a fridge but not freezer). The agent made me repeat the rule three times but let me take it on the plane. It was humiliating."

Newsweek reached out to TSA and Calandrelli for comment.