TSA X-Rayed My Breast Milk


I really don’t want to write about this. I really wanted my travel experience to go as smoothly as possible. I prepared myself, I set positive intentions, I read about my rights, I empowered myself with information.

Before I left on my trip, I had read the TSA guidelines for traveling with breast milk and other liquid exemptions (items that are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule). I had also read about Stacey Armato, the lawyer and breastfeeding mother who was detained and bullied by TSA and made to miss her flight when she refused to allow her pumped breast milk to be x-rayed. It was my understanding from what I had read that:

  • “When carrying formula, breast milk, or juice through the checkpoint, they will be inspected, however, you or your infant or toddler will not be asked to test or taste breast milk, formula, or juice. [TSOs] may test liquid exemptions (exempt items more than 3 ounces) for explosives.”
  • “Breast milk is in the same category as liquid medications”
  • “Frozen items are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 requirements.”
  • Breast Milk can be screened either through the x-ray machine “or by hand (the “alternate” screening for medication) which may consist of a visual inspection or a wipe of the container’s exterior that supposedly detects explosives.”

I brought frozen breast milk to the airport to take home with me after a week-long vacation, and ended up being forced to put my milk through the x-ray machine, or I wouldn’t have been allowed to pass through security. In the end, I was shaken and crying. I felt bullied and belittled. I felt violated and seriously wronged.

Here’s What Happened

On Tuesday, January 4, I went to the New Orleans (MSY) airport with my mother, brother, and sister to fly home to our various destinations. I had packed three bags of breastmilk, which were frozen solid, in a cooler bag with an ice pack on top. The bags totaled approximately 18.5 ounces of milk, and were fairly small in size. When I reached the checkpoint, I declared to the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) that I had breastmilk and I wanted it to be screened with the alternate screening process. I had already put my personal items (including my baby carrier), phone, and shoes, into bins, and I was carrying my 7-month-old son and the cooler bag containing the breastmilk.

The first TSO (a woman) told me that there is no alternate screening process for breastmilk.

Secret Protocol: Mr. Ruholl then admitted that there are unpublished regulations that can't be made public "for security reasons" that state what he said about the milk having to go through the x-ray.

I told her that breastmilk is classified as a “medical liquid” according to TSA and is therefore allowed to be alternatively screened (not put through the x-ray machine) if I requested. She said that wasn’t true, then called for her manager. I talked to him, repeating my request for the alternate screening, and he said that everything has to go through the x-ray machine. I told him that the TSA website says that breastmilk is in the same category as other medical liquids, and therefore does not have to be x-rayed. He said, “I’m sorry, but everything has to be x-rayed.”

I asked if there was anyone else I could speak to about it. This man (manager) told me that his manager would be a while because he was all the way over at the other end of the airport. He and the other TSOs directed me to wait in a chair in the middle of the security screening area. I could see my family waiting for me on the other side of the metal detector and full-body scanner. I sat down and held Daniel on my lap, without my shoes or other personal belongings, which had been placed on top of the x-ray machine at that point (as they had already gone through the screening process and were waiting for me to make it through).

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