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TSA Violates the Rights of a Breastfeeding Mom… Again

By Danielle |

TSA at it again!

In the past couple years with increased screening measures we have heard some doozies when it comes to TSA searching citizens.

Kids, babies, mothers… and this time it was one unlucky breastfeeding mother who just happened to be traveling with her breast pump.

When I read the story I sat in shock and horror — did this really actually happen to someone?  It seemed so unbelievable and unreal!

A woman traveling through the Lihue airport in Hawaii met her TSA match.

The local news affiliate reports:

She claims agents told her she couldn’t take the pump on the plane because the bottles in her carry-on were empty.

“I asked him if there was a private place I could pump and he said no, you can go in the women’s bathroom. I had to stand in front of the mirrors and the sinks and pump my breast in front of every tourist that walked into that bathroom. I was embarrassed and humiliated and then angry that I was treated this way.


Once the woman had filled the bottles she was allowed onto the plane. WHAT?!  Now I know I may sound a little extreme, but that is nothing short of sexual harassment and assault.

Why on earth would they force a woman to pump in public — especially in a BUSY airport?

I can’t even imagine how she felt! I know I would have been embarrassed beyond belief!

The TSA is apologizing, saying the agent made a mistake.

The agency released a statement, saying in part: “We accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her.”

I am sure the public apology to save face really means a lot to her after being forced to expose her breasts and pump in front of an airport bathroom full of strangers!

Another huge TSA fail!

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Read more on Baby’s First Year from Danielle:

9 Things All New Moms Should Do For Themselves
Nursing Addison is like Wrestling an Alligator

9 Things I Hate About Addie’s Helmet

photo credit: flickr

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About Danielle



Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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30 thoughts on “TSA Violates the Rights of a Breastfeeding Mom… Again

  1. sunnie says:

    They apologized…what do you think they should do…kill the idiot who insisted she pump. Get real. Accept the apology and get with life on. As for exposing herself etc., so what…she will never see these people again. Tine to grow a set and move on.

  2. Bridget says:

    I would be mortfied. Weather I would see those people again or not, it doesn’t mean I want them to see my breasts. An apology is fine, but the TSA should take step to provide breast feeding mothers a safe and private place to pump

  3. Emilie M says:

    Yes they apologized, but they ALWAYS seem to apologize. How many whoopsie moments where a woman’s rights are trampled on do they need to go through before seriously sitting their staff down and making sure they know how to correctly work with breastfeeding mothers? Sunnie – Have you ever been shamed over something so deeply integral to who you are? Do you know that being forced into that level of anxiety can actually affect a woman’s milk supply? Danielle hit the nail on the head by labelling this sexual harassment. This is making someone feel uncomfortable for a function that is a biological necessity of their sex. Until society gets that, I don’t see a lot of change though.

  4. Megan says:

    I’m a breast feeding mother myself and stories like these make me so irritated. how trivial to make a federal case over an incident like this. having children can and will be an inconvenience at one point or another. this whole notion that we NEED places to pump now? good god, get a manual pump, sit down in a bathroom stall and do your business. she should have thought ahead, she didn’t, so now she knows for next time she chooses to fly. nobody is perfect, including the tsa officer, and expecting perfection from a government entity is lofty as is.

  5. Bridget says:

    Megan, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard this, but if I won’t make my lunch in a public bathroom why should I make my daughters there?

  6. Abbey says:

    I’m not sure I’m understanding. They just wanted the bottles to have something in them? Why did it have to be breastmilk? Clearly the mom didn’t feel the need to have the bottles filled with milk before the flight so why did she not just fill them with water in the bathroom? Then she wouldn’t have had to expose herself. Or I guess she could have gone into a stall. Obviously these things go overboard with the TSA, but there are tons of inconveniences when it comes to making sure flights are safe. Did the agent say breastmilk had to be in the bottles?

  7. sunnie says:

    @Bridget ” TSA should take step to provide breast feeding mothers a safe and private place to pump” I agree with this..having to do it in the restroom was gross, but only because her child would be getting the milk. I would have pumped and dumped. That milk would have been gone as soon as I got on the plane.

  8. Megan says:

    sort of a hazard of the trade I guess Bridget. I’m not saying that situation was optimal by any means. I’m saying as moms we are getting rather entitled. breast feeding is a completely different entity than pumping. you choose to pump, you don’t choose to breast feed. and if you choose to pump you shouldn’t be outraged by the inconveniences it has the potential to bring. I’m not down on that mom for being pissed, It’s disappointing that it’s being blown out of proportion. I agree with sunnie in saying they apologized, what more do you want?

  9. kristin says:

    I agree with Megan totally. I’m a pumping mom and sometimes there aren’t places to pump, so you go into the stall, hang your bag on the back of the door and pump. Dump if it grosses you out. However, I’ve had run-ins with TSA, as well, that have left my blood pressure threw the roof, so this story aggravates me. We just have to be prepared with all the printed out proof of TSA’s guidelines and use those as our protection!

  10. Bridget says:

    Moms have the hardest job on the planet. We are entitled to certian rights and considerations. Why am I feeling entitled because I want a clean place to pump. The TSA has rooms where they can search people, why can’t they also use that for pumping? I understand that its not always possible to find a place to pump, but in an airport the size of Lihue there has to be a better place than the bathroom.

  11. Lisa says:

    This is obviously not cool on TSA’s part; they should have better training for many, many things that they scan for. But, why did she not go into a stall to do it? Sure, one could argue that she shouldn’t HAVE to go into a stall, but if I needed to pump and felt mortified to do it in front of others, why would i do it in front of others? Why do it in the bathroom at all if you are just going to stand in front of the door for every woman to see? That makes no sense. I also don’t like these stories because they cause anxiety for travelers. I understand that we must combat problems like these, but I have flown many many times and NEVER had a problem. We must stress that the vast majority of people who fly don’t have a problem, so please don’t get your stress levels up if you are getting ready to fly.

    Additionally… at least 30 people died yesterday from tornadoes in the USA and dozens are dying every day in Syria…. and yet this story fills you with shock and horror????? LOL

  12. brianna says:

    I think there’s danger in labeling this “sexual harassment.” Breastfeeding moms have to defend themselves against people who don’t think it’s appropriate to nurse in public due to its “sexual” nature. If you call this incident “sexual harassment,” you’re fueling that fire.

    The rule about empty containers is ridiculous. I flew with a carton of pre-loaded Lovenox syringes, but TSA was conserned about my empty Nalgene water bottle. The Lovenox injections could have been deadly, but not as bad as a water bottle!

    I’m sure this woman had some other option – locking the bathroom door for 10 minutes, moving to an office or some other room. If nothing else, I’m sure there’s a family restroom somewhere in th building… let it serve as education for the rest of us!

  13. cheylene says:

    This is quite shocking to me, I live in Hawaii and haven’t had any problems when it comes to my child, milk, empty bottles or anything else. I have brougth empty bottles on the plane many times especially when i was using formula. She should file a complaint.

  14. WildernessBarbie says:

    Umm… so who exactly was holding a gun to this woman’s head and forcing her to expose her breasts to strangers? Has she never heard of a hooter hider or a blanket for crying out loud? I’ve pumped at work while talking to male coworkers, you get all set up in private, and cover things up and relax. Even at a very busy airport there is always a deserted corner of a restaurant or family restroom. I’m just not buying it. I’ve traveled with a breast pump, and always an empty water bottle with zero problems. Also, TSA did not mess up, a single employee of TSA made a mistake. It’s not like it was company policy. Good job blowing this completely out of proportion, again, Babble.

  15. sunnie says:

    @brianna I agree totally…breastfeeding moms CANNOT have it both ways. It was not borderline sexual harassment. Danielle…how exactly did it border on sexual harassment? Was she forced to strip down and pump in front of the TSA? Babble really needs to check their facts and the ability of their bloggers before they let something be posted.

  16. Abby says:

    I’m a breastfeeding mother but I think this article is stupid. Some women have no problem exposing their breast in public so they can feed the baby and get upset when they can’t so how is pumping to feed the baby any different? I agree, go in a stall, find a family restroom or use your “hooter hider”. Move on.

  17. hayley stevens says:

    Dumb…. This doesn’t even make sense…. An empty bottle is an empty bottle…. She might not have had a nursing cover since it mentions nothing about her baby being with her and that would also make sense as to why the bottles were empty. But this is half assed story seems to be missing something.

  18. Marta says:

    One time when I was traveling without my child, I had to pump in the bathroom because there was no private room in the airport to do so. I had a cover but still got weird looks. Embarrassing, but I was still proud I choose to breast feed…

  19. Shauna says:

    I’m confused. I thought the rule was no more then 100ml of liquid? Why were EMPTY bottles an issue?
    I travelled with my 2 & 5 yr old and brought empty sippy cups to fill with milk from the coffee shop once we crossed security. I also had to throw my pop away?
    I’ve read stories where the mom had to drink the contents of her bottle to prove it was safe.
    What harm is there with empty bottles?
    If it was an electronic pump she should have just had to plug it in & show it works, like a phone, computer, iPod ect.
    This seems odd.

  20. Jen says:

    It was not assault either! Of course some people just have to make things overly dramatic for attention.

  21. Juju @ Tales of says:

    I don’t get it. Don’t they drill into our heads that they want no fluids. Wouldn’t empty be better? Jerks!

  22. Anna says:

    TSA and homeland security are useless governmental minutia that is simply “eye wash” for the public arena. As a breast feeding mom I have been harassed by the law enforcement wannabe’s one to many times. I was actually told at one point I couldn’t bring my pumped milk through security because I did not have a baby with me!!! Well Miss Mensa, If the baby was WITH me I would not have needed to pump.

  23. JQ says:

    This is just another example of how people go unprepared to the airport. Sure, it’s sad that this woman felt that she was forced to pump in the public area of the restroom instead of a stall. But if you check the guidelines ahead of time (even printing them out ahead of time – I always do) then you know what your rights are an your can assert them. I think it’s extreme to start insisting that public places start providing private areas for pumping. I’ve gone to a concert when my milk supply was still balancing out and took my pump with me just in case. I pumped in the car while my sister was driving. I pumped in a public restroom with a cute little girl with her mom in the next stall who kept insisting “Mom, WHAT is that noise?” to which she responded “Mind your own business.” When I was still working I pumped in my car, in a shower stall in the on-site gym, in a bathroom stall, finally in an empty office, and then in the HR workroom (with the door locked). Sure, it would be nice if every place had a private room created specifically for pumping, but it just not going to happen I don’t really even feel like I care. I heard that the Pentagon has a special room with private stations that even include a hospital grade pump for you to hook up your own tubing, shields, and bottles – that is awesome. Anyway, parenting and breastfeeding/pumping requires forethought. I’m not saying I stay ahead of the game all the time but I think all the hate because (big surprise) an employee doesn’t know how to to do their job is extreme.

    I’ve traveled ofter since becoming a mother and breastfeeding and I’ve never had a problem bringing bottles, bottles/cups with breastmilk or regular milk, or sippy cups with drinks for my daughter on board. I’ve never had a bigger problem than them saying that technically since she is over 24 months I’m not allowed to bring a cup with liquid (which is bunk) – but they just did that fume test and let me go.

    1. Danielle625 says:

      @JQ – TSA admitted the agent was wrong and there was no need for the bottles (to pump into) to be filled. It is not about being unprepared, it is about TSA needing to know their OWN rules.

  24. Merrill says:

    I can’t believe people on here are siding with TSA. Do you want your food prepared in a bathroom? I don’t so I’m not preparing my baby’s food in one. The woman deserved an apology and the TSA should train their employees better. Because a couple empty baby bottles could be used by a terrorist. Yeah right. As a mother traveling I would have no idea not to bring empty baby bottles. It’s not a matter of being prepared, it’s a matter of better training for TSA employees.

  25. JQ says:

    @Danielle625 “But if you check the guidelines ahead of time (even printing them out ahead of time – I always do) then you know what your rights are and your can assert them.”

    My point is that if YOU know what your rights are (being prepared) then you can assert them and you don’t have to go through all the trouble. Stop expecting airport employees to know how to do their job (as in be well versed in every single policy and guideline) – it’s never going to happen across the board. Know what the guidelines that apply to you say (print them out and bring them with you) then you can confidently suggest they may just be unaware of the policies regarding the specific issue… etc.

    (Nothing to do with TSA) but I routinely have to outline the baggage allowance policy to airline employees as it applies to traveling with children and lap infants so that I’m not charged extra fees or hassled about my carry-on baggage.

  26. JQ says:

    I’m also not siding with TSA. I’m just irritated when things like this get over-dramatized, making a real issue (rights for breastfeeding moms) into a fanatical issue. Drama like this is what turns people who want more understanding, education, and support for breastfeeding mothers into people that are called names like “lactavists” and lumped into a group with other perceived fanatics.

  27. Jennifer says:

    I’m bothered by the story because everyone- both the mom, and the TSA agents- showed such a lack of understanding and ignorance. All the woman would have needed to do is ask for a manager and this would have been straightened out with no problems. I’ve flown dozens of times with a breast pump and empty bottles (because I nursed two kids and travel quite a bit for work) and rarely run into any issues. The bottles are empty both on the way there, and on the way back, because I freeze the milk in baggies. There was one time when a (probably rookie) TSA agent at a smaller airport looked at the pump with a weird look, and I loudly said, “It is a breast pump, which is a medical device” and every single other TSA agent immediately told the guy that it was fine. No harm done. As for the TSA agent in Hawaii here in this article- they are clearly a dummy that paid no attention in training. Of course some people are total idiots. That’s why you ask for a manager when an employee is clearly incompetent to you. Traveling with a breast pump is no different than traveling with a CPAP machine, which is another medical device with an internal pump. The TSA does, and should, treat them the same.

  28. Sanitary Mom says:

    To those of you who think she should “get over it” or see nothing wrong with this post, or believe its “sanitary” to make your child’s lunch in a filthy dirty public bathroom used by thousands each day, with urine and fecal particles floating around…..I’m sorry your mother didn’t breastfeed you as a child, therefore you have grown into a partial idiot. Try to be smarter moms.

  29. Mommaof2boys says:

    when my son was almost 2 i had a HORRIBLE time in an airport, not only did i have to change his diaper on my lap in a bathroom stall because the changing table provided in the bathroom was FILTHY so filthy the little changing pad that comes in a diaperbag was not enough for me to feel comfortable putting him on it, but they asked me to throw away my sons bottle because it had about an oz of water left in it. i asked if could dump it and keep the bottle, they said no. normally not a big deal, but i brought one bottle with me because i brought as little as possible on the plane to have less to worry about, plus i had a 4 hour layover before my next flight AFTER this one which was 2 hours, and then after my layover was another 2 hour flight. so i had to go throught 4 hours of flying and a 4 hour layover with a very unhappy bottle attached child, because of an oz of WATER. ridiculous.

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