A nursing mother was reportedly made to throw away nearly 4 gallons of breast milk by security personnel at London's Heathrow Airport.
Jessica Coakley Martinez, a working mother who must travel for her job, wrote on Facebook that she was forced to “dump nearly 500oz of breast milk in the trash” -- nearly 4 gallons -- at Heathrow Airport because it did not meet the airport's liquids rule.
It was enough breast milk to feed her 8-month-old son for two weeks.
Martinez had been pumping and saving her breast milk while traveling alone for work to bring it home to her son.
“I resolved to pump at every possible moment between my meetings, presentations, business lunches and dinners, taxis, flights, and long waits in airports. This meant pumping while sitting on toilets in public restrooms; stuffed in an airplane bathroom; in unsecured conference rooms, showers, and closets because certain office spaces didn’t have a place for a nursing mother – and then dealing with the humiliation when a custodial employee accidentally walked in on me,” she wrote.
She even had to explain her nursing schedule to coworkers and her supervisor so she could “sneak away” to pump.
It was a “discomfort I had to learn how to swallow if I was to supply my son with breast milk,” Martinez wrote.
To preserve the milk, she would ask hotels to store insulated bags of it in their restaurant’s freezer.
She was “lugging this giant block of frozen breast milk through four countries, airports and security checkpoints and having them pull out every single ounce of breast milk and use mildly inappropriate sign language to convey 'breast' and 'milk' so that they would let” her through security.
Every airport let her through, except Heathrow.
According to Heathrow Airport's website, breast milk is only permitted on a flight if the mother is traveling with a baby or infant. The airport asks that passengers only carry what they need for their trip.
If the mother is not with her child, the airport says that the excess liquid should be “carried as hold luggage.”
Martinez acknowledges that she was not aware of the airport's breast milk rule, but she finds it to be “incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all working mothers" like herself who must spend time away from their baby, but intend to breast-feed them.
She offered to check the frozen milk but her request was denied because she had “crossed the border” and could only check her bag if she exited and re-entered the airport. She was willing to do that, but security personnel allegedly would not give her the milk back because it was now a “noncompliant item” and had to be confiscated.
“It was as if you were almost proud to deny me at every possible point of compromise. Despite my begging, pleading and even crying out of sheer shock and desperation for a solution (which you essentially scoffed at with annoyance), you treated me as if I was trying to smuggle liters of hydrogen peroxide onto the plane. There was no room for discussion; 'it’s the law,'" Martinez wrote.
Martinez goes on to note that she finds airport security to be “extremely important” given the world’s “current threat environment” but thinks judgment should be used as to the appropriate enforcement of rules in certain situations, such as a mother carrying breast milk home to her baby.
“This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry on,” Martinez wrote. “This was deeply personal. This was my son’s health and nourishment. This was the money I would now need to spend buying formula that wasn’t necessary.”
Martinez thinks Heathrow’s Terminal 5 security personnel acted in a “shameful” manner.