Breast milk on board

Starting Aug 4., the TSA will lift its restrictions on carry-on breast milk.

By Catherine Price

Published July 23, 2007 2:50PM (EDT)

Here's some good news for women who want to transport breast milk with them the next time they fly (or, for that matter, light things on fire). According to the Associated Press, on Aug. 4 two Transportation Security Administration regulations will be changed: More carry-on breast milk will be allowed, and in an unrelated move, the ban on most cigarette lighters will be lifted.

As things stand now, TSA regulations state that women with infants are allowed to carry as much breast milk onto the plane as they please. Others, however, are limited to 3 ounces each -- the same amount permitted for other essential liquids like, you know, mouthwash or hairspray. After Aug. 4, though, it's a breast milk free-for-all. Bring it on by the quart. Bring it on by the gallon. Sure, the TSA "encourages" you to carry only the milk that's necessary for your journey, but don't let that stop you. We're in America, after all, where every man, woman and child should have the right to lug around as much breast milk as he or she pleases.

Why would anyone actually want to do this? Well, most people probably wouldn't. But working mothers on business trips have complained that the current breast milk rules have made it difficult to carry home the milk they've pumped while traveling. "They had to throw larger amounts in the trash and that was not only wasteful but emotionally charged," TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe is quoted as saying.

I have to say that while I think the rule change is a good thing for working mothers and for people frustrated -- as most of us are -- with the increasing hassle of airport security, it opens up loopholes that make me question why we're bothering to limit other liquids to 3 ounces to begin with. TSA regulations specifically say that while excessive quantities of breast milk might be subject to further inspection, no agent is going to ask the person to taste or test the milk to prove what it is. So wouldn't that suggest that if you wanted to carry on a liquid that is somehow going to enable you to blow up a plane, you should make it look like it's breast milk? Putting aside the fact that banning breast milk on planes is ridiculous in and of itself, I don't understand why -- in the context of our current airport security craze -- breast milk should be singled out as an allowable liquid. And sure, breast milk might be a more "emotional" liquid than a bottle of water, but if we're buying in to the idea that liquids are a security threat, why should emotions make a difference?

I don't want to get started on a bigger discussion of security (and I do appreciate the TSA's attempts to accommodate pumping moms), so for now I'll leave it at this: In about a week, you'll be able to carry breast milk on board to your heart's content. And if the threat of unlimited quantities of unidentified white liquids makes you crave a cigarette to calm your nerves as soon as you deplane, don't worry. Starting Aug. 4, you can carry on board most lighters, too.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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