There has been quite a lot written online about the lady that had to dump 500oz of breast milk at Heathrow Airport because she wanted to bring it in her carry-on (If you haven´t heard about it yet, check this article on BBC). When I first read about I didn´t realise how much 500oz exactly is but after a quick converter I saw it was almost 15 liters. 15 freaking liters of breast milk! Dumped in the trash! That´s a whole lot of pumping.
Let´s be clear, I very much sympathise with the fact that it must feel HORRIBLE to have to throw that away after all the effort, but am I the only one that got a little annoyed by all the messaging around it? I wasn´t really planning to write about it (breast feeding after all is the best topic to get good old mommy wars going strong) but I want to put in my two cents anyway. Because, wasn´t it a bit her own fault she wasn´t allowed to bring almost 15 liters of liquids in her carry-on luggage? There. I said it.
Should breastfeeding mothers be exempted from all rules?
If you´re travelling so much for work, did you really never notice that only limited amounts of liquids were allowed in your carry-on? And limited as in no where near 500oz! Why didn´t she check her luggage in? Or figure out beforehand what the rules were and find a way to work with those rules? After all the effort that pumping that much breast milk must have taken, why the hell take this risk? Or do we just expect that because she is a breast feeding working mother (hallelujah, can we get an applause here!) none of the rules that apply to the rest of us apply to her? That an exception would be made because hey, she is a breast feeding working mother. No of course not!
Again I totally get that she must have felt really really bad for throwing all that milk away, I have been breast feeding when I went back to work and it´s hard. And I can tell you it feels bad if after all the pumping effort one of your Medela bottles opened in your bag and then we´re only talking 250ml not almost 15l! Or when on a business trip I was pumping but had to throw away all the milk because I couldn´t bring it home (or apparently I could have, but I didn´t make the effort of bringing my own freezer to be checked in or asked the hotel if I could put my milk in their freezer). It definitely hurts to throw away milk!
But despite of understanding that it sucks, the drama that is being made around it doesn´t go well with me and almost feels like attention-seeking or another push for the breastfeeding-victims debate…
A bit dramatic?
“You do not allow breast milk on the plane if the mother is not traveling with her baby,” she says. “A regulation in and of itself that is incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all of the other working mothers like me who are required at certain times to spend time away from their baby, but intend to continue to breastfeed them.” Ehm, first of all, even if you´re travelling with a baby you´re only allowed to bring the quantity needed for the duration of the flight. And even if flying to the other side of the world you wouldn´t be allowed to take 500oz. And second, these regulations are not there to screw anyone, they are there for safety reasons (I don´t like them either but hey, that´s what it is) so do your research before the flight and check-in your freezer or whatever, don´t turn this into another everybody-against-working mothers argument.
“This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry on. This was my son’s health and nourishment.” Yes, I get that if you think breast feeding is best for your kids´ health it´s not fun that due to an incident like this you don´t have enough milk, but let´s not exaggerate things here. I mean come on, her son´s health and nourishment are jeopardized now? Really? Hate to break it but there are some children that are being bottle-fed or half-breast-half-bottle and they seem to be doing just fine. Again, I don´t want to open the whole debate about what is best, everybody makes their own choices, all I am saying is that to me it´s quite dramatic to claim such things.
“Beyond literally taking food from my child’s mouth, you humiliated me and made me feel completely defeated as a professional and a mother.” Humiliation I get, but defeated as a professional (what does that even have to do with it?), taking food from my child´s mouth… Again, quite dramatic for my taste.
All this hassle with business trips and being away from home for some days were exactly the reasons why I stopped breastfeeding after 8 months, it was just too much hassle. That´s a choice I made (so yeah, call me a bad mother that apparently makes the wrong choices for my son´s health), just like others make the choice to keep going but then you have to find a way to manage that hassle and obviously comply with the rules that are there.
Honestly, I can´t really blame the airport guys for the fact that she was not allowed to take it on board. What you could blame them for is that apparently they were not too supportive in looking for a solution like letting her get back to the check-in area so she could check it in. I am really sorry for her that they couldn´t figure it out together and that she had throw away all that milk, but the drama around it is just too much.