Breastfeeding a baby and keeping a full-time job is extremely hard, but combining this with travel is an even greater challenge.
Jessica Coakley Martinez found this when she was asked to make a 15-day trip around Europe and leave her 8-month-old son at home in America.
Her son had been fed only breast milk up until Martinez had to make the trip and so she was determined that she should carry on expressing milk ready for her return.
The mother-of-two was therefore understandably upset when she was forced to throw away all the milk she had pumped during her trip when she tried to board a plane at London Heathrow.
In an open letter to Aviation Security at Terminal 5, Martinez explained the difficulties of continuing to express milk while being away from home:
“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.
It meant having to talk about my personal matters (my nursing schedule) with my professional coworkers and my supervisor in order to sneak away to said closet or public bathroom – a discomfort I had to learn how to swallow if I was to supply my son with breast milk.”
“It meant going to each hotel and convincing them to store my giant insulated bags of milk in their restaurant freezers to preserve it.”
Unfortunately, Martinez’s extraordinary efforts to provide breast milk for her son came to nothing as to she was required to dump it all at Heathrow while going through security as per their rules about liquids.
Heathrow’s rules state that passengers can take only one liquid bag per person aboard planes in hand luggage and the only exception to this rule is if you are travelling with an infant.
By the time she arrived at Heathrow, of the 14kg of frozen milk, 5kg had become liquid and so Martinez attempted to take just the solidified milk through.
She wrote that officials had refused this because it “could melt and become liquid”.
Martinez expressed her frustration at the situation in a Facebook post: “This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry on. 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.”
She continued: “This wasn’t tomorrow’s milk; it was two weeks worth of nutrition for my child. And it was the countless hours of my time, my energy, even my dignity in some instances, all driven by my willingness to go to any length to get my child what he needs that you dumped into the trash like a random bottle of travel shampoo…
“Your absolute unwillingness to use professional judgment and customer service to make a reasonable exception in the face of equally reasonable circumstances is shameful.”
At MFM we totally understand the rules are there to protect us all but we also get the utter frustration this woman felt too.
Photo: Facebook/ Jessica Coakley Martinez