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Woman Forced to Dump More Than a Gallon of Breast Milk at Airport Security

Woman Forced to Dump More Than a Gallon of Breast Milk at Airport Security

A U.S. woman lost more than 140 ounces of pumped breast milk after airport security agents refused to let her take the milk onto the plane as hand luggage. Instead, Sarah Morrow of Knoxville, Tennesse was forced to check the milk as hold luggage on a recent American Airlines flight where it got lost in transit and ended up being spoiled.

Morrow had been pumping the milk for her nine-month-old baby during a week-long holiday in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico for a friends wedding. What she didn’t realize, however, was that airport security rules are very different in Mexico compared to the United States.

Photo Credit: Sarah Morrow / Facebook

While the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) exempts breast milk and baby formula from the 3-1-1 rule, the same exemption doesn’t apply in Mexico or many other countries. Morrow found herself with 137 ounces more liquid than she could actually take through airport security.

Morrow had been busy pumping milk throughout her week-long holiday and didn’t have any problem storing the milk in her hotel. “At the end of the day, room service would come and have gloves on, take my milk and go put it in the freezer, lay it flat for me,” Morrow told WZZM 13 News.

“It’s one of those sacrifices that you just dig your head down and you do it,” she continued.

By the end of the holiday, she ended up with 25 bags of frozen milk that she put on ice in a cooler box. It wasn’t until she reached the airport security checkpoint, however, that she realised she wouldn’t be allowed to take the milk onto the plane.

“She said, ‘No you can’t bring that,’ and I started instantly crying because there is such anxiety women have when traveling with their breast milk. She said if I had a child with me I could bring it in a three ounce bag.” 

Morrow was able to check the cooler into the hold but when she arrived in Dallas to change planes there was a tarmac delay and Morrow ended up missing her connection. The cooler was nowhere to be found and eventually turned up in Knoxville the following day – by this point, however, the milk had wasted.

“Came home, opened it, all of it completely melted, completely ruined and it just devastated me,” said Morrow. “It’s an extension of you and an extension of your child. It’s what your child needs to survive.”

A spokesperson for American Airlines said of the incident: “We are sorry to hear that the customer’s bag was rerouted and we’re looking into the circumstances internally. A member of our customer relations team has reached out to the customer to learn more about their experience.”

American Airlines has offered Morrow $200 as compensation but she says she has turned down this offer.

In 2016, a U.S. mother was forced to dump 500 ounces of breast milk at Heathrow Airport in London because she wasn’t traveling with her eight-month-old baby. Heathrow said it was following government rules and that it could only allow exceptions if the passenger was traveling with their child.

Photo Credit: Markus Mainka / Shutterstock.com

View Comments (9)
  • I am sorry, travel to Mexico in a pandemic is the least effective way to work up my sympathy.
    And no, your baby can survive without it.

  • Jeez, I thought I had heard of every type of hoarding behavior. This one takes the cake. Reminds me of the Monty Python song “every sperm is sacred.”

  • WOW! You men have obviously never pumped breast milk before. It is A LOT of work and often painful, time consuming and tedious. As a mother who breastfed and pumped for my children, I completely understand the outrage of this story. Although, I think I would have checked rules prior to travelling to ensure I met the criteria.

  • Unfortunately for this woman, this is not a TSA or airline policy but a Mexican policy. As a culture they have seen a steep decline in breastfeeding over the past decade and since 2018 have been working on changing to become more breastfeeding friendly even for their own citizens. Their current flight rules stipulate that an infant must be with the mother for her to bring breastmilk in carry on. I have heard the occasional mother being able to talk them into bypassing this: by choosing lines with female agents, by asking for an English speaking supervisor, by showing them TSA regulations, and by remaining calm why explaining they need to bring the milk home to their infant. The TSA itself classifies breast pumps as medical devices and breastmilk as medicine since it is nutritionally necessary and doesn’t limit quantity. The three gentlemen above miss why this is a big deal; the mother went a week without her child meaning she left behind a week’s worth of breastmilk for her baby with its caretakers. The week of milk she was bringing back replaces that milk so that for the next trip or any other time she must be away from the baby whether for medical, work, or travel purposes, the baby will have breastmilk available. While formula can be an option when necessary, it is not an equal replacement for the antibodies that are provided in breastmilk which is extra important during a global pandemic where children can not be vaccinated yet. Why and where this woman went on her trip is not the point. At customs she will declare she has been on her trip for a week, making 140 oz an acceptable amount. A mother feeds on average an ounce an hour, so 24 ounces a day. At 6 days she would have produced 144 ounces on the average. She would also be pumping on at least one of her flights as most mothers feed their babies every 2-4 hours. I hope the TSA is able to work with Mexico as a US neighbor to become more breastfeeding friendly for traveling mothers and change their rule.

    • Gee, my two sisters and I were brought up without breastfeeding. My two children and my sister’s two children were brought up without breastfeeding. We are all healthy and happy. So NO, you don’t HAVE to have breast milk for an infant to SURVIVE. That is a mother’s personal choice, not a matter of life and death. A few days of formula won’t kill the kid. Stop being so dramatic.

  • The Passenger is clearly at fault for not clearly understanding the protocol in the handling of the breast milk with/without the child in their presence. Often times people want to BLAME another source (security in Mexico, the Airline involved or even a Hotel that could have a malfunctioning freezer which would destroy the product). The Woman seemed hell bent on attending that Wedding and obviously didn’t investigate the Process and clearly allow for any possible snags along the way…..everything isn’t All about You and bending the rules/restrictions to make your travel easier. Rules are there for a reason and don’t point the finger and attempt to SHAME People for doing their Job. I really have minimal sympathy for the Woman in this case because She didn’t Do Her Homework. Mexico owes Her Nothing and who knows what may have affected her flight and the ground delay…..thunderstorms? Closed Ramp Operations….act of God and He isn’t taking Complaints.

  • I also was not able to bring 240 oz pumped during a one week charity mission I was doing in Mexico, without my 7 week old infant. Luckily I was able to go back outside, check the bag through, and have it arrive in my hometown safely. If there had been any flight delays this would not have been the case.

    To the men who commented on this post, have you been able to clearly find the rules in Mexico for traveling with milk? I looked extensively and could not find it. It is not readily available. Even my hotel was not clear on the rules.

    I am also not sure why you are even commenting on this situation or judging a new mother who was following WHO guidelines to provide milk for her child.

    Nor do you realize that pumping in Mexico (without access to water etc) ads a whole other layer of complexity.

    Reserve your comments and judgement for yourselves.

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