To most people, leaving baby at home for a solo trip abroad sounds like a dream. But is it easy to travel as a breastfeeding mum?
Women often use pumps to get milk from the breasts – if you don’t breastfeed regularly, it can cause problems with milk supply and can even stop milk altogether. Also, not breastfeeding can lead to very engorged and painful breasts.
After reporting the story of mum Gayathiri Bose who said she had to squeeze her breast in front of Frankfurt Airport security officials to prove that she was lactating, we asked women for their stories.
‘I stood in the disabled toilet to pump’
Anisha Turner breastfeeds her one year old daughter Ayrianna but in December 2016 she travelled without her from London to India to scatter her mother’s ashes.
“It is tricky to travel as breastfeeding mum so I went to India for just a couple of days and I brought my electric breast pump with me.
“I knew it would be very painful to travel on a long-haul flight without expressing milk – and if you do not pump it can lead to mastitis (breast tissue inflammation).
“I planned to express milk where I could and I was hoping to find a mum and baby room in Heathrow to plug in the pump.
“I could not find a room with a socket – I asked a security guard who was unhelpful but in the end I found an official who understood how uncomfortable it would be for me to fly without pumping.
“In the end I had to buy a universal socket in the airport and I stood in the disabled toilet to pump.
“Later when we transferred at Mumbai airport, there were mum and baby rooms and loads of facilities to accommodate me.
“I was so surprised – I thought that I would have problems in Mumbai but in fact it was Heathrow Airport that had no facilities at all.
“Breastfeeding mums are not really thought about – the difficulties that we encounter are not understood – and you would think that an airport could accommodate us.”
‘Airports were built in the 1970s by men and for men’
Caroline Watson-Felt took her first trip away from her infant son in January 2012. She was left crying in San Francisco Airport after security threatened to throw away her bottles of breast milk:
“He was really little – it was really hard to leave him and I felt very emotional and raw because of the hormones and tiredness.
“Breastfeeding is a hard job – pumping makes you feel like some kind of farm animal on the best of days – it is referred to as “liquid gold” by breastfeeding moms for a reason!
“For three days on the trip I expressed milk, but on the way home, the airport security scanner could not register the bags of milk properly.
“I had to unpack all the bags in front of everyone at security.
“So when the huffing and puffing airport security official told me ‘I cannot believe you’re even bothering to take this home – I’ll probably just throw it out’, I was so upset and I started crying.
“I’m a formidable chick – it’s not my style to stand and cry – but it’s so emotional especially when you’re exhausted and at their mercy.
“In the end a great lady came over – she said ‘you’ve been hard at work, you’ve done a great job, good work momma’.
“It’s especially hard for breastfeeding women – airports were built in the 1970s by men and for men.
“They need to be modernised to make them suitable for families.”
‘”You’re not travelling with your baby – why do you need a breast pump?”‘
Claire Dunn travelled from London Heathrow airport to Istanbul but found herself explaining what is a breast pump to two male security officials who questioned why she was travelling with a strange-looking machine.
“I went on a girls’ weekend away – my first trip away after my son was born – so I was tired, under-slept and had low resilience.
I brought a double breast pump with me so I could carry on breastfeeding when I came home.
“When my carry-on luggage went through security, I was marched into a separate room by two male security guards in their late 40s.
“‘What is this unusual object? What is it?’ they kept asking.
“They had no idea what it was!
“They carried on questioning me – ‘You’re not travelling with your baby – why do you need a breast pump?’
“I had to explain everything – I was so tired I even offered to demonstrate how it works.
“I do understand their issue – the two conical parts of the pump do look weird – but the airport staff clearly required some training.
“They were really nice but somebody needs to take these guys aside and explain what a breast pump is!”.
By Georgina Rannard, UGC & Social News