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This nursing mom's experience went viral, inspiring a new bill to keep breastfed babies healthy

Emily Calandrelli worked with U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Maria Elvira Salazar to introduce a new bill that would protect nursing moms while they travel.

This nursing mom's experience went viral, inspiring a new bill to keep breastfed babies healthy
Image Source: TheSpaceGal / Twitter

Earlier this year, Emily Calandrelli was traveling through Los Angeles International Airport. As a nursing mother who hoped to pump during the journey, she carried her breast pump as well as two ice packs. However, due to the airport Transport Security Administration (TSA) officials' lack of adequate training, she was ill-treated and made to feel embarrassed. In a now-viral Twitter thread, she explained what her experience was like. Her tweets inspired outrage as well as a new bill introduced in the U.S. House that would amend the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Enhancement (BABES) Act to protect parents and caregivers by requiring the TSA to "clarify and regularly update guidance on handling breast milk, baby formula, and other related nutrition products," Good Morning America reports.


According to a press release from California Rep. Katie Porter, in addition to these regular updates, the federal agency would have to develop and update the guidelines with direction from maternal health groups. The BABES Act was first signed into law in December 2016 by former President Barack Obama. The legislation required TSA to notify airlines as well as security staff of the agency's directives on traveling with baby formula, breast milk and juice on planes. In a statement, Porter reiterated the need to update the law. "TSA screening checkpoints should not pose a risk to Americans who just want to keep their babies healthy and fed," she affirmed. "I am proud to introduce this bipartisan bill that will make it easier for parents with young kids to travel safely."


Florida Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar is a co-sponsor of the bill. She added, "It should not be difficult for traveling mothers to breastfeed or carry breast milk through TSA checkpoints. We can—and should—make motherhood easier through sensible measures like the BABES Enhancement Act." These measures were inspired by Calandrelli's viral tweets about her attempt to travel through TSA checkpoints for the first time after giving birth to her son, who was 10 weeks old at the time. During her trip, while she was not with her newborn, she was carrying two ice packs that she had intended to use to preserve breast milk.


She explained, "Two male TSA agents told me I could not bring my ice packs through because they were not frozen solid... I asked to speak to someone else & they had their boss come over & he told me the same... I asked multiple times to speak to a female agent and they would not allow it. They escorted me out of line and forced me to check my cold packs, meaning I could not pump before my flight for fear it would spoil... Yesterday I was humiliated that I had to explain to three grown men that my breasts still produce milk when I am not with my child. Yesterday I was embarrassed telling them about my fear of mastitis if I did not pump. Today I am furious."


As it turns out, the TSA agents she spoke with were wrong. "TSA rules specifically state that you are allowed to have gel ice packs (regardless if they are fully frozen!) for medically necessary purposes," she correctly identified. "And emptying my breasts on a regular schedule and providing food for my child IS medically necessary." Should the new bill pass, fellow nursing moms will not have to go through what Calandrelli did. She asserted, "There is so much pressure to breastfeed, but TSA makes it impossible. It is yet another system in place that makes it harder for women to get back to work after they have started a family. The lack of training at TSA is unfairly punishing and harming women."


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