Working mom of two Jessica Coakley Martinez was forced to dump four gallons of breast milk -- or two week's worth -- on the order of security at Heathrow Airport last week. Though she's expressed her anger in a now-viral Facebook post, the letter of the law is not on her side.
The incident at Heathrow occurred on April 20 and Martinez wrote a long post about the "humiliating" and "degrading" incident the same day, Fox News reported.
"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. This …was two weeks worth [sic] of nutrition for my child."According to USA Today, the young mom from California had been on a business trip through Europe for 15 days and during that time had pumped four gallons of breastmilk intended to feed her eight-month-old son, who wasn't traveling with her.
In her post, Jessica explained that she'd pumped and frozen breast milk for months in anticipation of the trip to ensure her child had enough to eat while she was away. As her trip approached, she realized it wouldn't be enough. Feeling guilty about being away from her son, she decided to pump whenever she could while traveling -- and at times it was an embarrassing feat.
"Between my meetings, presentations, business lunches and dinners, taxis, flights, and long waits in airports. 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 … It meant going to each hotel and convincing them to store my giant insulated bags … in their restaurant freezers to preserve it."During her eight-city voyage, she lugged her block of frozen breast milk "through four countries, airports and security checkpoints," each of which let her through -- except Heathrow.
There, security staff in Terminal 5 told her that the four gallons of breast milk -- half of which was frozen "like a rock" -- would have to be confiscated, the Independent reported. Their reason: her baby wasn't with her.
Security argued that the Department of Transportation sets the liquid-size limit at 3.4 ounces, but exceptions are made for nursing mothers traveling with their babies. Martinez argued back: 300 ounces of the 500 was frozen, not liquid, but staff provided another reason -- it would melt and become a liquid. She was also willing to put it into checked luggage, but she'd already crossed a border, so that wasn't an option. And by that time, Heathrow said her stockpile had been deemed "non-compliant" and had to be confiscated.In her open letter to Heathrow, she called the regulation that prohibits mothers from traveling with breast milk without her baby in tow was "incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all of the other working mothers like me. Being a working mother and ensuring both my job and my child get exactly what they need is the hardest thing I've ever done but you managed to make it nearly impossible in a single afternoon."
However, she also recognized that she should've researched the rules. And the rules are not on her side.
Firstly, she must be traveling with her baby in order to be allowed to bring breast milk on the plane. Secondly, excess liquids should be stored in hold luggage -- mothers can only bring enough to feed the baby during the flight, BBC reported. And what about the logic that so angered Jessica at Heathrow -- that her frozen milk would turn into liquid eventually? Staff were also right on that account as well. It still counts as liquid.
A Heathrow spokesman stressed that "restriction limits apply without exception."
[Image via IR Stone/Shutterstock]