Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Don't Use Hand Lotion Before Going through Airport Security- Or, Why Mommy's Milk is "Da Bomb"

Guess whose breastmilk tested positive for explosives?

As my family, friends, and patients know, I am a huge proponent of breastfeeding. Nursed Son #1 for a little over a year, and going on 8 moths with Son #2. Benefits definitely outweigh the occasional inconveniences. But yesterday, my dedication to "La Leche" was certainly tested.

Any nursing mother who works outside the home is intimately familiar with "The Pump". At work, in a restaurant, in the car (preferably not while driving, although I've been known to attempt such multitasking madness in the past) - you name it, we've pumped there.

Planning a trip away from baby is never easy, but when you're nursing, it complicates matters. Rather than pump and dump, I elected to store the milk and bring it back home for baby. I did a good deal of planning: arranged for a large fridge in the hotel room, packed plenty of bottles, bottle brush, a zillion little plastic storage bags, coolers, ice packs... even checked with the TSA website, which stated that I could carry onboard the aircraft " a reasonable quantity" of breastmilk.

Well, reasonable for me was a little over 100 ounces, all packed up in 6 ounce ziploc storage bags. I knew that the milk might need to be tested with a little device that checks for vapor from liquid explosives- as long as they don't touch the milk, I'm okay with it. That's why I deliberately packed some of the milk in easily opened bottles.

What I didn't anticipate was the following conversation:

TSA guy: "Ummm.... okaaay. Hmmm. Can I get a supervisor over here, please?"
Me: "What's wrong?"
TSA guy to me and the supervisor: "This breastmilk is testing positive."
Supervisor: "Really? Well, that's never happened before."
Me: "Please don't make me dump it. I'll cry."
Supervisor: "Don't worry, ma'am. We'll just have to open some of these bags at random, though."

So, I ended up have to mess up my awesome system, upack the nicely stored bags, open them up to be vapor tested, and somehow get them bag in the cooler befoe my plane took off without me. It took a while. Good thing I was early!

Luckily, the TSA supervisor was really nice. Turns out his wife is a member of La Leche League, and actually had something to do with getting the TSA rules changed to allow more than 3 ounces of breastmilk onboard if you didn't have baby with you.

He also gave me this little tidbit: hand lotion has a chemical in it that causes the explosives testing machine to test falsely positive. Turns out the hotel was dry, and I was using hand cream a few times a day. It must have gotten onto the bags of milk as I packed them, hence the positive explosives test.

All is well that ends well. The TSA folks treated me with dignity, I made my flight, and I will never use hand cream before flying again.

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