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Can Moms Breastfeed on Airplanes?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Breastfeeding on an airplane seems no different than any other place. After all, mothers today commonly nurse in public without a problem. Remember when singer Beyonce was praised for nursing her daughter in a New York restaurant?

The issue of breastfeeding on airplanes, however, has led to some embarrassing and controversial incidents.

A Few Notable Cases

Back in 2006, a woman and her family were kicked off a Delta Airlines flight because she was breastfeeding. Though no part of her breast was showing, a flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up, USA Today reports.

When the new mom declined, stating she had a legal right to breastfeed, she was asked to get off the plane. She sued and received a settlement because in Vermont, where the flight originated, a woman has the legal right to breastfeed.

In another incident, a TSA agent in Hawaii forced a nursing mother to pump milk in a public restroom at the airport. The agent, who was suspicious about the woman's breast pump and empty milk bottles, forced her to prove she was really going to fill them with her own milk, according to CNN.

"I had to stand in front of the mirrors and the sinks and pump my breast, in front of every tourist that walked into that bathroom," the distraught mother told reporters. The TSA later apologized.

Air Travel Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

At the airport, the TSA has guidelines in place for traveling with breast milk. Parents flying with, or without, their child can bring more than 3 ounces of breast milk as long as it's presented for inspection at the security checkpoint. Also, empty bottles are OK.

If you're going to carry breast milk onto a plane, the TSA says to:

  1. Separate these items from the liquids, gels, and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bag.
  2. Let agents at the security checkpoint know you have these items.
  3. Present the breastfeeding items for additional inspection once reaching the X-ray.

Although formula, breast milk, and juice is inspected at the checkpoint, you, your infant or toddler shouldn't be asked to test or taste the breast milk, formula, or juice.

The TSA advises passengers to ask for a supervisor in uncomfortable situations. You can also call the TSA's customer service numbers, (866) 289-9673 and (855) 787-2227.

As for in-flight breastfeeding, a survey of various airlines by found there are generally no rules against it, though nursing moms will likely be expected to cover up while on planes. To be on the safe side, you may want to call your airline to double-check their policy before your flight.

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