Working Mom Distressed After Airport Security Confiscates 2 Weeks' Worth of Breast Milk
When a breast-feeding mother went away on business, she pumped, froze and packed her milk to be fed to her baby upon her return.
But as the mom-of-two, Jessica Coakley Martinez, headed home following the two-week trip, staff at London's Heathrow Airport forced her to throw away the milk, she said.
"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," Coakley Martinez wrote in a now-viral Facebook post, which she addressed to the airport.
Coakley Martinez, from California, explained that in order to juggle both work and raising her child, she would pump breast milk and freeze it during the day, then bring it home to feed her son in the evenings.
Her routine took a complicated turn when she began traveling for work.
"When you’re fortunate enough as I am to have a job that involves travel, it’s an exciting opportunity, but it comes with even more extreme challenges when you have kids," she wrote. "Eventually I had to deal with the sense of failure I felt when I realized [breast milk] wouldn’t be enough to nourish him while I traveled."
But she was determined to make it work. In the 15 days she was away, Coakley Martinez snuck away to closets, bathrooms, conference rooms and showers to pump. She then asked hotels to store the bags of breast milk in their restaurant freezers.
Read: 87 Percent of Breast Milk Bought Online Was Positive for Harmful Bacteria
By the end of the trip, she accumulated almost 5,000 ounces of frozen breast milk, the equivalent of two weeks' worth of food for her 8-month-old baby.
Despite having traveled between eight countries with the enormous block of ice, Coakley Martinez wrote on Facebook that it was immediately confiscated when she attempted to go through security at the London Heathrow Airport, despite arguing that the milk was frozen solid.
"Beyond literally taking food from my child’s mouth, you humiliated me and made me feel completely defeated as a professional and a mother," she wrote.
London Heathrow defended their actions in a statement: "We do appreciate that this has been a frustrating experience for Ms. Coakley Martinez and we always regret causing inconvenience. However, the aviation security regulations on liquids mandated by the Department for Transport are clear and publicly available on our website."
The airport said that she was welcome to check in the milk as luggage, but Coakley Martinez alleges that the breast milk was declared a "non-compliant" item when she did suggest to check it in.
The representative pointed out that while mothers traveling with babies are allowed certain exceptions regarding breast milk, passengers traveling alone must comply to the normal regulations.
While Coakley Martinez admitted she should have looked up the regulations before going through security, she responded that different laws for mothers boarding with children and for those without is "incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all of the other working mothers like me."
"It was as if you were almost proud to deny me at every possible point of compromise," she wrote.
Now moms every where are standing in solidarity with Coakley Martinez in the widely shared Facebook post.
One mom commented: "Unbelievable...I would have left the airport in cuffs if they ever took my milk!"
"I know the pain and diligence and humiliation of pumping in strange places and that you do it out of sheer love for your child. I so admire your diligence in pumping throughout your trip." another wrote.