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Modern Parenthood

Breast-pump mom 'humiliated' on American Airlines flight

Breast-pump mom 'humiliated': Know your travel rights, parents. A flight attendant refused to allow Dawnella Brahos to use her breast-pump, a violation of American Airlines policy. Similarly, a TSA agent hassled a mom with a breast pump in Hawaii.

By Staff writer / April 27, 2013

A TSA officer signals an airline passenger forward at a security check-point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash. A mother in Hawaii with a breast-pump found getting her equipment through the check point was a challenge.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

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Two recent cases of traveling breast-pumping moms resulted in their unnecessary humiliation. These cases also help illustrate the rights of breast-pumping moms in the face of ignorance or poor training.

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On April 18, a flight attendant loudly and repeatedly refused to let Dawnella Brahos use her breast-pump on a flight from Minneapolis to Chicago.

The harassment came even though Mrs. Brahos had checked on breast-pumping when she made her flight reservations, and had been told her Medela pump was pre-approved. And the incident occurred after Brahos had flown on three other American flights and used the breast-pump with the full support of the flight attendants.

But on April 18, she told Fox Channel 32 in Chicago that she had been 'humiliated' and 'embarrassed' as the flight attendant told her upon boarding that breast-pumping - however discretely done - was not allowed. The flight attendant repeatedly checked on Brahos to make sure she wasn't using her breast pump.

The mother of three wasn't traveling with her 1-year-old son. She told The New York Daily News that she normally pumps every three and a half hours and began feeling painfully engorged during the normally short flight because it took off late and she'd spent the previous few hours checking out of a hotel, traveling to the airport, checking in with American and going through security.

American Airlines has issued a statement of apology: "We apologize for the experience Ms. Brahos had on a recent flight. Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle these situations with professionalism and discretion. American does not have a policy prohibiting the use of breast pumps in-flight. As with other devices that have an on/off switch, customers will be asked not to use them during takeoff and landing. Our procedures advise our crews to ensure that mothers who are breast feeding or using breast pumps have the privacy they need."

An American spokesman said Brahos needed no prior approval for using her Medela pump. A different brand of pump would have required prior approval, she said.

Another breast-pumping mom was embarrassed by a TSA agent at a security check point. On March 27, Amy Strand was stopped at Lihue Airport in Kauai as she carried her pump, a cooler pack, and empty milk bottles. She was told by the TSA agent that she couldn't bring the cooler pack unless there was milk in the bottles.

Ms. Strand, a mother of four and school principal, tried to explain that the ice pack was specially made for the cooler and wouldn't be easy to replace.  And, that she'd emptied the milk out before going through security to avoid carrying more than 3 ounces of liquid.

Strand said she only had two options: Leave part of the cooler behind or pump. There was no private place to pump so she went to the women's restroom. "I'm in a dress, in heels and I find myself in front of a sink and mirrors with travelers coming in and out of the bathroom," Amy Strand told ABCNews.com. "I'm standing at the sink with my breast hanging out, pumping. I wanted to cry. I was humiliated."

Like American Airlines, the TSA issued a statement apologizing for the ignorance of its agent. "The passenger has contacted us with her concerns and we accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her," the statement said. "The officer in question is receiving remedial training."

In fact, the TSA website specifically addresses this situation and the current screening procedures."Parents flying with, and without, their child(ren) are permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is presented for inspection at the security checkpoint. Additionally, empty bottles and ice packs are permitted under these conditions."

Moms and Dads, bookmark the TSA page, and carry it with you on your phone. Just in case.

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