ILLINOIS (WSIL) -- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for parents to safely travel with breast milk. The Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES) Enhancement Act, co-led by U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Steve Daines (R-MT), would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to clarify and regularly update guidance on handling breast milk, baby formula and other related nutrition products in consultation with leading maternal health groups. U.S. Representative Katie Porter (D-CA-45) introduced an identical companion bill in the House, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Representatives Maria Salazar (R-FL-27) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15).
“Too often, I hear stories of new moms being mistreated and denied access to their breast milk and the breastfeeding equipment that they need to pump and feed their babies,” said Senator Duckworth. “To make things worse, many of these incidents with TSA employees are flat-out inconsistent with the screening policies that TSA already has in place and it has to stop. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation alongside Congresswoman Porter to make sure that TSA does all it can to keep its employees up to speed on their own policies and update these policies accordingly. It’s the least we can do to better ensure all new parents are provided with the respect and dignity they deserve while traveling.”
“Too often TSA screening checkpoints put infants and their mothers at risk,” said Senator Hirono. “We have heard far too many stories about mothers being harassed, humiliated, and even put in danger simply for traveling with milk and supplies they need to keep their babies fed. By requiring TSA to clarify and regularly update its guidance on handling breast milk and baby formula, the Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Enhancement Act will help ensure parents and their young children can travel safely and with peace of mind.”
“We need to be doing everything we can to support mothers in every environment – that includes TSA screening checkpoints,” said Senator Daines. “Nursing mothers deserve clarity and compassion when it comes to traveling with breast milk and baby formula and I’m glad to work with my colleagues on this bipartisan bill to support Montana moms.”
“With three kids of our own, my wife and I know the stress of traveling with young children,” said Congressman Swalwell. “I’m proud to support this bipartisan, bicameral legislation so that we can make it easier for families to travel with the supplies and food they need.”
This legislation comes a few months after Emily Calandrelli, host of popular Netflix show Emily’s Wonder Lab and a constituent of Porter’s, was recently delayed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) while carrying supplies she needed to safely pump milk for her 10-week-old son. Calandrelli was ultimately forced to check her items despite existing TSA guidelines that permitted her to carry them on. Calandrelli shared her story online and was flooded with hundreds of messages from other mothers who had similar experiences while traveling, including Duckworth.
The Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening Enhancement Act would help keep kids and their parents safe and healthy. Mishandled breast milk can become contaminated, which puts children at risk. Moreover, parents who lactate typically need to breastfeed or pump once every few hours. Failure to do so can result in a painful infection called mastitis. The legislation would better protect families by requiring TSA to:
- Issue guidance promoting the hygienic handling of any breast milk, baby formula or other infant nutrition products, as well as accessories required to preserve these products;
- Consult with nationally recognized maternal health organizations in establishing and communicating this guidance and
- Update its guidance every five years to respond to emerging needs of parents and to account for developments in technology.
This legislation would also direct an independent government watchdog to conduct an audit of compliance with TSA screening policies for passengers traveling with breast milk and other infant nutrition products, providing lawmakers with information related to violations of policies like those experienced by Calandrelli.
This legislation is endorsed by March of Dimes, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
A copy of the bill text can be found here.
Duckworth has been a strong advocate in ensuring new moms receive the dignity and respect they deserve while traveling. In June, Duckworth pressed TSA Administrator David Pekoske for improved treatment of new mothers and Americans with disabilities from employees of the TSA. Duckworth and Hirono also called on TSA to address inconsistent implementation of the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule Exemption travel policy for breastmilk and formula at airport security checkpoints as well as ensure new moms and their infants can travel safely without fear of harassment.
Duckworth has also championed several policies that help make air travel easier for new moms and Americans with disabilities, including her Friendly Airports for Mothers (FAM) Improvement Act, bipartisan legislation ensuring that small airports across the country support new moms and promote breastfeeding-friendly environments, was signed into law in 2020. The legislation builds on Duckworth’s success in enacting a law that ensures all large and medium airports provide a clean, private space where moms can breastfeed or pump. Recently, O’Hare and Midway Airports both installed free-standing lactation pods for new mothers as a result of Duckworth’s FAM Improvement Act.
As a result of legislation that was passed by Duckworth, the Department of Transportation implemented a new rule requiring air carriers to disclose for the first time how many checked bags, wheelchairs and motorized scooters they damage or mishandle each month.