In an open letter to Aviation Security at Heathrow Airport on Facebook, Jessica Coakley Martinez says she does not remember the last time she felt “so justly upset.”
The mother of two was forced to abandon nearly 500 oz of breast milk (approximately 62 cups) after she tried to take it through Heathrow airport security in both liquid and frozen forms. She had been travelling Europe as part of a 15-day work trip.
Martinez has an eight-month-old son at home and pumped in between meetings so she could provide him with breast milk upon her return.
In the open letter on Facebook, she explains what led to the disposal.
She describes how hard it is to be a working mother while breastfeeding.
“For months I pumped and froze milk during the day and in the middle of the night to feed my son with the hopes I would have enough to see him through my time away, but eventually I had to deal with the sense of failure I felt when I realized it wouldn’t be enough to nourish him while I traveled, and thus I would have to introduce formula.”
Coakley Martinez says she was willing to let go of the liquid milk when challenged by airport officials, but wanted to keep the frozen milk in-hand.
That isn’t allowed by Heathrow’s hand baggage and liquids rules; people departing from the airport can only carry-on liquids in containers holding 100 ml or less. Security officials also noted that frozen milk “could melt and become a liquid.”
Generally, there are exceptions made to the 100 ml rule when it comes to baby food or breast milk, but those are only allowed when a child is travelling with their parent(s).
Heathrow security asks people to store excess liquids in checked baggage if they’re flying without children.
Though the working mother of two admits she should have looked at the rules closer, she argues they are “incredibly unfair and exclusionary in consideration of all of the other working mothers like me.”
Recently, Charmed actress Alyssa Milano received the same treatment from Heathrow security. On April 9 she tweeted:
Heathrow Airport later responded to Milano’s tweets.
After the run-in, the Mistresses star said in a statement provided by her rep that she didn’t blame the airport, since employees were “following orders to keep us all safe.” She hoped the policy received a “thoughtful reconsideration” though.
Many people commented on Coakley Martinez’s open letter with support.
Julie Wainrib Connelly wrote, “I’m so angry and heartbroken for you! Thank you for sharing this horrible story that needs to be told again and again. Being a working mom is so hard always, but so tangibly so when you’re trying to breastfeed, and it is atrocious that people would seemingly go out of their way to make it even harder.”
Josh Golden said, “Terrible! I can attest that Terminal 5 at Heathrow is very close to hell on earth… not shocked by the lack of compassion. Sorry to hear this.”
Since its posting, the letter has been shared over 4,000 times.