Posted in Blog, Family life, Featured, Mother, Rebecca, Travel with a baby

Traveling with baby food: TSA drama

When my son was about 9 months, we traveled to (a place) to visit family. We had a short layover and arrived easily. The trip home however, was not quite as smooth.

I was breastfeeding still but had been feeding my son solids for a few months now. I usually prepared his food at home from scratch instead of buying baby food. However, for the flight, I had decided to take along some store bought baby food. According to TSA’s rules, you could bring breastmilk, formula or babyfood on the plane with you. Here are their rules that you must follow in order to be allowed to take the food with you: 

  1. Separate these items from the liquids, gels, and aerosols in your quart-size and zip-top bag.
  2. Declare you have the items to one of our Security Officers at the security checkpoint.
  3. Present these items for additional inspection once reaching the X-ray. These items are subject to additional screening and Officers may ask you to open a container.

I had 3 little jars of babyfood with me, all unopened. When we got to the agent standing in front of the place where you set your bag to go through x-ray, I showed her the jars and declared them (and said they were unopened). My understanding was that as long as they were unopened, they didn’t have to test them any further than just sending them through the x-ray machine.

The TSA lady says, “Here are your two options. We can have them ‘tested by x-ray’ or you can throw them away.” She was standing right in front of the x-ray machine that tests all our bags, so I assumed (along with her gestures) that she was referring to just running them through along with my bag. I know the TSA rules say that your food (or milk) may be subject to additional testing, but she never said anything about that.

I wasn’t going to throw them away. What would I feed my son? It’s not like I just brought them along to fill up more space in my bag. Hello! So I told her she could test them and then it was like all hell broke loose.

She immediately says, “ok Ma’am, you’re gonna have to come with me.” And then asks me what stuff was mine, which was a diaper bag, a purse, some blankets, and our stroller. She took all my things over to a special area and then proceeded to take me to another area.

Meanwhile, my husband is standing there with my baby. He went through ok, but then after he went through, the TSA lady says he had to wait because they had to “check the baby too”. ????

They send me through their special new x-ray thing and then bring me over to this other waiting area where all my stuff was, which was literally now sprawled out over the floor and all the counters. She then makes me stand there and pats me down, removing all loose clothing, shoes, etc. Hey, didn’t I just go through 2 x-ray machines? Seriously, now I need a pat down?

Ok, back to the bags. She took out EVERYTHING and I mean everything. In all my bags. Purse and diaper bag. Sheesh. I was traveling with a 9 month old, it was a lot of stuff. She wasn’t even looking for anything like liquids. I asked her why she had to swab every single thing in my bag and you know what she said?

“Because of your suspicious activity when presenting your baby food, this is standard procedure.” WTF? Really lady? How about this….I’m just a Mom with a baby trying to get the HECK OUT OF HERE and get back home.

Finally, she got everything tested, which took forever. I was slowly loosing it and already planning to report this whole situation. She even had to run her stick thing over the stroller, every inch.

Then she says, “ok now I need to check the baby since you were holding him when you got here.” Well yeah I was holding him, he’s my baby. My husband comes over and hands him to me.

Now I’m standing there with a bossy TSA lady telling me to remove my son’s sweatshirt so he could be patted down. Huh?

I almost said, You want his diaper removed too so you can make sure he’s not carrying anything suspicious? I’m very angry at this point, and just trying so hard to bite my tongue!

FINALLY, we were released. We were there so long, I thought we might miss our flight. We got out of there and got to the gate. After sitting down and relaxing for a minute, I noticed this lady next to us with a baby around the same age. We started talking and turns out, they treated her the same exact way, except she had breastmilk in her bag. I was stunned.

Well, I hated that experience so much, I vowed to never fly again or at least through that airport. I’ve flown since then and haven’t had a problem. I’m a little anxious every time I have to go through security now because I feel like most of the agents don’t seem to know the exact rules regarding milk and food for babies.

My advice is this…KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. Look up the TSA rules, print off a copy of them to pull out if you need to. Ask for a supervisor if necessary. Don’t be afraid to speak up or stand your ground. Unfortunately, even if you do that, it doesn’t mean you will be treated with respect and that the accurate rules will be enforced. Hopefully, things will go in your favor more times than not.

What made this experience so bizarre and intense was the “way” she was treating us. I didn’t agree with what they did, especially since it didn’t seem necessary. It was her tone, her body language, the way she was barking at us, and it wasn’t that she was even mean. She seriously made us feel like we in trouble.

If I could do that over, BEFORE she took the food, I would have asked her to be more specific on what needed to happen. What did “checking” the food mean? And what did she mean that I was suspicious? I would have asked more detailed questions. If I had received clearer answers, I would have known what was going to happen OR could have protested the agent’s choice of action.

Like I said, just know before you go. And also, be specific when asking questions or answering questions. Most importantly, stand up for what the rules are. Our babies deserve to have their milk and food!!!!!! 🙂

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  1. These stories are so horrible! I was ready for things like this during two trips last year, but I had no trouble at all. I wonder what the trigger is? Is it the airport, or the particular agent?

  2. Why say “a place”? Why not reveal the airport? I think it is VERY relevant!

  3. I thought maybe it wasn’t relevant where it happened. If you want to know, we flew to Denver (which was fine) and then to Colorado Springs which was horrible. Flying out of Seattle was great.

    We also have flown to San Diego which was great. A few of my friends have had similar experiences traveling through Phoenix.

  4. I just went through almost the same thing (even down to the age of my son) out of Seattle. Isn’t nice to know with all the extra screening we got, apparently mothers get the most screening at the airport.

  5. We have had the exact same experience at PHX. I was patted down for diaper rash cream that the agent could not find and another time, I had about 10 (unopened) pouches in a ziplock bag to get us through the flight, car rental place and the drive to the house we were renting… THEY OPENED ALL OF THEM!!!! I was aggravated beyond belief!!! Nice to know I am not alone. Flying out of SFO with the EXACT same bag of snacks and it was a breeze!

  6. Madison Haney says:

    My parents have both worked in airports with airlines all of my life. I too have a children and jnderstand the stress of travel. I am very sorry about you bad experience. I do know however that tsa rules are in place for good reasons. People are very upset when things get through that ought not, such as terroristic tools or drugs, and sadly people have used even the bodies of children to smuggle such items. I know you probably look nothing like a terrorist or drug smuggler but if they skip anyone they may as well or may have to skip everyone. To protect the dignity and safety of everyone they check everyone.

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