A new mother says she was humiliated after security staff at London's Heathrow Airport seized five days’ worth of breast milk from her carry-on luggage.
Katie Langan, 31, who lives in Holland with her partner-- and regularly travels to the U.K. for work-- says she was forced to give up 10 bags of breast milk she had pumped for her one-year-old daughter Layla.
Langan, an H.R. manager, was returning from a five-day break with friends in London to celebrate New Year when her milk was confiscated. While away from her child, Langan pumped two to three times a day, giving her 10 bags of milk containing roughly 80ml (about 2.7 fluid ounces)-- each of which took around 20 minutes to pump.
If mothers don’t continue to express milk when they’re away from their babies, their supply reduces meaning that they cannot produce as much when they return.
But at Heathrow's airport security, Langan says staff confiscted the milk supply and banned her from taking it onboard-- despite her pleas and offering other solutions like checking it, decanting it into containers or paying a fee extra baggage.
The mother claims she was treated with “contempt” and a “lack of respect” and was left in tears at the airport.
“I was embarrassed and humiliated. I had to explain about my breastfeeding to a man," Langan told The Sun.
“I was totally heartbroken that I had to dump this breast milk that I had put love and time into pumping. It is a chore but it’s a labour of love. This means that the next time I go away, my baby can’t have breast milk.”
The mother says that since giving birth, she has traveled 20 times over the past year for work, through airports including Boston, Istanbul, Bristol, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. She always carries the fluid in special bags for breast milk which staff x-ray, inspect and swab, and claims she has never had any problems getting it through security.
She added: “I just don’t want other women to experience what I experienced. I was absolutely horrified by the guy’s reaction. I was quite creative in thinking up solutions and thought of a few different ways that I could get around it.
“But he was not willing to help me. It was extremely frustrating."
Langan said the Heathrow staff did not appear to be familiar with the regulations regarding breast milk.
“He said, ‘It is above the limit for general liquids.’ I said, ‘Breast milk is exempt, I have done this before and never had a problem.’
“He said he couldn’t understand why I was travelling with breast milk without my baby.”
Langan says she contacted Heathrow officials, but was less than satisfied with their response.
She added: “I received a response from Heathrow but it was just copy and paste bull crap from the policy. Why is Heathrow so much stricter than other airports I have travelled through in Europe and not had a problem?”
The U.K.'s Department for Transport regulations state that parents travelling through U.K. airports can take breast milk on a plane as long as they are travelling with a baby or infant.
But some liquids, even breast milk, may be subject to additional scrutiny, according to Heathrow's website, "Essential medicines are permitted in larger quantities above the 100ml limit but will be subject to authentication. Exceptions to the 100ml rule may also be made for those carrying baby food and milk, but you may be asked to taste the liquid when you go through security."
Heathrow Airport said that it has a legal obligation to enforce to regulations.
A spokesperson told The Sun, “We do appreciate that this has been a frustrating experience for Ms Langan and we always regret causing inconvenience. When travelling without your child, the restriction limits apply without exception.
“Passengers wishing to transport in excess of that are welcome to do so in their hold luggage.”