The Transportation Security Administration has apologized after a mother in Hawaii was left "embarrassed and humiliated" after an agent ordered her to pump breast milk in an airport bathroom to prove her electric pump was real.
Amy Strand was traveling with her 9-month-old daughter on her way home from Kauai Wednesday when she was told she would not be allowed to board until she could show the agent full bottles of breast milk, Hawaii ABC affiliate KITV-TV reported.
Just minutes before going through security Wednesday, she said she had done "what no nursing mother wants to do" and dumped the breast milk from the bottles, thinking they would be a screening hassle. But when she was going through the line, the agent stopped her and asked to look at her equipment, which included the pump, a cooler pack and the empty bottles. Because recently-changed TSA guidelines permit women to fly with breast milk but treat electric pumps as medical equipment, Strand had to prove the pump was medically necessary to be able to fly with it.
"I asked him if there was a private place I could pump and he said no, you can go in the women's bathroom. I had to stand in front of the mirrors and the sinks and pump my breast in front of every tourist that walked into that bathroom," she told KITV. "I was embarrassed and humiliated and then angry that I was treated this way."
Strand, a mother of four and a high school principal in Maui, told ABC she frequently travels between the islands for business and has never had a problem with her electric pump before.
"There was no misunderstanding," she said. "I really only had two options: leave part of it behind or pump."
On the verge of tears, Strand said she was finally allowed to board with the other passengers when she was through.
"It really confuses me as to how an empty breast pump and cooler pack are a threat to national security and 20 minutes later, with milk, they no longer pose a threat to national security," she told ABC.
In a statement to KITV, the TSA admitted their agent was mistaken when he told Strand "that she could only bring the pack if it was medically necessary."
"We accept responsibility for the apparent misunderstanding and any inconvenience or embarrassment this incident may have caused her," the statement said.