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Jessica Coakley Martinez has pumped breast milk in public toilets, airplane bathrooms, taxis, conference rooms and even janitor’s closets, all to make certain she has enough to feed her 8-month-old son.
So it was devastating to her when security agents at London’s Heathrow airport allegedly made her dump 500 ounces of breast milk in the trash during a recent trip after deeming it a “hazard,” the working mom-of-two claimed.
“This wasn’t some rare bottle of wine or luxury perfume I was trying to negotiate as a carry on,” Martinez wrote in a raw, wounded open letter to Heathrow officials on Facebook.
“This was deeply personal. This was my son’s health and nourishment.”
Martinez, who did not immediately respond to a Facebook message for comment, admitted she wasn't clear on the carry-on rules regarding liquids. But because most of the milk was frozen, she figured she could bring it aboard.
“This wasn’t tomorrow’s milk; it was two weeks worth of nutrition for my child. And it was the countless hours of my time, my energy, even my dignity in some instances … to get my child what he needs …”
In the letter posted on April 20, Martinez said she travels frequently for business and is sometimes away for weeks at a time.
She said she carries breast milk virtually everywhere -- through hotels, "airports and security checkpoints" -- and has never been asked to dump it.
Of the 500 ounces she had on her, 300 ounces were frozen -- “Solid. Like a rock,” she wrote -- suggesting the frozen milk should have been allowed on the plane.
Despite her “begging, pleading and even crying,” guards at the airport’s Terminal 5 wouldn’t budge. So she threw all of it in the trash.
In an email to TODAY, a Heathrow spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the alleged incident, but pointed to airport rules regarding carry-on luggage.
Security regs allow passengers to bring one 1-liter resealable plastic bag of liquids on an airplane. Containers of liquid inside the bag can’t be larger than 100 milliliters, or around 3.5 ounces.
But rules about carry-on luggage posted on a British government services website differ slightly.
Those rules say passengers traveling with their babies “are allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilized water for the journey.”
“In some cases this will be over 100ml,” says the rule on Gov.UK.
Representatives from Heathrow and the UK Department of Transport didn’t respond to additional emails on Thursday seeking clarification about the breast milk policies.
Martinez called the rules "unfair and exclusionary."
"Being a working mother and ensuring both my job and my child get exactly what they need is the hardest thing I’ve ever done," she wrote.
"But you managed to make it nearly impossible in a single afternoon."