After being ‘humiliated’ by the TSA, a mom helped write a bill to make traveling with breast milk less embarrassing

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Emily Calandrelli took to TikTok after the TSA cost her precious breast milk. (Photo: Courtesy of Emily Calandrelli)

Breast, bottle, whatever: How do you feed? is an unashamedly unabashed series about how babies eat.

On Netflix, Emily Calandrelli is known for enthusiastically leading kids through science experiments and shouting her mantra: “Stay curious and keep exploring!” – on Emily’s Wonder Lab, the educational series she presented for two seasons (filmed when she was 35 and 36 weeks pregnant!).

On social media, she shares her contagious passion for space and space travel, educating her 195,000 Instagram followers and 1.1 million TikTok followers — using the username Space Gal, natch — on the finer points of rocketry. and satellites.

And in real life, the mom of two is quickly becoming known as an activist on a variety of parenting issues — parental leave policies and, most visibly, infant feeding and the special needs of breastfeeding moms when traveling by air.

Calandrelli recently worked with Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) to create bipartisan legislation, Bottles and Breastfeeding Equipment Screening (BABES), to make it easier for parents to safely travel with breast milk. That bill was introduced on Aug. 9 — just three months after Calandrelli was “humiliated” at Los Angeles International Airport by two male TSA agents who stopped her from bringing ice packs for milk she was going to pump for her 10-week pregnancy. the old son, through security, despite the rules allowing it — something both Calandrelli and the agents were unaware of at the time.

“It was one of those situations where you were like, ‘Surely this can’t be right. Well, you’re definitely wrong,” she tells Yahoo Life about the incident that inspired her to take action. “I was like, ‘They’re not going to get it [these ice packs] away from me.’ And then I said, “Oh my God, they’re going to take them away from me.” What happens? Wow.'”

Calandrelli, who had experienced blocked milk ducts before, says she remembers explaining the concept of mastitis — painful inflammation and sometimes infection of breast tissue often caused by a blocked milk duct — to help them understand why she had to draw “I was like… I need to pump for a couple of reasons — one, for my baby, but also because if I don’t, I’m at risk of mastitis. I could go to the hospital. It’s serious… I don’t need to explain mastitis to a grown man. This is very strange.”

Add to all this the background of being away from her baby for the first time (an older child, 2 1/2, was also home) and that she was experiencing breastfeeding difficulties, like lots of traveling and pumping and all the stress. which brings, as well as a condition called D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex), which causes feelings of sadness or panic during breastfeeding. “You feel this incredible surge of, like, anxiety. Some describe it as guilt. It’s a very strange feeling,” she explains, noting that she just weaned her baby after six months of breastfeeding (as she did with her first child). “And I think, in general, breastfeeding is difficult.”

An Instagram post she made about her embarrassing experience with the TSA — which she took down and then reposted — went viral.

“I cried at the airport,” she wrote in the comments. “I was embarrassed to have to explain breastfeeding to 3 grown men. I felt humbled and moved so I deleted the post… But guess what? They were wrong. TSA rules specifically state that you are allowed to have gel ice packs (regardless of whether they are fully frozen!!) for medically necessary purposes. And emptying my breast on a regular schedule and feeding my child IS medically necessary (and especially [important] with the current lack of formula!)’.

Her post was also flooded with comments from fellow moms who had similar encounters at airports — including TSA agents telling them to spill the milk they just pumped or handling fresh milk in a way that contaminates it. Those stories “wracked” her, she said, but also made her feel “validated” for being so upset — much of which, she says, stemmed from feeling like he was a fraud.

“I’m someone who likes to follow rules,” he explains. “When I thought I had broken a rule, I felt so bad. And I was ashamed that I didn’t know. And I felt shamed for trying to break this very important rule — that wasn’t a rule! And so, once I found out it wasn’t actually politics, I did: oh i didn’t do anything wrong.”

More importantly, the comments on social media helped Calandrelli take action, for which she drew on her master’s in technology and politics from MIT. “Before I was a TV host, before I did any of my science communication work, I was likely to end up in DC … trying to influence science and technology policy,” he explains. “I’ve always been very interested in policy work, and this was for me. What are the policy tools at our disposal that could help correct this inefficiency?”

She posted her thoughts on social media and soon connected with people in DC, including her own agent Porter, so things really started to move. The two collaborated to create the BABES account, which Calandrelli is proud of.

“I think the fact that this bill is both bipartisan and immediately bipartisan — there is … a companion bill in the Senate — speaks to the fact that this is an issue that affects all people, across lines,” he says .

Calandrelli, pictured at the 2018 Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, just co-authored a breastfeeding bill with local Rep. Katie Porter.  (Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Calandrelli, pictured at the 2018 Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, just co-authored a breastfeeding bill with local Rep. Katie Porter. (Photo: Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

In a press release about the bills, Senate co-sponsor Mazie Hirono (D-HI) noted, “We’ve heard too many stories of mothers being harassed, humiliated, and even put at risk simply because they’re traveling with milk and supplies needed to Requiring TSA to clarify and regularly update its guidance on handling breast milk and infant formula; [BABES] will help ensure that parents and their young children can travel safely and with peace of mind.”

Calandrelli notes that the bill, which would ensure the proper handling and safety of milk, is needed everywhere. “I mean, no matter where you are, if you’re in an airport that’s small, if you’re in a big airport, in big cities, small towns, it affects so many people. And it’s one of those things that I think people maybe didn’t realize was an issue until somebody spoke up.”

This happens so often, he points out, when you see an inefficiency in society or government “and you just assume that someone else is going to fix it. Or if it’s a problem, there’s a reason it’s a problem, and that’s the way it works. Correctly;” says.

“But,” he adds, “that’s not always the case.”

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