Mother Says Airport Security Forced Her to Lactate to Prove Her Breast Pump Was Not a Bomb


An electric breast pump is a pretty weird-looking thing. Most modern electric breast pumps look simultaneously high-tech and weirdly primitive. Still, you’d think most people at airport security would know what the hell a breast pump is. But one woman says that airport security did not believe that her breast pump was a breast pump, and she was actually pulled out of line, subjected to extra screening, and finally told to squeeze her breast to express milk to prove to a security agent that she was actually lactating.

According to the BBC, Gayathiri Bose says she was so shocked and bewildered by the experience that she did not even realize how wrong it was until she was out of the screening room and thought, “Wait, what just happened!?”

Bose is a 33-year-old mother from Singapore, and she was was flying from Frankfurt, Germany, to Paris last week, but she says that when she tried to go through the airport security area, agents pulled her aside and asked her a lot of questions about her breast pump, which had just gone through the X-ray machine. Bose said that it was just a breast pump, but she says the agents did not seem to believe her and said that if she was really a nursing mother, then where was her baby?

“They had an incredulous tone. ‘You are breastfeeding? Then where is your baby? Your baby is in Singapore?’,” Bose told the BBC.

Traveling with a pump but without a baby is not uncommon. If you are breastfeeding and have a baby with you, the baby can often just nurse. If you are breastfeeding and do not have a baby with you, then you will have to pump. Actress Alyssa Milano complained recently about not being allowed to take breast milk on the plane unless she had a baby with her, and she said that she had the breast milk because the baby wasn’t with her. If she’d had the baby with her, she wouldn’t have bothered bottling up the milk because it would just be going right into the baby.

Bose says airport staff took her passport while she was taken to a separate room for additional screening by a female officer, whom Bose says then asked her to “prove” she was breastfeeding.

“She asked me to open up my blouse and show her my breast. She then asked how come I didn’t have anything attached to my breast, if I was lactating and expressing breastmilk,” Bose said. “And I said, there is no such thing that is attached permanently, we usually place the pump to our nipple and the machine does the job. She wanted me to show her by hand-expressing a little.”

Bose says that she complied with the request to squeeze milk from her breast, and then she was allowed to go. When she complained, she says they just told her that it was over now and to please leave.

An airport spokesperson reportedly told the BBC that Bose had been stopped for additional security screening to make sure her breast pump was not an explosive device, but denied that she had been asked to express milk in front of anybody. The airport spokesperson says the police woman who screened Bose has two children herself, indicating that she would presumably know how breast pumps, or at least breasts, work.

The police are investigating Bose’s complaint, but she has not yet filed legal action to sue over the incident. Her story is pretty crazy. Making women squeeze their breasts to prove they’re lactating is far from normal security procedure, especially since there are other ways to test devices to see if they are explosives. Still,  this would be far from the craziest thing airport security has ever done to a person. Because the alleged incident happened in a separate screening room between Bose and the police woman, it seems like it would be very difficult to prove unless there were cameras present. Police are investigating the incident, but have so far declined to make any official comments.

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