Breast Pumps are now considered a "security risk"

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Breast Pumps are now considered a "security risk"

[url=] This [/url] is ridiculous.

 NDP MLA Jenny Kwan was trying to board a plane to Kamploops on Tuesday, was barred and missed her flight as her breast pump was labelled a "security risk":



“It was a potential weapon of mass destruction,” said the NDP house leader, who was prevented from attending caucus meetings in Kamloops.

“It’s a breast pump with specialized ice packs.”

The Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA gave birth four-and-a-half months ago to baby boy, Renan. Since then she has breast fed him, often expressing her milk with a pump and storing it for feeding later.

Kwan said she did not check in luggage for the 8:15 a.m. flight to Kamloops because she was booked to return in the early evening to Vancouver.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll walk on and carry my purse and breast pump.’ I didn’t think it would cause a problem. I’ve done it before when I brought my child.”

But security officials at Vancouver International Airport became anxious when the unit went through a scanner. Kwan said she spoke to a supervisor and a manager, both of whom were suspicious why she would carry a breast pump and ice packs, but have no baby with her.

Perhaps because a postpartum woman still needs to pump even if her baby is at home?



Kwan suffered lactational mastitis — blocked milk ducts — when she nursed her daughter, Cee-Yan, now five, after letting too much time pass before breast feeding or expressing her milk. As a result she is meticulous about her schedule.

“I didn’t want to leave my breast pump with anybody. There’s too much risk.”

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I wouldn't have left mine behind, either.

 Even if you haven't gone as far as mastitis, when you're still lactating heavily the pressure and consequent discomfort can be pretty intense if you're away from your baby all day. 

martin dufresne

I hope she sues the pants off them.


Dumb as a %^^&*^* stump it is, and I don't use language like that often.  Actually, if you have the baby with you, you may not need the breast pump. 


Seeing that one can't bring liquids on to a flight for some time now I don't think the breast pump was the issue but rather the ice packs. 

 In fact the article pointed out that she could have boarded the flight if she checked the machine or left the ice packs at the gate. (A bit of selective reporting there Ghislaine)

The rules are the rules when it comes to security and she is not exempt  from them because she is an MLA. She was given options to make the flight but she chose not to comply. 



The rules are ridiculous, in this case, and in many others. leftyboy, I don't want to assume your sex from your name -- have you experienced the agony of full breasts while unable to alleviate it?

Ice packs? OK, let's break this down a bit: when travelling, poor quality food is available and usually for an exhorbitant fee. Many travellers prefer to bring their own lunch but, because of these stupid rules, which don't increase passenger safety, ice packs, that help prevent food spoilage and, hence, also prevent food poisoning, aren't allowed.

When pumping or expressing milk for a baby, ice packs are essential. And, most breast pumps come with customized ice packs, meant to fit the shape of the travelling case, so replacing them isn't easy or cheap.

Did you know that those little packs of yogurt are considered to be liquid? On a trip with my child, yogurt I was carrying for him was confiscated as "over the 100 ml limit".

Those of us with special dietary needs can't possibly travel with enough food for a long trip because of these pathetic, control-freak-based rules. It's pathetic that we all, because we want to fly so badly, put up with this shit, including me. However, I am seriously rethinking this -- why should I pay for the privilege of being treated so badly especially when factoring in the pathetically, and sometimes deadly, poor treatment of passengers?

Boo on these rules -- I hope Jenny Kwan takes this on. I think I'll send her an email of support.

ETA: The story isn't showing up at the link above anymore so here it is again.


Yes, leftyboy, I am imagining you are a man? If she could not take the ice packs, than there is no point in bringing the breast pump. I hope Ms. Kwan takes this on.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Occasionally rules should be tempered with common sense.  Apparently nobody was being paid to think that day.

ElizaQ ElizaQ's picture

  It doesn't make any difference that she's an MLA and thusly needing 'special' treatment.  That's not the point at all and not what Kwan is saying and not why she was annoyed.    I'd be just as annoyed and appalled if this story came out about any woman no matter what her job might be. 

  Though more then likely we're hearing about this because she happens to be an MLA.  I wonder how many times something like this has happened to other women before it was deemed 'newsworthy.'  I'm glad that it's getting the attention it deserves.  


Either you believe airline security is important or you do not. I do. I also believe the people in charge of security are routinely ridiculed despite the fact they do a very difficult job. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would rather err on the side of caution than have somebody blow up a plane by chemistry.

Ms Kwan has a medical condition that means she needs to follow a schedule but that does not mean she had to keep the milk, granted it would be a waste. She was going to be gone for less than 12hrs and I am going to make the assumption, because of her methodical schedule, she more than likely had enough stored breast milk at home.

Most women produce more milk than one infant needs. In fact in the old East Germany breast feeding mothers were expected to donate excess milk to a central collection agency. For example in 1988 the GDR collected over 200,000 litres from 60 milk banks. 

 At the end of the day Ms Kwan made the assumption that she could bring everything on as a carry on. She could have avoided this by simply asking when she checked in. 

 Again as I said before the rules are the rules. If you think the rules are stupid and pointless then try to change them. Until then the rules are there, like it or not, for a reason and it is incumbent on us to work within them. 


Yes, I do think the rules themselves are stupid but that's not all that's being discussed here.

1. Breastfeeding is not a "medical condition" but a normal part of many women's lives and, hence, public places, processes and facilities must (not should nor may but must) make adjustments accordingly.

2. I agree that the fact that Ms. Kwan is an MLA is irrelevant except for the light that has been shone on this matter because of her public status. I, too, wonder how many women have been subjected to this treatment and stayed silent because they were powerless, as ultimately was Ms. Kwan, in the situation.

3. Leftyboy, I'm not sure where your facts came from around the amount of milk a lactating woman's body produces but the reality is that our bodies, when lactating, make milk in response to demand. If there are frequent and long feedings, women's breasts make more milk. If there are longer periods of not feeding, the amount of milk produced goes down. Further to that, breastpumps, even the expensive high-tech ones which do the best job, do not adequately simulate suckling and thus, despite frequent pumping, the volume of milk available will go down. How fast that happens depends on a number of factors. If Ms. Kwan experiences frequent separations from her baby, as well she may as an MLA, she needs to pump frequently to maintain an adequate supply, both at the breast and in the freezer, of milk available for her child. Also, as mentioned in the article, women who do not nurse or pump regularly run the risk of plugged milk ducts or further along the process, mastitis, a painful breast infection. There are lot of references for this information and I will provide them if requested.

4. As to airport security, aside from the fact that I think the whole system has gone mad, the reality is that those who do this work have the authority to exercise judgement in situations that don't fit the norm. That doesn't appear to have happened here and a decision was made that has every appearance of discriminating against Ms. Kwan as a woman.




Loretta, Kwan suffered lactational mastitis and hence why she was diligent about using a breast pump. I never said that lactation was a medical condition. 

Don't put words in my mouth.

Secondly women are powerless to do what? Check a bag? Come on.

When you go through security at the airport you have to remove any electronic device i.e. computer from your bag and you must show that it can start up. If not they will ask you to check it. This was an electronic device that also had ice packs. Two no no's for security. 

Ms Kwan said she couldn't check her bag because she was "afraid she would miss her flight"  yet she had enough time to discuss this with a supervisor AND a manager. 

As far as I am concerned breast feeding is a not the issue here as a woman has the right to breast feed anywhere at any time. Period. 

This is a story about a woman who didn't want the inconvenience of checking a bag.  

Le T Le T's picture


As far as I am concerned breast feeding is a not the issue here as a
woman has the right to breast feed anywhere at any time. Period. 

This is a story about a woman who didn't want the inconvenience of checking a bag. 

You have proven a couple times in this thread that you know nothing about breastfeeding. If you truely believe that "a woman has the right to breastfeed anywhere anytime. Period." and you had even the slightest clue about what breastfeeding involved you would know that a breast pump is part of that "anywhere anytime" that you so valiantly defend. Not unlike other anti-breastfeeders (I'm reminded of the recent case in the Toronto area of a woman asked to not breastfeed in a pool and people carting out their amateur health research about the dangers to the infant of breastfeeding in pool water) you declare that this has nothing to do with a woman's right to breastfeed and everything to do with whatever the red hearing issue may be.

martin dufresne

Don't some men love to apply "the rules" to women... Well said, Le T.


I agree, Martin.

At the risk of wasting my breath, leftyboy, you reveal your lack of knowledge on the subject of breastfeeding and how lack of accomodation affects women's equality.

Electronic devices, as carry-through luggage, are not banned. People bring computers and cell phones through security all the time. Airport security long ago figured out how to accomodate the needs of business travellers (surprise, they are mostly men who would not tolerate being separated from their laptops or cells). Hence, your declaration about electronic devices being a banned is wrong.

So, Ms. Kwan had one "no-no", and security could have and should have made accomodation.

Let me ask you this -- what happened to all those folks on the Air Canada flight who sat on the tarmac in the plane for over 10 hours over Christmas time? They had no access to their checked luggage - what would have been the result for Ms. Kwan in those circumstances? She does not chronically suffer from lactation mastitis but many lactating women who cannot relieve themselves of the milk being produced will -- this incident displays a remarkable lack of knowledge of women, combined with a remarkable lack of awareness around the need to accomodate.

This incident is reflective of ignorance and control.

remind remind's picture

Well put Loretta and LeT. However, I would go further than ignorance and control issues, it is also sexism and perhaps racism as well.



"watching the tide roll away"


I agree, remind. I assumed I had implied that but it's appropriate to name it for what it is.