Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Security with a baby: liquids

I always hated going through security, particularly since they introduced the so-called liquid ban in 2006 because as a woman you always have the lip gloss or hand creme in the back pocket of your bag, and being environmentally conscious I like to fill up my water bottle instead of buying a new every flight. So I always bring an empty bottle that I then fill once I have cleared security. In UK airports they for some odd reason don't have water fountains as in the US and the water in their bathrooms is heated. Here I therefore shamelessly walk over to any food vendor without a queue and ask them to fill my bottle.

I have always had to bring milk for Zoe. The first flight because I was at this point pumping and feeding her with a special needs feeder and for most following flights because it is nice to have a bottle. Luckily, all places I have flown have exceptions for baby milk, however still with restrictions. Rule number 1: Always declare the milk before you put your stuff through the x-ray. I have sometimes forgotten and not got into any trouble but I have heard of others who did.

In the US they most often take you aside and swipe the container of milk with explosive-sensitive wipes, or so it looks like. Make sure you have plenty of time because you often have to wait for an available officer that can leave the security station. Believe it or not but airports in the US are actually some of the most lax about this part and I have sometimes 'forgotten' to declare my milk and gotten through with a bottle buried deep in my luggage.

In Scandinavia the officers acknowledge that you say you are carrying milk for the baby and let you through without looking at it. That said, I do speak the language and I am sure I get some positive discrimination here.

In the UK, particularly in London Heathrow Airport they are extremely thorough and this is where I have had a few almost inconceivable experiences. My first trip through here was, as I said, with Zoe when she was three and a half weeks and I was still pumping milk and feeding her with a special bottle. I had about 3 small bottles of breast milk with me, all under the allowed 4 oz (100ml) in plastic bags. After getting through with Zoe (this was a time where I was asked to take her out of the carrier so she had woken up and was a bit unhappy) we waited about 15 minutes while my bag had been placed on another table in a queue and one officer slowly went through each of the bags with their owners. When he finally got to my bag he looked at me sternly and asked what it was. I answered that it was breast milk and he then asked me to taste it. That's right, I had to taste it to get it through. I objected, arguing that it was in fact under the normal limit for liquids and if it had been creams, toothpaste etc, it wouldn't have been a problem. Okay, he answered, slightly annoyed, then just taste one of them. At this point we were late for our connecting flight and I just poured a bit of milk out on my hand and licked it up. So I can now tell you that breast milk is rather sweet and thin.