No longer are there tales of airport security guards forcing a breastfeeding mother to pour a two-day supply of her baby's milk into the garbage or another to taste her own milk. But a business trip still presents an array of challenges for breastfeeding mothers.
The first remains airport security. While the Transportation Security Administration has updated its rules since those well-publicized incidents involving rules about carrying liquids aboard a plane, the latest guidelines are purposely unspecific to give the security officer discretion. They allow women to take a "reasonable quantity" on board, said Christopher White, a T.S.A. spokesman.
But Caren Begun, a public relations executive in Jersey City who had a baby last year, said the lack of specificity made it difficult for her to figure out what to do. "On the Web site, they say you can travel with reasonable quantities of breast milk, but what does that mean?" Ms. Begun asked. "How much milk can I bring on board? What about ice packs? Will I have to taste the milk to show it's safe? I got a different answer from everyone."
And as they travel, many women still have to find a private place to pump their breast milk. Jenny Davis, a meeting planner in Fargo, N.D., for instance, recalled a business trip to San Diego.
"I went up to the flight attendant with my pump, said, 'I have to go to the bathroom now,' and pointed at the pump," recalled Ms. Davis, who manages events and publications for the Partner Channel, a marketing management company.
"She didn't understand what I meant, even after I repeated it," Ms. Davis continued. "Finally I said, 'I have to go to the bathroom now and use my pump.' Then she got it."
Although it is not known how many breastfeeding women travel for work, statistics suggest it is not uncommon. The most recent figures from the Census Bureau show that slightly more than half of all American women with a baby under a year old are in the work force. And nearly one-third of infants in the United States are fed nothing but breast milk for the first three months of their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"At many companies, working mothers can request to travel less, but some women have no choice," said Suzanne Riss, editor in chief of Working Mother magazine in New York City.
Every year, Working Mother compiles a list of the 100 best companies for working mothers. Two companies from the list in 2008, Ms. Riss said, were noteworthy for their support of breastfeeding employees who must travel.
Ernst & Young, the New York City financial services company, provides free travel kits so that women on business trips can ship milk home to their babies. And the Boston Consulting Group, a management consulting firm based in Boston, helps women bring their babies on business trips by covering travel expenses for the infant and a baby sitter.
Ms. Riss called such programs "very cutting edge" and noted that they "go a long way" toward creating loyal employees. "But they're still the exception, not the rule," she added.
Several working mothers spoke of looking for a place to pump breast milk. Often, a bathroom was the only option.
When her first daughter was born a few years ago, Annemarie Reilly was the regional director for seven countries in southern Africa for Catholic Relief Services, an international relief agency based in Baltimore, she said.
"I couldn't really do my job well without traveling," Ms. Reilly said. As a result, she found herself pumping milk in unusual places -- airplane bathrooms, airport bathrooms and African villages where electricity was often limited.
"I once had a meeting at the Vatican and had to pump there," Ms. Reilly said. "During breaks, I couldn't network with my colleagues because I had to go pump."
Barbara Mastroddi, a meeting planner in River Edge, N.J., said she had been on both sides of the traveling-while-breastfeeding divide. She has requested a private room to pump milk while she was on site planning a conference, and she has accommodated similar requests from her attendees.
"We let a new mom attending one of my programs use our office twice daily so she could pump," said Ms. Mastroddi, who coordinates events for Columbia University Medical Center. "She was just attending for the day so she didn't have a hotel room, and we were happy to help out."
Ms. Mastroddi suggested that mothers attending meetings request a private room in advance from the organizers. "A lot of people who haven't pumped think, 'Oh, you can just use the bathroom,' but there's really no way to do that, plus it's not very sanitary," she said.
As to carrying breast milk through airport security, Mr. White of the T.S.A. said the amount was determined case by case, based on the security officer's conversation with the passenger. "If you're traveling say, for one day, but you're bringing back a gallon of breast milk, that might not be allowed," he said.
Mr. White said that ice packs were allowed and that sending breast milk through the X-ray machine was mandatory. But, he said, this "absolutely does not harm breast milk or any other food. It's very low radiation." Any passenger was welcome to speak to a supervisor.
He added that the guard who made a woman taste her own breast milk in 2002 worked for a private company. And, he said, in 2006, when an agent poured out another woman's breast milk, no liquids were allowed in carry-on luggage.
Ms. Begun remained critical. "I understand the need for security measures," she said, "but the guidelines need to be more specific and consistent."
She suggested a toll-free hot line for people with questions about traveling with breast milk and infants in general. "It's difficult enough to travel without your child without the added stress of not knowing what to expect," she said.