Is it time for airlines to take a stand on breast-feeding?

When Martin Madrid got his seat assignments on a Delta Air Lines flight from Minneapolis to Orlando, he spotted a problem: Even though the airline knew that he and his wife were flying with a 4-year-old and an infant — you have to tell the airline your birth date when you book tickets — the couple had been assigned seats a few rows apart.

Splitting up his family wouldn’t normally be a problem, said Madrid, an account manager for a health products company in Minneapolis, except that his wife, who was still nursing the baby, needed a little help. Couldn’t Delta just seat them together? “This is so irritating,” he said.

Madrid could, of course, pay extra for premium seats — but isn’t Delta required to make a special allowance for nursing moms?

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No. Airlines have traditionally had a tumultuous relationship with nursing mothers. Emily Gillette, a passenger kicked off a Delta commuter flight in 2006 for refusing to cover herself with a blanket as she breast-fed her daughter, is a poster child for that conflict.

Gillette quietly settled a lawsuit against the carrier this year. But the subject of how airlines treat — or in some cases mistreat — nursing women comes up with some regularity.

Many of the passengers who contact me are so embarrassed by their run-ins with crew members that they don’t want their names published. One recently e-mailed me on behalf of his wife, who was traveling on American Airlines for business. She had left her 4-month-old son at home with her husband, but during the flight she visited the restroom to use a breast pump.

After a few minutes, a flight attendant made an announcement, “asking customers in the restroom to return to their seats, as other passengers also needed to use the restroom,” her husband said. “I was appalled at the lack of professionalism and common sense of the in-flight crew.”

I asked American Airlines about the incident, and a representative told me that the airline regrets what happened. “Our in-flight procedures advise our crew to ensure that breast-feeding mothers have the privacy they need and that other customers are not subjected to an uncomfortable situation,” a spokeswoman said. “Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle such situations with professionalism and discretion.”

American apologized and sent the passenger a $100 flight voucher.

The awkwardness with which airlines treat breast-feeding moms reflects the overall discomfort that many Americans feel toward nursing in public. Last winter, the retail chain Target became the target of “nurse-ins” by angry mothers who were upset after a Houston-area woman was reportedly asked to stop breast-feeding her child at a local store. The protesters wanted Target to know that nursing isn’t “exhibitionism.”

Yet many of the travelers I speak with regard breast-feeding as a private act that, if performed in public, should be done discreetly, especially in the confines of a commercial flight. That attitude irks some breast-feeding advocates, who argue that nursing ought to be allowed anywhere, with no restrictions.

Before I continue, a little disclosure: If you can’t tell from the byline, I’m a man. Obviously, I have no direct personal experience with breast-feeding. But my partner nursed all three of our children for as long as possible, including on a plane. She always protected her privacy with a blanket out of consideration for her fellow passengers, a decision I supported.

Given that nursing is such a hot topic, you’d think that the airline industry would have firm policies in place to deal with the conflicts that ensue. It doesn’t.

I contacted all the major airlines and asked about their nursing rules. I specifically asked whether they had any formal or informal policies, and how they train attendants to deal with a nursing mom. The answers surprised me.

Two airlines offered a brief response. Delta “supports a mother’s right to breast-feed,” according to a spokeswoman. A United Airlines spokesman told me, “I’m not able to find any such policy.”

Those statements suggest that the No. 1 and No. 2 airlines in the United States leave it up to their flight attendants to decide what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to nursing on planes.

Ditto for US Airways. “There is no formal or informal policy regarding breast-feeding,” spokesman John McDonald told me. But crew members know what they ought to do, he was quick to add. “Obviously, the flight attendants would assist the passenger with their needs, be it to help them to the lavatory for privacy, [offer] a blanket if requested, or some ice to cool bottles of milk if they pump before travel,” he said.

Southwest Airlines has no formal rule on breast-feeding, either. But spokeswoman Linda Rutherford offered some advice to new moms. “We just ask that nursing mothers use good judgment and exercise discretion in deference to other customers who depend on us to provide a comfortable travel experience,” she said. The airline suggests that “mothers who plan on breast-feeding onboard the aircraft carry a small blanket or jacket to protect their privacy, since we currently do not stock our aircraft with blankets.”

The only major airline with a formal breast-feeding policy is American. It places no restrictions on mothers traveling with infants and allows breast-feeding during all phases of flight, according to a company representative. “In addition, American’s experienced flight attendants may assist parents by heating baby bottles using onboard kitchen equipment, as well as offer suggestions on how to keep kids entertained in flight,” spokeswoman Taylor Hall said. “Parents traveling with children are allowed to bring an extra carry-on diaper bag, as well as car seats and strollers that can either be carried on the plane or checked for free prior to security.”

At best, these policies (or lack of them) allow flight attendants the flexibility to handle any breast-feeding passenger at their discretion. But at worst, they show that the airline industry hasn’t given the issue much thought.

As for Madrid, he phoned Delta a few days before his flight and explained his family’s situation to a representative. “It took her 30 minutes, but they got us seated together,” he said.

146 thoughts on “Is it time for airlines to take a stand on breast-feeding?

  1. There is no doubt that breast milk is nature’s perfect food for infants. It’s a sad state that the female human body has been objectified so much that new mother’s can’t use their breasts for what nature intended them.

    Two things can happen to make the breast feeding situation better. 1) more mothers can breastfeed in public so that it become a normal part of everyday life for us, or 2) we can provide space and official policies for nursing mothers so that airlines/stores, etc are prepared.

    I’m sure most people on planes would much prefer a happy, well fed baby rather than a cranky, hungry,crying baby and a stressed out mom.

    1. Not sure I agree with an “OFFICIAL SITE” for breast feeding. That could lead us right back to the Breastappo calling a foul because “you stepped outside the Boobie Box”

    2. I don’t get it. Breast milk is entirely composed of whatever Mom is eating. How is it natures perfect food? It could be lacking in several key nutrients if Mom’s diet is lacking. It could also have contaminants that pass through from Mom’s diet/water intake.

      Argue that breastfeeding forces mom to cuddle at least a little bit during the day, or that it’s harder to feed a baby contaminated water (not impossible, mind), or that manufacturing processes can be dirty/unpredictable/unsafe; but don’t argue that all breastmilk is “perfect.” It’s simply not possible.

      1. Breast milk is NOT composed of what Mom is eating. True, it is partially composed of what is in Mom’s bloodstream which is why you can’t take certain medications, in some cases avoid certain allergens, and have to wait a certain amount of time after drinking alcohol. But the female body will make sure that the infant gets what it needs, including depriving Mom of nutrients and shuttling them to the baby. This is what happens during pregnancy and nursing, and why mothers are advised to take prenatals – the vitamins in the prenatals do NOT go to the baby. They go to the mother’s body, to replenish the stores that nourishing the baby depleted.
        The body will also alter the content of breast milk as far as calorie and fat content depending on the baby’s needs – for example, a newborn baby does not need as many calories, so a mother’s milk will be lower in calories/fat for a newborn baby and as the baby ages, will change to higher fat/calorie content. An older baby will not need to increase the amount of mother’s milk it drinks because mother’s milk will change to include more concentrated nourishment. Mother’s milk also contains antibodies against infections that commercial formula DOES NOT CONTAIN. So yes, breast milk IS nature’s perfect food.

  2. Ack! – The breastapo strikes again…

    Edited a week later: Holy cow, I was right. I am all for breastfeeding in public – it’s natural and shouldn’t offend anyone. But I also realize that the Internet is a breeding ground for perversions I otherwise would never have heard of. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. If that offended you all – welp – I offer this much: Everybody’s bound to be offended by something. Guess you found yours. 😀 (And Chris – no, I wasn’t referencing you… but as soon as I saw the story, I knew the battleground was moving here. lol)

  3. Having a child is a choice. Commerce should not have to stop in its tracks and give you a price break because you’ve chosen to reproduce. Regarding breastfeeding on planes, I have not a problem in the world with it, and don’t think mothers should have to give their baby his or her dinner in the toilet — ick…would you want to eat in there?

    Breastfeeding is not sexy. In fact, I think it’s kind of beautiful. My neighbor is breastfeeding now and I occasionally get a flash of boobage when I’m staring at the baby when she’s holding him. Not only is it not sexy; what I’m seeing is barely noticeable as a bit of boobage.

    And regarding the breast-pumping incident, did they KNOW she was breast-pumping? They’re flight attendants, not psychics.

    1. Maybe she was massively constipated…or having a bout of stomach wrenching diarehea (sp?) that required her to spend more time in the bathroom. Would it be any more appropriate to rush her out via a public announcement that would inevitably cause people around the restroom to look at who was exiting? Why not knock on the door and quietly let her know that other people were waiting to use the bathroom? “Excuse me, I’m sorry to interupt you, but other passengers need to use the bathroom.” would have sufficed.

  4. The only objection I’ve ever had about breast feeding on a flight was when I used as a “foot rest” for a toddler. The mother decided to nurse this 2+ year old kid, and his legs were on my lap.

    She didn’t even ask–just plopped him down, his feet kicking the keyboard of my laptop! Totally rude!

    No apology, no nothing. I was just expected to oblige.

    1. Raven, I am dying to know what you said to her–because surely you did say something? There are so many verbal options… I’m afraid that if it had happened to me, mine would have involved some four-letter words.

      1. I wanted to say, “I like my computer better than your kid’s feet.” But I didn’t. I behaved myself, just giving her the eye, which she ignored. So, a little later when I realized she and the kid were watching the movie I had on my laptop (How to Train Your Dragon), I changed it to a pretty violent anime.

        (Hey, I could’ve been a real douche and put on some hentai…)

        Then she gave me the stink eye.

        1. You made a big mistake not saying anything. Letting people get away with bad behavior reinforces that behavior. I’d have told her in no uncertain terms to get her kid’s feet off my lap.

  5. Wow, I am truly impressed with common-sense approach described by the spokeswoman for Southwest. On the one hand, she’s indicating that the airline shouldn’t be construed in any way as being anti-mother; but on the other hand, she politely points out that (ahem) there are OTHER people on the plane too, and their lives don’t revolve around the fellow-passenger-mom who wants to feed her baby.
    As a woman who is totally UNsympathetic to those wanting to nurse openly and indiscreetly in public, I just hope that moms planning to fly are listening to what Southwest is trying to tell them…

    1. Oh my goodness, are we really such a nation of prudes? Will it kill you if you accidentally catch a glimpse of a woman’s nipple going into her baby’s mouth? Why don’t we just mandate burkas in this country, and be done with it?

      Breastfeeding is natural, it’s healthy for the baby, and it’s practical, because it’ll probably keep the little tyke from screaming his lungs out as the pressure changes. We need to get over our stupid notion that breasts are dirty. When I see a mother nursing in public, I always think “Good for you,” and I’ll even give a thumbs up if I can do it without appearing like a letch (I’m a guy).

      1. Yes, we really are a nation of prudes. You’ve asked, nay demanded, the rights of breastfeeding mothers be respected. Now we. the prudes, are asking you respect the rights of the people who prefer to remain prudes.

        1. Then don’t look. Simple solution.

          There’s no need to adopt 12th century religious morals and prevent women from raising healthy babies just because you are boob-averse.

          1. Ummmm…there is a lot more display of boobs on artwork from the 12th century displaying nursing women than is “approved” now in America.

      2. A glimpse is one thing, but there are a lot of women (yes, I’ve flown near them) who seem to think they should let it all hang out, and everyone else should just deal with it. If you don’t wish to be treated rudely, you shouldn’t behave rudely to others. A little discretion goes a long way.

    2. Good grief. How many times have I been subjected to “side boob” by women who wear shirts with arm holes that are much too large? Yesterday I repeated saw that a rather large chested woman had such a “push up” bra on that her breasts were actualy creased on TOP…but no one complains about this type of display. Then there is the massive amount of cleavage that is often on display…again, no complaints.

      I think women breastfeed in public MUCH more often than the general public thinks they do. Its just that they USUALLY breastfeed discretely…so John Q Public does not realize what is happening. By discretely…I typically mean nursing WITHOUT a blanket covering the baby to call attention to what is happening, but rather using draping of the mom’s own clothing to preserve modesty. I know that numerous times I’ve had people not realize that I was nursing when I’ve done this…and as for myself…I rarely spotted a nursing mother before I had children, but once I had my first child, I started noticing them frequently…I just knew more of what to look for once I’d experienced it myself.

  6. I breastfed three boys on airplanes more than 30 years ago. It wasn’t a big deal. No one demanded I stop, or that I go to the toilet to do feed my baby. I didn’t ‘whip out a boob’ because my baby wanted to nurse I kept his time quiet and comfortable by covering both of us with a small blanket. It isn’t difficult, but I keep wondering why it’s such a huge issue. Nobody, not one single person EVER attacked me for breastfeeding in public. On airplanes, in particular, a baby who nursed was wonderful; he was quiet, didn’t need a lot of acoutrements like a warmed bottle, a burp cloth, a pacifier…just me and my milk; no one had to listen to him fuss or cry.He was pretty content. Today parents are weighed down with stollers, car seats, diaper bags from hell, toys, and so much stuff that just being able to carry the baby in a blanket seems a relief. Why this is an issue for airlines is beyond me.
    I was lucky to only have to pump milk a few times, and it would have been something I’d want to do in private. It would have required an extreme emergency for me to pump breast milk on an airplane. Heck, I don’t even like to go pee on an airplane! So, to sit in the lav for half an hour to pump my breast would be an awful lot of trouble. Most flights are 3 hours or less, it does some some planning ahead could alleviate that need. I also believe the flight attendent could have been more accomodating, but maybe she tried to be. We don’t know the whole story. If she’d asked the mommy to vacate the toilet for a few minutes, probably the mommy could have sat nearby until the other passenger was finished? This just seems like an awful lot of trouble.
    Do I think airlines should seat families together? absolutely. As a passenger, I’d gladly give my seat (an even trade window/window, aisle/aisle) to a parent.

  7. My girlfriend considers herself a “lactavist” something I do not support. This is a very hot topic for us. Nursing is fine, and encouraged, but if done in public warrants discretion. She and her mommy brigade pals are convinced it is just fine to go bare breasted in public when feeding. Not appropriate. I would make a scene if this occurred in the seat next to me inflight.

      1. Was the OP’s booking that new “Delta Super Cheap” fare where seats assignments are not guaranteed? Cuz if so, you get what you pay for and I have no sympathy for them.

      2. The comment was mocking the thought of setting up official breastfeeding locations as ones where the act was allowed. The term was used to describe people who might enforce violations for stepping “outside of the box”. It was not directed at you.

  8. Airlines should take a stand in SUPPORT of breastfeeding moms. It is the most healthy and convenient way to feed an infant. It is also soothing for an infant who may be stressed by the flight or experiencing ear pain due to altitude–resulting in a much quieter, calmer baby. In most cases when a mom is breastfeeding, the only time you’ll see anything more than a hint of breast is when the infant is first trying to latch on or when the infant releases the breast. I mean c’mon people–woman show more breast and other skin at the beach and no one seems to have a problem. In a country that allows any woman who chooses to wear thong bikini’s bottoms and string tops, and has a chain of restaurants called Hooters, I can’t believe this is even such an issue.

    1. SOOTHING and more! NOTHING makes me as sad as a mom who has a screaming infant that could be cured by feeding during ascent and decent to equalize the pressure in their ears.

      1. Well, I don’t know. I nursed 3 babies, and I always bought seats for them on airplanes for safety reasons. So, it’s really hard to nurse on takeoff/descent when they are securely strapped into their carseats as needed during those times.

        Nothing wrong with breastmilk in a bottle during those situations. Nothing wrong with formula in a bottle either.

        I fall into the whole pick what you want to do camp, but I don’t think it’s the airlines or anyone else’s responsibility to make it easier for you. This guy should have paid more if he felt he “had” to sit with his spouse. Those are the current rules. I happen to think that paying for seat assignments is an asinine proposition but it’s the current situation. Function within it, or change it, but don’t expect to be a special snowflake that gets special exemption.

    2. Yes, it is natural, but a bit of discretion on the mother’s part is ALSO called for. And I state this as a woman, not some flustered gentleman.

      1. I think discretion has become an archaic fashion. Now your boobs have to be hanging out, your belly button is supposed to be pierced and of course you have to display your belly jewelry, the flashier the better! We’re all looking for a reality show I guess.

  9. I, for one, think breast feeding is one of the most loving and beautiful things that a parent can do (and it’s unfair that ONLY mothers can do it). My children and grandchildren all had that advantage for their health and happiness, and I wish every mom and child could have the opportunity.

    I see nothing sexual about it, hence covering up should be an option, not a necessity.

    Sadly, corporate America is often not ready for an organic solution to anything that can be done by technology.

    1. There is nothing sexual about it. But, when you have a 2+ year old that is LAYING ACROSS MY LAP because Mom decides to feed him on the boob on a flight, I got a problem.

      That’s MY space. Not BabyAss space. Got it?

  10. In my long life I have been active in promoting breastfeeding; I worked as a lactation consultant for many years. I am discouraged to see that Americans remain mired in a silly adolescent mindset. Our society is stuck in perpetual “Bevis and Butthead” mode (“haha, I see a breast, haha”)

    Babies, since time began,have always had first dibs on breasts. It is only our skewed society (and men) that have decided breasts are for grown men. Give me a break. Most of the rest of our planet honors the sight of a woman breastfeeding a baby, or pays it no heed, whether across a room or seated next to them. (The poster who had a toddler kick the laptop and impinge on his space is right to be offended by the mother’s rudeness, just like when a parent allows their darlings to kick the seat in front of them. That is a parenting issue, though, not breastfeeding.)

    As for pumping in public I have to admit that is a more challenging situation. That said, I had a client who commuted from Boston to New York City three days a week to teach (college professor) and for several months she pumped from her seat on the Amtrak routinely. She told me that she never had anyone seated next to her when she did it, and what with the noise of the train and the height of the seats no one ever took notice (or if they did, they ignored it.) Having been a nursing mom myself, I think I could have pulled off some pumping on the sly from an airline seat. If we could all agree that feeding the baby was the best goal we could even overcome our fear of seeing a woman pumping, but that is maybe too much to hope for.

    Many businesses have cards posted that say “Breastfeeding Welcome Here.” Would that airlines would follow suit. The first step has to be in accepting that breasts are part of the means of feeding babies. New York state has a law protecting women who breastfeed in public that states it is acceptable for both breasts to be visible, thus preventing complaints about inadvertent exposure (try breastfeeding a squirming baby and see if YOU can keep everything covered, and then appreciate how dexterous moms are!). As adults we have the ability to look away if we don’t wish to view something. And we could join the rest of the world in BEING adult, but I admit my hopes are not high.

    1. And — keep in mind this aversion to seeing a woman in the act of breastfeeding IS an American fixation. I work at a large university with a diverse international population. One of my clients tells the story of how she sought out a quiet bench on campus to breastfeed her baby, away from foot traffic (she thought). She then put a blanket over her upper torso and the baby to make sure “nothing was showing.” A couple strolled nearby and, to her surprise, came up to her. The woman lifted the corner of the blanket and both (not speaking English) smiled and admired the baby. My client was at first embarrassed, but then she reflected on how freeing it would be if Americans considered breastfeeding as normal as this foreign couple did.

      I was in Grand Canyon National Park walking to a site to watch sunset. In front of me, also walking towards the overlook, was a Muslim woman, clad head to toe in black (face covered, too). As she stepped over a log I noticed she was breastfeeding the baby in her arms; there was a flap in her clothing allowing the baby access to her breast. Obviously she had no idea it was immodest to feed the baby in public (as it isn’t). I did notice that after she sat down to watch the sunset she was concerned that her babe kept grabbing at her face cover — she was much more worried about the immodesty of having that part of her exposed.

    2. I’m all for breastfeeding but when someone encroaches on my seat because they are nursing a 2+ year old whose legs are now on my lap, I have a problem.

  11. Discreetly covered by a blanket is fine with me. It’s unfair to other passengers to tie up the lavatory for a long period of time or subject us to nudity. Maybe I’m a prude, but natural or not, it’s not something I want to see.

    1. Then don’t look. How can you see a breast/breast feeding Mom unless you are purposely looking at her? If you are sitting next to her on a plane then face your eyes forward or look slightly to the other side. If it is in other public venues, look away. Don’t stare. Then you don’t have to see it.

      Ever hear of the phrase out of sight, out of mind?

      1. Ever hear the phrase “What is seen cannot be unseen?” I have sat next to bare breast feeding mothers before and even if though I didn’t stare, it’s still something I’m exposed to against my will and made for a very uncomfortable flight for me. If she’d covered up with a blanket or made any attempt at discretion it would not have been a problem.

        To apply your logic, since I tend to suffer from gas when I travel, maybe I should not worry about taking medicine or going to the lavatory to relieve my severe discomfort. Maybe I should just let it rip at my seat. It’s natural and others should just ignore it.

        1. So basically your issue becomes the issue of someone else.

          I’d recommend that you don’t open a retail business in Wisconsin or in any state specifically allows breastfeeding in public places, and where uncovering a nipple is specifically or implicitly allowed. I mention Wisconsin because asking a woman to cover up is against the law.

          I would suggest that it’s not the woman’s problem, but that there are some people in the world who still see something totally innocent as disturbing.

          1. When in public, we all adjust our behavior out of consideration for others. If someone doesn’t, they’re not an activist fighting for rights – they’re rude. Breastfeeding, like many other bodily functions, may be innocent — but it’s also gross.

          2. It’s your opinion that it’s gross; I certainly don’t find it so. I’ve seen it done and it’s generally over with quickly. We also adjust our expectations to that of a changing society. That’s progress.

            I remember back when I was a kid, bottle feeding was the norm and makers of formula were huge in the marketplace. That was what society was encouraging, especially since there were hangups about breasts. Expectations have changed, and now what would have been accepted hundreds of years ago is what’s generally accepted today.

          3. Wow. It just boggles my mind how anyone could consider a mother feeding her baby “gross”. Hate women much?

          4. Fallacy of false cause much?

            I’m not the only one – male or female – who holds that opinion. I don’t want to see many things in public but that does not make me hate women or anyone else.

            You don’t know me or anyone else in this forum, yet you feel free to tell all of us our opinions are wrong, count for nothing, and leap to conclusions about us which are untrue and insulting.

          5. Good response. Nothing like accusing you of disliking women because she doesn’t like your argument.
            She pulled the “gender card.”

    2. Where would you suggest that a lactating woman pump then if she doesn’t have her baby with her on a long flight (or if she has multiple connecting flights with not enough time in between to pump off the plane)? I can pretty much deduce that I would not be able to simply cover up the pump with a blanket and pump in my seat on a plane…even the bathroom would be difficult…because milk let down does depend on psychological issues, and for many women–myself included, that means feeling that her privacy is protected.

      1. Hey, I’m 100% for your privacy. Take all the privacy you can to do what you need to do. Please. That’s all I ask.

        Assuming the pump doesn’t make a horrible racket (which leads to another unrelated issue of unwanted noise) I have zero problem with you pumping away right next to me covered by a blanket.

        If you don’t make it an issue by openly doing it with no consideration for others – it’s not an issue to me.

        I’ve had mothers next to me breast feed while covered up and as discreetly as possible – and I have zero problem with that. Do what you have to do while showing courtesy to others around you. That goes not just for this issue but for anything else, really.

  12. Personally, I have no problem with mothers breastfeeding their babies. However, no matter how PC it should be, some people are squeamish about seeing a breast in public. If someone complains, I would hope the mother would consider a compromise and cover up. Sure, she may have the right to openly breastfeed, but sometimes a little consideration goes a long way.

    1. Depends on the state. I found the law in Wisconsin specifically states that nobody can ask a woman to cover up, and to do so would open up a business to a lawsuit.

  13. Generally speaking, I have no problem with anyone doing anything to make them happy as long as it doesn’t impinge on me. Generally. That being said, I have absolutely no problem with breastfeeding in public. Let me ask a hypothetical to all of the breastfeeding moms out there. What’s your course of action if, while breastfeeding, you notice a teenage (most likely) male ogling you?

  14. I voted no because I don’t think it should be a corporate policy but rather an government policy, law, or regulation. Frankly I don’t think someone else’s discomfort with seeing a (gasp) nipple should be a consideration for whether or not it should be allowed.

    Many state laws are clear that breastfeeding is allowed anywhere that a mother is otherwise allowed to be. The Target case that started the national protest was in Texas, where the law allows a woman to breastfeed anywhere, and where the mother actually used a cover designed for the purpose. However, in that case the employees were uncomfortable with the idea that others might know she was breastfeeding and be offended by it. Some state laws are specific that a nipple being revealed incidental to the process is not considered indecent exposure or is otherwise allowed. If breastfeeding happens in an airport in a state with such laws then some airport employee can’t insist that the woman “cover up”.

    I’d like there to be some federal regulation on this that would bring some uniformity to how women are treated when breastfeeding in planes.

    1. “Frankly I don’t think someone else’s discomfort with seeing a (gasp) nipple should be a consideration for whether or not it should be allowed.”

      Using this as a guide, then ALL women should be permitted to expose themselves on airplanes whenever they feel like it. It’s this mentality, this anything goes whether it offends someone else or not, that is causing so many lawsuits and such divisiveness in our country and elsewhere.

      As a member of the human race who is supposed to have empathy, you SHOULD care whether your actions or the actions of another are offending someone else. Maybe if we cared more about each other and less about asserting ourselves we’d be in a different place as a society?

      When did we become a nation of “I’m the only one who matters” people?

      1. Why does it become a slippery slope where random exposing of oneself should then be allowed? We’re talking about breastfeeding. It’s already in the law in many states that breastfeeding is specifically not indecent exposure and/or incidental display of a nipple during breastfeeding is allowed. Take for instance Florida, where our Mr. Elliott resides:

        “383.015 Breastfeeding.—The breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values, and in furtherance of this goal:
        (1) A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding”

        I’ve been there around a crying infant that wants to feed. My wife preferred a “discreet” location. And sometimes she took so much time trying to find such a location that our kid was in a state where latching on was impossible.

        I personally think that society should grow up. A nipple shown during breastfeeding isn’t offensive, and the civil rights laws of many states reflects that. You don’t like it? Then get a legislator to repeal those laws.

        I think clear regulations would change the dynamic. The absence of clear rules makes it easier to claim that one is somehow damaged by an act. If something is clearly legal, then the bar for a lawsuit is much higher.

        1. And you’ve completely skirted the basis of my comment, none of it pertaining to what you’ve posted.

          You said:
          “Frankly I don’t think someone else’s discomfort with seeing a (gasp) nipple should be a consideration for whether or not it should be allowed.”

          I asked (in a nutshell): What happened to common courtesy? When did we become a nation of “Me first, to the detriment and discomfort of everyone around me?”

          My feeling is (and I was raised this way by two incredible parents) if what I’m doing is making someone else uncomfortable, legal or not, I should change how I’m doing it. I also believe in the adage, your rights end where mine begin.

          1. I don’t think there’s anything discourteous about breastfeeding or showing a nipple while doing so. To me, being bothered by a fleeting glance of a nipple while breastfeeding is a societal hangup.

            I recall there was a time when people would ask that a “colored” person be moved to the back of a bus because there was “discomfort”. I think society has evolved to the point where public breastfeeding is seen in the same light.

          2. Were we talking about sitting next to a black person, your argument would have merit.

            Being uncomfortable about sitting next to a person because of the color of their skin is being uncomfortable over something they can’t change or alter.

            Being uncomfortable over an exposed breast while being held hostage at 40,000 feet IS something the offender CAN change.

            I don’t know why it’s called “common courtesy” when it’s really not so common any more.

            It’s being a societal hangup doesn’t make it okay for people like to force yourself and your views on the rest of us who AREN’T okay with it. I simply don’t understand WHY you feel the need to be so militant about it? Were you not raised to appreciate the feelings of the people around you?

            You can go off on tangents all you wish but, the bottom line is: do you or do you not care about those around you and how your actions might affect them? Having the RIGHT to do something doesn’t give you the RIGHT to make those around uncomfortable in doing so.

          3. I agree. Common courtesy is key. And in this case, the common courtesy would be to simply not look. Nursing mothers are prone to be uncomfortable to begin with–not because of the act of nursing, but because they are completely aware of the disapproving glances.

            Nursing is not an easy task. I’ve nursed both of my children and did so in public places. I felt more comfortable moderately covered (mostly with just my shirt), but when I was home, I “let it all hang out”. It was much easier, the babies didn’t squirm as much, and it was more comfortable for all. I’ve never seen a mother “letting it all hang out” in public because I believe that most are aware of the discomfort from those around them. However, you do what you’ve got to do. If the baby won’t nurse under a blanket, grabs at the blanket, etc., you just have to roll with it.

            Perhaps you should take your own advice and think about those around you. In this case, moms who are already struggling with trying to feed their children (emphasis on FEED) in an uncomfortably small environment, and have a little sympathy for them. If you don’t like it, look away. No one is making you check out her rack.

            For those who have never nursed, here are a few things you may not understand about how it works:

            1. Breasts are not faucets. They don’t just turn on and off. There is not an infinte supply of milk ready to go whenever.
            2. Timing is key–asking a mom to plan better for nursing is a moot point. It takes time for the milk to be available and it must be “accessed” regularly to keep the supply constant. If you start to skip or spread out feedings, your supply decreases. This is why nursing mothers need to pump when away from their babies.
            3. Stress and breastfeeding don’t mix. To initiate the act of nursing, moms need to be relaxed or the milk cannot be released.

            Keep all of that in mind when you’re thinking that a nursing mom is being inconsiderate because she’s juggling a baby and flashed a boob while you were staring at her.

          4. So your comfort supersedes mine? Rather than you cover your breast with a blanket it is I who should cover my face with something? Perhaps you would prefer I wear blinders? YOU can alter how you’re doing something, I can’t alter how my eyes see nor can I remove the discomfort I feel at seeing this.

            Again, you’re demanding I and others like me respect you and your needs/wants/demands while ignoring our simple request that you do what millions of breastfeeding mothers around the world do, which is cover what you are doing or being more discreet.

            And in making your point, you become sarcastic, rude, disrespectful and resort to calling names. So much for polite discourse.


          5. I demanded nothing. Nor does my discomfort supercede yours. I was echoing your comments that people should be considerate to each other, and that includes those who are uncomfortable.
            To be clear, I would not rather you cover your face, which is why I chose to discreetly nurse. That was my point, so please reread my comment. I was suggesting that it’s not always possible to do so, and you had suggested that if everyone where just considerate about those around them, everyone would be better off. I simply wanted to include those who are uncomfortable in that equation.
            Airplanes are cramped these days. The seat in front of you is practically in your lap, so if you’re able to see some fleeting flesh, it’s because you’re going out of your way to look. I challenge you to try to read a window passenger’s t-shirt slogan the next time you fly. It would take quite a bit of effort. Anyone in an aircraft in today’s age of flying barely has room to lean forward without hitting the seat in front of them, so they are already well concealed.
            Incidentally, I have no idea what you’re talking about with name calling. I did no such thing. Sarcastic tone? A bit. But name calling, being disrespectful, or being rude to you personally? Huh? What?

          6. It seems to me everyone has forgotten the baby in this. While you are concerned about your comfort, why don’t you remember we are talking about a hungry infant!

  15. I don’t understand why they insisted on being seated together. Couldn’t mom sit with the baby and dad with the four year old? I think if they wanted to sit together, they should have paid for the seats like everyone else. I don’t see this as a breastfeeding issue, after all, only the mom can breastfeed. I don’t see why Delta or any other airline needs to make special accommodations for breastfeeding.

    1. The husband is an extra layer of privacy shield. My daughters, when nursing, always sat in the window seat, while husbands took the middle. But then, that was before window seats required extra bucks.

  16. Trudi, the problem is that some breast feeding moms don’t care about their privacy or have any respect for the people around them. I breastfed both of my children and always used a blanket to protect my privacy. We keep hearing more and more about these stories of moms who use no discretion and it bothers society. I saw a woman at the pool this summer who was sitting in the pool with her baby. All of a sudden she took her breast out of her suit for everyone to see and attached her baby. I’m sorry, I was a breast feeding mom, but she should have some decency because that was just disgusting! Stop screaming outrage for something that is always and forever going to make people uncomfortable.

    1. One person’s disgusting is another person’s normal.

      If you feel so strongly about it, then have you asked your representative to make it illegal, or to overturn your state’s public breastfeeding laws if they specifically state that showing a nipple is allowed?

      1. There’s nothing normal about that but we live in a country that is free and people are bold. Figuratively speaking, no one wants to upset a lion. How far doing you really think that anyone would get by contacting their state representative? Even so, it is foolish to believe that something that makes a majority of people uncomfortable will ever be fully accepted.

        1. It’s perfectly normal to me. I briefly notice women breastfeeding all the time and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve never seen anyone complain and I’ve never seen anyone being asked by anyone in a position of authority to move or cover up. I don’t think it’s a big issue unless someone insists on making it an issue.

          Societies change over time. I mentioned women’s bathing suits and enforced mandates that “colored passengers” give up their seats to white passengers. There were “whites only” beaches and even drinking fountains. Around the time these things changed, it made the majority “uncomfortable” that this previous norm was changed, but the change was for the greater good and American society adjusted.

          I believe the laws are sensible. It’s very difficult to establish any kind of timetable. The kid wants to eat when the kid wants to eat, and taking to long to find a place that’s “private” can result in an inability to latch when the baby is too agitated. Not everyone can bottle-feed either. I have a relative whose kids wouldn’t accept a bottle ever, and she tried every major bottle on the market.

          I’m assuming your name is Chinese. I’ve been to China, and frankly some of the things I saw people openly doing I considered disgusting. People openly spit on the street. I remember kids wearing pants with slits in the crotch, and a recall seeing a toddler relieve himself right in a popular tourist spot. I was uncomfortable with the thought of using a squat toilet. However, I didn’t react badly to it because I knew where I was and that there was a difference in how the locals reacted to what I found different. I considered it “bold” but they considered it “normal”. The same was said of a Muslim woman wearing a hijab while breastfeeding in a public place. She was far more concerned that her hair might be exposed with the baby pulling at her head covering than the fact that her nipple was being exposed. In many Muslim countries where governments mandate a woman cover her head, it’s considered perfectly normal that a woman is breastfeeding in public.

          1. You’ll never see anyone complain or see anyone in a position of authority ask them to move or cover up because everyone is too afraid of the public backlash that would be served up to them by lactavists. It is a big issue to a lot of people. Just because people don’t have the desire to speak up doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother them. I think you have lost sight of the real topic. It’s not a question about women breastfeeding in public, it’s about them using discretion. I breastfed in public with both of my children but I was always conscious of protecting my privacy and respecting those around me. You are fiercely argumentative about this subject considering you are not a woman. You will never breastfeed a child, therefore you can’t even begin to imagine the level of this very private and very special bond that a woman shares with her child when she nurses them.

            As far as you comparing this discussion with what African Americans endured and overcame during that time period, I agree with ExplorerTravelMag. Your argument loses it’s merit. They fought the adversity that they faced because there was nothing they could do to change what people found “offensive” about them.

            Lastly, I will comment on your assumptions of my race and ethnicity based solely on my name. How dare you presume to know anything about me. Not that it’s any of your business, but I am Caucasian. I was born and raised in the United States by Caucasian parents. I have never studied Chinese culture or stepped foot in China. I really could care less about what you saw or experienced there and I’m offended by your comments. Your argument loses even more merit by comparing what you saw in a communist country to what goes on in our free country.

          2. Well – a lot of things in life do bother me, but breastfeeding in public (with or without covering up) is not one of them.

            My wife did breastfeed and I was extremely supportive of her doing so. She was actually a bit ashamed at times when we were in public and there were times that we were in search of a place for “privacy” so long that our child refused to latch on and went hungry for a couple of additional hours. Personally I’d wished she was less conscious about it, because I personally knew many who just “whip it out” and get it over with. There was one woman in my extended family who just couldn’t use a cover, could never get her kids to accept a bottle, and had kids who wouldn’t latch if she took more than a half minute. So I do speak from personal experience. For the women who just did it when necessary, it was efficient, practical, and over with in a flash (pun intended).

            As for ethnicity, I am Chinese. What I saw wasn’t really a communist issue given that it’s been acceptable for generations, including under Nationalist or imperial rule. That children would just pee in public was a given. I brought it up because I thought that maybe it could set up a common point for understanding that what some people or some cultures have different notions of what is “offensive”. So my basic assumption was wrong. Big whoop.

            And for those wondering what I meant, the following does contain somewhat graphic images, although no naughty bits per se. And they are slowly facing extinction as local society takes a stand. Sort of the reverse course of public breastfeeding in the US.


  17. I realize I’m going to be in the minority here but…

    While I completely agree breastfeeding is a perfectly natural function between a mother and child, I also feel it should REMAIN between mother and child.

    I didn’t breastfeed my kids because I was, at a pretty young age, far too selfish to do so. I simply didn’t want to have a baby hanging off my boob every three hours and I’ve never begrudged someone making the choices I didn’t make; to be fair, sometimes I wished I HAD made the choice to breastfeed but it’s over and done. HOWEVER, whipping out the boob in a public place to do so and not covering up with a blanket or small towel is more than a little offensive to me. My sister breastfed all her children and it bothered me when she did it, too; forget total strangers.

    I don’t believe mothers should be relegated to the bathroom because, as someone else here said, “Ick”. I DO believe the airlines should have “breastfeeding blankets” on board each plane. It would be a minimal expense and moms would feel as though they are being recognized.

    Let the moms have their “I am woman, hear me roar” moments elsewhere and make it mandatory to use a blanket while on a flight. Some of us really don’t appreciate having to explain to a smaller child about the facts of life forced upon us while on an airplane.

    1. Yeah – explaining to your kids what’s going on. That’s what Sesame Street did:

      As a disclaimer – yes she is breastfeeding on a show for young children. Yes – Big Bird is asking Buffy St. Marie (a famous songwriter) what’s she’s doing. I guess it must be scandalous that a children’s show is showing a woman breastfeeding without being covered up.

      Besides that, covering up a breastfeeding child doesn’t always work. One that’s not used to being under a cover might panic, and I’ve seen it happen.

      Society doesn’t have to respond because others are offended at simple, innocent acts. Some people are offended because same-sex couples might kiss or hold hands in public. There was a time when someone seated next to a black person on a plane might ask to have that person moved because they were offended. Breastfeeding in public (even with a nipple exposed) is considered a basic civil right according to the laws of many states.

      You don’t like it? Get the laws repealed. Good luck.

      1. So, then, uh… From you, that’s a big “No” to common courtesy?

        GAWD, we’ve become a nation of militants and spoiled rotten babies who DEMAND attention.

        And, uh, while YOU might prefer Sesame Street parent your children for you and save you from the “uncomfortableness” of having to actually talk to your kids, I always took a more hands-on approach, choosing to explain things like this with my children on MY timetable, not someone else’s.

        I prefer to NOT live my life according to the rules set forward by the Nanny State.

        1. Would that mean that breastfeeding moms have to behave according to your standards of common courtesy?

          I think of “common courtesy” as accepting that some things in life aren’t as bad as they seem and that sometimes societal norms may change in ways that might not align with previous personal notions of decency or propriety. This is especially true when laws have been passed to try and get people over their societal hangups. I mentioned “colored seating” in the back of the bus, and I feel it’s a wholly appropriate analogy. It was accepted as normal and was accepted as “common courtesy” that a black passenger on a bus would give up a seat for a white passenger; it was even enforced as government policy. A few months ago there was a story in Chris’s blog about an Orthodox Jewish family where the family members went apoplectic because their teenage girls were sitting next to a stranger and demanded the male passengers be relocated.

          If you really wish to place everything on your own timetable, don’t send your kids to school, don’t let them even watch educational TV, and don’t let them out of the house. I can guarantee you that they will be exposed to “lessons” in life that you probably wish you could explain on your own timetable. That clip I linked to is over 30 years old. I would have hoped that people would have evolved in that time.

  18. The nipple flashers are undermining public breastfeeding for all, on flights and off. Cover up! I really don’t need to see your aureola. FYI: The last time I nursed my son was on a flight from Shannon to JFK.

    1. Then why do several state laws specifically note that displaying a nipple incidental to the act of breastfeeding is not indecent exposure or is otherwise legal? Don’t like it? Get the law changed.

      Several (I roughly counted 27) state/territorial laws in the US specifically mention that showing the nipple while breastfeeding is legal and/or not an indecent act, and other state laws that don’t specifically mention it strongly imply as such. I only found two (Missouri and North Dakota) that mandated that women breastfeeding in public must use “discretion”.

      Some are really specific, such as Wisconsin:

      “253.16 Right to breast−feed. A mother may breast− feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast−
      feeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breast−feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast−feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast−feeding her child as provided in this section.”

      1. There is a difference in having a “right” to do something, Vs exercising discretion when using that “right”. It is simple courtesy for the other passengers to use a blanket to discretely nurse. This goes along with not bringing tuna sandwiches, not playing music loudly, not talking loudly, not wearing strong perfumes, etc. It is shared space so we all hold back just a little in order to get along. Lactivists are wrong for forcing their beliefs on the rest of society. Forcing is wrong.

        1. My kid would refuse to feed when covered. Just wasn’t going to happen.

          Personally I think people just need to get over their strange societal hangups. Just read Bonita Applebum’s message, which says it better than I could have.

          1. I’m sure they didn’t. Heaven forbid the precious darling should suffer a moment of angst or have to show compassion and/or empathy towards their fellow man. Little Sally or Johnny, at the tender age of two, NEEDS to have their demands heard!

          2. Apparently, you’ve never had to deal with an infant. Depending on the age of the baby, the child has to feed every few hours. Newborns must feed every two to three hours and parents are instructed to wake up the child if needed to ensure that happens. You can’t train a new baby. If they don’t like the conditions, they just don’t eat. Instead they scream and scream until they pass out or until they get what they want. They are babies, not mini adults. If the baby does not want to be covered, I’d rather nurse uncovered than subject the rest of you to screaming and risking my kid’s weight gain. This is not ‘beliefs’ being forced on anyone. It is a fact that babies were born to nurse (as far as I can tell they call the tops of baby bottles nipples for a reason), it is a fact that nursing is best for both mother and baby, it is a fact that more states are writing laws that would encourage more women to breastfeed and it is a fact that no one is forcing you to agree with it when you can simply look away. How about this – your beliefs are making women and their babies uncomfortable. Seeing as the adult can control himself, I think the baby should win the battle.

  19. I’m wondering if these people booked the new “Delta Ultra Cheap” fare that is basically Spirit on Delta metal. This is the fare that doesn’t allow pre-assigned seats. If that’s the case, why are special accommodations being made for them? They had a choice to book a real Delta ticket or the cheapass Delta tickets…

    Enquiring minds want to know…

    1. I got stuck on that this AM. If it was the cheap rate, they knew going in that not sitting together was a strong possibility, then asked at the airport and got seated together.

  20. I breastfed, and I was discreet. By discreet I don’t mean covering baby’s face, I mean covering most of myself so that my pink bits are not on display. It is very easy to do just with your own t-shirt. It does not even require blankets or special cloths – just an awareness that others shouldn’t have to look at your breasts.

    Unfortunately some women think their right to breastfeed also gives them a right to whip their entire top off and throw it all out on display. You will NEVER get the respect or support of the public by doing this, because it is confrontational.

    My sister, who thought breastfeeding was disgusting, once expressed absolute surprise to realise that I was feeding my son while sitting directly opposite her at a table in McDonalds. She had not even noticed and apparently nobody else in the restaurant did either. It was the first time she had even considered that it didn’t have to be overt, and was the start of her grudging respect for it. Perhaps fewer people would be up-in-arms about it if more people practised discretion.

  21. I voted no. There is nothing for the airlines to do but everything for the human race to do to stop acting like children and accept that breasts are first and foremost for feeding children and stop being so prudish. Most of the world has absolutely no issues with women breastfeeding in public, it’s only in the “developed” western world where people begin to take exception to women feeding babies in public. I have never known any woman to purposefully be indiscreet about breastfeeding and the people who have ‘issues’ with it, in my experience, have deep seated hostilities toward and a warped sense of women in general. I am really stunned that people want to deny women the ability to feed their children on flights. Children don’t choose when to get hungry – you can’t tell them to wait for 3 hours until we land.

    1. And by the way, please quit equating using a blanket with not breast feeding the baby at all. That is utterly ridiculous. Most of us are NOT opposed to breast feeding. We are asking you to keep it discrete.

      1. The problem is, some babies simply refuse to nurse under the cover of a blanket. And not for lack of the mother trying either. I have a friend that nursed both her children (now 14 and 10) and the older child nursed just fine under the cover of a light cloth. The 10 year old? Would not, no matter what she tried. So you would demand that she not nurse in public because she can’t do so by using a cover up?

        Incidentally, she became very adept at getting the baby to latch without any nipple flashage at all, The most that people would see would be the slopes of her breast-what any woman exposes wearing a lower cut top or a bathing suit. And even if she did flash a bit of her nipple, you would have to be staring at her to catch it. And same on you (general you) for doing so. Staring at a woman’s breasts has been and always will be reducing her to nothing but a sexual being. And we are much more than that. Shame on the ones that stare.

        1. How about using a pump ahead of time? Yes, I know that there are TSA issues (jerks) but that might be a good compromise to do it in a public place if you don’t want to cover up.
          I’m sick and tired of having to chose “my way or the highway” when there are a plethora of solutions out there that will accomodate everyones needs. That is my biggest complaint with the Lactivists. They seem to equate **any** request for accomodation as a demand to stop breast feeding. Most of us are fine with it, but we don’t want it in our faces any more than other body functions.

          1. Pumping ahead of time to feed later doesn’t necessarily work. It can get painful if it’s not relieved every few hours.

            I know of some women who have never pumped because of research that suggests it’s not as effective for maximum milk production as actual feeding. Other women simply pump because they want a little extra more in between natural feedings.

  22. I’m seeing some names on this thread of discussion I haven’t seen here in the past. Did the lactivists bring out their army to turn a peaceful, civil discussion into a symposium for their views?

    1. You can click on the avatar for each poster. Bonita Applebum has 19 posts on Another had 10 posts across several months. I saw one new poster, who could have simply been a lurker.

  23. It’s time we placed restrictions on passengers eating sandwiches purchased before their flights. I think they should all be required to eat with blankets over their heads,

  24. I was also impressed by the Southwest statements.
    Some of these women breast feed in public intentionally just to see if they can get a reaction, then be “outraged”.

  25. Whatever happened to selecting your seats ahead of time. I can’t remember ever booking a flight where I wasn’t able to choose a seat (with the exception of southwest or other unassigned seating airlines). I thought even airlines with premium seats still allow you to choose seats when they’re in the back of the plane. If you need to sit together, then pony up the money. The world does not owe you more than any other couple just because you managed to breed.
    I do believe southwest’s spokesman said it best act in a responsible manner so that everyone is comfortable. While I may not be offended when you lop out the odd booby but some people are uptight, what’s so difficult about placing a nursing blanket or a towel over yourself? It’s not asking that much is it? We’re not asking you to dawn a burka and go around covered head to toe just be discreet.

    I saw a woman walking down the street once with one tittie hanging out and a infant strapped on to her chest sucking away as the mother chatted on her cell phone. I wasn’t offended, it was pretty comical actually.

  26. At my airline, our Flight Attendant Manual specifically states that mothers may breast feed anywhere and that it is not acceptable to ask a mother to cover up or to use a restroom. If another passenger is uncomfortable we may move him or her to another open seat.

    1. That seems rather sensible. I only wish the Feds could institute such a sensible policy among all airlines operating in the US.

      1. We are headquartered in Canada and I think there was some human rights legislation which had an influence on that policy. Personally I don’t find it acceptable to ask anyone on board to go into the bathroom to eat.

  27. I’m sure the woman who spent time in the bathroom on the American Airlines flight was in the restroom much longer than her husband stated.
    Think about it – if you have irritable bowel syndrome or any other digestive problems, along with incontinence issues – waiting in the aisle to use the bathroom could be unbearable. With the seat belt sign going on or off because of turbulence, trying to use the restroom is sometimes tough.
    The flight attendant probably made the announcement to return to the seats as a last resort.

    1. And if you’re a lactating mother with no infant to feed and precious milk is squirting out of your engorged breasts, soaking your breast pads or showing through your shirt, it might be pretty unbearable to have to wait while someone with irritable bowel syndrome or a UTI ties up the bathroom. It works both ways. And although she could probably have pumped outside the bathroom, people probably would have complained about that. Yes, she was probably in the bathroom for a while, but unfortunately, pumping is not an in and out job, it’s actually difficult, especially if you’re uncomfortable and far from your baby.

    2. I have to wonder if the flight attendant tried knocking on the door and speaking to the woman more “privately” would have been appropriate.

  28. I have no problem with a woman breastfeeding in a public place, especially when she displays decency and covers up. But what I don’t get is why this family thinks they should automatically be seated together because the mother has to breastfeed. Yes, that means the mother should be seated with the infant, but why does this mean the husband and other child absolutely MUST be seated with them. And why should the airline have just automatically anticipated this need ahead of time? It doesn’t seem like the airline separated all members of the family, just that they weren’t all together. No one told this mother she couldn’t breastfeed her baby on the plane, all they did was not read this family’s mind and somehow know that they felt they needed to be seated together for a reason that does not require all being seated together.

  29. What “stand”, exactly, would you like the airlines to take? If someone complains to the flight attendant that the passenger next to them has their breast exposed and it makes this particular passenger uncomfortable, should the crew tell the complainer to ‘grow up’? Or ask the breastfeeding mother to ‘please cover up’? I breastfed my boys for sixteen months EACH, but because I cared about other people’s needs, I used discretion. It’s just not that difficult. Unless you’re intentionally trying to push your ideas onto others, of course.

    1. You seem to assume that your means of “discretion” is the only way. Many women do it without a cover because they know their baby won’t feed otherwise. I don’t know of any woman (save the public “nurse-ins” that were meant to make a point) who tries to call attention to herself while feeding. Sometimes I’ve seen a cute baby and only after a double take did I realize the baby was breastfeeding.

      I like how one of the airline employees explained his company’s flight attendant manual. It was considered unacceptable to ask a mother breastfeeding to cover up or to move to the lavatory. I understand why, because often a mother who is stressed out or interrupted can have issues feeding. Their policy was to offer to move the offended passenger, which made it clear that breastfeeding (with or without a cover) wasn’t really the issue but that some people just don’t get it that there’s really nothing to get offended over.

  30. I don’t have a problem with women breastfeeding in public as long as it’s done discreetly. Unfortunately, some breastfeeding advocates feel the need to flaunt what they’re doing, their open belligerance practically daring anyone to complain about the unnecessarily degree of exposure. A little consideration on both sides is in order.

    1. But who gets to decide what is “discreet”? I’ve personally never seen or heard an instance where a woman was trying to flaunt it save the rather public protests. In many cases, the issue was someone complaining because they saw a fleeting image of a nipple or that they knew breastfeeding was going on even if it was “discreet”. The Target protest from last year started because some Target employees asked a covered up woman to move.

      1. You’re lucky, then.

        Last year we went to lunch at a restaurant that seats everyone together at large tables. After we sat down a couple with a small child and a baby sat next to us, the woman facing my direction. About two minutes later I glanced over and she had ripped her shirt completely open, exposing both enormous breasts, and had the baby stuck onto one, leaving the other nipple dangling in the wind. Believe me, there was nothing sexy about it (anyway, I’ve got big boobs myself and am not interested in seeing other women’s). There was absolutely no reason in the world to have both of them hanging out for the entire world (and room) to see. Especially over lunch.

        And a few years ago I was in a meeting at the corporation I then worked for, which was attended by a female contractor who brought her small child with her. I thought that was pretty weird, but the kid was about three and was quiet and I forgot she was there. Until I started to hear a very strange, loud, smacking and slurping sound. I couldn’t imagine what it was and looked around trying to locate the source, when my eyes landed on the contractor, who was sitting there breastfeeding this three-year-old. For the last half hour of the meeting.

        There’s really no excuse for this. You shouldn’t bring a kid to a corporation to begin with, and if the kid is talking and walking and obviously eats solid food, I really don’t see why you need to haul out the boob in front of everyone. I’m sure she could have lasted another half hour before breastfeeding. How about a piece of cheese or something?

        Women like these do other breastfeeding women no favors.

  31. I’m not going to vote on this one because I don’t know that “stands” on breastfeeding are necessary.

    Yes, having babies are choices (if you are pro-choice and didn’t get pregnant through rape). Yes, so is the decision to nurse.

    Regarding covering up, whether or not public nursing is “natural” or “exhibitionism,” it apparently makes enough people uncomfortable to watch (or do) that it’s an issue. Suggesting “not watching” is a valid response, but so is setting some kind of policy about when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t.

    So, I don’t think a “stand” is necessary but I do think it’s appropriate to find ways to deal that don’t make others uncomfortable with watching or doing public nursing.

    1. I think that there are some sensible policies out there, and all of them make it clear that a mother breastfeeding (including showing a nipple) is not the problem. There is Wisconsin’s law, that states that a woman can’t be asked to move or cover up and pretty much places the onus on the business owner to move the offended person. Or the airline policy that was clear that flight attendants deal with the offended person and leave the mother and baby alone.

      There are sensible reasons for such policies. Interrupting a feeding can mean a child that will be too agitated to restart (I’ve been there) and frankly I consider the “issue” is with the offended party and not a feeding mother.

      It may take some time, but eventually people will temper their expectations when the realize that their previous expectations haven’t changed with the times.

  32. I have breastfed all 3 of my children on airplanes and it has never been an issue. Delta, United and American have all provided good experiences in this regard. I do use a cover up, though babies are often not fond of eating with their heads covered as it tends to get very hot. Once my child was sufficiently latched, I could take the cover off their head and still manage to be discreet. Many times people don’t even realize the baby is nursing and just assume he/she is asleep.

  33. I see no reason why this family needed to be seated together. And yes, I am a BFing mother, and YES I have nursed on a plane. It might have been more convenient for the family, and its nice the airline accomodated them, but by no means do I feel they should have “had” to.

  34. Reading through some of these responses has me a little irritated. So many are saying ‘be discreet’. Well, who is to decide what is discreet? When I breastfeed my son, even without a cover, you see less breast and cleavage than you do when you turn on the Oscars or open up a magazine and see Hollywood stars in their evening gowns or beach attire. Heck go to any public beach in this country and I guarantee you you will see more breast and cleavage from the girls and women wearing bikini’s than you do when a woman is breastfeeding her child. The american culture is the only culture that sees breasts only as a sex symbol. Every other country in the world sees breasts as two things. A sex symbol and a way of nourishing a child. The difference is they know that breastfeeding a child is in no way flaunting themselves. What is so wrong with providing nourishment to a child? I would rather anyone breastfeed their child than have them screaming bloody murder thousands of feet in the air. Since when has feeding our children become a nasty act that should only be done in the privacy of our homes? Many people’s response to this is “just give them a bottle”. Well, if you have a child like that is UNABLE to take a bottle or sippy cup (even at a year old) due to medical conditions, the only choice is to attach them to breast when he thirsty. This narrow-minded attitude is what is wrong with our society and makes women feel ashamed they choose to give their children the healthiest start possible by giving them breast milk. They shouldn’t feel ashamed, they should feel proud and be given encouragement and support.

  35. The fact is that breastfeeding is simply feeding an infant. That’s all there is to it. It doesn’t show any more skin than a low cut shirt and often times, no one even knows that you’re nursing. Science proves that breast is best and in our oversexualized society, it’s very sad that nursing is still taboo. If your baby is hungry, you need to nurse, simple as that. A lot of babies don’t allow their head to be covered. Would you want to eat in the dark, sweaty confines of a blanket? I think not. I have never had any negative experiences nursing in public but since airlines evidently have issues with it, they should educate their staff on nursing and if any passengers are disturbed by an eating infant, they can deal with it like a grownup, move to another seat, or put a blanket over THER head.

  36. My 14mo nvr like the idea of covering up. 1st, it made her very curious and she would go pushing ard the cover to peep out, 2nd-poor air ventilation?-try eating with a blanket/ big cloth over ur head n u will understand. I don’t understand why other passengers will get uncomfortable, our baby don’t go slurping, breastfeeding is spill proof, no strong smells frm the milk etc.

  37. How would you feel if you were next to a vegetarian on a flight and they
    didn’t want you to eat meat an it made you uncomfortable?

    There is an obsession in American culture with being offended or being made uncomfortable by the actions of others despite the fact that they in no way affect you. I’ve seen people offended by people praying, privately, to themselves over a meal in a foodcourt. Or the good old “I don’t have a problem with gay people as long as I don’t have to look at it”. Believe it or not, people are not trying to offend you by being themselves and doing what is natural, and you don’t have the right to ask them not to do it because you don’t like it.

    I do disagree with women who show their breast to make a statement, IF that is WHY they’re baring all. But believe it or not, the average breastfeeding mum is not going to show more than is necessary – sometimes, babies pull away because they’re fussy or windy or distracted, and there will be some inevitable nipple display. If it makes you uncomfortable, remind yourself it’s natural, and look away.

  38. WOW. So glad I am not American. American attitudes towards breastfeeding are truely appalling! It is enough to put a person off travelling there; I’m not sure I could go from a country where I have rights and so does my child, to one which frowns upon such a natural act as breastfeeding. No way would my baby tolerate something covering her face and head whilst feeding, and she shouldn’t have too! Only in America is it possible for women to wear skimpy revealing clothing, and yet not be able to feed their child the way god intended. O.o

    1. Actually you would have rights in most public places. However, there seem to be many who disagree with the laws because of their “discomfort”. Attitudes are changing, and those who are shocked are the minority, although sometimes all it takes is one person to make things difficult.

      The last thing anyone really wants is a feeding child to be disturbed. I know what it’s like, where the child refuses to latch on again and won’t stop crying.

  39. This is actually interesting… Women can walk in NY with bare breasts out and no one complains, but attach a baby to the nipple and there is a major catastrophe?

    Does having the baby attached make her breasts “no longer sexy” and that is the issue? If so, get over it.

    If it is a matter of personal comfort, please understand that there may be things that you do in public that people may find offensive. Just put yourself in the mother’s shoes for one second – she may be a little uncomfortable herself, but the baby’s needs are more important than her discomfort. I am sure that if she could go somewhere private where she is not being stressed about what people are thinking of her, she would gladly do so. This is a time for a mom to 1) feed and comfort the child, and 2) bond.

    Another point – would you rather:
    1) Deal with the breastfeeding and have a nice, quiet flight or;
    2) Having a screaming infant (for those that have a problem with that) for your entire flight?

    It is really sad that this has to be even discussed as whether or not this should take place.

  40. Geez. First people complain about crying babies on planes, and then complain about the one thing that soothes them.

  41. I am a proponent of breastfeeding when possible, in general; I am NOT a proponent of being inflexibly rigid in any belief to the point that one appears to be LOOKING for a reason to be offended. I am a mother of 3, all of whom were breastfed. But, I also am not immortal and know too many friends whose children refused bottles, etc.. when exclusively breastfed, and these women were tethered to their children. From the beginning, my children were breastfed thru the week, and my husband fed them either pumped milk or formula on the weekends (when it was MY turn to sleep). The formula tended to fill them more, they slept longer and became accustomed to a bottle/formula, allowing us to actually go out to dinner once in a while, WIN WIN. When I flew from Germany to Ohio by myself w/ my child, I prepped several bottles w/ the requisite amount of powdered formula in them, knowing I could get water. A simple shake of the bottle, and mommy, baby, FAs and other passengers are all happy. I could have whipped it out, but I didn’t know who I’d be sitting next to (a large companion could make it awkward and uncomfortable for ALL of us!) and what other logistics might be involved in trying to breastfeed, although I did wear nursing appropriate clothing, just in case, and was able to fit in a feeding while most of my companions slept to ease both my and baby’s discomfort. All it takes is planning, flexibility and I like to think, a little courtesy for my fellow travelers. Militants about ANY cause will find offense in a situation, and if there isn’t any, will create it…and really, how does that benefit anyone? Please use common sense and put the baby first, before the cause.

    1. I wish I could like this times a thousand. I too breastfed 3 children and managed to do it reasonably. I’m not offended at breastfeeding but I don’t understand why consideration only runs one direction. Is it really such a big deal to cover up? I kept a cloth diaper draped for those inevitable sudden unlatchings. I produced so much milk that sometimes the baby (any of them, it happened all three times) would release the nipple at let down because of the massive spray. Without a cover I could and did spray breastmilk for FEET across the room…imagine that on an airplane! Zoiks.

      I don’t think you have to do anything, but I think you should want to make everyone as comfortable as possible in a situation, you are not the only factor in any decision, ever.

  42. Thanks for keep us abreast of the situation 🙂

    Yes nursing mothers do have rights that should be enforced by the airlines. Of course mothers should also ensure that they are appropriately dressed when doing so (although having see the standard of dress on a recent American flight I don’t think this comment is relevant only to mothers).

  43. Breast feeding is a necessary activity; If it offends people, too bad. Usually things like this are handled well, sometimes not. While there are FAs with little common sense, so are there passengers who behave obnoxiously. Example: On our way home on UA from Los Cabos last week, some idiot changed the baby on her tray table in first class. The smell was awful. I’d take the split-second sight of a bare breast any day.

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