by Jessica Martin-Weber
*UPDATE as of 2.05pm 02.21.14 at the end of this post.*
I speak often about normalizing breastfeeding and what that would mean. Sometimes this seems like a ridiculous topic, like normalizing breathing, eating, walking, or human decency. Or like normalizing mammalian behaviors. It just seems so… obvious. Why in the world would you have to normalize something so… normal?
But the reality is that in many ways, though it is touted, preached, and at times elevated, in many ways breastfeeding isn’t normal. Like it or not, I see a very real need for our culture to embrace breastfeeding as normal. The reasons are many and I won’t go into them here right now but if breastfeeding was normal I know this twitter exchange would not have happened.
Um, yikes. Also, that pumping suggestion? Completely unrealistic. If she has to feed her baby every two hours, she’s going to have to empty her breast every two hours. Which means she would need to pump 3 times on that flight AND give a bottle. Wouldn’t it just be easier and less distracting if she wasn’t trying to juggle a bottle, a pump, and a baby in her handful of square inches on the plane? Wouldn’t it be much less intrusive for everyone if she simply put her baby on her breast?
This is why breastfeeding needs to be normalized, as silly as that may sound. It is also why discrimination against mothers, regardless of how they feed their children, needs to stop. This isn’t even the first time that Delta has run into issues violating laws protecting breastfeeding, way back in 2006 the airline kicked a mother that refused to cover to feed her daughter off her flight. She sued and they paid. But apparently, they haven’t learned. The Georgia based airline seems to be unaware of the law protecting breastfeeding not only in their home state, but the majority of the country as well:
Georgia Code – Health – Title 31, Section 31-1-9
The breast-feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.
I’ve only flown Delta once with my nursling and thankfully had no issues but I was anxious the whole time knowing the airline’s irresponsible, anti-family past. Since then, I intentionally only fly airlines that are clearly supportive of breastfeeding such as Southwest Airlines and not only have I had no problems, I’ve been encouraged with friendly smiles, extra water and snacks, and supportive conversations.
What has been your experience with breastfeeding and flying? What airlines have you traveled with that were supportive of you feeding your baby as you saw fit?
*Edited to add*
I have seen numerous comments on Facebook and twitter asking why the mother asked, that she shouldn’t have asked. While I agree that she shouldn’t HAVE to ask, certainly we can all understand why she did.
This mother did nothing wrong by asking for clarification on the airline’s breastfeeding policy. Going in prepared when traveling with an infant is perfectly reasonable and unfortunately, with the number of breastfeeding discrimination incidents in this country, a mother would have good reason to be concerned. Please stop acting like she was wrong to ask. Our culture CLEARLY has issues when it comes to breastfeeding, she did nothing wrong in trying to be prepared. Asking was well within her right and understandable given the number of times mothers are harassed for feeding their babies. This very airline has even gone so far as to kick a woman OFF one of their flights for feeding her child. Stop with the victim blaming please.
I understand asking, unfortunately there have been enough bad experiences to make moms want to be prepared. This same airline was sued a few years ago for kicking a breastfeeding mom off a flight for not covering.
So I asked what they were going to do about it. They replied:
An apology is great and an important first step. But there’s nothing to ensure such discrimination won’t happen again.
One anonymous current employee shared that they receive absolutely no training about how to handle to treat breastfeeding mothers or of the airline’s breastfeeding policy. This employee has experienced that such lack of training can result in an employee making a misstep such as @DeltaAssist apparently did and then be terminated as a result. This hardly seems professional or fair. The employees and the customers deserve better treatment. I hope the social media representative keeps their job and is instrumental in helping the company implement a successful training program for all Delta employees in support of ending breastfeeding discrimination.
But perhaps the issue really isn’t about breastfeeding discrimination at all and rather a low view of woman as being little more than sex objects? Thanks to @KellyKautz for this capture demonstrating that the airline is more than willing to encourage women to flaunt their breasts as long as they aren’t covered by a feed baby.
*UPDATE 2.05pm PST on 02.21.14
@ClassicHippie tweeted that she has not seen an apology from the airline.
What do you think? What can Delta now do to communicate a clear family friendly policy that supports breastfeeding and trains their employees (including their social media representatives) accordingly?