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Monday
Aug252008

Cover up! Airline breastfeeding policies...

If I could summarize briefly what airline policies towards breastfeeding seem to be, it is that women can breastfeed, but should cover up when doing so. Whether or not the baby is comfortable (or subjected to disgusting airline blankets or not) doesn't seem to be a big concern for most airlines. Instead, they are more concerned with ensuring that no one else feels squeamish, as if the sight of a tiny bit of bare breast (if even that much) would be enough to make everyone on the plane reach for their vomit baggies.

No wonder there are so many incidents where breastfeeding women's rights are violated in the air.

But that is a generalization. Some are better than others. As we are planning an upcoming vacation and since we travel by air frequently, I wrote to a number of airlines asking them to clarify their policy on breastfeeding to help me in deciding which airline to fly with.

Here is what I heard...

Air Canada


They have no official policy on breastfeeding. Women should feed their babies as needed, including during take-off and landing. In fact, flight attendants often advise mothers to breastfeed during take-off and landing to help their ears from popping. As a public transport company, they follow the Human Rights Act and the Canadian Transportation Act.

Air Transat


A family oriented airline, they welcome nursing mothers to breastfeed their infants from the comfort of their seat anytime during the flight. Mothers are welcome to nurse their infant in the manner that they are comfortable, whether they use a blanket to cover the infant or not. They indicated that some restrictions may apply during take-off, landing, or any other moment when passengers are directed to fasten safety belts by a crew member because it is not possible to breastfeed an infant due to the holding position recommended by Transport Canada in those situations (Note: I beg to differ! See my post on Breastfeeding During Take-Off and Landing)

American Airlines


Their procedures advise the crew to ensure that mothers breastfeeding their children have the privacy they need and that other customers are not subjected to an uncomfortable situation. Their inflight personnel are trained to handle such situations with professionalism and discretion.

British Airways


They don't have an official 'breastfeeding policy' , however cabin crew training for new staff covers breastfeeding issues. British Airways is fully supportive of a mother's choice to breastfeed her baby, when travelling with them - therefore you do not need to ask the cabin crew on your flight if you are allowed to do so. You are also welcome to breastfeed during take-off and landing if necessary, as long as both yourself and your baby are wearing your fastened seat belts. They appreciate that there could be times when a fellow passenger might feel uncomfortable when sitting next to/near a feeding mother, and in this case the cabin crew would see if they can re-seat either of the breastfeeding mother or the other passenger to ensure you both continue your journey as comfortable as possible. They did provide me with one last piece of interesting information - "please make sure that you take extra breast pads in your hand baggage, as the cabin air pressure can have an influence on your body when the flight is at maximum cruising altitude" (note: this hasn't been my experience, but I'll leave it there for y'all to use as you see fit!).

Continental Airlines


They claim they are a family friendly airline. Their policy does not prohibit breastfeeding onboard the aircraft, but when passengers become troubled by the action of a fellow passenger, they have a responsibility to address the issue and to try to find an amicable solution that meets each customers' needs.

Delta


When I enquired about their breastfeeding policy, I got a very defensive e-mail back that assumed that I was referring to the situation where Emily Gilette was kicked off of a Freedom Airlines/Delta flight. They assured me that the Vermont Human Rights Commission ruled that Delta played no role in the decision or act to remove Ms. Gilette from the plane. They further indicated that they support a mother's right to breastfeed aboard their aircraft and that they have coordinated with Freedom Airlines to ensure that they deliver the level of service they expect for all of their customers.

Lufthansa


Lufthansa does not have an official policy towards breastfeeding on a flight. Breastfeeding is permitted on flights to any destination. They do, however, request that mothers use a cover if they wish to breastfeed in their seat out of respect for other passengers that may be uncomfortable and for your own privacy. You may also use the lavatories to breastfeed without a cover or request a secluded area for your privacy. They also mentioned new requirements for infants to be strapped in the Infant Belts during take off and landing on all flights to and from Germany and indicated that it is therefore not possible to breastfeed during those times.

Northwest


They have no policies forbidding or constraining the nursing of infants on their flights. Breastfeeding is allowed on the plane, but they do not have a written document indicating this. They ask as a courtesy towards other passengers that mothers be discrete when nursing. They suggested that I alert the gate agent and the flight attendant that I will be breastfeeding so that they will place me somewhere private.

Qantas


On their Web site, they indicate that mothers should give a bottle or breastfeed to alleviate the popping sensation during take-off and landing. They also say that there are no private areas on board to breastfeed and that mothers are welcome to feed their baby in their seat.

Sunwing


They do not have an official policy about breastfeeding (and apparently they do not have an unofficial one either, because that is all they had to say!).

United Airlines


They respect the rights of a nursing mother. The only time a flight attendant should ask a passenger to stop nursing is when the activity presents a safety hazard to the mother, child or other passengers. If they receive a complaint from other passengers about a mother that is nursing, they will attempt to make everyone comfortable by offering the other a blanket for her privacy or moving the offended passenger(s) to another seat, if possible. If the situation cannot be resolved in a manner that makes everyone comfortable, then the other passengers will simply have to live with their discomfort.

US Airways


They don't have a policy established, but indicated that women are more than welcome to breastfeed on the plane, including during take-off and landing. Whether or not they are asked to cover up with a blanket or cover is up to the flight attendant's discretion. If everyone on board is okay with the mother breastfeeding without a cover, she will not be asked to cover up. But if someone complains, then the flight attendant may ask her to cover up. It is a form of public transportation, which means they are dealing with lots of different types of people and they need to cater to all of them. They suggested that breastfeeding mothers wanting to avoid a situation where someone might complain should consider moving away from the aisle (e.g. to the window seat) to nurse so that they are less visible to other passengers.

Virgin Blue


On their Web site they indicate that mothers should breastfeed or bottlefeed infants during take-off and landing to make them more comfortable.

WestJet


They support a woman's right to breastfeed. They also support the right of all guests on their fights to have a safe and comfortable experience while in their care. If at any time they decide that a situation exists which has the potential to interfere with the comfort of their guests, they have the responsibility to address it. They do not have a policy on breastfeeding and do not feel that one is required because they fully support it. At no time was their guest asked to stop breastfeeding (another defensive e-mail here...). They believe and trust in their staff and empower them to make decisions based on common sense and good judgement.

Others?


Are there other airlines whose breastfeeding policies you want to know about? If so, let me know at phdinparenting at gmail dot com and I'll see what I can find out.

Stay Tuned


There is one more upcoming post in this series on breastfeeding on airplanes. I am working on a post with tips for travelling my air with a breastfed child (done!), including information on your rights, what to do if you are confronted, and how to ensure that your flight is as comfortable as possible for you and your child.

« Teach, don't train | Main | Wordless Wednesday: A disturbing trend »

Reader Comments (61)

I've got to say, it really is a tricky situation for a FA if a customer complains about someone breastfeeding. As many of the policies above state, while they support breastfeeding, they do have to see to the comfort of all their guests. I completely believe that anyone who is put off by the sight of someone BFing has the right to exercise the "swivel" option on their necks and take in the other 270 degrees of view... but for a FA to put it this way, s/he may come off as rude :)

However, you've got to wonder how an FA would respond if someone asked to be moved because they couldn't stand the sight or a disabled person or a Muslim? Or what if a 2-year-old is whining and disturbing others... does the FA have the right to offer to discipline the child for the mother?

The policies outlined above really do put FAs in a difficult position, because most of them seem to say, "BFing is OK, leave it alone... unless someone complains." That's not a policy.

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

I thought I’d check out what our national airline might have on their website - and found the following passage/s regarding breastfeeding on the Qantas web site. I just LOVE that first sentence - though I wonder how many from North America may interpret it. In Australia to “nurse” a baby means to hold one:

“In the Air

During take off and landing, bassinets must be closed and you must nurse your baby.

Your baby or young child may cry on take off and landing due to the brief ‘popping’ in their ears as cabin pressure adjusts to altitude. This is perfectly normal. By giving your baby a bottle or breastfeeding at this time, you will help to relieve the ‘popping’ sensation. For older children and for yourself, the ‘popping’ can be simply alleviated by chewing on a toffee or sweet.

A limited supply of nappies and baby wipes are available onboard international services, in case of emergency. On domestic services, nappies are available, however, as these are limited, we recommend bringing a supply of your own.

Cabin crew will prepare, heat and wash bottles or pacifiers (dummies) on request. There are no private areas onboard the aircraft to breastfeed babies but you are welcome to feed your baby in your seat.”

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJo (Tasmania)

I completely agree Janet!

I think what would give flight attendants more power to do the right thing in these situations is if their employers provided them with a policy that stated that they will uphold human rights legislation, which includes not discriminating against mothers and babies, and therefore breastfeeding is allowed and mothers are free to breastfeed their babies in the manner that they feel is appropriate.

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have flown Northwest (and their regional jets) quite often with no problems at all. For that matter, the FAs were polite, offered me additional water, and encouraged me to nurse. Those around me have also been polite. I am always prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best.

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

@ Maria - Thanks for mentioning Northwest - I hadn't contacted them, so I will do that. I too have had many great experiences. I've flown 10 times while breastfeeding and haven't had an issue at all. My worry is that it really depends on who is on the plane with you, meaning other passengers and the FAs. If you get the wrong person, you could be treated poorly and unfortunately you can't just walk away when you are tens of thousands of feet up in the sky. That is why I think a clear policy in support of breastfeeding is important to protect nursing moms and their babies.

@ Jo - I'll update the post later to include the Qantas info so that it doesn't get lost in the comments. Thanks!

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Terrific post! I like your recommendation that airlines give the FAs the airline's policy and then the attendant can just repeat that and offer to move the offended passenger -- or cover the passenger's eyes with a blanket to block the offensive sight! I also like Janet's comparison to a passenger being offended by the site of someone from another ethnic group. Just out of curiosity: Does anyone know what FAs say when passengers complain about a crying baby?

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSally Wendkos Olds

@Sally - I completely agree! As I took my walk at lunch today, I was thinking the exact same thing...that a breastfeeding policy should give options to FAs for what to do with the offended passenger, rather than for what to do with the breastfeeding mother. The mother should be left alone unless she requests something (e.g. asks for a blanket). But the offended passenger could be moved if space is available or could be offered a blanket to put over their head! Great minds think alike!

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have updated the post to include:

- US Airways (I heard back from them today)

- Qantas and Virgin Blue (thanks to research done by Kiera (http://www.breastfeedingbyheart.com/2008/08/26/breastfeeding-airlines-rights-australia/).

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

US Airways suggesting the mother "consider moving away from the aisle (e.g. to the window seat) to nurse so that they are less visible to other passengers" is somewhat reminiscent of Rosa Parks...

Yeah, FAs should be given some guidelines on what to do- they themselves might not be comfortable with a breastfeeding mother and compound the harrassment.

August 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat

Added Northwest based on info sent to me by a reader as well as information I just received myself via e-mail.

August 28, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

On a positive note for breastfeeding on a plane... My SIL BF her 11 week old on a recent Jetblue flight from NY JFK to Bermuda. There was no incidents and both mom and babe did great! (Well, all accept my coocoo brother who has a hissy when SIL needs to NIP -- I think he just thinks everyone is staring at SIL when in reality.... well You all know... No one NORMAL cares. UG! I hope he it soon.)

September 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

[...] the policy clarified and/or to suggest any changes that might be appropriate. To get you started, I compiled information on airline breastfeeding policies in an earlier post. It is also useful to know what incidents may have occurred on the airline in the [...]

Added Lufthansa...and have to say that I'm shocked that a German airline would be so prudish about breastfeeding.

September 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is so timely for me. Just yesterday I was asked to cover up while nursing my daughter on a United flight. I refused, and when I got home immediately logged onto the computer to see what their policy was. I cannot believe, with so many states having laws protecting my right to NIP that airlines have the right to have such arcane and unclear policies.

Because of where I was sitting, the only one other than my husband and our other child who could see me nursing was the FA. (He was giving the safety demonstration right at our row.) He said cheerily, "I thought your family might like a blanket and pillow for comfort." Assuming he was referring to my older son, I thanked him and started to hand it to my son when the FA's tone changed for the worse and he added, ". . .so you can cover your baby up when you feed her." Then he walked away.

The other flight attendant, seeing my obvious shock and horror at the comment, came over and tried to smooth things over with me. I calmly and firmly stated the law of the state where we were still on the ground. We went back and forth and she said that the blanket was offered because "some people were commenting." I know this to be untrue because of where I was sitting. The only time I nursed my daughter was during the safety demonstration when everyone was sitting (and I was sandwiched between my husband and my son). Even if someone did complain, if I am doing something that is legally protected, it's not my responsibility to make the other person comfortable.

I appreciate Janet's comments, but why is it ok to risk being seen as rude to the breastfeeding mother, but not to the person complaining about the situation?

I guess my next step after writing United is to wait for my canned apology form-letter to arrive in the mail. . .

September 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

Ya know - I have been known to take my 15 month old to the bathroom of the plane to nurse - why? Because there was twice as much room for me to stretch out and was WAY more comfortable than nursing in my middle seat of a fully packed plane :) But man I felt like I was letting down the sisterhood by going in that bathroom.

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

wow, wow and wow.
i'm gonna have to ask my husband, an airline pilot, about this in more detail!

i just came home from a northwest flight and did not encounter anything like this while breastfeeding my 1-year-old! in fact, the FA kinda went out of her way to be nice and offered me a bottle of water.
i was sitting next to a commuting pilot and nothing was uttered.

don't you think it's somewhat dependent upon mom's attitude?? i would guess that people are less likely to comment/care...if the mother is as discreet as possible. don't go out of your way to jump up and mention to all of those around you that you are planning on breastfeeding!

the worst i got was a passenger behind me that nudged his buddy and said, "i thought they made you check that kind of baggage at the gate..." argh.

then again...we got first class seats...and we didn't pay for them (ah, the benefits). and he did. sucks to be him!

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Hello,

Just wanted to give a little bit of perspective...sorry it's so long!

I happen to be a male Flight Attendant, my wife is also a Flight Attendant. I am also a father of two publically breastfed children!

While I personally support breast feeding, you would be very surprised at how squeamish people on an airplane(maybe in public in general) get with it. It doesn't make much sense to me but sometimes the travelling public is interesting.

Unfortunately, I believe the bigger problem in the States is the unhealthy stigma with nudity in general. If our society was more comfortable discerning the huge difference between nudity and being sexual we wouldn't have a problem with seeing a little bit of a boob!

Even with that said, I can see where all of this becomes somewhat uncomfortable. While I am personally comfortable with nudity and the naked body, social conditioning makes me aware of the stigmas.

Sometimes when I see a boob on the airplane(in public) and I feel stupidly awkward...just for that brief second, until I remind myself of how awesome it is to be able to feed the baby the best thing possible, with a built-in bottle and that the boob is only the tool to do so.

As a Flight Attendant, we are placed in an awkward position of having to police our passengers inappropriate behavior/reactions. It makes it difficult too that we are all made differently with different sets of morals and values that we use to make decisions at work and in our personal lives.

What I consider to be acceptable, to me, my flying partner(coworker) may find offensive. But the underlying message can only be that I cannot force another person to be comfortable with something, that for whatever reason, they are not. If somebody is uncomfortable with something it is appropriate, socially, to change the publically displayed behavior. Even if it is something as important as feeding a little one.

I think the Flight Attendant that offered a blanket was appropriate in doing so. The Mom that was offended needs to understand(and she obviously knows that some people aren't comfortable) that breastfeeding in public makes some people uncomfortable, right or wrong. I think the aiplane exascerbates the situation too. The area is confined with everybody practically sitting on each others laps.

As a Flight Attendant complying with a request to have somebody cover up, I obligatorily talk with the Mom. I usually kneel down and quietly let them know I am not offended and do not agree but am required to talk to her. I offer a blanket(only if a clean/sealed one is available) and let Mom know that it is a clean/sealed blanket. If she doesn't or choses not to use it, I don't care. I've attempted to address the issue as well as I can.

Incidentally, I usually try to save a couple(there's very few onboard now) cleaned/wrapped blanket for parents. I don't usually offer a pillow because only the disposable pillowcase gets changed, the pillow inside remains dirty. If I have to offer a blanket and pillow that are recycled or previously used I tell them very clearly. I know how dirty the airplanes are!!

Before I offer a blanket I ask the Mom if she usually uses a blanket to cover the little one up while he/she eats or if she might need one to support her arm on the armrest. As I ask that, I let her know that I have a clean blanket if she needs one. I do it out of support for her. I usually have helped her with a carseat or diaper bag during boarding so I have built a little bit of rapport.

There are certain things my wife and I learned from one of our parenting books about travelling. Our little ones didn't like to be covered up while breastfeeding(who would when you are at home!) but our book recommended conditioning them by covering them up while feeding starting about 2 weeks before travelling. Same thing for sleeping in strange areas. We learned to put a pack-in-play in another room and have them sleep in it about 4 nights before our departure to condition them to sleeping in a weird bed and weird room/situation.

Flight Attendants have amazing tools up our sleeve and an uncanny ability to react very quickly and appropriately in unusual situations. That's why we are the best to have onboard an airplane in an emergency.

I resolved a problem with a lady breastfeeding uncovered and another stupid situation where a fellow passenger was acting inappropriately. The latter situation he complained too much(abusively so) that the seat next to him was supposed to be open and asked why the lady next to him was sitting there. In both situations we had Business class seats open and in front of the "offended" passenger moved the breastfeeding Mom up to Business class to give her more room to "cover up" and I moved the cute little old lady out of the seat that was supposed to be open to allow the creep the room that he needed. I reward good behavior NOT bad! Moral to the story, don't mess with Flight Attendants!

While long, hopefully this gives you a different perspective.

Sincerely, A Flight Attendant Dad

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlight Attendant

As if my previous post wasn't long enough. I re-read the last posting by Christine and wanted to respond.

I googled "breast feeding in public laws" and came up with an awesome website that lists the laws that protect breastfeeding. It's interesting to see what is protected in each state/territory.

I think the distinction that people on the airplane or people in general make is while a woman is protected by law to be able to breastfeed in public without fear of lewd conduct, public indecency or similar charges being levied against her it is whether or not she should do so covered up in some way.

I have never heard of somebody being offended by breastfeeding in general it's having the breast out and potentially seen by somebody who may not want to see it.

The Flight Attendant that offered Christine a blanket was not violating law by telling her she couldn't breastfeed, he was asking her to do so in a manner that makes others comfortable at the same time.

It's not unlawful to pick your nose in public or to "makeout" and kiss heavily in public but we don't because we know it makes other people uncomfortable.

I believe it's a bit selfish to say "it’s not my responsibility to make the other person comfortable." If you are creating an uncomfortable situation you have the ability to correct it if you willing to do so.

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlight Attendant

Flight Attendant Dad- I really appreciate your posts. Perhaps if I felt like I'd been treated with some sympathy for my situation and a little respect I'd be feeling differently right now.

I was a little harsh in saying that “it’s not my responsibility to make the other person comfortable.” What I *meant* to say was that since a breastfeeding mother is doing something that's completely within her right to do, why isn't the first line of resolving the situation to work with the passenger having the issue? If someone had complained (again, I really can't figure out how that could have happened), this was not a full flight. If it had been, what's wrong with using some kindness and politeness and enlisting the mom's help in resolving the situation? ("you catch more flies with honey. . .") Just dumping an airline blanket in my lap made me feel pretty worthless.

I completely understand that FA's have a difficult job keeping a bunch of strangers happy in a sardine can. I also want to state that with families on both coasts and some in between, with two small children I have nursed on many flights over the past few years. Before this incident I have never been treated with anything other than kindness and accomodation. I also pride myself on my ability to feed discretely. I guess that's why this incident came as such a shock to me. I was just trying to keep my fussy daughter happy and quiet for everyone's comfort.

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

I breastfed both of my babies and also when they were older toddlers on airplanes, all on Continental, numerous times without incident. I always wore nursing tops that allowed for discreet nursing and never exposed myself to other passengers. Due to the way I gave attention and held my babies and nursed them, they never cried while in flight. I also nursed them while ascending and descending as I had been told it helps relieve the pressure in their ears due to the suckling action (same reason doctors say to have babies suck on pacifier or older peole to chew gum). For the record I never drugged my babies with Benadryl either like so many parents do.

I note each screaming baby I've ever seen on a flight is kept in car seats and not held by parents, not given much attention other than shoving something into their mouth (a pacifier, a bottle). Not sure also if their unhappiness was due to just being trapped in that car seat for hours without a change in position. The least a parent could do is take the baby out of that car seat for part of the flight and have some time in arms and with a change of position.

Well one time when we did buy a seat for the baby and had the carseat in the seat we were asked by one attendant to put the baby in the carseat for the descent. I was nursing my baby and refused. I said, "If we had not bought the seat, which is not required, then the baby would be in my arms would it not"? That was the end of that.

One other time a flight attendant on Contiental (female about age 23 or 24) without a wedding band on her finger had a fit over my Baby Bjorn front pack baby carrier. My son was not a year old and he was spending the flight in my arms and/or in the carrier. We were going to descend and he was asleep so I was letting him keep sleeping (not nursing him). I was told that I would have to remove him and hold him in my arms. I had my arms on top of the cloth soft carrier, holding him in an embrace in the same way I would if he was not in it, and said I was holding him. The attendant said that no, the baby was in a non-FAA approved baby holding device and that he had to come out of it and be held in my arms. I couldn't believe it as I felt that removing him might wake him and may make him cry and be miserable, so I undid the top fasteners and put my arms back around him and she said that was then okay. Her tone was rude and I felt she had zero empathy for keeping a happy sleeping baby asleep during a descent. The idea that a baby only in arms and not doubly inside a front pack carrier as being more safe was ludicrous.

One time when my oldest child was seven months old we took a dinner time flight. We had a prolonged wait while on the runway before takeoff and that was not the best situation, the plane was really hot and smelly. By the time we were in flight he was very cranky. I had thought he'd sleep. He did not. The only way we could keep him happy was for my DH to hold him and walk with him and then he was happy to just hang out and watch the flight attendants make hot fudge sundaes for the first class passengers. The attendants didn't mind as my baby was happy when doing that. As soon as he sat down he would whiimper and start ramping up to cry. Finally he nursed happily and went to sleep. And after that we never booked a night flight again (until our kids were aged 10 and 7).

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristineMM

@Flight Attendant:

Thanks for dropping by and offering your perspective. I can appreciate the difficult situation that you are put in. However, I think that the vast majority of mothers are as discreet as they can be when nursing and when you offer them a blanket you are suggesting otherwise. Most babies will not stand to nurse with a cover over their head, whether it is clean or not.

I would not be offended or insulted to be offered a blanket, although I do think it is inappropriate. I would firmly and politely inform you that I am being discreet without the blanket and depending on my mood, I might suggest that you offer the blanket to the complaining passenger to put over his head (why is it okay to suggest that a baby have a blanket over his head, but not another passenger?).

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Amazing post! It is great to know this stuff when you are travelling.

What I find ridiculous about these airlines is how (many) of them expect women to cover up and it to not be a problem. In reality, many babies don't want to be covered and sometimes it's because of the heat and some children just don't want something over their head while they eat.

As a passenger, (even before I had a child) I would have been much less offended by the sight of a bare breast than a poor child crying in hunger and discomfort. I'd imagine (or at least I'd think) that most people would rather see a breast (with a baby attached to it, nothing like something in "Playboy) than would like to hear a poor infant cry. So why do they complain?

Why does a breast with a baby attached to it offend people? What is so offensive about it? I fail to understand this.

I've nursed my daughter on a plane (with a cover, but sometimes she'll take it off, if she doesn't like it) and never encountered any trouble. In fact, after the plane ride, people will always tell me how "well-behaved" my daughter was on the plane and how she rarely cried. I think it may have something to do with the breast and the comfort.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermilitarywifey

Hello again,

Christine and phd thanks for the replies.

Christine, since I wasn't on your flight I can only "feel" through your words. It's unfortunate that you were made to feel like you did. I would hope that the Flight Attendant's intent was not to make you feel ncomfortable, hopefully!

I'm really glad my union puts together airline industry news links and forwarded me a copy of this original link and that I took the time to read and respond.

With phd's response, I've now realized that I may accidentally offend somebody by offering the clean pillow/blanket. As I think about my interactions though, I think I do what Christine wanted, I sympathize and am completely respectful. I also give them an extra bottle of water if I have one. I know from personal family experiences that you need fluids to produce milk and the airplane dehydrates us too. So I think I somebody would be hardpressed to be offended...though please let me know.

Christine and PHD, keeping in mind the difficult balance Flight Attendants have to maintain trying to make everybody as comfortable as possible, if somebody does complain how would you appreciate being approached about it? Specifically how would you recommend "enlisting the mom’s help in resolving the situation?"

Also remember, the passengers we deal with are the same ones that won't trade seats with a family so the 3 year old doesn't have to sit 8 rows away from his family because the frequent traveler doesn't "want to lose his aisle seat." Obviously, not your most rational, compassionate thinking people.

I obviously cannot give the blanket to the complaintant and tell them to cover their heads...grin! Trust me, I may want to because my personal views support most of what I've read in the previous posts.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlight Attendant

@Flight Attendant.

Christine suggested that you enlist the mom's help in resolving the situation.

Personally, that would not be the approach I would recommend. I think that the situation can be handled without approaching the mom at all. I would advise the complaining passenger that the law protects the mother's right to nurse anywhere that she wants and then you could advise the passenger to look the other way or offer a seat change.

However, if you came up to me while I was nursing and said that someone else had complained about me nursing and you had the option of either moving that passenger to Business Class or moving me and my family and letting me decide which one I preferred, you would probably make my day! However, if it meant that I had to move and leave the rest of my family behind in economy that wouldn't be acceptable to me, especially if I had paid extra to reserve seats for all of us together, so in that case I would advise you that I preferred the other passenger to be moved.

On a full flight though with little room to move anyone, I would suggest just telling the other passenger to avert his or her eyes. No different than what I would suggest if they were offended by someone's clothing, jewelwry, skin colour, etc.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

PHD,

I guess we have a difference of opinion in being mindful of both sides.

If my actions whether lawful or not and whether fulfilling a crucial need(breastfeeding) make somebody uncomfortable, right or wrong, I personally would chose to do what I can to make things as easy as possible and comply as best as I can.

I have had other occurrences on the airplane like people wearing inappropriate(my definition) things. One person going to Orlando with a airplane full of little and young people wore a T-shirt that said F*CK in big clear letters. Another lady wore a shirt that had a clearly depicted sex act on the front of her shirt.

Just because they may be protected under some law does not mean that a number of people may be uncomfortable with their choice of attire. Do you recommend that I also tell the complaintant in those circumstances that they are protected by free speech/free choice laws and that they need to look the other way?

Are you seeing that we don't just serve drinks on the airplane? We are there to save lives but have to deal with all of the craziness too!

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlight Attendant

@Flight Attendant: Just curious, what did you do in the situations of inappropriate dress? Were those people kept off the flight?

And I do recognize the craziness you have to deal with. I am grateful that someone is willing to do it, because I know it would not be my cup of tea! I have very low tolerance for dealing with pettiness and rudeness and I know you all face a lot of both of those things.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hey PHD,

It's tough dealing with this stuff to say the least. It's unfortunately left up to us to deal with the situations as they arise. The unfortunate or tricky part is some people don't find that stuff inappropriate.

With the almost immediate complaints from other passengers we were forced to deal with it right away. If necessary they could have been removed from the flight for not complying with a crew member directive. I personally feel that's extreme but it would depend on the reaction of the person you were addressing this with.

The man put another shirt on over the rude t-shirt. No problem with him. The women showed her lack of class by standing at the front of a nearly completely boarded airplane facing the nearly 150 passengers and pulled her shirt off, luckily she had a bra on, and turned it inside out and yelled "how's that!" after putting it back on!

In general, our job is great. I believe like most jobs it's about your attitude that makes it great. I happen to really enjoy(most of the time) meeting people from all over the world. I try really hard to accomodate all of the special differences brought onboard by all of the different people and that's what makes things difficult. I think the majority of Flight Attendants feel and act the same way I do...I hope!

I'm really glad I found this link. Having kids made me very aware of travelling families. I'm even more helpful now as a result. Our kids were doomed from the start...with both of us being Flight Attendants it's a necessity to be able to fly, twins don't exactly make it easy either!

Having such strong beliefs on breastfeeding and the strong desire to be a great parent makes you acutely aware of how hard it is at times.

On a side note, I want you to know that I don't normally cave in on tough parenting issues(the breastfeeding issue on an airplane{public} is a tough one). We chose not to circumcize my son, eventhough the norm still says otherwise and the fact that I am not, we still went ahead with it.

Thanks again!

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFlight Attendant

Ah, I cannot believe Lufthansa!! We're traveling to Germany in two weeks with them and I thought for sure I would have no problems BF'ing my 12 month old. But that BF'ing policy left a lot to be desired. I'm very surprised, coming from an European airline. And what's the deal with the new FAA required infant belts?!?! NO! I will be BF'ing during take off! Guess I better figure out what's going on, quickly!
Thanks for the great info!
And it is nice to hear the FA perspective, so thanks for posting. In the event that a problem arises with my flight, I'll try to keep YOUR job in mind, too!

September 12, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermichelle y

I'd love to know the policies at Taca/Lacsa airlines.

In response to the issue of selfishness that the FA brought up, I happen to feel that the needs and feelings of the breastfeeding baby surely outweigh the "discomfort" of any adult on a flight. Babies comes first, period. Nothing selfish about that!

September 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTrish

[...] to cover up or to move while breastfeeding. I’m excited to announce that I have an upcoming post outlining the policies of various airlines on breastfeeding to help you make an infor.... I am also working on a piece with tips on breastfeeding while traveling by plane (completed!), [...]

I've been around long enough to understand that breast-feeding can be done without flashing your breasts to everyone else around you. So why has this become such an issue, do you really have nothing else better to do but bitch and complain that not everyone else in the world wants to see your breasts? I agree that it is a natural beautiful thing but I would hope that if you have children then you are adult enough to understand that there are differences in what people are comfortable with, and that you would at least have the decency to respect that. Grow up and quit making such a big deal out of nothing. If you guys made such a big deal out of something that actually mattered, like how solve the homelessness problem then it would have been solved by now.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Oh Maggie, I'm really not interested in showing you my breasts. I just want to feed my baby in peace without having a blanket shoved over my baby's head. I know that breastfeeding can be done without flashing my breasts to everyone around me, but even when women are breastfeeding discretely, they still have flight attendants throwing blankets on their babies as if the sight of breastfeeding (nevermind a breast) is a problem.

Showing breasts, I couldn't care one way or the other about. But showing breastfeeding I think is important. We need to send the message to society that breastfeeding is normal and that it is the best way to feed babies. We need to send women the message that they do not need to be ashamed of feeding their babies.

And if you want to know how that will help solve the homelessness problem, http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/09/19/lactivism-and-the-homelessness-problem/" rel="nofollow">then read on...

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] turning out to be a good week. First, I was called pushy for having a birth plan. And then today, a commenter on my blog told me to “grow up and quit making such a big deal out of nothing” when referring to [...]

I just wanted to comment that I flew Air Canada (4 flights total round trip) with my 8 month old breastfeeding babes...

"Women should feed their babies as needed, including during take-off and landing. In fact, flight attendants often advise mothers to breastfeed during take-off and landing to help their ears from popping."

All four flights I was asked (and asked!) to hold 'in the up right burping position' It was completely fine because my babes were so curious and wanted to look around anyways! But I just wanted to say that it wasn't suggested that I breastfeed.

I was also told while boarding the plane that baby wearing on the plane (they were both in carriers) was dangerous.

I did however breasfeed while flying -- AND change a poopy diaper on my lap -- without anybody noticing I'm SURE. That's the part I have a hard time grasping -- me breastfeeding in my seat bugs nobody but MAYBE the person sitting RIGHT BESIDE YOU if the babe 'takes space' kind of thing -- but that was my mother ;) and all was good!

I was flying within Canada and knew it wouldn't be an issue -- but I have to say I didn't think much of it! I just do it.

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterannielance

I've added a permanent link to this excellent article!

http://airtravel.about.com/od/traveltools/Travel_Tools_and_News.htm

Arlene

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterairtravel@about.com

I've created a permanent link to this excellent article.
http://airtravel.about.com/od/traveltools/Travel_Tools_and_News.htm

I have nursed my 17mth old on dozens of flights since he was 7wks old, and thankfully haven't had any incidents, but knowing what the policy is, if even it exists, is great information!

Arlene

September 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterairtravel@about.com

Added British Airways. Updated Air Transat and Lufthansa with clarifications on holding positions/belts for take-off and landing.

September 22, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] work titled ‘online gaming in Sweden and Modern Society’ Saved by KColitan on Tue 04-11-2008 Cover up! Airline breastfeeding policies… Saved by prepoceros on Tue 04-11-2008 UK woodland birds ‘in decline’ Saved by ToxicDetour on [...]

[...] a series of posts on breastfeeding on an airplane. In one of the posts, I provided information on airline breastfeeding policies and was baffled by Air Transat’s comment that breastfeeding during take-off and landing would [...]

Just FYI - I recently flew on Qantas with my 7 month old and breastfed him throughout the flight (both legs) without any cover up and had no problems whatsoever.

January 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterG. Ravina

phdinparenting,

You had covered up quite a good point. Actually the Airlines Companies has to take care of their customers and from the customers point of view, the airline companies takes any type of decision that might be offensive or objectionable to the customer, which may be the case with breastfeeding, so as a customer we can take any objections against the company but can make a request about it or if we still feel uncomfortable with the decision of airline company against the breastfeeding, we can make some other arrangement like the one which you have detailed out completely.

Just three months back, I was traveling from Iowa to California by American Airlines, and fortunately, I had a breastfeeding cover or you can say baby shield along with me, which I bought from http://www.babyboo.com/. The baby shield was quite helpful as it shield the baby from loud noises and lights. The fabric looks like an item of clothing and is of breathable fabric, so I had a very good traveling experience with my baby without any uncomfortness and problem.

January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

@Maria

Airline companies can take the customers point of view into consideration in decisions that they make, as long as it doesn't violate the rights of other customers. What if a customer hated the sight of black people? Would it be appropriate for them to act on that complaint? Breastfed babies have a right to nurse anytime, anywhere and airlines should respect that and respectfully tell those that complain to look the other way if they have a problem or offer that person a change of seat if possible.

With regards to nursing covers, I am not a fan of them. If someone else wants to use one, that is their right. However, I will never use one because I think it is important to normalize breastfeeding and not send the message that it is something shameful or to be hidden.

January 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] the policy clarified and/or to suggest any changes that might be appropriate. To get you started, I compiled information on airline breastfeeding policies in an earlier post. It is also useful to know what incidents may have occurred on the airline in the [...]

I just wanted to add my personal recent experience with nursing my 27 month old while flying.

With Lufthansa, both within Germany, and over the Atlantic, no one said anything. They did give me the infant belt, which we used, even while nursing, with no problems, although on the last flight, we did find out that over 2 must be in their own seat during take off and landing... but the flight attendants gave lots of gummi bears so he was happy..

We had no issues at all on American airlines either..

I have to say that I was a bit nervous to breastfeed my well over 2 year old in the plane, and in America, but I am so happy to say that it was all a good experience, and I am happy to get the image out there..

March 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternikki

Flying with my oldest around 9 years ago I had a flight attendant actually say, "Hey- someone give that baby the boob!" when he was fussing during take off. Wish I could remember which airline it was!

March 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Thanks for the wonderful info Annie! I traveled with my son quite a bit when he was an infant and we ALWAYS breastfed on planes - he usually nursed on the way up and then slept through most of the flight and nursed again on the way down. I never received any negative comments, nor was I ever asked to cover up. Most people commented on what a good baby I had and I don't think most of them even realized I was breastfeeding. I always wore nursing tops to hide my belly - but nothing to hide the fact that I was breastfeeding. I mostly flew US Air during these trips.

Thanks again for all of the great info.

March 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudy @ Mommy News Blog

I have nursed many times on Delta, Southwest, Jet Blue, and Frontier, both babies and toddlers.

The ONLY problem I ever had was a single leg on Frontier when a FA told me it was against policy to allow the baby (16 months) to nurse on take off, that I would need to hold him upright. Thank goodness it was early in the day and he was in a happy mood, content with crackers and grapes.

I did tell the FA that I was an experienced traveler with extensive nursing time logged and that I'd never heard such a rule (and haven't ever since, either.)
"Well, that's the policy," she said.
I complied.
But I didn't like it.

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarina

@Carina: This post was one of a whole series of posts that I did on nursing on an airplane. Here is a link to the index of the collection: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/09/13/breastfeeding-on-an-airplane-the-collection/

One of the posts is on breastfeeding during take-off and landing and addresses the issue you raised: http://www.phdinparenting.com/2008/11/08/breastfeeding-during-take-off-and-landing/

(editing to fix link)

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] [...]

Just for your information on Asian airlines, I breastfed my 1 year old daughter on Air Asia (a Malaysian-based airline) from Jakarta to Singapore and back again without any problems. I also flew domestically (I'm Indonesian) using Mandala and Garuda Airlines (Indonesian airline) while breastfeeding her with no problem. I covered a bit with a pashmina though (but not over my baby) and I had a window seat as I'm shy. Overall I think Indonesians are ok with public breastfeeding, I've even seen a woman breastfeeding her baby on a crowded bus. Some poeple might stare at first out of curiosity but then look away and not think anymore about it.

December 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStefi Grace

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