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Wednesday
Sep032008

Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane

I've had the opportunity to nurse my children on at least 12 flights, half of them long trans-Atlantic flights and half shorter flights. My nurslings were aged between 7 months and 21 months at the time of the flight. All of my experiences were positive ones and I was never harassed for nursing on the plane. But I have learned a few lessons along the way about how to protect myself and how to ensure that I am comfortable and that my baby is comfortable. So, based on my experiences, as well as what I've heard from other mothers, I've compiled some tips for mothers that are travelling with a breastfed child.

Note: This information is for mothers that plan to nurse their baby on the plane. If you are exclusively pumping and need to transport breastmilk and pump while travelling, there are many other issues to be considered. I have not included detailed information on this, but if you review some of the additional resources found at the end of the post, you will find lots of useful information there.

Planning for your trip


When you are preparing for your trip, there are a few things you may want to do or to think about to help you prepare:

Find out about the airline's breastfeeding policy: Most breastfeeding mothers on most flights are not going to have any problems at all. Chances are, no one will notice that you are nursing. If they do notice, chances are they won't care. However, in case an issue does arise, it is useful to know the airline's breastfeeding policy in advance. I would suggest contacting the airline by e-mail and bringing a printed copy of the policy with you. If you are not happy with what they said, please follow-up again by e-mail to get 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 past and how the situation was resolved.

Know your rights: Regardless of the airline's breastfeeding policy, you do have certain rights as a breastfeeding mother. These are more enshrined in some places than others, so doing your research can help. In Canada and the United States, airlines are federally regulated, so federal law applies. In Canada, your right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act, as explained by INFACT Canada. In the United States, you are should be protected by the United States Constitution, as explained in the sidebar in this Mothering Discussion about the Emily Gillette situation. Unfortunately, in practice US courts so far have not considered breastfeeding discrimination to be considered gender based discrimination. In addition, in the United States some jurisdictions have specific legislation outlining the rights of breastfeeding mothers and in Canada, both Ontario and British Columbia have specific protection for breastfeeding mothers under their human rights legislation. These laws may apply if the airplane is on the ground. Please note that none of this constitutes legal advice.

Decide whether to book a seat for your baby or not: Children under the age of 2 can either have their own seat (in which case it is recommended to bring their car seat on the plane) or they can travel on a parent's lap. If you do decide to book a seat, it does give you a bit more space for yourself and the baby. This can be helpful especially with an older baby, so that his legs don't spill out onto the seat next to you when nursing. Sometimes if you don't book an extra seat, they will give you one anyways if space allows on the plane. If you do want your child to sleep in the car seat and you usually nurse to sleep, you will need to think about whether you can easily transfer your baby from your arms into the car seat without waking and if you can't, think about what else you could do to get your baby to go to sleep. In our case, we used a DVD player with a favourite cartoon (sound turned all the way down) to lull our 20 month old to sleep.

Make sure you're both comfortable


Nursing on a plane is not always comfortable. Space is cramped. There are loud announcements. You get knocked by the person sitting next to you or by the drink cart being pushed by. It isn't like most other situations where you can choose the most comfortable seat and ensure that you have enough space. So given these conditions, it is important to think about what you can do to ensure that nursing on the plane is comfortable for you and your nursling.

Here are a few things that helped me:

Boppy Pillow: I usually nurse my kids to sleep lying down either on the bed or on a boppy pillow. So if I am on a flight that coincides with nap time or bedtime, I want to ensure that my baby can lie down. The easiest way to do that is to bring a boppy pillow along.

Ring sling: For overnight flights, if I want to try to doze off a bit too, I ensure that I have my ring sling with me. With a tiny baby, you can use the bassinet that the airline provides if you have the bulkhead seats, but with a larger baby or a baby that won't sleep without touching you, that isn't going to work. On our last overnight flight, I nursed my daughter to sleep on the boppy pillow with the ring sling done up loosely around her. Once she fell asleep, I tightened up the ring sling enough that if I let go of her, she wouldn't roll onto the floor. It also made it easier when I had to go to the bathroom before landing, because I was able to get up and go with her still sleeping soundly in the ring sling (rather than passing off a screaming just woken up baby to my husband).

Comfortable clothing: Carefully consider what clothing will be most comfortable to nurse in on the plane and also allow you to be as discreet as possible if that is your preference. I usually wear a pair of yoga pants, a stretchy low cut tank top with a built in shelf bra, a stretchy t-shirt over top of that, and then a zip up sweatshirt in case I'm cold. I don't wear a nursing bra so that I don't have to worry about fiddling with snapping and unsnapping or clipping and unclipping. I find that pulling down the tank top and pulling up the t-shirt ensures that my skin doesn't have to touch the scratchy or sticky airplane seats directly and that I don't get too cold from the air conditioning. It also helps avoid situations where anyone might be uncomfortable with how much skin I am showing, although that isn't my first consideration.

Avoiding a scene


I have written and rewritten this section a million times. I really don't think that any breastfeeding mother should have to go out of her way to make other people feel comfortable. I think that she should be able to breastfeed anytime and anywhere that she wants and to do it in whatever way makes her feel comfortable. I don't agree with asking nursing mothers to cover up, because it makes a statement that breastfeeding is unacceptable or disgusting and needs to be hidden.

That said, travelling is stressful and expensive, especially with kids. If I have paid a lot of money and put a lot of preparation into  a trip, I want it to go off without a hitch. That means that I want to do everything I can to avoid getting into an altercation with a flight attendant or other passenger.  Or at least everything I can do that doesn't contravene my own morals and beliefs (e.g. the way I feel about "covering up"). Unfortunately, those flight attendants wield a lot of power in the moment. Even though they might be found wrong later, if you upset them they can (at best) give you grumpy service or (at worst) kick you off the plane.

So, in an attempt to "keep the peace", a few tips on avoiding a scene are:

Smile and Nod: If you are travelling with an infant, the flight attendant will come by and give you instructions on what to do if the oxygen masks are needed (put yours on first, then your child's) and other safety related information. They may tell you how to hold your baby during take-off and landing. They will probably tell you where the diaper change tables are and what to do if you need a bottle warmed. In these cases, I use the same policy that I use with my doctor if she starts giving me parenting advice. Smile, nod, and don't offer any unnecessary information. You are not required to tell the flight attendant that you don't need a bottle warmed because you are planning to nurse. You don't need to tell her that you aren't really comfortable with the take-off and landing hold that they are recommending because you want to nurse at that point during the flight to keep your baby's ears from popping. Just smile and nod and go about your business.

Put Off Nursing Until Take-Off: Obviously if your baby needs to nurse, then nurse. However, if your baby doesn't need to nurse, I would recommend playing and checking out the plane a bit as you wait for take-off rather than nursing. There are a few reasons for this. A lot of the incidents that have occurred where women were kicked off of planes or otherwise harassed happened on the tarmac before the plane went anywhere. They can't kick you off the plane once it is up in the air, so if they don't know that you are planning to nurse until the plane is in the air, then they can't kick you off. Also, the flight attendants can't do anything about you nursing when they are strapped into their own seats during take-off, so you don't have to worry about them rushing at you with a dirty blanket. I also put off nursing until take-off if possible so that I have plenty of milk during take-off. This helps keep my baby interested in nursing on the ascent and keeps her ears from popping. It helps to be aware of the recommended holding position for infants during take-off and landing so that you can practice nursing in this position if you are not used to it.  Note: Some airlines (like Lufthansa) are introducing new requirements for infant restraints during take-off and landing (use of Infant Harnesses), which may restrict the possibility to nurse.


Choose clothing that allows you to be discreet: Ugh. I don't think mothers should have to try to be discreet. But, again, this section is about avoiding an altercation situation. I will not use a blanket. I will not use a nursing cover. I absolutely refuse. However, I will try to choose clothing that exposes as little breast as possible. This is as far as I will go to appease the squeamish and avoid a confrontation. Ugh.

Please note that I am all for ardent lactivism. Anyone that is a more principled person than I am and that is willing to risk having their trip ruined by a misinformed flight attendant is more than welcome to disregard any and all advice in this section of this post. You will most likely be successful in pursuing legal action. It will be a great help to our cause. But it may ruin your vacation. I guess I'd be more willing to make a point on the way home, than I would on the way out! ;)

If a situation arises


So, you did your planning, you ensured you were comfortable, you took steps to avoid a situation (or didn't) and despite all of that, you were confronted. A confrontation can include being told that you cannot nurse on the plane, being told that you should or must cover up, being told that you could or need to move to another part of the plane.  If this occurs, I suggest you take the following steps:

Stay calm and ask the flight attendant for his or her name: The best way to have a situation escalate is to get mad. So staying calm is the first step. Then ask the flight attendant for his or her name. That way you have it on record if you need to make a complaint later.

Consider if it was a request or a demand: If it is a request and is worded politely, e.g. "We have had a complaint about you breastfeeding and in order to make all passengers comfortable we wondered if you would be willing to cover up. We can provide you with a clean blanket if you would like", then I would probably start by simply politely refusing. I would say something like "No Thank You. My baby doesn't like being covered up."

Inform them of your rights and ask them to address the issue with the person that complained: If the flight attendant keeps insisting, either turning a request into a demand or if it was a demand in the first place, I would politely inform them of my rights and suggest that they address the issue with the person that complained, e.g. "I'm sorry but I am going to have to decline your request. It is my right to breastfeed my baby anywhere I wish without covering up. This right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I would suggest that you address the situation with the person that complained, perhaps by offering a seat change or suggesting that they look the other way if it bothers them." If they still insist, I would probably say "I respect that you are in a difficult situation, but I am not comfortable covering up my baby and frankly it is not my problem if the other person is uncomfortable with it. It is their problem and I would respectfully request that you leave us in peace." If they still insist, I would inform them that I am going to continue to breastfeed my baby and that I will be filing a human rights complaint when we land.

If you aren't getting anywhere: Ask to speak to the head flight attendant and explain your rights, what you are willing/not willing to do, and what you suggest that they do (i.e. address the situation with the person that complained).

If they threaten you: I really hope that it would never get to this point, but if you end up being threatened with something ridiculous, like a breach of security or something where they could take more drastic measures (like handcuffing you or something ), I think I would probably do whatever they were requesting, e.g. moving to another seat or covering up. I wouldn't use their dirty blanket, I would use my own sweater or receiving blanket or something, but I would go along with what they were asking. And then I would sue their ass/file a complaint when I got back home.

Following-up once you get home


If you were unfortunate enough to be asked or told to cover up or told that you cannot breastfeed on the flight, then you should follow-up on the incident once you get home. A few steps to take:

Report the incident to FirstRight: If you are in the United States, there is an organization called FirstRight that is a national, grassroots breastfeeding rights advocacy group. They have a database of incidents where breastfeeding mothers were discriminated against and you should advise them of your situation so that it can be added to the list. FirstRight can also help you with writing a letter to the company or other appropriate follow-up actions.

Following up with a gentle reminder: If you were initially asked to stop breastfeeding, to cover up, or to move, but were able to resolve the situation amicably with the flight attendant, I would suggest following up on your experience with a gentle reminder letter. Send a letter to customer relations at the airline, explain what happened, explain why it shouldn't have happened in the first place, and suggest that they ensure that flight attendants are aware of the rights of nursing mothers and are given options for dealing with people that complain, so that other mothers are not discriminated against.

Following up with a complaint: Interfering with the act of breastfeeding constitutes a human rights violation. By filing a complaint or lawsuit, you can help to set a precedent and increase awareness of the rights of breastfeeding mothers and ensure that others are not put in the same situation. In the United States, contacting FirstRight is a good first step in filing a complaint. They can provide you with direction on the right steps.  In Canada, you can file a complaint of discrimination with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. As more people file complaints or lawsuits, and stage nurse-ins to demonstrate the power we as women and mothers have in our society, the public will boost its acceptance of nursing as the normal way to feed a child.

Other Resources

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Reader Comments (39)

Very helpful tips. Just a correction though - the Mothering magazine sidebar to which you cite is incorrect. There is currently no U.S. federal law concerning breastfeeding on airplanes. There is no case applying the U.S. Constitution to breastfeeding on airplanes. While airlines are federally regulated, it is not currently clear what law applies to breastfeeding while the plane is in the air.

September 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJake Marcus

Hi Jake - thank you for your comment.

The Mothering sidebar says "The United States Constitution protects citizens equally regardless of age, race, gender, disability, or state residence."

Although there may not be any case law yet in the US with regards to breastfeeding on airplanes, it would appear that citing the Constitution is the closest women are going to get to having their rights protected. The argument that preventing a woman from breastfeeding or asking her to cover up is gender-based discrimination has been successfully made in other jurisdictions (e.g. Ontario).

In Canada, the woman that was recently asked to cover up on a WestJet flight is filing a federal human rights complaint, so I'll be watching that one carefully!

September 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I have to add, my experience flying with LO faced a different problem: he's not that comfortable sitting with us for a long time and prefers his own seat! We didn't realize this until we'd had a really tough flight going over and then on the flight back had a free seat - he slept in his car seat the whole way. Just thought I'd throw our experience in there...

I also found that he was too distracted to breast feed but bottle-feeding worked much better for us. Since he's bottle-fed during the day, this wasn't too much of an issue. We got the breast milk through security just fine.

Re: the loud announcements - he's scream every time they came on. I agree with him, they are loud! Anyway, we used his cat/blankie cuddle to cover his ears, which seemed to help a bit.

September 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJuli

I'd love to add something else that I didn't know about until it was too late that regards travelling with two children under two (in my case, twins):

You cannot have two infants-in-laps in the same bank of seats because there are not sufficient oxygen masks (there is only one extra mask per bank of seats).

Therefore, even though my husband and I were travelling with our twins together, we could not sit in a full row together.

I was, however, told by a representative over the phone that I would not be prohibited from nursing both of my children at the same time. This really boggled my mind because if masks are the concern, then I'd really be in trouble if there a) weren't enough masks for all of us and b)I didn't even have any free hands to put them on! I guess they are more concerned about telling a mom she can't breastfeed than about the need for oxygen masks?

SO, if you're travelling with two under two, I highly recommend buying at least one seat for the kiddos.

We were very lucky on our flight (from LA to NY) that there were some extra seats so the very friendly flight attendants helped us all get situated into a center bank of seats w/ four seats and I tandem nursed my 15 mo. old kids almost the whole way. The way back wasn't so lucky, and I really saw the value of purchasing the seat.

One other tip that worked for us, at least, was to book aisle seats and be the last ones to get on the plane. I know they let families travelling w/ small children board first, but my kids were much happier crawling around the waiting area than being cooped up on the plane. And, by that time, the flight attendants know if there are any extra seats on the flight and since they've spent the whole boarding process watching your darling little ones, they are eager to help you and your cute family in getting comfortable on the plane ;)

September 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenter2babes2breast

Thanks for the addition 2babes2breast.

I guess that they wouldn't be concerned with you breastfeeding both at the same time with regards to oxygen masks because you could quickly pass one baby back to your husband (assuming he is in a nearby row) if the need arises to use the masks. However, you wouldn't want to pass your baby to the stranger in the row behind you, so that is why they want to ensure that there is an available mask for the baby in the same row as the parent that the baby is travelling with.

Does that make any sense? :)

September 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

This is SO helpful. I will probably be traveling internationally with my son when he is about a year and a half. I do not know if he will still be breastfeeding (he is trying to self wean at 8 months! I am trying to get him to a year!) but if he is this will sure come in handy. Great resource.

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLu

True, I believe the argument that breastfeeding discrimination is gender-based discrimination is a good one. However, in the U.S., the federal case law currently explicitly has held that breastfeeding discrimination is NOT gender based discrimination. I disagree with it but there it is. :( Hopefully some day that will change.

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJake Marcus

Aren't you all nice even tempered people? Well done for being so long suffering, although I'm sorry, but I'd get thrown off the plane, I know I would. If breastfeeding discrimination is not gender-based, then I don't know what is. I mean, really! How the hell is a man going to breast feed a baby? Duh! And what is so wrong with people that ANYONE can't cope with looking a woman's breast(s)? If they're such sad people that it really bothers them, they could have the simple common sense and willpower to look away, couldn't they? I just don't understand this. What a bunch of perverted jerks some people can be!

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterabonny

Jake - Thanks for the follow-up. That is a sad situation indeed. I adjusted the section on knowing your rights somewhat to reflect the information you shared. And I won't be getting on a US flight anytime soon.

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I should add that I breastfed a fair bit on U.S. airplanes and no one ever bothered me. Once when traveling alone juggling an infant and a toddler, both nursing, I noticed the older woman next to me looking at me uncomfortably. I was afraid she was going to say something and she did - she asked if I needed any help and offered to hold the non-nursing child while I was nursing. We switched off holding my kids while I nursed them in turn the whole way from Boston to Philadelphia. :)

September 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJake Marcus

Great post! I will link to it next week.

I live in Berkeley, so it's a rare instance that I'm made to feel awkward about nursing. Now that my daughter is 14 months, though, I dreading the idea of having to nurse her and her squirmy limbs on a plane. But I'm sure the other passengers would rather have a 10-minute view of my stomach flab than a 10-minute whine fest.

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRookieMom Whitney

2babes2breast- tandem nursing 15 mo twins on a plane? You are a rock star.

September 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

This is a great guide. Thank you!

I travel overseas once or twice a year with my son and will soon begin to do so with my second baby and have never had any breastfeeding issues, but it's good to be prepared. Another idea is to fly on a foreign airline. In my experience, North Americans are the only people who might feel "uncomfortable". All the European airlines I've flown have gone out of their way to make nursing as easy and comfortable as possible for us. None of my neighbors on the airplane have ever noticed or cared and I have never been asked to "cover up". I too refuse to use a blanket or cover. That's just silly.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

I have only breastfed on domestic flights within Australia but I have never had a problem. I did have one young male host choose that exact time to come up and compliment me on my stunningly cherubic child (i might be exagerating his compliment slightly) and he did get a little embarassed as he reached out to touch my child and realised he was so very close to my bare boob!!! That'll teach him for trying to touch strange children. I dont understand how anyone could really notice if you are feeding unless they are being a sticky beak. My experience is that airline seats are so close together and all facing the same way, it's kind of hard to see anything other than other peoples heads unless it is the passenger beside you.
I did have an aquaintance that was asked to feed her baby in the tiny little toilet. I was going prepared for that one and decided that my arguement would be "so if you were eating a ham sandwich on a flight and the vegetarian next to you told you they were disgusted by it and asked you to eat your lunch in the toilet you would happily go and take you food into the toilet to finish your lunch??" I figured that was as polite as I was going to get!!
Also there are compulsory harnesses for infants on all domestic flights here and it is quite easy to feed while the infant is strapped in. I have my sling with me to get on and off the flights but I am not allowed to use it other than that because the attedants are only trained to help with the regulation harness in an emergency. I feed on take off and landing with the harness attached not a problem.
This is one thing Australia seems to be on the ball with, the only problems I have had breastfeeding anywhere have been some men staring a little too intently, I barely show a scrap of skin, so I would say they were a little disapointed.

September 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMummy McTavish

Your post and all of the comments have been very helpful! A lot of your information I hadn't even thought about. I will keep it all in mind when flying with my baby! I am also new to blogging and parenting, and appreciate any tips or comments from fellow moms!

Thanks,
Heather Prenger

www.momgoinggreen.wordpress.com

September 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDr. Heather Prenger

Great post!

September 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMA

[...] Get some tips for breastfeeding on a plane. [...]

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLove these links — Rooki

You said, "Inform them of your rights and ask them to address the issue with the person that complained: If the flight attendant keeps insisting, either turning a request into a demand or if it was a demand in the first place, I would politely inform them of my rights and suggest that they address the issue with the person that complained, e.g. “I’m sorry but I am going to have to decline your request. It is my right to breastfeed my baby anywhere I wish without covering up. This right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I would suggest that you address the situation with the person that complained, perhaps by offering a seat change or suggesting that they look the other way if it bothers them.” If they still insist, I would probably say “I respect that you are in a difficult situation, but I am not comfortable covering up my baby and frankly it is not my problem if the other person is uncomfortable with it. It is their problem and I would respectfully request that you leave us in peace.” If they still insist, I would inform them that I am going to continue to breastfeed my baby and that I will be filing a human rights complaint when we land."

I just want to state that I am 100% pro-breastfeeding (as I breastfeed my 10 month old son). However, I was a flight attendant for 4 years. And though as a flight attendant I NEVER nor had any crew member I worked with said anything to nursing mothers... I will advise you that the FAA states that it is against Federal Law to not comply with with a crew members orders. And all the crew member would have to say is, "So you are choosing not to comply with me, do you realize you are in violation of the FAA", and if the person said, yes.... then the crew member could escalate it further. Now this was intended for people who wouldn't buckle their seat belts or who smoke in bathrooms. But the wording of the advice you give could get a mom in trouble. It's tricky though, because I agree with what you are saying.

I honestly can't imagine it going that far, but I thought I'd give you another perspective.

p.s since having my baby I have been on 9 different flights. Nursed on all of them. Only on one did someone notice, and it was a guy who told me his wife breastfeeds too and that I was doing a good thing for my baby. :)

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwestmama

@ Westmama - thanks for your post. Did you read two paragraphs later than the part you quoted? There I said:

If they threaten you: I really hope that it would never get to this point, but if you end up being threatened with something ridiculous, like a breach of security or something where they could take more drastic measures (like handcuffing you or something ), I think I would probably do whatever they were requesting, e.g. moving to another seat or covering up. I wouldn’t use their dirty blanket, I would use my own sweater or receiving blanket or something, but I would go along with what they were asking. And then I would sue their ass/file a complaint when I got back home.

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Hi, I did read the last two paragraphs. And you are correct, I just wanted to add a Flight attendants point-of-view. What I didn't include was that if the FAA got involved (which hopefully would never happen)... they fine first then ask questions later. And they base their fine on your income. So you'd be fined and then have to fight it from that position. You'd be fighting to not pay the fine and arguing the bigger picture could get lost.

I worked for Alaska Airlines (a sweet little NW airline) and I just can't imagine it getting this far, but we've all heard stories or flown with those power trip , evil Flight Attendants.

I guess I'm just sharing the worst case scenario.

I think your post is great (well your whole blog is really good).

September 19, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterwestmama

[...] 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 [...]

As a mom of two( 2 1/2 years and 4 months) and a flight attendant for 10 years I am so surprised by the amount of attention this topic is generating. It has never occured to me to NOT breastfeed my children on a plane nor has it
ever occured to me to discuss how a child should or should not be breastfed with a mother who chooses to breastfeed her child on a flight that I am working (with exception to the information in the following paragraphs). My oldest had been on 30 flights before his 1st birthday and my youngest has been on 4 flights so far. I breastfed at least once on each of those flights. I have breastfed in first class, business class, and economy and I have never had anyone comlplain or look at me strangely. In fact I don't think people even notice what is going on.

The only time I refuse to breastfeed my children on the airplane is for safety reasons. Those being...

TAKE OFF
LANDING
AND ANY TIME THE SEATBELT SIGN IS ON

during these times my children are safely strapped into their carseats which are safely strapped into the airplane seats. Just like every other passenger on the plane.

As a mom and a flight attendant I am continually shocked how often young children travel on airplanes without the protection of a car seat or a fabulous new product out now called Cares. And I think the FAA is doing the general public a disservice by not requiring that all people regardless of age be strapped into a seat.

I have been known to, on many occasions, politely educate parents on the perils of holding/breastfeeding children during take off and suggest they use their carseat. Pacifiers are great for sucking on and releiving ear discomfort. Neither of my children have experienced adverse effects from the pressure change during take off or landing. In fact they are usually both sleeping peacefully and safely in their carseats. On our most recent flight my oldest child used a new airplane seat harness called cares which eliminated the need for his carseat. It worked great.

Airplanes taxi at a rate of approximately 25 mph, airplanes take off and land at speeds between 125-190 mph. Incidents at these speeds are survivable for passengers wearing seatbelts. However if something happens and the pilots need to slam on the brakes at these high speeds there is no way you will be able to hold onto your child. The same goes for turbulence inflight. The number one cause for flight attendant injury is turbulence, because we aren't wearing seatbelts during the flight. When you are holding your child they have no protection from turbulence. Your child can bounce from the ceiling to the floor to the ceiling in seconds. I've been told that Boeing engieneers refer to lap held children as "projectiles".

One mom/flight attendant hoping to make air travel safer for small children.

Two great products for traveling with small children

wheels that attatch to your carseat
http://www.gogobabyz.com/index.html

harness straps that attatch to the airplane seat to keep your child more secure and eliminate the need for the carseat
http://kidsflysafe.com/

December 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersfoswjen

[...] to help you make an informed choice about who to fly with. I am also working on a piece with tips on breastfeeding while traveling by plane (completed!), including information on your rights and what to do if someone tells you to [...]

We're planning a trip next month so this is great info! Thanks!

[...] 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 [...]

[...] and could lend some advice. Before I post the question from my reader, I do want to post a link to great article by Annie of PhD in Parenting – she wrote a fantastic summary of what do if breastfeeding on a [...]

This is such a great article! I will have to remember this for whenever I have another baby. No one ever gave me an outright hard time about breastfeeding (I think we had 5 flights during that time), but I always covered up with a nursing cover. Next time around, I'm going to do that a lot less. Besides the fact that I agree, breastfeeding isn't a shameful act that you should have to hide, it's a PAIN to try to put that thing on while trying to position a screaming, hungry, wiggly baby, especially when traveling alone. And, once my son was about 3 months, he vacillated between hating the cover and wanting to use it as a toy to play with instead of nursing. Articles like this give me more courage to be able to nurse openly.

Also, a used a non-ring sling, Nurture Baby I think, and I had great success with that as well. The Boppy helped him nurse more comfortably, and then I could rock him in the sling to sleep and still be able to get some shut-eye myself.

November 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMZ

[...] Need information on breastfeeding on an airplane? See my tips for breastfeeding on a plane. [...]

[...] Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane – amazing informative article from Annie of PhD in Parenting [...]

Coming from a Scandinavian country it is almost surreal to read articles like these. Just the thought of someone having any opinion at all on how and where I breastfeed seems strange to me. The whole issue of breastfeeding in public is not even discussed here. Reading your blog made me wonder how I would react if a flight attendant would suggest that I'd use a blanket... I think I would probably have thought, before reading this, that she thought I had cold feet or something :)

Anyway, thanks for a great blog, I can't stop reading it and love every word of it!

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Bit late to this...

Our first flight with children was a 10-hour international flight, the baby was just four months old at the time. Our second child was five months old when he did the same flight. We've travelled by AC, WJ, Lufthansa, Austrian, and maybe some others I'm forgetting at the moment :-) I've not had any trouble nursing on airplanes.

On our most recent Lufthansa flight (and previously on Austrian) I was required to use a belly loop (ugh!) for the lap infant. I don't believe they're safe for the baby, but I was able to nurse freely.

In my experience, if the baby is in a carseat, he/she *must* be in there for take-off/landing and during turbulence, just as other passengers must wear their lapbelts. This of course doesn't work so well for breastfeeding, but I appreciate the enhanced safety. My first baby took expressed milk from a bottle without fuss, but my second won't. We'll be flying to Australia shortly, and I hope he'll drink from a sippy by then.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

I took your advice in this blog and emailed customer service with Southwest Airlines on their breast feeding policy on board, in anticipation of an upcoming trip.
I am saddened by their response ... here are a few quotes from it :
"We simply ask that nursing mothers exercise discretion as a courtesy to other Customers who are also traveling. Also, it is suggested that mothers who plan on breastfeeding onboard the aircraft carry a small blanket or jacket to protect their privacy since we currently do not stock our aircraft with blankets."
This is after saying they don't have an official policy, and customers are free to breastfeed on flights.
If thats not full of key "negative" words, I don't what is.
And the worst part .. my husband doesn't get why I'd be upset with this ..
ah the life of mom!

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAllisonx

Ugh, well that stinks. They're just going to have to deal with it when I fly in May b/c my son won't allow anything to cover him when he nurses without SCA-REAMING. Plus, there are plenty of ways to be discreet without covering. Boo on SWA for this response! It's a pity, as we really like flying with them.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarfMom

[...] the rich and famous, that means family vacations. I’ve always loved these great tips for breastfeeding on a plane but in today’s times, you should also be aware of the TSA’s policies on traveling with [...]

[...] Know the regulations. “Forewarned is forearmed” when it comes to traveling with a breast pump and breast milk or formula. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides guidance on its website. Although you probably won’t need it, it might be prudent to print a copy of these rules to carry with you. If your baby is breastfeeding, you may want to contact the airline to find out about their breastfeeding policies. (Remember, breastfeeding mothers have rights. Read more about this here.) [...]

What a great resource! I've flown over 30 times with my nursling, and luckily we've never had anything more than embarassed stares. But it's always good to know what your rights are, and how best to handle the situation, just in case. Cant wait for the day when this is no longer an issue!

October 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTaryn

[...] you’re planning on flying with your child that breastfeeds, you may find the tips from Annie at PhD in Parenting [...]

Just ran across your post from a Baby Center post on traveling w/ breastfeeding infants and made my way here. Just wanted to say, I love using my ring sling during air travel. It's great to hold a sleeping baby in a cramped space. Most times I traveled I had no problems but twice I was told to take off my sling during take off and landing...thus causing my silently sleeping baby to wake and scream. I was told that it was TSA (or was it FAA?) policy. Apparently it is but as I was angrily doing research about this I ran across their studies about the safest way to hold an infant during an emergency exit of a plane. None of them were very satisfied with their own conclusions since every outcome resulted in the adults taking hands off the infant to steady themselves as they exited, which says to me, "USE A SLING - HANDS FREE BABY HOLDING!" Duh! So frustrating.

November 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMamaLizz

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