Mom Says American Airlines Treated Her Like Crap for Breastfeeding

Illustration for article titled Mom Says American Airlines Treated Her Like Crap for Breastfeeding

You can only breastfeed on an American Airlines flight if you do so with a "certain discretion and a sense of modesty" endorsed by a flight attendant, according to one angry lactating flyer.

Here's the story of a mother who says she was shamed by a flight attendant for breastfeeding on an American Airlines plane near a (gasp!) disinterested tween:

“On July 21, 2013 my husband and I were travelling home with our 5 month-old son on an American Airlines flight. After lift-off, I allowed our son to begin nursing as it helps his ears not hurt and prevents him from crying for the rest of the flight. I was sitting in the window seat, my husband was sitting in the center seat, and our son’s head was toward the window so no one could really see what was going on. There was a girl about ten or twelve years old sitting in the aisle seat next to my husband. She had her headphones on and was chatting with her friends in surrounding seats – my son’s eating did not seem to be bothering her.

A few minutes after my son started nursing, a stewardess walked by our row, shook her head at me, and shot me a very displeased look. I told my husband, and we both agreed that she probably wouldn’t go any further, since I was being discreet and no one else seemed bothered. A few minutes later, the same stewardess returned to our row, leaned over the girl in the aisle seat, and told me (after a bit of hesitation as she couldn’t find her words) that I needed to put a blanket over my son “because there are kids on this flight.” My husband promptly responded that there was no problem with what I was doing and that we preferred to not use a blanket. The stewardess left our row and walked to the back of the plane. A few minutes later, she returned again and told the young lady in the aisle seat, “I’m going to move you back here because you’re probably really uncomfortable.” By that time, our my son was asleep and the girl had yet to take notice in my nursing of him.

For the rest of the flight, that stewardess never offered us drinks and avoided looking at us, but my son happily nursed and slept. We had passengers all around us saying how thankful they were that our son was sleeping, commenting 'He’s the best baby on the plane!'

I filed a complaint on the American Airlines website describing the employee’s inappropriate, harassment-style behavior, saying that it made me hesitant to fly with American Airlines again. On August 3, 2013, I received the attached letter in response – Not an apology and further reason to believe that harassment is not uncommon for breastfeeding mothers flying with American Airlines."

Illustration for article titled Mom Says American Airlines Treated Her Like Crap for Breastfeeding

Rhodes didn't respond to our requests that he elaborate on American Airlines' "modesty" guidelines. However, blogger Christopher Elliott recently asked the airline to explain its stance on breastfeeding after another nursing woman was made to feel embarrassed about feeding her kid during a flight; AA claimed it didn't place any restrictions on mothers with infants and allows breast-feeding during all phases of flight.

“In addition, American’s experienced flight attendants may assist parents by heating baby bottles using onboard kitchen equipment, as well as offer suggestions on how to keep kids entertained in flight,” spokeswoman Taylor Hall said. Perhaps American Airlines' flight attendants need a reminder that their company ostensibly doesn't think breastfeeding is icky.

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Heather Simon

I am far more offended at hearing a screaming child than I am at seeing Nature's Pacifier in action.