Breastfeeding mom calls treatment by flight attendant ‘wildly offensive’
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNN) — Another flight brings another complaint about an airline interfering with a passenger breastfeeding her baby.
The mothers who complain about instances of airline employees interfering with their breastfeeding or pumping aren’t covering up and going away; they are tweeting out their complaints in 140 characters or less, sometimes in multiple posts, other times taking pictures of longer reports.
Kristen Hilderman is the latest mother to say she was hassled while breastfeeding. The Vancouver mother was returning to Canada from a vacation in Costa Rica with her family on Sunday night when, she says, there was a problem on the final leg of her trip.
Hilderman was feeding her 5-month-old son on board United Airlines Flight 438 as the aircraft taxied along the runway before taking off from Houston to Vancouver. To describe what happened next, she took a picture of her typed recollections and posted it to Twitter.
“A male flight attendant named Keith walked up to our row and said to my husband (loudly, so that everyone around could here ), ‘Are you two together?'” Hilderman wrote.
When her husband said yes, Hilderman said, the flight attendant “tossed a blanket at him … and said tersely, ‘Then HERE, help her out.’ ”
When she twice asked what he was supposed to help her out with, she said, the flight attendant ignored her.
Passengers on the plane were supportive, she said, and told her they hadn’t known she was breastfeeding until the flight attendant singled her out.
“I’ve been breastfeeding my son in myriad public places since he was born, and never has anyone made me feel so uncomfortable and ashamed for feeding my baby without putting a cover over his head,” she wrote.
Hilderman said her flight couldn’t land in Vancouver due to fog and was diverted to Seattle.
“When we were able to reboard the plane and fly from Seattle to Vancouver, Keith had placed a blanket folded up and sitting on my seat waiting for me,” wrote Hilderman. “Not a single other seat. Just mine.”
United Airlines spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm said that the airline reached out to Hilderman on Monday night via Twitter and that airline officials “look forward to speaking more with her and to our crew member to understand what happened.”
“On our general approach to breast feeding, we welcome nursing mothers on board and we ask that crew members do their best to ensure their comfort and safety as they do with all customers,” Dohm wrote in an email. “We also ask nursing mothers and passengers seated near them to be mindful of one another’s space and comfort.”
Hilderman, who filed a complaint with the airline, said United had not contacted her beyond their tweeted reply but said she has found support from allies on social media.
Delta passenger Lauren Modeen, who needed her breast pump on a January flight but was forced to check it as luggage, started a Boobs on Board Facebook page that’s gained over 1,100 followers in the past month.
“Before social media, the majority of these harassment stories went unheard,” Modeen wrote in an email. “As a result, airlines faced little pressure to improve and pave a better way for mothers and children.”
She wants her Facebook page encourage airlines “to publicly post their explicitly clear pro-breastfeeding/pumping policies inside every airplane so the rules are not left to interpretation by an airline employee, and in turn harass/shame/bully a mother.”
United, Delta and other major U.S. airlines say breastfeeding is allowed on their aircraft, although United and American Airlines don’t have those policies posted on their websites.
Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines do.
Though you can’t please everyone in the air, women are allowed to breastfeed in flight, says veteran flight attendant and author Heather Poole, who is also a mother.
“Which means if breastfeeding bothers you, maybe try looking away, closing your eyes,” said Poole, author of “Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet.”
And remember that baby could be crying instead, giving you another reason to complain. “Better a happy baby than a crying baby.”