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Mother Asked to Stop Nursing by United Airlines

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The latest story to hit the web about a mother that has been asked to either stop breastfeeding in public or cover up has been posted over at Blogging Baby.

From the post:

K.K. Tetrault says she was asked by a flight attendent to stop breastfeeding her 7-month-old, because the attendent was 'concerned' for the other passengers on the flight.

The flight attendent encouraged her to wait to feed her child until they arrived at their destination but offered a blanket to cover herself and the baby.

The company has since apologized to Tetrault, saying the company policy is actually that breastfeeding should only be stopped if it poses a safety hazard to the mother or other passengers.

This isn't the first time that we've seen such a story pop up, with the most famous airline breastfeeding incident being the Barbara Walters breastfeeding incident last summer that sparked a nurse-in of over 150 women.

It's disappointing to hear about these things happening, but in some ways, seeing these stories get news helps contribute to the need for more understanding and acceptance from people about the need to feed babies when they are hungry. (Wow, do people really not already understand that?)

One would hope that United Airlines is taking this opportunity to educate their employees on the rights of mothers and children and that they would also examine their own corporate policies to make sure they are family friendly.

My own experience breastfeeding on airplanes doesn't so much involve nursing as it does pumping, but it was equally frustrating. Before my daughter was a year old, I had two cross-country trips from Ohio to California. The first one saw me traveling with a work associate while my daughter stayed with my mother. The timing on that trip required me to pump on the plane for three of the four flights. On the second trip, my mother and then 9 month old went with me and I only needed to pump on one flight each way.

I called the airline ahead of time to see what their policies were on pumping, mostly because I wasn't sure they'd appreciate me taking up bathroom space for twenty minutes at a time, but also because I wanted to know if there were any plugs available in the plane for my pump.

I was surprised to find that Frontier Airlines, who the first set of flights was thru had no electrical outlets available anywhere on the plane. (not even in the galley? I still don't get that.) I actually ended up having to buy a new pump that came with a battery pack so that I would be able to pump during the flights. The second flight was through American which had electrical outlets all over the place.

While I would have preferred to have pumped in my seat as opposed to in the bathroom, pumping is a little bit different than nursing. For one, it's pretty much impossible to be discreet when you have two flanges attached to your chest and a machine going "Woosh! WOOSH! WOOSH! Woosh!" next to you. For another, unless you want to finagle your way into a hands-free pumping bra while seated, you're going to have to sit there holding those flanges to your breasts which is darn near impossible when you have more than two inches of elbow room, let alone when you don't. Since every single flight that I had was full, I just couldn't see elbowing my neighbors in the neck while trying not to flash the world. (Pumps aren't smart like babies..they don't latch themselves...)

To that end, I will say that anyone looking for a pump should check out the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. I switched from a Medela Lactina Select that was a hospital rental to the PISA and was surprised at the quality. The new let-down feature really did make a difference in the amount of time I pumped and when out in public, it just looked like I was carting around a regular backpack. The best part was that it had room for the pump, a cooler bag for the milk and enough left over for a book or mp3 player and some personal items. That backpack came in handy a number of times...which is like fodder for another post down the road. ;)

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  1. Anonymous Jax | 6:26 AM |  

    there's something wrong with your amazon link.

    Amazes me that so many ppl feel they've got to interfere in something so absolutely ordinary and natural.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 6:36 AM |  

    Yeah, I tried to pull in a picture, it didn't work and despite the fact that I've taken that code out of my post, it's still showing. I think it's stuck in Blogger's cache...hopefully it will vanish soon.

  3. Anonymous Mama C-ta | 8:36 PM |  

    Sometimes I wish someone would say something to be when I BF in public so I can draw this huge nurse-in...but then I tend to be confratational for some reason! Fortunately I haven't had any comments or even weird looks yet.

  4. Blogger Amanda | 6:25 AM |  

    I wish I had the PISA. I bought my PIS original in July of 2003, right before the advanced became available in my area.

    My dh works for the airlines and I can't imagine them asking someone not to BF. Of course, he refuses to fly with the kids so I won't be finding out personally!

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 7:36 AM |  

    I adore my PISA. I have to admit I was a little skeptical about the whole "let down" feature but it does work quite well. Basically, it pumps really fast and a little light for about two minutes before switching into regular mode. You can manually switch whenever you want and if you turn it off and back on, it pops back into let down mode.

    When I bought it, I was pumping for 30-40 minutes with my Lactina Select rental. In that time, I'd get anywhere from 9-16 ounces, depending on the time of day.

    With the switch, I continued getting the same amount of milk, but dropped to pumping for 10-15 minutes instead. Very nice!

  6. Blogger Alisyn | 8:52 AM |  

    I, like Mama C-Ta, love to be confrontational, especially when it comes to breastfeeding in public.

    I've done it in churches, on airplanes, in restaurants, on the beach... pretty much anywhere you can think of, and I've *never* had anyone say anything inappropriate to me.

    I kinda wish someone would, because I've got my rant all ready (and my aim is GREAT!)

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