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A Delta Airlines employee informed a customer, via Twitter, that she could not breastfeed on a flight without a cover. Reaction was swift — and, for Delta, painful — but shows that breastfeeding advocacy continues to be relevant in today’s world.

Company backpedals, but damage is done

Delta Airlines felt some swift social media sting when an employee advised that a woman could not breastfeed on a flight unless she was covered up. An apology has been issued, but it’s too little, too late. The resulting outcry has fully illustrated why breastfeeding education, advocacy and support continue to be essential — not only for moms and babies, but for those who work, live and interact with them.

The timeline

Delta tweet breastfeeding policy | Sheknows.com

A Delta Airlines customer tweeted their customer assistance Twitter account to ask the following question. “@DeltaAssist What's your breast feeding policy? I'll be flying with my 10wk old son and he won't nurse with a cover or take a bottle. Thanks.”

A customer service representative was quick to reply, but her answer was definitely not what the new mom was expecting. “@ClassicHippie I Lindsay unfortunately you are not able to breast feed if you don't have a cover up. I'm sorry. *SD”

This new mother was understandably upset, and replied that the baby couldn’t nurse under a cover, after which the rep suggested pumping. The problem? Her baby doesn’t take a bottle, which isn’t uncommon for exclusively breastfed babies. So Lindsay was wondering how she’d be able to go on a six-hour flight with her infant who needed to nurse every couple of hours.

A mom, feeding her child

"Mothers are, in general, allowed to breastfeed their babies wherever they have a legal right to be"

The “policy” that SD cited is wrong. Mothers are, in general, allowed to breastfeed their babies wherever they have a legal right to be — airlines included. SD’s advice was simply incorrect and has caused a social media firestorm that Delta is just now attempting to put out. However, this brings to the forefront that an official apology needs to be issued, their employees need to be trained and the relationship of the nursing mother with the public needs to be examined more thoroughly.

Jessica, who runs the popular blog The Leaky Boob, noticed the interaction and brought it quickly to the attention of her social media channels. She says, “While Delta doesn’t have an official policy on breastfeeding, this incident of a mother seeking to be prepared for traveling with her infant reflects a much deeper issue — breastfeeding mothers are all too aware that they may be publicly shamed. The airline’s unfortunate response indicates a need for an official policy and training, as well as observance of laws protecting breastfeeding mothers and their child’s right to eat.”

Jamie, the mastermind behind TheBabyGuyNYC, also brought it to his audience’s attention for similar reasons — he knew that the situation was wrong and that people need to be aware that this is the sort of hurdles moms face, even with all of the advocacy that goes on today. “I think the bigger problem in this social media fiasco is that this poor lady was so unsure of her rights as a breastfeeding mom that she had to ask,” he explains. “That really showcases the larger problem of breastfeeding education and support in this country. A woman should never feel like she cannot feed her child. Ever.”

Moms remember

Delta is currently trying to backpedal its way out of this public relations nightmare, but moms observe, listen and remember when one of their own is discriminated against. “This is a bunch of BS!” exclaims Ashley, mother of four. “They can't tell you that you have to use a cover to breastfeed on a flight! I nursed Ethan on a couple different flight carriers when he was about 8 months old. No cover because he hated them. No one said a word to me about nursing, but complimented about how he was such a good baby.”

Liz had similar experiences. “I nursed Evelyn on Northwest flights at 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 15 months,” she shares. “Never had a problem or complaint. Would they rather listen to a crying baby, because who other than the person sitting directly next to a nursing mother is even going to know that she's nursing?”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but hopefully it will be for the better, with more awareness for not only this particular Delta employee, but businesses all over the nation. Train your staff better and establish an official breastfeeding policy — something along the lines of, “Let mothers feed their babies." And moms, take heart that you can breastfeed your baby. In public. On a plane. In a restaurant. At a water park. In church. At the store. In a courthouse. It’s your child, and you can feed her.

More on breastfeeding

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Photo credit: William Whitehurst/Fuse/Getty Images

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Comments

Comments on "Delta's breastfeeding "policy" on Twitter creates uproar"

John March 11, 2014 | 5:45 AM

it should be understood rightfully so, nevertheless this is being blown way out of proportion. the customer service rep was not nasty in any way. being that she was quick to respond she might have given the wrong information.

Lexi March 05, 2014 | 7:06 AM

why do we think breast feeding is so wrong? whats wrong with breasts? In my experience most mother are fairly modest. But why would it matter if the full breast was out? There are more nations/cultures where breast feeding where ever you are is 100% normal then the other way around. Also as for the top comment by Mike. Go ahead take a picture any pictures you take are yours. Do me a favor tho, post it on the internet for everyone to see. I'm not ashamed to use my breasts. I am a mammal. I lactate. get over it.

Mike February 25, 2014 | 11:26 AM

I believe women should be allowed to breastfeed anywhere you want but at the same time do not get offended if someone starts taking your picture while you do it. These same women will be the first to complain that their right to privacy has been violated by someone taking a picture.

Bob February 24, 2014 | 6:16 PM

Get over yourselves, you self-righteous hippies (heck, this woman's Twitter name is even @classiehippie for crying out loud!) screaming that this is the law, blah blah. Does a woman legally have the right to breastfeed in public? Sure thing. Personally, I wouldn't be offended, but there are some people who are simply uncomfortable with it. It's within their right to express that discomfort too.....you know, that little something called freedom of speech. Go back to your VW vans and smoke some more weed losers!

flyingbarb February 23, 2014 | 7:49 PM

I do not feel like seeing your boob, do you mind? Breast feed your child all you want but can you use a little discretion and class? Or is it "show your boob time?" I'll show mine if you show yours? Nobody is stopping anybody from breastfeeding in public, just have some privacy and class!!!

MARY February 23, 2014 | 1:57 PM

I'm curious as to why the question was asked. I am of the mind that you are allowed to feed your child - whatever that may mean. Would you ask if it was okay to give your baby a bottle, or your toddler a soda, or a bag of candy? What was the prompt for asking? And to "M"...I wouldn't eat in the bathroom...would you?

Lauren February 23, 2014 | 9:17 AM

I'm sad for all who are offended by the female-child relationship and the beauty of breastfeeding! You're offended by a bare breast ... Well I'm offended by your insensitivity, ignorance and superficiality! Get over yourselves people!!! It's not about vanity, uality or indecency...it's about nurturing, feeding and providing the best nutrition and bond to foster a healthy, happy, well-adjusted human!

Marie February 22, 2014 | 10:03 PM

You gotta do what you gotta do. I think if you can excuse yourself to a comfortable place, then you should to it. The fact is that some people are not comfortable around any kind of nakedness. It could be that they are not comfortable with their bodies. It's just the way some people are. However, on a plane when there is truly no where for the nursing mother to go, she should just be allowed to feed the baby. On another note, why should bottle feeding be offensive? We can't all breast feed successfully. I tried desperately with both my kids, but wasn't able to produce milk. I had no choice. Saying stuff like that makes you just as bad as the people who don't accepting of breast feeding.

Candace February 22, 2014 | 7:07 PM

The reason this is an issue is because this is not the first time this has happened with the airlines or with Delta specifically. Delta has not taken these concerns seriously. Delta needs to clarify that its policy is aligned with the law in most states of our nation--that a woman may breastfeed any place she otherwise has a right to be. Further, they need to make clear that all personnel are trained as to how to handle this. The ONLY time in 7+ years of nursing four of my kids I have EVER gotten a remark was on a Delta flight. I was nursing a 10 month old (in a front carrier for goodness sakes...I mean nothing was showing) and a flight attendant asked me to use a blanket because another passenger said something. My family was in seats across from me and the young couple in my row were supportive...so it must have been a passenger one row back and across. At the time, Delta couldn't even point to a publicly available policy about breastfeeding on flights. Given the history of issues on planes, I completely understand why this mother asked. She posted in a FB group that she knows she has a "right" but wanted clarification on policy because she didn't want to get kicked off a flight and then have to deal with it after the fact. She wanted to just enjoy her flight with her family.

Katie February 22, 2014 | 3:41 PM

For the record, I've breastfed on numerous (so many I cannot count) Delta flights and while I try to cover myself, any breast feeding mom can attest, when baby's arms get going, your best efforts to stay covered do not always prevail. I've not once, not ever, had a passenger or crew member say anything but positive and encouraging things to me and my family. In fact, most crew members and passengers have gone as far as to entertain my children and offer help in many ways and yes, they were aware I was breast feeding during the flight. I suspect this is another case of a misinformed customer service rep making a bad call in which they had no idea would snowball in this way, rather than a company policy that has been arbitrarily forced upon customers.

Krys February 22, 2014 | 1:36 PM

I'm confused at how it must have been obvious that this mother was only trying to gain free tickets and money. How exactly does "everyone" know this? All I see is a mother that was trying to prepare for a flight with her baby, and an ill informed Customer Service Rep. The problem is that breastfeeding is protected under the law. So in actual fact, anyone that dosnt like it, or think it proper should probably leave or look away when Im breastfeeding my 3 month old and 2.5 year old. I wont be moving from the spot where they became hungry. :)

Dan February 22, 2014 | 6:56 AM

It is just a boob, excuse me, breast. If you are all sooo overly ualized that a boob makes you stumble, cheat on your wife or completely lose your mind, the problem lies with you. Breast feeding is a) natural, b) essential and c) not exactly a new phenomenon. In fact, until recently, moms didn't have to even think about hiding. I think anti-breastfeeding supporters are, in fact, bigoted, over ualized, child like beings giggling like it is the first breast they have ever seen.

Nandi February 22, 2014 | 6:10 AM

It's not about the breast feeding, but about respecting everyone else around......no one has to be showing their private parts to anyone in a public place.....so if a woman shows her boobs in the middle of the street she would get arrested for undiccent exposure, but it is ok to take your boobs out and feed a baby......????????.....be respectful of others....before you could ask to be respected.....besides she just wanted money and free tickets..... We all know that....

Yvonne February 22, 2014 | 1:15 AM

M, Public toilets are a disgusting place. I wouldn't eat in a toilet, so why would I make my baby eat in one? Comparing changing a nappy, scratching your crotch and picking your nose to breastfeeding in public is ridiculous. There completely different things. Breastfeeding shouldnt be considered offensive to anyone but by putting it in the same category as going to the toilet you are making it so. Opinions like yours are the reason why we are still at a stage where we are debating if it is ok to breastfeed your child in public.

M February 22, 2014 | 1:03 AM

What about the bathroom? Seriously I don't get it. I nursed my son for 8 months, I never felt like I have to do it openly in public. Yes I went to the bathroom, asked to use the office in restaurants, nursed in my car, etc. Farting, picking your nose and scratching ur crotch is also legal in public but it doesn't mean it's proper to do in public. Why bother going to the bathroom to change the babies diaper when you can do it at the table?

Yvonne February 22, 2014 | 12:48 AM

Pat, I have a 10 month old daughter. It is very very difficult to be discreet sometimes especially when she likes to pull away several times during a feeding to look around leaving me very exposed. I cover up with my hand or scarf or whatever i have to hand every time she gets distracted by a noise etc. which is every 2 minutes sometimes. She also likes to 'play' with the other nipple during feeding which is very natural but I'm sure this doesn't look too 'classy' so what would you suggest to make this a classier experience for me and my daughter? I seriously doubt women are feeding their babies in public to get attention and I think you are being quite judgmental. Society has attached a stigma to breasts that we cannot shake off and I think the more people that do 'pull out their breast wherever they want' in order to feed their child the better. It is up to everyone else to change their perception of an exposed breast. A mother shouldn't have to worry about being discreet and classy on top of trying to meet the needs of her infant so as not to offend anyone that might catch a glimpse of flesh.

Colleen February 21, 2014 | 7:03 PM

I personally would love to sit next to this woman. It's bottle feeding that offends me.

Pat February 21, 2014 | 6:41 PM

I believe that a mother has the right to breast feed their child where ever and whenever necessary. I also believe that it is possible to be discreet. I nursed three children just about anywhere you can imagine (church, on planes, on a park bench, in a mall, restaurants, etc) but I used discretion. Some women believe that they can pull out their breast wherever they want and it should be accepted by everyone. I feel that they are often attention getting and this is not necessary. Feed your child but please, show some common sense and a bit of class!

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