Adventures in Ethics and Science

The liquid in question, of course, is breastmilk.

As reported by the Burlington Free Press:

Emily Gillette of Santa Fe, N.M., was asked to leave a flight departing from Burlington after she declined to cover her baby as she breast-fed.

Gillette said she began to nurse her 22-month-old daughter as the plane prepared for takeoff after a three-hour delay. Gillette said a Freedom Airlines flight attendant approached her, directing her to cover up with a blanket. When Gillette refused, the attendant allegedly told her that she was offended, and Gillette and her husband say they were asked to leave the plane.

Gillette said she has filed a charge against two airlines — Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines, which was operating the commuter flight for Delta — with the Vermont Human Rights Commission because breast-feeding is protected under Vermont’s Public Accommodations Law.

Neither Delta nor Freedom officials returned calls Wednesday seeking comment. Freedom Airlines spokesman Paul Skellon said Monday that he was aware of the incident.

“A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way” that doesn’t bother others, Skellon said. “She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that’s all I know.”

Gillette was put off the plane for refusing to breastfeed “discreetly”, but it should be noted that she was seated in a window seat — with her husband seated next to her — in the next to last row of the plane when the breastfeeding occurred and, as far as I can tell from the news coverage, only the flight attendant was offended by the display of boobie. To the extent that flight attendants are supposed to be focused on passenger safety, Delta might want to consider hiring flight attendants who are not so easily distracted by the sight of a young human taking in nourishment.

If you’d like to sign a petition to let Delta know that this is a stupid way to treat its passengers, there’s one here.

Comments

  1. #1 Helen
    November 16, 2006

    I generally find myself on both sides of this issue at once. I’ve seen plenty of discreet breast-feeding, and I can’t see how it would bother anyone and wish we could just leave such mothers alone and let them get on with it.

    I’ve also seen plenty of obnoxious breast-feeding. Some manage to involve a lot of squicky sound effects and nauseating smells in the process, and it’s not like one can simply turn away and not be affected. And some are the opposite of discreet visually, finding ways to call attention to their task instead of just getting on with it. I wish such mothers would just stay home until they learn some grown-up manners or their kids get older.

    So no, I won’t be telling Delta I think they’re wrong; I don’t know enough about what happened. It may well be that if I were there, I’d be telling the flight attendant to get over herself. It may well be that if I were there, I’d be thanking the flight attendant. I don’t know which from the reports.

  2. #2 sciencewoman
    November 16, 2006

    Thanks for bringing this up. I copied your post at my own place and added my own comment. And I signed the petition.

  3. #3 sparc
    November 17, 2006
  4. #4 Aria Baker
    November 17, 2006

    Unbelievable. I absolutely will tell Delta that their flight attendant was completely out of touch and discriminatory.

    My experience with regards to the first comment posted by Helen is as follows. I have been breastfeeding for 3 plus years. I know families who choose breastfeeding and others who choose formula feeding. There are swallowing and other liquid noises present in either case (as would be expected with a baby who is learning suck/swallow patterns). I have never heard of or experienced any nauseating smells associated with breastfeeding. Of course babies have gas and bowel movements not matter how they are fed. In fact, one of the benefits of breastfeeding is that the bowel movements of an exclusively breasfed baby have virtually no smell, and certainly not an offensive one. If you get a chance, check the ingredients on a container of formula out for yourself. Then go one step further and taste it.

    As for discreet breastfeeding, most women only expose as much as is necessary to get the baby latched on. Contrary to what some people think, breastfeeding in public isn’t a statement but rather, in our hearts, the best and most natural way to feed and nurture our babies.

    The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented and undeniable. For more info check out:

    http://www.promom.org/101/

    The World Health Organization recognizes breastmilk to as the superior food for babies and recommends nursing for two years or beyond.

  5. #5 Erika
    November 20, 2006

    How can you regulate breastfeeding in any way? Many people seemed only to be offende that the child was 22 months and still breastfeeding. So should only children up to a certain age be allowed?

    Children do all kinds of things that people don’t like on airlines, including screaming, kicking, making stinky diapers…but no one says “please keep children from pooping on planes.”

    My daughter is 21 months old, and we breastfeed everywhere. And we aren’t always “discreet”, by which, I believe, most people mean “self-conscious.” It is a natural thing we’re doing, and everyone else needs to deal. If you were the child you’d feel differently!

  6. #6 Helen
    November 21, 2006

    Some of the comments here illustrate why so many people like myself run out of sympathy fast for this issue.

    The basic foundation of decent conduct in public is “don’t disrupt others”. For some reason, many concerned with this issue and perhaps most of the vocal echo Erika’s attitude, “everyone else needs to deal”.

    We’re surrounded every day by people who manage just fine to get on with the business of parenting without being a public nuisance. Those who don’t bother to figure it out aren’t going to get more sympathy by throwing public snits on top of it.

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