My article Everyone needs to grow up about breastfeeding originally appeared on Mashable.com March 11, 2015
Unlike other body parts, breasts seem to confuse some people. Sometimes they’re sexy; other times, they’re a source of food.
You may have recently read about the male flight attendant who allegedly tossed a blanket at a passenger who was breastfeeding, ordering her to cover up. It’s tempting to obsess over this one incident, but it’s bigger than that. Unfortunately, mothers are often told to cover up, and not just by flight attendants who may be unfamiliar with their airlines’ policies.
Then again, when an airline’s policy isn’t exactly clear (or posted online), it’s easy to see how this could happen. The job of a flight attendant, like myself, is to try and make everyone happy: not just one person, but 160 people.
“United welcomes 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,” the airline told Mashable. “We also ask nursing mothers and passengers seated near them to be mindful of one another’s space and comfort.”
So, they’re welcome — but there’s plenty of room for interpretation around being “mindful” of other passengers’ “comfort.”
“It’s so stupid that boobs/cleavage are in almost every advertisement and no one cares, but when they are used for their true purpose, it is considered distasteful,” my Facebook friend Cara Mclaughlin said after I posted about what I was writing. “Our world is sick!”
She has a point.
What passengers (and some flight attendants) have to understand is this: Regardless how one might feel about breasts and nipples, women are allowed to breastfeed babies on the airplane.
With that in mind, I decided to ask someone I know, someone very close to me, what he would do if he saw a woman breastfeeding on the plane.
“I’d yell, ‘Breastfeeder! Breastfeeder!’” my son giggled.
Okay, I’m sure he was kidding — but even so, I think we might need to have a little talk. Keep in mind, he’s just 8 years old.
However, I’ve had passengers far older than 8 act a lot like my son upon spotting a woman breastfeeding on a plane. Full-grown adults who get upset by a bare breast you can hardly even see past a baby’s head. No, they didn’t yell, “Breastfeeder! Breastfeeder!” Most of them just looked very uncomfortable or upset. And a few have pointed out mothers to me, even suggesting that I ask them to cover up.
But she doesn’t have to cover up.