American Airlines Should Beware The Angry Nursing Moms

This week, mothers throughout the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro area gathered in protest against American Airlines and its flight attendant who dared to ask a nursing mother to cover herself.

During an American Airlines flight to California, a flight attendant was concerned about a 12-year-old girl sitting in an aisle seat next to a husband and his wife who was leaned up against the window nursing their infant baby. The mother was offended by the attendant’s request that she cover up while breastfeeding. 

American Airlines eventually sent a letter to the young mother apologizing and claiming that while it supports breastfeeding mothers and certainly allows this on its flights, it does ask that mothers use discretion and modesty. Perfectly reasonable, don’t you think?

Well, not for other young mothers in the area. On Wednesday at 10 am at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, young moms gathered outside the American Airlines ticket counter to nurse their babies. The “nurse-in” was coincidentally scheduled during World Breastfeeding Week this week.

While word spread quickly throughout the region, the negative press for American Airlines may not be as detrimental as one would think. Unlike the protests spurred from such incidents as the Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy the breastfeeding debacle is having an opposite reaction among audiences, much to the chagrin of the “nurse-in” supporters.

While the incident was widely covered by the region’s press, word-of-mouth spread a bit faster and the result isn’t resoundingly supportive for the nursing mothers. The irony is that social media has become inundated with these stories, which has resulted in overexposure and great irritation for people online and offline.

We all understand the health benefits of nursing [both for mom and baby] and its importance. Unfortunately, no one really wants to see a large group of mothers exposing themselves outside an airport to nurse. It’s easy to sympathize with the woman victimized on the American Airlines flight, but the general public has spoken and they’d prefer if the mothers were a little more discrete.

When a company has to battle a young mother with a baby, we all know who will win. Not surprisingly, individuals on the mother’s side are actually other young nursing mothers — but non-mothers and even other mothers feel they’re going a little overboard.

We’d like for them to put their breasts away, cover up…or at least, take their nursing activities into the restroom where 10-year old boys don’t wander. If the mothers don’t mind, we’d all appreciate a moment’s peace from conversations about breastfeeding and pregnancy and especially from having to look at what should be the intimate practice of breastfeeding.

This post, written by me, was originally published on Beneath the Brand on August 9, 2013.