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Breastfeeding At 35,000 Feet = High-Flying Controversy

I’ve breastfed my child on numerous flights—have you? One woman did recently and claims she was kicked off her flight as a result. Now the mom from New Mexico has secured an attorney and has filed complaints against two airlines.

According to news reports, Emily Gillette, a 27-year-old mother from Santa Fe, New Meixco, filed the complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission late last week against Delta Air Lines and Freedom Airlines. Freedom was operating the Delta flight Gillette was flying between Burlington and New York City.

According to the complaint, last month, Gillette was discreetly breastfeeding her 22-month-old daughter as their flight prepared to leave Burlington International Airport. She said she was seated by the window in the next-to-last row, her husband was seated between her and the aisle and no part of her breast was showing.

According to Gillette, a flight attendant tried to hand her a blanket and told her to cover up. She declined, telling the flight attendant she had a legal right to breastfeed her baby.

Gillette’s complaint goes on to say that moments later, a Delta ticket agent approached and said the flight attendant had asked that the family be removed from the flight. Gillette said she didn’t want to make a scene so she disembarked from the plane.

“It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child,” Gillette told local news reporters.

A Freedom spokesman said Gillette was asked to leave the flight after she declined the blanket.

“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, said a spokesman for Phoenix-based Freedom. “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.”

Vermont state law allows a mother to breast-feed in public. Gillette’s complaint was filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission because it is responsible for investigating complaints and determining whether discrimination may have occurred.

Personally, I’m not sure what to make of this case. It doesn’t sound to me that Gillette made a scene. I have breastfed my child while sitting on an aisle seat (Gillette was breastfeeding in a window seat next to her husband who sat on the aisle seat) and not one person blinked an eye (at least not that I am aware of). I started breastfeeding under a blanket, but my daughter (who was not used to nursing under cover) quickly ripped it off. Then again, my flights were on average 9 hours or longer, so perhaps, the passengers who may have been offended by my breastfeeding deduced it was better for them to look away than to listen to my child wail for 9 hours.

What do you think? Does it sound as though the flight attendant was a bit overzealous?

Related Articles:

Breastfeeding Mom vs. Toys R Us

Flying With An Infant

Flying with Children: Layover or Not?

Traveling With Children-Learn From My Mistakes

Tips To Remember When Traveling With Children

A Place For Your Kids To Play Between Flights

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About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.