Today, Bronwynn, Kris and I flew to Minneapolis, MN to attend my grandfather's funeral. The flight was pretty full, and so Kris and I were both seated in aisle seats right across from each other. A woman and her husband sat next to me in my row.
As the plane approached takeoff, I discreetly began to nurse B using a large 36-inch square swaddle blanket as a cover-up. I turned toward the aisle (toward Kris), so that he and I could chat while I nursed. The woman sitting next to me (she looked to be late 20s/early 30s) began to fidget in her seat. When I glanced over, I could see that she was turning her back to me, but thought nothing of it (maybe she was looking out the window?) Several minutes later, however, she turned to me and said, "I find it very offensive that you are breastfeeding your baby in public."
"Are you serious?!" I asked, glancing down to make sure that I wasn't exposed. Every inch of my skin was covered up...I was actually more covered than many of the women on the plane in their summer clothing.
"Yes, I am serious. You are making me extremely uncomfortable." the woman barked back to me.
My heart started pounding. I took a deep breath, careful to stay calm. I politely replied, "Well, I'm sorry you feel that way. But I'm being very discreet, and I have a right to breastfeed in public. It's not against the law."
The woman huffed. "Well, it's just offensive that you would expose your breasts in public!"
"Can you see my breast?" I asked her. At this point a few passengers around us had overheard the woman and were listening in.
"Well, no." The woman replied. "But I know that's what you're doing under there."
"Breastfeeding is completely natural, and it's how my baby eats." I said.
"Well," she said, "I think you should switch seats with your husband so that I don't have to be exposed to this."
"I'm very happy with my seat. If you're uncomfortable in yours, you can switch with someone else."
At this point the woman turned away and I turned to Kris and we just looked at each other, dumbfounded. In 8 months of breastfeeding, I had never had one negative comment, and this was a doozie. I just couldn't understand how someone could be so miserable as to pick on a woman and her child doing something that comes naturally to nearly every mammal on the planet. I wondered if she'd rather I deny B my milk and listen to my baby scream for the 2-hour flight!
A few moments later, the woman called over our flight attendants and voiced her complaint. She first asked that they move me. Thankfully, the flight attendants (a man and a woman) said "there is no reason for her to move, m'am." Then the woman demanded that they find her and her husband different seats because they were so uncomfortable with my breastfeeding. The male flight attendant said he'd see what was available and he came back and told them that he had two middle seats in different rows that they could move to if they wanted to.
The woman argued again that I was the one being indecent and why should she have to move and be separated from her husband when it would be much easier for me and Kris to switch seats.
Again, the flight attendants defended us and said, "M'am, they are comfortable in their seats. If you are uncomfortable in yours, I have two middle seats that you and your husband can move to."
The woman huffed again and said, "it's just not fair! fine, we'll move." And she and her husband left. The flight attendants then offered Kris her vacant seat, so we got a whole row to ourselves. :)
After the couple left (ironically, the husband was silent through this whole ordeal), passengers around us smiled at us approvingly and commented on what a beautiful baby B is and how rude that woman was. I felt so grateful for the flight attendants who stood by us. The easy thing would have been for Kris and I to switch places. But it was not the right thing to do, and they recognized that. (I plan to write a glowing letter to Northwest Airlines on their behalf, by the way!)
We thought we had heard the last of it, but alas, this woman waited for us at baggage claim (with diaper changes and such, we were the last ones to retrieve our bags). She was sitting there waiting and approached Kris and yelled at him about how rude I was and how babies should only be fed bottles in public, and we were indecent, yada yada. She stormed off.
It's hard for me to believe that someone like that can change her opinion, but I hope someday she does come to see that breastfeeding is natural, beautiful and the healthiest thing you can do for your child.