mnmlist: Breastfeeding on Delta? HA

I flew out, quite unexpectedly, to Connecticut last week upon news that my aunt Karen died of lung cancer. I spent five wonderful days soaking in the love and community of my family before heading back to Tallahassee yesterday. Our flight from Providence to Atlanta was smooth sailing – all flights have been with Will, he’s a flirt and does not have any problems with his ears during take off and landing.

It was our Delta flight to Atlanta that proved troublesome. The night before I upgraded our seat to Economy Comfort – in part because although I do have short legs, I like having space, and I had been assigned to a full plane in the middle row. To spare everyone else wiggly baby syndrome, I opted for the extra comfort, and also added a wifi pass as well (go big or go home, hey?).

We boarded early on and the flight attendant was enamored with Will (we all are!) and played with him until more people started filtering onto the plane. The Economy Comfort seat was the first row behind first class. I sat in the window seat, there was no one in the seat next to me, and across the aisle from me was a kind older gentleman who was also enamored with Will, who applauded for everyone as they entered the plane.

Once everyone got settled into their seats, the flight attendants began their pre-flight tasks. Will hadn’t slept at all on the flight to Atlanta and I knew he was tired – it was already almost 10pm at this point. He was a bit restless so I decided to nurse him. I unbuckled the clasp of my nursing bra, laid Will across my lap, lifted my shirt, latched him on, pulled my shirt down over the top of my breast, and sat back.

A few minutes later, the female flight attendant came from first class and stood in front of me opening up a plastic bag with a blanket.

“Here you go,” she said as she tried to hand me the blanket. I was confused and asked her what that was for. “For you to cover up with while you nurse.”

“I don’t need that, thank you.”

“Well, we’ve gotten complaints…” she said, holding the blanket out to me. I refused it.

“Are you kidding me? I am not covering up, and I am not doing anything wrong.” She then left back up to first class.  I was stunned. My oldest child is almost 8 and I have never once had a problem nursing in public with any of my kids, and certainly not on an airplane. The kind older gentleman sitting across the aisle from me shook his head and said something about how some people were just not very smart, that I was doing nothing wrong. “Feeding your child like this is the most natural thing in the world. You are doing fine.”

A few minutes later, a team leader (judging based on his uniform, not sure who he was) came over and leaned over me. “I’m sorry, I’m gonna have to get you to cover up.”

I once again refused. “I am not covering up. I do not need to. I have the right to breastfeed wherever I need to. It’s in YOUR MANUAL. I am not taking your blanket. I am not doing anything wrong.”

He shook his head at me and then said, “Well, I guess I have to see if a red jacket (later I learned this term was a “red coat” – some sort of supervisor) says you can breastfeed or not.”

Excuse me? No, no, no. I then started tweeting.

Up until that point, after the male flight attendant left me, no one came back at all to tell me what was going on, whether or not I’d be “allowed” to breastfeed (guess what, I still did, because Delta does not get to tell me when and how I can care for and parent my child…

… who by the way was amazingly well behaved and quiet and slept for the entire flight. You’re welcome, flight 2655.

I packed up and headed off the flight. The male flight attendant was cleaning up in first class and I asked him if I could speak with his supervisor. He said he would alert the manager to come out and speak with me. I disembarked and got the carseat attached and taken care of and waited on the jetway. The captain of the flight came out and apologized, saying his wife had breastfed all three of their children. One of the other flight attendants, as she was disembarking, apologized too and told me that I was doing the right thing and that she was horrified at what had happened.

The two flight attendants who attempted to get me to cover up came out and I explained again what happened in front of the captain, when the two flight attendants completely and utterly lied to save their asses. The female flight attendant said she had only offered the blanket to me as an option for privacy, that there had been no complaints, that it was perfectly fine for me to breastfeed without a blanket. The male flight attendant said he’d talked to the “red coat” who said I was in the right, that I could breastfeed without cover. When I countered with their assertion that there had been a complaint, and asked for the person who had complained so I could file my own report of sexual harassment, he interrupted and snapped at me that I brought this all onto myself, because I exposed too much of myself when I was nursing Will.

Sorry, for those of you who are not accustomed to my colorful metaphors in writing… but what the fuck. I did not take my shirt off and offer everyone a sip at the milk bar, I lifted my shirt, latched the baby on (whose head is bigger than my breast, thank you very much), and cradled him against my stomach and across my lap. The only way you could have seen more exposed body parts was if he was staring himself, and when I latched Will on, he wasn’t even THERE.

His voice raised a few times  and I found myself increasingly stunned at the audacity of these two “professionals” who completely lied in front of me. I was angry. I told the male flight attendant that I didn’t want to talk to him, that I was done with him and didn’t wish to hear his voice again. He snapped back at me, “Well, you’re going to have to listen to me because you’re still on the jetway and you need to get off and into the terminal.” I turned around and left.

Once we got into the terminal, I waited to speak with a supervisor, and the gate attendant said there wasn’t one available but I could register a complaint with the staff at the baggage claim who could forward it onto the right person in the morning. I went downstairs and despite many efforts of the staff there, they were unable to retrieve the staff names of the attendants in question. They promised that I would get a call back today, Wednesday 5/21, by 9:30am at the latest.

This morning I awoke to hundreds of messages of support. I did not receive a call from Delta until 2:32 this afternoon. I spoke with Susanna Curtis, an Executive Assistant, who apologized and of course could not tell me more about what specific disciplinary measures they would be taking but they’d be training them AGAIN with these issues. I told her that especially since Delta’s last incident involving misinformation regarding breastfeeding (e.g., nurse your baby, wherever, however), I had little faith that they would do the right thing, nor did I have faith in their hiring processes for the people who worked for them, and I didn’t have faith that they would follow whatever other important rules and regulations they needed to enforce.

We left the conversation with her promising to refund the cost of the entire trip and that if there was anything else she could do to make me feel better, she’d do it. I told her I would think about it.

Right now I am left still feeling unnecessarily harassed. While Susanna Curtis was very nice to talk to and I fully believe she is probably horrified at the actions of these employees, I can’t say that I trust Delta worth anything anymore.

That’s that for now. More tomorrow.

PS – feel free to comment, but if you feel the need to tell me I should have just covered up, you can kindly go to hell. If you are here to tell me I was being immodest, you can also kindly go to hell. Freedom of speech protects you from the government, not my blog, so don’t be a dipshit.

Edited to include a link to the story WTXL ran on the matter. Here’s the video of my news piece.

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