It's strike three for the airline industry for moms and babies. Last year, it was the mom who was booted from a plane for refusing to cover her baby's head while breastfeeding. Last week, it was the mom who was petitioning Delta to install changing tables on all of their planes. This week, we hear about the mom who was "humiliated" by an American Airlines flight attendant while trying to use her breast pump.
This week's story comes from a mom who was taking a rare trip with her husband away from their three kids. Dawn Brahos is still breast-feeding her youngest and therefore brought a breast pump along on the trip to relieve engorgement and keep up her milk supply. The Indiana mom checked the airline's policy on using a breast pump before she even made her reservations and after some confusion (I imagine they don't get that question often,) she was told that American Airlines does indeed allow breastfeeding moms to plug in Medela-brand pumps during flights. Any other type of breast pump would require prior approval for use, but as Brahos planned to use a Medela pump, she assumed she was good to go.
And on her fist two flights she was. On her outbound flight from Chicago to San Diego, Brahos said she pumped under a blanket without anyone noticing. On her return flight, Brahos said American flight attendants were extremely accommodating, allowing her to use a galley outlet to pump not once but twice as her plane circled over O'Hare because of bad weather. Eventually, the flight was diverted to Minneapolis, and it was on the subsequent flight from Minneapolis to Chicago that Brahos ran into trouble. A flight attendant on the plane took issue with her use of the breast pump and would not allow her to continue.
"I started it off being quiet and discreet, but the flight attendant wasn't discreet at all. She came back three times to my seat and was really loud about it. She was like, 'You absolutely cannot pump,'" Brahos said in an interview with the New York Daily News.
When Brahos tried to explain that she had used her breast pump on her previous two flights, the flight attendant told her that she was mistaken.
"It was humiliating. She was loud and cold and argumentative," Brahos recalled. "At least a third of the plane knew my business. I could see them talking amongst themselves."
For its part, American Airlines offered an official apology to Brahos. "We apologize for the experience Ms. Brahos had on a recent flight. Our in-flight personnel are trained to handle these situations with professionalism and discretion. American does not have a policy prohibiting the use of breast pumps in-flight," American spokeswoman Andrea Huguely said.
It was a good thing that Brahos had checked into the airlines policy ahead of time, but that information did her no good when faced with a stubborn flight attendant. As she admitted in her interview, you can't exactly argue with a flight attendant these days or you'll find yourself in some pretty hot water.
Next time, she better get it in writing.
Related on MNN: Breast-feeding rights: A state-by-state list
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