I Was Harassed While Breastfeeding on a Plane

Breastfeeding in public harassment has the potential for long term negative implications for a mother.  After an incident, some mothers will refuse to leave the house when they know their little one will need to eat. Others may wean earlier than planned, just to avoid the possibility of confrontation.  This is why our San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force was created... to protect future mothers from nursing in public discrimination and to educate our community about these mothers' rights.

Today on the San Diego Breastfeeding Center blog, I am honored to share Whitney Thomas's story, which demonstrates how hurtful and shameful nursing in public harassment can be.  If  you would like to submit your story to be shared with our readers, please email me at robinkaplan@sdbfc.com.  Thank you so much, Whitney, for being brave enough to share your story with us!  Your daughter is so lucky to have you as her mother!  


My name is Whitney Thomas, and I have been harassed for publicly breastfeeding.

In May 2011, when my daughter was barely two months old, I flew home to Texas for a family emergency using American Airlines. Flying from California, I had a mental plan to make sure that my travelling would go smoothly for myself and my newborn. I sat in the back, closest to the bathroom, for quick convenience to breastfeed. While at a stop, I went to the bathroom to nurse and within the first five minutes, the door was violently pounded with an angry passenger demanding that I quit "hogging the public bathroom."  While I frantically tried to gather my belongings, the male passenger rudely began to pound on the door asking what was taking so long. When I came out of the bathroom with my nursing cover around my neck I explained I was trying to nurse and would appreciate it if he would quiet down because my newborn was trying to feed so she could sleep.

Unsatisfied with why the bathroom was occupied, he continued to say that I needed to do that where people weren't around. He told me that I was ignorant for nursing on an airplane. He had the nerve to continue saying that breastfeeding was not something he was going to tolerate around him and said that he would get an air marshal if this "revolting act" wasn't solved.

I settled back into my seat, preparing to finish feeding my daughter. Mind you, I had my nursing cover on.  I even had it on while feeding inside the bathroom. I hated having to feed her in the bathroom, but I couldn't risk being kicked off of the plane since I was flying without my husband to help and defend me. When the plane was about to take off, the man returned to his seat, which was a few rows up from me. He made a point to loudly state he was going to make sure I wasn't "revolting anyone else". He again called all of the flight attendants and complained….threatening me that he was going to get me kicked off my flight. This man was at least 60. How did he think his mother fed him at that age??

Not one person defended me during this harassment incident and all I wanted to do was break down and cry. I was a new mom and it was my first flight with my new baby; whom I had chosen to breastfeed and not a SINGLE person saw any good as to what I was doing AND I WAS COMPLETELY COVERED. I was called a disgrace to women, and many other things that I will never forget.  All this because I wanted to give the best to my baby. 

After this incident I was afraid to nurse in public. The closest I got to public feeding was nursing in my car and that was because either I miscalculated my daughter's feeding time or I had no other choice. Knowing what I do now, I will never allow myself to be bullied for other people's insensitivity!! Our breastfed children should be allowed their food just as much as formula or bottle fed children.


You can also listen to Whitney's story on The Boob Group podcast episode: Ways to Combat Nursing in Public Harassment.