Dutch airline KLM has sparked a debate online after telling a customer it might ask mothers to cover themselves while breastfeeding.
The furore comes after a mum-of-one revealed that she’d been told to “cover up” on a KLM flight while nursing her baby.
After her Facebook post went viral, another woman took to Twitter to ask for clarification on KLM’s breastfeeding policy, the airline responded to say that while breastfeeding on flights is allowed, if other passengers are offended they may be asked to cover up.
Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.— Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) July 16, 2019
The airline's response has sparked uproar on Twitter, with many people criticising the policy.
Alternatively, you could provide brown paper bags that people offended by breastfeeding could put over their heads to avoid being exposed to (*shock horror*) a baby feeding in their vicinity.— Ultrαviolet IV 🌹💚🌍 (@UVivy) July 17, 2019
This is outrageous, KLM. I know you're trying to be fair, but this is not the way to do it. You're pandering to those who would control women's behaviour, prioritising their feelings over the process of nurturing an infant.— Paul Milnes (@nonklatink) July 18, 2019
Why don’t you provide a courtesy eye mask to those passengers who are offended by the sight of a breastfeeding mother on a flight, instead of covering nursing mothers & babies in blankets?— Harini Iyengar (@Harini_Iyengar) July 17, 2019
Labour and Co-operative Party MP Stella Creasy, who is currently pregnant, also waded into the debate tweeting that she felt KLM had gone "beyond the pale".
Great message there @KLM - come to the Netherlands where there's a red light district and dope is on tap, but god forbid a woman feed a baby in public - now that really is beyond the pale....#jogon https://t.co/WRQ2swdFFe— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) July 16, 2019
But not everyone thought the policy was unreasonable and some used the social media platform to express their support for the stand.
@KLM is correct. As a woman and medical professional I have no problem with breastfeeding but asking women to just throw something like a burp cloth over them whilst doing so is not an unreasonable request!— Becca Brettschneider (@BeccaBretts) July 17, 2019
Mother's should be asked to cover up as they are exposing themselves publicly, even if for breastfeeding. If it will cause that much offence being told to cover up, then maybe use a bottle for the flight.— Abu Malik (@mAhmedap) July 18, 2019
Yahoo UK has contacted KLM about the subject, but a spokeswoman told the BBC KLM told the BBC it is trying to "keep the peace on board" its flights.
"Of course, breastfeeding is permitted on board KLM flights.
"However, not all passengers feel comfortable with breastfeeding in their vicinity, and sometimes these passengers complain to the cabin staff.”
The spokeswoman said its aim, in such cases, was to "try to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone and that shows respect for everyone's comfort and personal space".
"This may involve a request to a mother to cover her breast," she added.
Breastfeeding in public has proved a contentious issue recently.
Earlier this summer, a mother reported feeling “angry and embarrassed” after being told to stop breastfeeding her baby on Ryanair flight.
It isn’t just on flights that mothers have found themselves being shamed. Last year a woman was called out by a shopping centre after she wrote a Facebook post explaining that she was unable to find somewhere to breastfeed her baby.
By way of a response to her post staff suggested the woman take her “home chores” elsewhere.
While women have a right to breastfeed in any public area under the Equality Act 2010, many find themselves being shamed if they do choose to nurse in public.
One company trying to change that is Middlesborough football club, who now actively promote this breastfeeding at their home ground, Riverside Stadium.