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After a nursing mom says she was humiliated and called “disgusting” for breastfeeding her 4-month-old daughter on a United Airlines flight, she cried, then cried out — blasting the airline to honor its ‘moral responsibility’ to breastfeeding moms — and started a social media campaign #MomsDontFlyUnited.
The incident that prompted the movement began when California mother Juliet Thomson, 28, was en route recently from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles on United Airlines with her daughter Charlie. “I had finished nursing my daughter and had her resting across my chest. No skin was showing below my collarbone,” she told the Daily Mail. “Another passenger was telling a young male steward, ‘Turn around and look at this girl. You need to go tell her to put some clothes on.’ Two minutes later, a female steward came over and said, ‘I know that breastfeeding is natural and it’s normal to do it, but this other passenger is really offended by it, so if you wouldn’t mind covering up, it seems your child is sleeping.’”
Photo: Facebook/Joey Salads
Incensed, Thomson stood her ground. “I told [the flight attendant] that I thought it was ridiculous and that the only reason my child is so calm on flights is because I am a breastfeeding advocate,” she recalled. “But the woman started shouting, ‘I made it clear that someone needs to tell the girl to cover up! It’s disgusting that you would let something like this go on.’”
In a state of shock, Thomson admitted, “I didn’t know what to do at the time. People were looking at me, and I did exactly as the stewardess asked. For the next hour, I sat under a sweaty blanket trying to keep Charlie cool while she nursed.” Though Thomson further explained in a Facebook video that her breast wasn’t even showing and that onlookers would’ve “seen more” if she had been in a low-cut shirt, she acquiesced because she said that “half the plane” was aware of what was happening and she felt shamed.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a flight fracas has erupted over breastfeeding. Virgin Australia Airlines allegedly kicked a woman off a flight and called police when a mother reportedly refused to stop nursing her 10-month-old son. United has been called out by breastfeeding moms before, and so many mothers have been faced with troubles on the topic that a Facebook page “Boobs on Board” launched in January to help others share advice. To date, it counts more than 2,000 members.
Thomson, for her part, isn’t keeping quiet about her experience. Launching her #MomsDontFlyUnited hashtag campaign, the mother declared, “We, the passengers, are putting our lives into your hands when we fly with you. How can you then bend and twist the rules according to what suits you? You have a moral responsibility to us @United #MomsDontFlyUnited #breastfeedingmoms #normalizebreastfeeding #love #momlife #unitedairlines.”
“It was embarrassing, humiliating,” she said. It felt like “the whole world is ganging up on you.” But with the response Thomson is getting to her campaign, it’s clear she’s hardly alone. “I’m sorry this happened to you,” wrote one commenter on her Instagram page. Another echoed the sentiment, adding, “Don’t judge someone for caring for their children.”
Top photo: JulseyJules/Instagram