Flying with a baby is probably one of the most stressful situations a parent can find themselves in. My son is almost 3 years old and it’s one of my greatest fears to fly with him. He’s generally a pleasant kid but he just doesn’t sit still and his volume control is stuck on loud.
Flying with a baby that you can’t even negotiate with is probably 10 thousand times worse and they often cry on take-off and landing. It’s not fun for anyone: baby, parents or the rest of the passengers.
Read more: How to travel with young kids and survive
So parents often give baby a bottle or dummy to help with the change in air pressure but if your baby has neither of those things, breastfeeding is a pretty good option too.
Three weeks ago Dr Sarah Kate Hooper did just that on a kulula.com flight to help her 18-month-old daughter during take-off. She had a window seat with her husband in the middle seat and an unknown gentleman on the aisle seat.
All was well until the air hostess came by and gave her grief for it. Read her full post here:
Being a medical professional, Dr Hooper points out that she is fully aware “of all laws and government policy regarding breastfeeding, and my right to breastfeed my baby wherever I am. I am aware that any airline policy or an individual air hostess ’s targeting that right is unacceptable discrimination.”
This whole situation is utterly shocking and ludicrous. I realise that these types of incidents are common in lots of other countries around the world but for some naïve reason I thought that South Africans were a lot more open-minded and accepting. I was very wrong it seems.
What gets to me the most is that this was a woman shaming a mom for breastfeeding. Should I hold women to a higher standard when it comes to issues like this? I don’t know, maybe not but I sure thought they would be more understanding about it.
I’ve always wondered by people would be more than happy to walk past La Senza or Victoria’s Secret shop where there windows are literally filled with pictures of models in underwear, showing off far more boob than a woman who is breastfeeding and not covering up. God forbid, a breast does it’s actual job of feeding a child.
We spoke to Dr Hooper and she said that kulula.com have been very helpful since her post has gone viral and that "they have apologised and assured me that the air-hostess will be appropriately investigated, also, that they would be compiling a formal breastfeeding policy. This is a wonderful outcome from an ugly incident."
An isolated incident?
But, we also have to be careful to not drag kulula.com under the bus with mob internet mentality. Cape Town mom, Nadia Boucher Coombe has flown internationally twice with her daughter, the longest flight being to New Zealand when her daughter was 9-months-old.
She points out that she’s flown with many airlines and has never experienced this type of discrimination and it was probably this particular air hostess that needed to be disciplined:
“I don't think Kulula is entirely to blame. I've breastfed on Kulula, SAA, RyanAir, EasyJet, Quantas and Mango and I've never experienced this. I think she was just unlucky with a tactless, uneducated air hostess who clearly is not a mum and doesn't have anyone in her network of friends or family who breastfeed. It's a shame this has to happen to anyone as I know I don't exactly look forward to feeding in public but sometimes you have to.”
According to Traveller24 kulula.com is taking this complaint “in a very serious light” and that they were “investigating this specific incident, and once that’s done, we’ll take whatever remedial action may be required.”
Read more: Breastfeeding mother's public shaming complaint seen in 'very serious light' - kulula
Do you have a problem with women breastfeeding on a flight? Send us your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.