A breastfeeding mother claims she was harassed while breastfeeding on a flight. Photo by Dominique Felicity Chapman/Stocksy.
A mother flying from Houston to Vancouver claims a flight attendant harassed her on her United Airlines flight this week.
Kristen Hilderman, a Canadian mom to a 5-month-old son, was so outraged after her exchange with a flight attendant that she posted Monday about the experience on Twitter. Instead of using 140-characters, Hilderman typed out a recollection of the incident, and posted a photo of her typed complaint.
It all started when Hilderman, wearing a breastfeeding tank top, decided to feed her son without a cover, she says. “A male flight attendant named Keith walked up to our row and said to my husband (loudly, so that everyone around could hear), ‘are you two together?’ My husband replied “Yes…” And then the flight attendant tossed a blanket at him (didn’t even hand it TO him, but tossed it AT him) and said tersely, ‘Then HERE, help her out,’” Hilderman wrote. “I had a blanket under my baby and a blanket draped across my knees and the plane was hot and stuffy… he wanted me to cover myself.”
Kristen Hilderman posted about her bad breastfeeding experience on Twitter. Photo via Kristen Hilderman/Twitter.
Hilderman says she tried to confront the flight attendant, asking “Help me out with what, exactly?” but he didn’t respond. Fellow passengers, according to Hilderman, were horrified. “I felt so completely embarrassed, uncomfortable and self-conscious for the rest of the flight,” Hilderman wrote. “A few passengers approached me to let me know that the flight attendant’s behavior was completely out of line, and that they didn’t even know that I was breastfeeding my baby until he tried to make an example out of me.”
Hilderman didn’t respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
In a statement provided to Yahoo Parenting, United Airlines wrote: “United welcomes nursing mothers on board and we ask that crew members do their best to ensure their comfort and safety as they do with all customers. After we learned of Ms. Hilderman’s experience we spoke with her and offered an apology.”
On Tuesday, Hilderman tweeted that “Sara from @United just called—she said sorry for my ‘frustrating experience’ and that she’d follow up in 48 hours about the incident status.”
Hilderman’s experience is the latest in a long line of complaints from nursing mothers about treatment on airplanes. In fact, a “Boobs on Board” Facebook page, created in January, was set up entirely to combat incidents like Hilderman’s. “There is a major lack of education around women’s rights to breastfeed or breast-pump while onboard an aircraft,” writes founder Lauren Cleary on the page. “Let’s inspire airlines to publicly post their breastfeeding/breastpumping friendly policies inside every airplane, in prominent view. This will 1) drive education for airline staff around women’s rights 2) increase a woman’s awareness of her rights 3) decrease a woman’s anxiety around breastfeeding/breastpumping while on flight as the policy becomes more normalized and understood.”
If Hilderman’s experience is any indication, there’s still a ways to go. “I am so furious about this entire incident,” she writes. “I’ve been breastfeeding my son in myriad public places since he was born, and never has anyone made me feel so uncomfortable and ashamed for feeding my baby without putting a cover over his head.”