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Dutch airline faces backlash for asking breastfeeding mom to cover up: ‘Crew made me feel extremely uncomfortable'

'I hope that KLM comes to realize that breastfeeding mothers and our babies deserve respect and support, too,' Shelby Angel told MEA WorldWide
UPDATED JUL 18, 2019

Dutch airlines KLM is under fire after a passenger recently opened up about how she was asked to cover up while trying to breastfeed her baby while onboard a flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam. 

Shelby Angel, who was asked to cover herself up by the airline officials, told others to be wary of flying with KLM as she had a less-than-pleasant experience with them while traveling with her infant last month.

She said that she was used to breastfeeding her baby as it helped her restless daughter calm down and sleep better. Although she tried her best to remain discreet while breastfeeding her baby in public places, sometimes skin would show.

Angel said when she was approached by a KLM crew member and told that others on the plane will not be comfortable with her breastfeeding. 

"Before we even took off, I was approached by a flight attendant carrying a blanket. She told me (and I quote) 'if you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself.' I told her no, my daughter doesn't like to be covered up. That would upset her almost as much as not breastfeeding her at all. She then warned me that if anyone complained, it would be my issue to deal with (no one complained)," she wrote in an extensive Facebook post, on Sunday (14 July). 

Shelby Angel (Source: Facebook)

She added that for the rest of the flight's duration, the flight attendant would not look her in the eyes, which made her feel extremely uncomfortable and disrespected. She lodged a complaint with the airline company as soon as she got home. 

In her post, Angel mentioned that she had flown with other airlines before and none of them made a big deal out of her choice to breastfeed her child in public. Also, in none of those flights any of her co-passengers had a problem.

"I had previously flown twice with EasyJet and once with Norwegian air. Both of those airlines were wonderful and helpful, even while I was breastfeeding my daughter on board," Angel told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW). 

When a Twitter user asked KLM regarding their policy on breastfeeding, the company admitted to asking mothers to cover up while feeding their babies on flights.

"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," the airline said in a tweet

Angel told MEAWW that she had a small suggestion for KLM so that breastfeeding mothers did not have to face the embarrassment she went through.

"I hope that KLM comes to realize that breastfeeding mothers and our babies deserve respect and support, too. Their policy should not be to 'allow' mothers to breastfeed but to actively support and protect breastfeeding mothers aboard their planes," she said. 

Meanwhile, many people have come out criticizing KLM for their action.

Melkpunt, a Dutch group that supports breastfeeding mothers, on Tuesday wrote on its Facebook page, "Disappointing KLM! And a bit too easy to blame hypothetical foreign passengers, when no one has complained."

Women’s rights campaigners have also reacted angrily saying the company is playing into stigma. “Negative attitudes about breastfeeding in public stem from the over-sexualisation of women’s bodies,” Niki Kandirikirira from the advocacy group Equality Now was quoted as saying by Reuters.