LONDON – The Dutch airline KLM has been in the middle of a heated debate on breastfeeding in general, after the company said it could ask women to cover themselves while breastfeeding if other passengers said they were insulted.
The question emerged when Shelby Angel, a woman from Sacramento, California, wrote about her experience on KLM flight this summer in a post on Facebook on Sunday.
"Before we even took off, I was approached with a flight attendant carrying a blanket," she wrote, saying that she was told that if she wanted to breastfeed her 1-year-old daughter, she would cover up. When Mrs Angel refused, she said that the crew told her that if anyone complained it would be for Mrs Angel to deal with.
Like the online spread, other social media users turned to Twitter to meet the airline. KLM's response has been consistent: Breast feeding is allowed on board as long as no other passengers are subjected to insult.
"To ensure that all our passengers in all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we can request that a mother cover while he is breastfeeding, other passengers would be offended by this," wrote the airline in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.
But even when the view that mothers who feed their children in public places have become more common in the West, women have continued to be ashamed and belittled.
Some countries have introduced legal protection for women's right to breastfeed publicly. All 50 states in the United States have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private place. And in the UK it is illegal to ask a nursing woman to leave a public place like a restaurant or public transport.
KLM's Twitter post on Tuesday gave thousands of answers, many of them astounded and furious, the airline asks to change its policy – or never promises to fly with the company again.
"Breastfeeding is the most natural in the world and should not make any of any culture unpleasant," said Catherine Noone, deputy leader of the Irish Senate, wrote on Wednesday . "Chocking response from KLM."
"For passengers' comfort from racist or homophobic backgrounds, would they ask people to cover skin and identifiers?" Chris van Tulleken asked a doctor in London, in a post on Thursday.
Others, who Becca Brettschneider a Virginia nurse, called the airline's "not an unreasonable request" approach.
When questions were raised, KLM repeated its message . On Thursday, a spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Some Twitter users turned to KLM's competitors to ask about their own breastfeeding policy.
British Airways wrote in a reply on Thursday: "We carry thousands of infants and their families on our flights every year and we welcome breastfeeding on board."