KLM Royal Dutch Airlines changes on-board breastfeeding policy after controversy

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A difficult PR-moment for KLM after a tweet about their outdated on-board breastfeeding policy. The airline stated that flight attendants may ask a feeding mother to cover her baby and her breast if other passengers feel offended.

The policy provoked thousands of – mostly negative – responses, some people even called to avoid the airline in the future. Shortly after their initial statement, the Dutch airline responded to the controversy with an updated breastfeeding policy.

The discussion flared up even further after Shelby Angel commented on KLM’s official Facebook page: “A month ago, I was flying with my one year old on a KLM flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam. It was the third flight I’d been on with her. I breastfeed her. It calms her and helps her sleep and makes her comfortable. She’s also a busy toddler who doesn’t like to be covered. I do my best to be discreet, but sometimes some skin shows.

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. On any of the flights I took with my daughter. Actually, no one has ever complained to me about breastfeeding in public. Except this flight attendant).

The rest of this flight, that flight attendant would not so much as look me in the eyes. I felt extremely uncomfortable and disrespected. When we arrived home, I issued a complaint to KLM. I was told that I needed to be respectful of people of other cultures and that this flight attendant’s response was in line with company policy. So instead of standing up for and protecting breastfeeding mothers and our children, already under the duress faced by flying with our young children, KLM would rather hold up antiquated values that shame women’s bodies.

On 18 July, KLM issued a new and up-to-date breastfeeding policy: “Our aim is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable on board. Of course mothers can breastfeed their children during our flights. By no means is the mother obliged to cover up herself or her child. And we absolutely don’t want to make the mums of our youngest passengers feel judged about the most natural thing in the world. That is why our cabin crew may suggest the mum options to ensure some privacy when feeding their child.”

Featured image by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

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