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  • KLM under fire for asking mothers to cover up while breastfeeding baby.

    KLM under fire for asking mothers to cover up while breastfeeding baby. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 July 2019

Dutch Airline KLM came under heavy criticism for asking women to cover themselves while breastfeeding on board.

The Dutch airline KLM drew criticism by asking mothers to cover themselves while breastfeeding their babies on flights to "ensure that passengers from all backgrounds feel comfortable on board."

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While responding to a question on Twitter about airline’s policy of breastfeeding, KLM said that it is “permitted” but they will ask mothers to cover themselves “in case other passengers are offended by it.”

They also said, “As an international airline company, we transport passengers with a variety of backgrounds. Not all passengers feel comfortable with breastfeeding in their vicinity and sometimes these passengers complain to the cabin staff.”

The airline’s answer angered many women some of whom compared it with other airlines where they did not have to cover themselves. 

The conflict started after Shelby Angel, a woman from the U.S. wrote on Facebook that she was asked to cover herself while feeding her son on board a flight between San Francisco and Amsterdam last month which made her “uncomfortable and disrespected.”

"Before taking off, a stewardess approached me with a blanket and told me that if I want to continue, I need to cover myself. I refused because my daughter does not like to be covered, and that would bother her almost as much as not breastfeeding at all,” Angel wrote. 

Niki Kandirikirira, from the Equality Now lobby group, said, “Negative attitudes about breastfeeding in public stem from the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. Breastfeeding is a totally natural process and women should have the freedom to do it wherever and whenever they want, rather than being forced to hide as if they are doing something inappropriate.”

KLM also faced backlash from doctors. One doctor wrote on Twitter, “I find it uncomfortable and offensive when people chew with their mouths open, infinitely more so than breastfeeding. Can you cover up the heads of passengers who do so with a blanket? Thanks!”

Ayala Ochert, from the campaign group Better Breastfeeding, said, “In their effort to avoid offense in the tiny minority of people disturbed by the sight of a child feeding, KLM has instead chosen to offend a mother trying to feed and nurture her child.”​​​​​​​

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