Yes, I said babies suck. They’re supposed to. They are biologically programmed to do so for their very survival. And what, exactly, do they suck? Boobs. Big ones, small ones, whatever ones their mothers happen to have. They’re filled with liquid gold, the most perfect nutrition a baby could hope to have to grow strong and healthy.
So why is our culture so programmed to see breasts as only sexual objects to the point where mothers fulfilling their biological destiny and their babies’ birthright subjected to outright humiliation when they breastfeed in public?
Reading my daily Metro transit newspaper on my lovely Septa commute, I found this quote:
“I was horrified that a mother could be humiliated like that.” – Caroline Beer, 34, of Burlington Vt., who joined a group of about 30 parents and their children to sit in front of an airline counter yesterday in Burlington to protest the treatment of a passenger who said she was kicked off a plane for breast-feeding her child.
From this Burlington Free Press article, I found out that the woman in question is 27 year old Emily Gillette. She was feeding her 22 month old daughter, River, when a Freedom Airlines flight attendant ordered her to “cover up.” The flight was a Delta flight (co-shared?) out of Burlington headed to New York, and after a 3 hour delay on the runway, Gillette fed her hungry daughter. She said she was being discreet – she was by a window, her husband was next to her, and no part of her breast was showing. But even if it was, so what?!
Gillette said that’s when a flight attendant approached her, trying to hand her a blanket and directing her to cover up. Gillette said she told the attendant she was exercising her legal right to breast-feed, declining the blanket. That’s when Gillette alleges the attendant told her, “You are offending me,” and told her to cover up her daughter’s head with the blanket.
When she declined, she and her family were removed from the flight. She wasn’t aggressive or belligerent, just politely declined to smother her baby in a blanket when it was completely unnecessary.
“It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child. And then helpless,” Gillette said. “I wasn’t even allowed to get angry because it could have been held against me. Then, devastated all around.”
Babies suck. Breasts provide the sustenance. It’s simple, biological, innocent. Ms. Gillette did the right thing, refusing to cover up her baby, allowing herself to be removed peacefully, and then fighting her battle in a more public way. One small step for babykind.