Airline KLM’s breastfeeding policy has sparked outrage online. A spokesperson said mothers might be asked to “cover up” in the event that other passengers feel uncomfortable. 

The carrier said the measure is only taken if other passengers are “offended”.

“We would like to emphasise that breastfeeding is permitted on KLM flights. However, we strive to ensure that all of our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable onboard. Therefore, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.”

KLM posted on Facebook
KLM Asks breastfeeding woman to cover up

The KLM statement came when Shelby Angel shared an emotional post on Facebook of her experience of being asked to cover up during a flight from San Francisco to Amsterdam. 

In the post she warned other nursing moms to not fly with KLM because of their breastfeeding policy.  During the flight she was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her one-year-old daughter. 

"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."

Shelby Angel

Angel felt disrespected by the flight attendant because the attendant told her that if anyone on the flight complained then it would be the attendant's issue to deal with. 

In an email statement to USA Today a KLM spokesperson Manel Vrijenhoek said that breasfeeding is allowed but not everyone is comfortable with it, so it results in complaints. 

"To keep the peace on board, in such cases we will try to find a solution that is acceptable to everyone and that shows respect for everyone's comfort and personal space. This may involve a request to a mother to cover her breast.

Manel Vrijenhoek - KLM spokesperson
Klm Passenger upset with airline over breastfeeding policy

Angel did file a complaint when she returned home but the airline responded that their employee was acting in accordance with their policy and she needs to be respectful of other people's culture. 

"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."

Shelby Angel

Angels post on the KLM has received over 1000 comments and 300 shares. 

One wrote “I will not book with KLM again, thanks for the heads up”

Another wrote “Stop judging on one bad incident!! The Flight Attendant might not have handled it very well, but there are also a lot of very happy Moms with great experiences.”

One person in support of the policy stated “Wouldn’t have any problem covering up . I breast fed both my children on planes under a light scarf or something similar. I understand that there are people in the world who object for religion reasons or otherwise. I am happy to go about my life doing what I want ( breastfeeding my child) but being considerate of others beliefs and cultures.”

Another wrote “This so called policy would have left my daughter unfed as she hated covers. IF anyone is offended your policy should be that they close their eyelids and use their necks to turn their heads.”

breastfeeding plane

An earlier version of this story appeared on USA Today and the Independent 

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