Hear The Baby Who’s NOT Screaming On The Airplane? That’s Probably Because Someone Shoved a Boob in Its Mouth.
I’ve done a lot of traveling this year! From Costa Rica to Panama to Bonaire – and even just the amazingly gorgeous Ithaca, New York -- I’ve been getting on lots of planes.
And, by weird coincidence, the exact same thing has happened on the last two flights I was on:
A mom and her baby were seated within a few rows of me. At some point during the flight, the baby started screaming. But within a minute or two… it stopped! Like magic!
But by “magic,” it turns out I mean, “moms doing the most natural thing in the world and breastfeeding their baby.”
This might happen on airplanes all the time, and I just don’t know it. I mean, the only reason I noticed the first breastfeeding mom was because I had just gotten up to pee and was walking by her seat when she pulled her shirt ever so slightly to the side.
The only reason I noticed the second one was because I happened to be looking at the person in the seat next to her – a four-year-old, who was busily scribbling away on her construction paper (I was all, That’s awesome! I rarely see kids with markers anymore – it’s all about creativity-killing iPads these days!) – when she got her boob out.
For those who are worried: fear not! I didn’t see any of those horribly offensive nipple things. And even if I had – so what? Like, are you really such a delicate little butterfly that you are triggered by them? Do you have uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts if you accidentally see a quick flash of nonsexual nipple?
If not, what’s your issue? Would you really rather listen to the suffering of a child than risk accidentally witnessing a mother nurturing her child? Are your sensitivities really more delicate than your eardrums?
Think of it this way: when a mother is breastfeeding on an airplane, literally everyone wins.
Now, I understand that some people are (weirdly) against public breastfeeding. And ever since reading Jonathan Haidt’s amazing book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics, I’ve been making an extra effort to understand the other side of an argument.
So immediately after thinking, “Yes! You go, girl!” at the sight of a breastfeeding mom (I thought about giving her, like, a thumbs up or something – but I thought maybe she’d prefer to just have privacy), I asked myself:
Would it bother me if I were in the seat next to her?
Honestly… slightly. Not enough to object – not even close. But still… I felt some minor, gut-level discomfort when imagining that situation. I mean, it’s not like I grew up in a culture where breastfeeding is considered totally normal. It’s not like I’m used to seeing breasts in a nonsexual way. I’m weirdly modest, I don’t really do nudity, and even in locker rooms, I always change in a private stall.
But… that didn’t feel like the right explanation.
So I dug a little deeper – and, yes. I realized that I (and lots of people) have a general aversion to body fluids. So maybe that's the explanation. Many body fluids (blood, poop, snot, saliva, etc.) carry diseases, and people who didn't feel innately repulsed by them died of contagious infections. Disgust is a powerful emotion that evolved for a reason – but that doesn’t mean it’s always rational. Sometimes, it overextends itself in ways that don’t make logical sense.
For example, there’s no way I could possibly get sick because the person next to me is breastfeeding, so discomfort due to breast milk makes no rational sense.
Two observations about this thought exercise:
Now, according to The Righteous Mind, the reason I was able to move so quickly from gut/emotional response to logical conclusion… is because I’m WEIRD.
Not weird as in “weird” – though I’m sure plenty of people would make that argument.
But WEIRD as in, I’m from a Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic society. For WEIRD people, it’s much easier to take a step back and examine your intuitive moral reasoning. It's much easier to move from emotional to reasoned and rational.
But that doesn’t mean we’re not all capable.
So what’s the takeaway, here?
If you’re someone who has an objection to public breastfeeding, ask yourself why. Really think about it. “It’s gross” isn’t a good reason. Neither is, “I don’t want to see that.” WHY do you feel that way – especially considering that not a single person is harmed when a mother breastfeeds, and many people will be harmed or inconvenienced if she doesn’t.
If you’re someone who’s breastfed, I’d love it if you could take a moment to share some of your thoughts/experiences to help people like me know how to be supportive and respectful when you do your thing.
And if you’re someone who’s not sure why this discussion is important, watch this video ASAP:
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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