KLM breastfeeding policy: airline facing backlash after warning that mothers might be asked to cover up

Rebecca Speare-Cole

An airline is facing backlash after warning that breastfeeding mothers might be asked to cover up to avoid offending fellow passengers.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines made the comments after a mother claimed that she had been asked to cover up while feeding her baby on a flight in the US.

Shelby Angel, from Sacramento in California, wrote on Facebook that a flight attendant had approached her with a blanket, which she refused.

Ms Shelby added that she complained to KLM, who said that the staff member had been “in line with company policy.”

Her post prompted outrage, with several people tweeting the airline to ask for clarification on its policy.

In a response to one tweet from a woman called Heather Yimm, the airline tweeted: “Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights.

“However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this.”

The airline's post led to accusations that the policy was “harmful”.

Christina Constance wrote on Twitter: “Breastfeeding can be hard enough without having to feel unsupported and discriminated against.

"Policies like yours have real, harmful consequences for mothers and babies."

Oliver Norgrove similarly criticised the airline, writing: “Not a good look from KLM. Breastfeeding is a normal part of life and necessary for many babies.

"Women should be able to breastfeed wherever they need to without pressure from others.”

MP Stella Creasy also waded in to the debate, describing the policy as “beyond the pale”

KLM’s response also prompted Twitter users to ask other airlines such as British Airways and EasyJet about their breastfeeding policies.

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for their first six months, before moving onto a diet of breast milk and other food.

The Standard has contacted the airline for comment.