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What to Expect When You Nurse a Toddler on an Airplane

Nursing a baby in public can be a nerve-racking affair. It's hard not to be concerned with what everyone else might be thinking as your baby thrashes against the nursing cover or you struggle to achieve a good latch. You wonder what you would say if you were confronted. You wonder what you would do if you were asked to leave.

Possibly one of the most difficult places to nurse "discreetly" is on an airplane. There is precious little personal space to be had in the economy cabin to start with, but add in the fact that you are squeezing two beings into one teeny tiny seat, and nursing without the person two inches away noticing is nearly impossible. We've heard no shortage of horror stories from nursing moms who had run-ins with other travelers, airport security, and airline staff.

RELATED: Letting Your Kid Tantrum in Public Bothers People

I personally have nursed my 21-month-old uncovered on many flights since her birth. I am always a bit apprehensive, worrying that I might be subject of the next breastfeeding headline. I worry that the passenger crammed in next to me will be one of those "breastmilk is a disgusting bodily fluid" types. I worry that the flight crew might ask me to cover up out of consideration for my fellow passengers. I worry, because it happens. It happens to moms who speak out and get the media's attention, and it happens to mothers who stay quiet and no one ever knows. I know that I am not immune this sort of discrimination, and it could happen to me. But here has been my experience:

I want to share this with you because you have enough to worry about if you're traveling with children. Nursing should not be one of them.

I have never been harassed over breastfeeding. I have never been asked to cover up or leave any place because I was nursing my daughter. I have never even been shot a "look" from a disapproving bystander or flight attendant. Not even on our most recent flight home from vacation, when we were surrounded by a high school rugby team and accompanying chaperones. In fact, my little lady wouldn't stop crying, and the young man next to us did nothing but crack a joke about her "impressive lung capacity," and share some stories about his younger siblings. I have been the recipient of warm smiles and compliments, but I have never received discrimination for nursing my baby (now toddler) uncovered in public.

I want to share this with you because you have enough to worry about if you're traveling with children. Nursing should not be one of them. Yes, we've all seen those headlines, and I believe we have the media to thank for blowing the whistle on airlines for treating nursing mothers with anything less than respect. But things are changing. What should you expect? You have every reason to expect that you will not be treated badly for nursing on an airplane or anywhere else. If your baby and you don't like to cover up, then don't cover up. Will you be treated badly for it? Very unlikely. Unlikely enough that it should not change the way you do things, and you certainly shouldn't feel apprehensive about it.

RELATED: How to Breastfeed in Public Like a Boss

So flash a smile and relax. Times are changing for nursing mamas, and for the better.

Image via Sarah Kovac

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