Being a breastfeeding mother can be a challenging task. From cluster feeding, to middle-of-the-night feedings, to engorgement, discomfort and embarrassment, we have to deal with it all while trying to give our babies the nutrition they need.
It gets especially challenging when we're traveling because whether we have our baby with us or not, we still continue to produce milk.
That lead one breastfeeding mother to get upset with airport staff after a male staff member walked in on her in the bathroom.
Sophie McBain, a freelance journalist shared her experience on Twitter while she was traveling without her baby. She needed a private place to pump excess breast milk that had built up and airport staff directed her to the baby changing room.
Feel a bit upset @HeathrowAirport - I’m a breastfeeding mother traveling without my baby & needed to express milk. I asked staff where I could do this in private and they suggested the baby changing room. So I used it, feeling a bit bad to be occupying the room for 20mins but...— Sophie McBain (@SEMcBain) January 21, 2018
That's when someone came over to use the baby change room and she didn't hear the knock over the sound of her pump.
She believes that the parent went to get a staff member to open the locked door.
“A male attendant came, unlocked the door and while I was still attached to a machine with my breasts out he lectured me about how I should leave the door unlocked or pump outside,” she says. “I felt so exposed and embarrassed. Could a female staff member not be sent? Could he not wait until I was unplugged and dressed? Can breastfeeding women not have a room to pump undisturbed and in private?”
Heathrow Airport, where the incident occurred responded to the incident and shared their regret in a statement to PEOPLE.
“The response Ms. McBain received following her complaint did not reflect the level of customer service we strive to offer. We apologize the initial reply was handled in the manner it was and regret the experience Ms. McBain had at our airport. We are working with our colleagues to investigate this incident and will be taking actions to improve service delivery, tailored to individual passenger needs.”
McBain, however, did not receive what she feels to be a satisfactory response from the airport.
“I told people yesterday that I wasn’t so upset about my horrible experience @HeathrowAirport, I just didn’t want other women to go through the same. But then I received this excuse-filled, non-apology to my formal complaint & I am so sad," she tweeted.
Anyway- here's the reply I got pic.twitter.com/JskEhihzwS— Sophie McBain (@SEMcBain) January 22, 2018
“To explain why I was upset I compared it to someone bursting in on your while you are on the toilet and then calmly telling you, while your pants are still round your ankles, that you are hogging the public bathroom,” she tweeted. “Also, sticking your breasts into an electric breast pump is so undignified looking I don’t even like it when my husband sees me doing it. Why would I want strangers to see this?”
But there was more to her story.
“I didn’t explain that my right side, which I didn’t pump because I was too embarrassed and stressed, was so painful five hours into my flight that I cried with relief when the @BritishAirways cabin crew said I could use their rest area to pump,” McBain added. “But I did explain that it’s not just that breastfeeding women feel uncomfortable when they can’t pump — it puts us at risk of a painful and potentially serious condition called mastitis. I also did not explain that this kind of s— is why the U.K. has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world.”
McBain's story is not a rare one unfortunately.
"But here she sums up the bigger problem so perfectly: "it was just a minor thing that happened to me...but as women, our lives our made up of long, winding lists of moments where we've been shamed and embarrassed for being female," she tweeted.
But here she sums up the bigger problem so perfectly: "it was just a minor thing that happened to me...but as women, our lives our made up of long, winding lists of moments where we've been shamed and embarrassed for being female"— Sophie McBain (@SEMcBain) January 25, 2018
Her goal now is to get a private place for pumping moms to empty their milk without feeling embarrassed or on display.
“I made clear I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble, this wasn’t about one staff member. It’s a systemic problem,” she said. “No thought has been given to breastfeeding travelers, we have no space to pump/breastfeed in private and staff have clearly received no training.”
Do you think there should be a better way to accommodate pumping moms at large facilities like airports?