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You Are NOT Cleared For Landing!

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 11, 2021

Babies on aeroplanes tend to have ear pain during changes in altitude due to pressure changes. Pediatricians suggest feeding them during takeoff and landing as swallowing equalizes the pressure in their ears and stops the pain. I should also note that my son is exclusively breastfed which, while not particularly unusual, is still not the norm in the time when this story takes place.

In the 1990s, I have to fly long distance with my three-month-old son. He dealt with the first long flight with no problem but fussed on takeoff and landing. Our connecting flight is only thirty-five minutes long, so pretty much the entire flight would be changing altitude. I decide to let him nurse for the whole flight to save him any discomfort. 

We get in our seat, with him on my lap with a “baby belt,” and an elderly Southern gentleman sat next to me. As we taxi to the runway, I discreetly lift my shirt and settle my son to feed. We get in the air, and the man strikes up a typical traveler’s conversation about where we are going, luggage problems, our families, etc. It is all fine until we start to descend.

Man: “I hate this; it always makes my ears pop. Do yours?”

Me: “Yes, I have to keep swallowing. It’s not very nice.”

Man: “Your baby is so good; he’s slept through everything.”

Me: “Mmm.”

The man reaches over and gently strokes my son’s head with one finger.

Man: “He reminds me of [His Great-Grandson] with all that hair. He’s precious.”

Me: “Uh, yes…”

I shift my arm to block his hand.

Man: “I can’t believe his ears don’t hurt. I’d have thought it would wake him up.”

Me: “He’s feeding. It helps stop the pain.”

Man: “Oh, do you need to feed him? I can hold him while you get his bottle if you like.”

He reaches over and cups his hand round my son’s head like you would if you were about to hold a baby.

Me: “I am feeding him. Right now.”

Man: “Uh?”

His hand is literally one inch from my nipple.

Me: “I’m breastfeeding him. Right now.”

The poor man snatched his hand back so fast! He was blushing bright red, staring anywhere except at me, and stammering apologies. He was SO embarrassed. I did feel kind of bad, but I thought it was pretty obvious, especially as I’d switched my son from one breast to the other partway through the flight — while discussing flight delays with the man!

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