Breastfeeding in Public
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Here's a hypothetical for you all.
You're walking around Berkeley Bowl, doing your shopping and see a mother nursing her baby (13mo) in a sling. The baby is doing the typical pop on and off the nipple that babies do and from time to time mom is walking around with nipple exposed (if you cared to look). She is wearing a nursing top which minimizes breast exposure and when baby seems done with the suckling she will pull her bra back over (to cover) her breast, but baby likes to pop on and off occassionally.
Are you mortified? Is she being rude? Do you care? Is this a problem for you? Kathy
Having nursed 2 babies wherever I happened to be when they were hungry I have no issue with women breastfeeding in public, in fact, i think it's a beautiful thing to watch a baby nursing. My attitude towarad the people who had a negative reaction was that they didn't have to watch. I didn't use a sling so I'd have to stop and find a place to sit...once it was on the floor in the stroller section at Target. Once it was in the bulk food section of the old Berkeley Bowl, once it was in a synagogue in Omaha Nebraska at at Bar Mitzvah.
I would be appalled at people who would suggest taking the baby into the bathroom to nurse (unless the rest room had a separate lounge area with comfortable and clean chairs). It's not OK to nurse in public but it's OK to spit in the street?????Excuse me!!! something is not right with this picture.
former nursing mom
Frankly, I'm offended by people who choose to be offended or otherwise put-off by a woman breastfeeding in public (and accidentally showing a little nipple). It seems petty and mean. Breastfeeding a baby is one of the most beautiful and sacred things a person can do. Not to mention just a plain, basic and natural necessity of life! To denigrate it as something icky that should be hidden from public view is highly offensive to me. It seems anti-child and anti-motherhood. Far more yucky as far as I'm concerned. That's my 2 cents!
I breastfed two children and I learned from my experience that many people, especially older people and teenagers, are uncomfortable coming across a woman's exposed breast unexpectedly in a public place like a restaurant or grocery store. I personally preferred to have a nice private place to sit down to breastfeed, and I would plan my outings as much as possible so that I would not need to breastfeed in a very public place. But when it was unavoidable - on a plane trip, or at the zoo, etc. - I'd just take a receiving blanket with me and drape it over my shoulder when I fed the baby.
I still feel guilty about making my poor father in law so uncomfortable in my zeal to demonstrate what a gung-ho breastfeeder I was. My mother-in-law, like most moms of the time, did not breastfeed, and I was eager to show the whole family what a great thing it is. My father-in-law was so uncomfortable with my hardly-exposed breast that he'd find some excuse to leave the room whenever I sat down to feed the baby. He was too polite and too fond of me to say anything about it - really a great guy. Now that he's gone, I think, gee, it would have been so little effort on my part to be a little more considerate to him.
How I feel about it: I'm happy when I see a breastfeeding mom because it reminds me how much I enjoyed breastfeeding. But it embarrasses me if I am at a restaurant with a friend who decides to breastfeed in a way that leaves her breast exposed to passersby, because I can't help noticing how uncomfortable it makes some of the people around us, and that in turn makes me uncomfortable. Ginger
I don't think she is being rude, but doing what is best for her & her baby. I'm always pleased to see other nursing mothers nursing when & where they need to. It gives those of us who were a bit shy some encouragement, might encourage other potential mothers to nurse & remind all of us that breasts are for more than selling cars. The only problem I would have would be if someone was hassling her about nursing - that would be rude.
I'd feel a little embarrassed but think that the problem was mine. She is not being rude!
What's the problem? That's what the breasts are for. A mother breast feeding her baby is beautiful and at the very least, necessary. I don't really understand what is offensive about it. I find it offensive when people are intolerant of breast feeding mothers. The Berkeley Bowl is the last place I'd expect to find anyone who was shocked about breast feeding in public, it is a very tolerant place.
I would not have done this myself when I was breastfeeding, but I wouldn't have been particularly concerned in observing such behavior. Women's breasts are so associated with sexual turn-ons for many people that some are quite shocked seeing a breast performing its natural function. I remember once I was with a group which included a man who commented (favorably) on how large a passing woman's breasts were. When I pointed out that she might be a lactating mother, he was horrified at the thought. Most men, fortunately, are more enlightened these days. I'm not saying that breasts can't still be sexual objects, but perhaps they can be appreciated for their utilitarian function at the same time. After all, the penis has a dual purpose.
I have absolutely no problem with other moms breastfeeding their babies in public, whether they're popping off or not; that's how babies do it! I was unable to breastfeed my baby, so when I see other moms doing it, I think ''how lucky they are, it's so convenient!'' And I've seen enough of my mom friends doing it in groups around me that I'm completely oblivious to it; it's so natural, why wouldn't you be feeding your baby in the Bowl? I mean, he's hungry, right?
Why would *I* be mortified? It's not my nipple! Is she being rude? In the Berkeley Bowl??? Maybe if she were in a conservative church in Atlanta, but aren't we more evolved than that in Berkeley? Home of The Naked Guy, after all! (I'm kidding, a little.)
I personally wouldn't be comfortable letting it hang out quite like that, and would avoid nursing an on-and-off-er in such a public situation if possible. But no, I don't have any serious problem with someone else doing so if it doesn't bother her. I might say something if she seemed simply unaware that her shirt and sling weren't doing a good job of coverup, but if she doesn't care, I don't.
Well, you are preaching to the choir now honey! I mean this is Berkeley, home of the Million Mom Milk-In. Nursing in the Berkeley Bowl, rude? C'mon we worship a woman who can shop for organic produce and feed her baby at the same time (as long as she's not talking on a cell phone too...). Please tell me the BBowl didn't chastise you because if so we of the Nipple Flashing Nursing Mamas Brigade (NFNMB) will have to stage a nurse-in and further clog the already impossibly clogged aisles chanting slogans like 2,4,6,8 it's no crime to lactate and Nursing, Nursing it's not rude, it's how babies get their food. Better yet we could just park in the lot and breastfeed in our cars...thus creating gridlock in all of South Berkeley. Yours in Breastfeeding solidarity.
As a former long-time nursing mom, I'm always supportive of public nursing, becasue nursing rates in California and the States are pretty low, and nursing moms need all the support and friendly smiles (as well as tolerant glances) that they can get. I'm sure a lot of people would feel awkward seeing a woman's nipple in public if it were just hanging around (!), but in this case, the woman is feeding her child efficiently and healthily while trying to get some shopping done. If it makes your life in Berkeley easier, you might want to think of this body part as you would the nipple of a formula-filled bottle. Would you object or be 'mortified' if you saw a woman bottlefeeding her kid, and occasionally saw the tip of the bottle nipple?
One reason breasstfeeding rates are so low here in the US is that many women and men can't seem to accept the distinction between a food breast and an erotic breast! Just think, every time that you acknowledge a woman who has the courage (or the need) to nurse in public, you can counter some of these old- fashioned but unfortunately tenacious ideologies.
I don't think it is ok to expose one's nipples in public. I think that women who do expose their nipples give breast feeding a bad name. I remember seeing one women that was sitting at a window table at a cafe with her child lying on the table. She had half of her breast exposed while nursing. I was totally disgusted and remembering feeling that she was a poor reflection for mothers trying to get more societal approval of breast feeding.
As long as the mother is making a reasonable effort to be modest (nursing clothes, sling), I am not bothered by a little skin showing. You can't keep babies from popping off now and again...
I do find it odd when women whip their breasts out in mixed-sex public places in a more flagrant manner, but this does not sound like what you are describing.
Another breastfeeding mom
What an interesting (and vivid) hypothetical. My answer to each of your four questions is No but I would think it's a little odd. It would make me a little uncomfortable (but not mortified). I guess I feel it's within the range of appropriateness, but at the far end of the spectrum.
Hey, that's me! But seriously, when I see a woman breastfeeding in public, I want to thank her for doing her part to normalize the natural function of breasts, for making it easier for all the girls and women who see her and are encouraged to breastfeed down the line, and for all the little ones who reap the benefits of her action, directly and indirectly.
I am a partner in a large law firm, and nursed my infant son at a partner meeting. My partners (mostly men) managed to live with it. It has become firm lore, but we're the better for it.
Just wanted to put in a plug for the Berkeley Bowl on this one: when my older son was about 2 months old, he fell COMPLETELY apart in the Baby Bjorn just as my cart neared the check-out. Nothing comforted the kid, and I was despairingly planning to just let him squall when the matter-of-fact olderwoman behind me said, ''Honey, you gotta do what you gotta do.'' She helped me unload the cart while I nursed my kid (on my left breast so that I could write a check with the right hand) all the way through checkout. The checker, a young man, did not even blink. Frankly, I think he must see something similar 4 times a week.
It's not a problem for me to see a breastfeeding nipple exposed. I'd like to see everyone relax about this lovely natural process. God knows there is plenty of exposure of the unemployed nipple in fashion, entertainment, etc.
As a former breastfeeding mother and a liberated European :) who enjoyed and misses topless beaches (this to explain I am not a prude!) I have feelings against openly breastfeeding in public. I am not offended, but I find it irritating as it somewhat forces me to deal with someone else sexuality in unexpected environments. While it seems that in Berkeley breast is just for food, breasts are in fact sexy. I did not walk around topless on a beach so that someone could admire my lactating glands! By the same token, I was on a French beach with hundred of other similarly exposed females. If I wanted to walk to the grocery store I would get dressed or I would have gotten arrested.
My daughter ate constantly, either I breastfed her anyplace or I would have not been able to leave the house for 5 months, but I was always very discreet. Be it the SF Moma or on airport lounges, if a private area was available, I did use it. If not, I used a blanket. If my daughter screamed in hunger at the Bowl, I would go sit in the car. I was more comfortable being private and strangers around me were more comfortable as they did not have to deal with my breasts which are, whether we like it or not, a sexual character.
I also do make a substantial difference between breastfeeding an infant and a toddler. While I would find an accidentally exposed breast justifiable when there is a need (as in to feed a little baby) , I have more of an issue with the breastfeeding of a toddler, this being very likely not starving right at that moment, being more interested in the surroundings and therefore distracted, popping on and off, etc.
For example, an acquaintance of mine would chase her 2 year old daughter around Iron Works (the climbing gym, of all the places) with her breast hanging out while this poor girl was clearly more interested in the exercise equipment that the breast. I was uncomfortable, my husband was uncomfortable, her husband looked uncomfortable, 1/2 the gym was uncomfortable. Was it necessary? No.
anonymous, for fear the nipple flashing nursing mama brigade would come and do a sit in front of my house!
While I think it would polite if at all possible to not have one's breast hanging out all over in public, if one is feeding an older baby who pops on and off the breast, an occasional sighting of the nipple is not all offensive. Trying for discretion is great, but feeding the baby is the most important thing and that should come first, before trying to cater to people's rather inappropriate squeamishness at what is perfectly natural and appropriate.
Here are some of the places I breastfed in public that might be worth noting -- I even surprised myself at how unselfconscious I was: (1) In a long line at the DMV -- a screaming kid woke and frightened my 5-week old. He screamed at the top of his lungs for 10 minutes until I put him to the breast (with a nursing blouse on). I could sense that everyone in the building was quite relieved that this soothed him, so I surmise that everyone was in fact grateful I could stand in line and breastfeed. It didn't seem to bother anyone. (2) In faculty meetings with mostly older male collegues; I took care to be discreet here (in fact, I often fed on the opposite breast than was time for so that they could only see the baby's head and no skin of mine, but I didn't bother with a receiving blanket). Breastfeeding the baby there kept me in the meeting and my up-to-4 month old baby happy and quiet. At least in the meeting itself, everyone seemed comfortable, perhaps in part because I was so comfortable and non-chalant about it. I feel that if you feel secure breastfeeding mostly so will those around you. If they have a problem with it, it is their problem. [I do recall that my father would tend to leave the room when I breastfed in private in his home. That seemed like the perfect solution to me since feeding my baby was the top priority.] If you try to be somewhat discreet as appropriate to the situation, you really have a right to breastfeed absolutely anywhere. And at Berkeley Bowl, who cares if one's nipple sticks out occasionally ? Most places, I did not even feel the need to use extra discretion: I breastfed everywhere (in nursing clothes) -- from the zoo (where it felt quite natural to be among other mammals !) to stores to museums, etc.
a different KB
More and More women are making the decision to breastfeed these days aren't they? And this is Berkeley after all, home of the Guiness Book record for most babies breastfeeding at one time. Although I am notoriously modest, as a breastfeeding mom I have no problem feeding my son wherever I am. I, in turn, am reminded of my own sense of pride in my own position as a mother when I see another woman breastfeeding her child. If I had been in your ''hypothetical'' shoes, I would have smiled to myself and to the breastfeeding mother, letting her know what a precious sight she and her babe presented.
An enormous thanks to everyone for their thoughts. For the record (and to clear the now sullied name of Berkeley Bowl) - I was NEVER harassed or objected to in any way at BB - I was simply wondering if I was being perceived as rude to the majority of the patrons there and have decided (based on the responses) that I'll keep trying to keep that nipple unexposed, but not sweat it if it does.
Again, no harm from BB and I was just trying to see if I was being terribly rude and thoughtless of the other patrons.
I have an 19-month-old who is still nursing and I'm a little nervous about our upcoming cross-country air travel. We are headed to Chicago and then on to a small city on the east coast. An acquaintance recently shared a story with me that has me very nervous about breastfeeding on the flight-- she was nursing her 3-month-old baby, in her estimation quite modestly, and a flight attendant came up to her and threw a blanket over her shoulder and her infant's head. When the nursing mom removed the blanket, the flight attendant returned and told her that she needed to cover up ''for the sake of the other passengers.'' When she complained to the airline later, she was told the airline had no policy regarding nursing on flights. Nursing is still a critical part of my daughter's sleep routine and, in addition to that, she has lately started wanting to nurse quite frequently when I am around (I think because her molars are coming in). I nursed her on planes as recently as four months ago and didn't really notice anyone glaring. Nonetheless, this story has me all worked up. I am concerned that nursing her will cause some sort of unpleasant commotion or just shocked and disapproving looks. I know it is silly, and I should just either bravely face any public disapproval that comes my way, secure in my knowledge that there is absolutely nothing wrong with breastfeeding a toddler, or brave my daughter's protests and refuse to nurse her on the plane, but I am worried about either decision. Frankly, I will almost definitely just nurse her when she is insistent in the interest of keeping the peace on the plane. What I am wondering is if other mothers of nursing toddlers faced any discouragement from airline staff or other passengers. Living in the Bay Area, I feel a little out-of-touch with the climate of the rest of the country. Is nursing toddlers generally considered icky? Will people stare or comment? I'm sure someone out there must have nursed an older toddler on a plane or in an airport-- did you find that people seemed offended or was it no big deal? I feel a little silly asking, but since I really am nervous about it I thought I'd go ahead and see if more information makes me feel better.
First of all, don't let anyone tell you that you must not or cannot breastfeed in public. It is truly a rare event when someone would be offended by a child breastfeeding, but there are those people out there who it might bother if they are sitting close to you. I would mention to the flight attendant upon boarding that you are planning on breastfeeding your baby on the flight and maybe see if at the check in counter you can get an aisle seat or even a front seat at the bulkhead to give you more room. Once the people sitting next to you have seated, ask them politely if it would bother them for you to breastfeed. If they balk at your question, see if the flight atten. can move you to a seat next to another mom or person with kids possibly? If there is no alternative and you must stay where you are, then try to cover up the best you can, but not so much that it will make it hard for you to do what you have to do, but enough so that those around you who might be offended can see you are making an effort to consider their feelings.
Unfortunatly there are some people out there who just don't understand how important BF is for babies in their first year. And some people are very modest about their bodies and take offense because of their religious beliefs etc. So although you can't please everyone, do the best you can to respect those around you but don't go out of your way to make them understand. If you have to BF, go ahead and BF- in the end, you will only be around these people for a short time anyway...
I have never had any problems nursing on planes. I can understand that you are a little worried, but I bet it will be just fine. Especially if the nursing helps to soothe a fussy toddler, people will be grateful! My 23-month-old nursed a little bit on a recent trip. I just made sure that I wore a top that I felt comfortable nursing her in...a loose sweater over a t-shirt helps to hide the nursing action a bit! There isn't much privacy on a full airplane, granted, but most passengers are usually busy reading, etc. and will not be focused on you. I also bring a sippy cup, lots of snacks and other play distractions when we fly, so that nursing will be a last-resort. I have often found that all my worries before travelling have been for nothing...it always turns out better than I ever expected. So, ''go with the flow'' as they say!
The last time I nursed my son on a plane was when he was 13 months--soon after he decided for himself to stop nursing (just lost interest with so much else going on in his world).I nursed him on that trip and several before that and never had a comment, sour look or anything negative. I would think it's the exception to have a conflict like the one you described, but there are always the unenlightened among us. My suggestion would be to do whatever you need to do for your child, and if anyone, particularly an airline employee, confronts you about it, COMPLAIN as soon as you get off the plane to the highest level of the airline you can reach. Nobody has a right to tell you when or where you can nurse your child, no matter how old your child is.
I think your friend had a flight attendant with a problem. I nursed both my babies on many an airplane flight without so much as a notice. If someone sitting next to you is offended they can look the other way.
You could try to be more descreet (sp?)about showing boob, but I think you should try not to worry about it and feed your babe as you need to. I've never ever heard of this from anyone else, so I think your friend's flight attendant was a rare exception.
I cannot believe your friend's story. I have nursed both of my children on planes frequently and have never had any negative response from a flight attendant or passenger. Please feel free to do what you need to do. Other people will eat on the plane and your baby should be able to as well. Plus, wouldn't people find it more offensive for your child to scream instead of nurse on the flight?? The one thing I have always tried to do if possible is to put my husband between me and other passengers or to sit on the aisle so that horizontal nursing is less invasive to others' space. But, I've nursed in the middle seat as well.
The flight attendant who threw a blanket over you had no right to do so and was probably doing it because of her own insecurity. You have a perfect right to nurse your child, regardless of age, anywhere. Don't feel like you're bothering anyone; if they're uncomfortable with it (which, yes, some people are) they can turn the other way; they don't have to watch. But you're doing one of the most natural things in the world, and one of the best things for your baby. Don't worry about what people on the plane think. You're doing the right thing!
I understand your concern. But I never had a problem like you describe your friend having. Usually, you get to board planes early when you have a small child. Then usually, your third mate in your row will end up being someone who likes kids, or else they would not have chosen that seat. I usually wore a cardigan that I could use to shield us a little when I nursed my son, and I was not above using a blanket to cover up if I was uncertain. But I put it on myself. I would have been offended had someone else thrown it around me. I think most people will not mind your nursing, and anyway, a good many will understand that it will help the child sleep--which will be good for you, the child, and the other passengers. Bon Voyage.
By all means nurse. Don't worry about it. Throw a shawl or blanket over your shoulder. I've done it dozens of times on planes with a toddler and never had a bad reaction. People will be thankful when the flight is over, and grateful that your child didn't fuss or cry.
I just took three cross country flights in the past four months with two children (one of them by myself)ages 10 months and 3. I nursed my son when ever he wanted to be nursed and had no problems from the flight attendants or anyone else for that matter. In the past I've been told to make sure he's in his seat (we bought a ticket for him all three times) for take off and landing but usually I would nurse him while the plane was taxi-ing for take off. I also nursed this past trip in the airport. With two kids I can't really pick and choose where to nurse so I do it just about anywhere. When my daughter was still nursing I remember nursing her on planes also. I nursed her until she was 15 months old and I remember travelling with her and nursing her when she was 13 or 14 months old. I will say that I'm a fairly discreet nurser. I wear a nursing bra and a nursing top when travelling to make it as modest as possible. I also tend to either look at my child or look at people right in their eyes when they notice what I'm doing and I just look at them plesantly. As for attitudes in other parts of the country, I wouldn't worry about that. I'm originally from the midwest and I actually feel that my midwestern friends seem to nurse longer than most if not all of my friends out here.
I say nurse if you need to. It will make the trip much more pleasant for your child.
Hi, Once on a Southwest flight to Arizona a flight attendant walked past me nursing my son and drop a blanket on us and said she thought it would make me more comfortable. Needless to say the blanket was in the way and I dropped it to the floor. The man next to me (a stranger) laughed when I said I was not cold. I think most people mind thier own business and you should do what ever feels best.
I hate hearing stories like this! When I was an infant my mother spent 45 minutes in the plane's bathroom while I nursed. Boy, did people glare at her when she walked out! She couldn't win. She quit nursing after three months due to peer pressure. Let's not return to the mentality of that era!
I understand that the story of your friend worried you as you are about to embark on an airplane trip. I have travelled with nursing toddlers and have not had any problem. I find that nursing the little ones works great in getting them to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings with strange noises, etc. I did wear a nursing shirt at some of my trips, mostly for my own comfort and discretion, but have also travelled with just pants and a shirt that I would pull up. I have had my toddler ''attached'' for many hours during the flights, and found that most people don't notice, or don't care. You are simply holding a small sleeping or suckling child (different from dealing with a child who is crying or disturbing people!). I found that traveling alone with two small children, people would look worried sitting close to me, but at the end of the flight I would only get comments about how great the kids were and well they behaved! I am sure that nursing them past their infant stages was a part of that! So ... if there is any disapprovement from anyone, don't take it personally, know you are doing the best for your toddler. I hope you have a great flight and will only encounter support!
I nursed my child on the plane until she was 2-1/2 (she was weaned except for a couple of nursings a day by then). I was travelling with my husband and he sat on the aisle and I sat in the middle seat. I figured that people would much rather my nurse her than she scream. -- If you wear a nursing top and a nursing bra, except for the latching on part there's nothing to see & if you are in the middle seat, except for the flight attendants who would see anything anyway. I wouldn't worry about it -- if it makes you nervous you could teach your toddler to nurse from under a sling or shawl and explain that on the airplane she'll need to nurse under the shawl. Maybe practice a little in a cafe or something so you and she become comfortable with it.
Hi. I am still nursing my 21-month old son and I, too, worry about other people's reactions -- especially on crowded airplanes. Not only does my son look pretty large in my lap, he is an acrobat and he usually kicks the person next to us and does a few headstands while nursing! On the other hand, he would howl for the whole plane to hear if I refused. And, he would never fall asleep. So, what to do? Try to get an aisle or window so that, on one side at least, your child cannot kick anyone. If you have a neighbor who is clearly uncomfortable, it does not hurt to try to be modest (i.e. my son likes to pull my whole top up and play with the other breast. on a plane I grab his free hand and occupy it so that he cannot be quite so bold; also, I try to cover us a bit -- with a sweater or something -- so that people don't get a clear view of the action). In the end, though, a toddler is definitely a visible nurser and some people will think it's lovely and some people will sneer. Just smile (to yourself at least) and ignore them! And, just continue doing what is right for you and your child. Happy holidays!
Here in California (if not the rest of the country -- I don't know the law elsewhere) you have the legal right to nurse anywhere your baby needs to. I have nursed on numerous flights (and not just those within CA boundries) and have never had a problem with other passengers, or flight attendants, for that matter, expressing horror in my actions. No one seemed to pay attention, really.
Anecdotal story: shortly after my baby's birth, I was singled out at the Social Security office in Walnut Creek by a security guard, who hauled me from the relative privacy of the back of the waiting area all the way to a lone chair in front of the room ''to give me privacy to nurse.'' Between the commotion of instructing me in front of an audience (including announcing loudly from across the room ''are you done?'' when I returned to my original seat in disgust and rather mortified) and putting me physically on display, it was clear that it was his ''helpful'' actions, and not my nursing, that was causing a scene. I would handle the situation much more assertively if it happened today.
I think this applies to your friend's unfortunate experience, and you should keep it in mind should anyone give you a hard time. I also think that while these things happen from time to time, where it happens is pretty random. Your friend was harrassed on a plane, I was at the Social Security office, but it doesn't mean it'll happen to you under similar cicumstances. Good luck with your flight!
I have nursed my son on airplanes many times from the time he was 8 weeks old up until he stopped at about 20 months. At first I did try and cover up but after a while the little guy didn't want a blanket over his head in the already stuffy airplane. I tried to do it as modestly as possible but sometimes that is difficult. I'm sure that there were people who may have looked at me funny, but I certainly didn't notice. Anytime someone glanced over (this is just public breastfeeding in general), I just made eye contact and smiled. Usually that makes them look away pretty quickly and lets them know that you are confident in what you are doing. One thing that you can do is get a window seat so you are tucked away from passerbys, and it provides a nice distraction for your child to be able to look outside. The aisle however is also convenient when traveling with a child.
As far as the airlines attitude towards it, I have never been approached or talked to about my nursing on the plane. Quite honestly I would have been embarrassed and offended. They certainly would not reprimand you if you gave your child a bottle, would they? Some children don't use bottles to eat, they use the breast, and that is perfectly fine in my opinion.
My biggest advice is not to withhold nursing from your child on the plane. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. You just need to feel confident. Just be as modest as possible, for your own privacy as well as the other passengers.
I nursed both daughters when they were toddlers on flights to Minnesota. They are now 8 and 3 years old. It helped them to get to sleep and helped me to relax. I covered discretely with a blanket and just enjoyed relaxing with them and helping them to enjoy their trip. The trick is not to look around. If you look for disapproving looks, you will find them. Don't look for any looks, just enjoy your trip and helping your little one to relax.
I nursed my child for 2 years, 9 months with about 30 flights during that time, when he nursed at least 2 times per flight and I have never had anyone give me any trouble or nasty looks. I often tried to use a blanket to shield us (although not directly over his head) but not always. It also helped to wear a cardigan sweater. In fact the only time I've ever gotten a nasty comment about nursing in public was, believe or not, in Berkeley. Just do it! It's great on flights.
I nursed my then 21-month-old son in the Chicago airport (busy ticketing area) and encountered no rudeness or other problems at all.
I didn't nurse him on the plane, as he fell asleep in his carseat the moment the wheels left the ground and stayed asleep until the moment they touched down again (it was a redeye flight). But I am definitely the type who would have no problem whatsoever glaring right back at anyone who stared. ;-)
Legal rights for nursing moms Nursing toddler on airplane
I've nursed two boys, one whom I'm still nursing at 2.25 yrs old. I've traveled a lot and have traveled with them a lot. As for business trips -- I've found that I could store enough milk before hand to cover the time I'm gone. Since my kids were both in day care from an early time, they were also used to the bottle. This takes pumping more during the day and freezing it. I had no problem producing a lot of milk and pumped twice a day a work for a long time. (mooo.) I don't know about the legal issues of nursing through. I suppose if trips were required often this could be an issue. I have also though successfully pumped while on trips, frozen it, wrapped it up well and brought it back on the plane. A freezer is helpful. One shorter trips, putting the milk in an ice bucket worked. Hotel staff where meetings have been held and where I was not staying have been accommodating -- e.g. allowing me access to a locker room with plugs and privacy. (Note - The pump was a bit of a mystery to inspectors in the post-9-11 era, but a word to security or a note in the luggage helped.) I have also pumped with a hand pump on airplane and buses.
As for nursing kids on a plane, I have never encountered a problem with that, and I've traveled a lot with both boys whilst they were nursing. It seems that fellow passengers were relieved if I could find a way to quiet my child. For me, the issue has been safety versus nursing. I've almost always bought a seat for my kid - even when they are under two (cheaper ticket usually even on domestic flights). My youngest would be fine nursing all the time, but I feel better strapping him in on take off, landing and during turbulence -- just when he wants to fuss the most. Sometimes a bottle works. But not always.
Your posting reminded me of the time I was seated on an airplane next to a mom, her toddler and her new baby. I was in my twenties, single, and not even considering having children. The mom was trying to breastfeed the baby, the baby latched off suddenly and milk went shooting through the air. I was horrified but the mom handled it with grace and humor. Anyway, I think if people don't want to see you breastfeed, then they don't have to look. Would they really rather listen to a baby scream the entire flight? And if anyone says anything, you might remind them that we have better things to worry about on airplanes these days...
Nursing during take-off and landing helped relieve my kids' ear pain.
With my first I was only self conscious when she was a toddler because of the stigma of extended nursing then. By the time I got to my second child I had It is THEIR problem attitude. I never had any problem on planes. But you'll run into uptight people everywhere.