Be Prepared, Moms!

I'm sitting in the last row of coach right now on a 767-200. It's been a while sit I've sat in coach on this plane, and even longer since I've sat in a non-exit row or bulkhead. Here's why:

My upgrade cleared about 24 hours before the flight. I was assigned to 9J, which is where I sat for most of the flight. For the first few hours, my seatmate in 9H slept.

A few minutes ago, she woke up and asked the flight attendant for a glass of sparkling water. She also asked if there was a private place where she might be able to pump. "I'm breastfeeding," she explained. "Six hours is too long to go without pumping."

The flight attendant sympathetically offered the lavatory, apologizing that it isn't ideal, "but at least it's private." My seatmate asked if the lav has electrical outlets, since her pump needs to be plugged in. The flight attendant explained that the lav doesn't have outlets, and the conversations frustration level slowly escalated from there.

At this point I took off my headset and interrupted.

"You just need a standard power outlet?" I asked.

"Yeah, like the one in the wall."

"Well the plane doesn't have any of those," I said. "But here." I handed her the 150-watt DC adapter I carry. "This plugs into the outlet right below the seat." Then I looked at the flight attendant.

"If you can find her somewhere private to pump, she can use my adapter. If you can't, find me a place to hang out for 20 minutes and I'll let her have the row to herself and maybe a bit of privacy."

The FA and my seatmate disappeared for a few minutes, presumably to see if there was any kind of outlet in the galley or in the last row of the airplane. Apparently, there were no outlets. They returned and my seatmate apologetically asked if I could give her the row for 20 minutes. I handed her my power adapter, said, "No problem whatsoever," and went with the flight attendant to the only spare seat she had: 40G, the crew rest row with no recline. (The FA at the back of the plane, not realizing I'd just been relocated from business class, offered me a glass of wine -- "On us!" -- for my trouble. I declined, though it was a nice gesture.)

I volunteered so quickly because my sister-in-law and my best friend both gave birth in November, and since then I've been around a lot of breastfeeding, pumping, and other necessities of motherhood. When a mom has got to pump, she's got to pump. I think we as a society could all be a little more sensitive to the needs of moms, especially when it comes to travel. I can't tell you how many times I've seen single moms with armfuls of kids (or mom's traveling without their partners, as the case may be), shlepping through the airport or through a narrow airplane aisle with diaper bags, carry on luggage, purses, and all the other paraphernalia and shrapnel of parenthood only to receive no help getting the carry on into the overhead.

On the other hand, my seatmate could certainly have been more prepared. She could have pumped immediately before the flight, or gotten herself a manual pump for situations like these. (This is a woman of some means, I presume. She's sitting in business class, she has an iPod and an iPad, and she's dressed very nicely.) She also could have brought one of those "privacy" devices that breastfeeding mom's use (I think they're called "hooter hiders"). Last night, I sat on my living room couch right next to my friend, who pumped underneath a "hooter hider" without exposing herself to me. My seatmate could have pulled this off. Instead, she spent the whole exchange incredulous that the airline couldn't accomodate her.

Moms... we could all do a better job of being supportive. But do yourself a favor and come prepared!


"On the other hand, my seatmate could certainly have been more prepared."