United Makes Mom Pump Breast Milk In Pet Relief Area

Gotta give them credit. When United Airlines has a service failure, they go for the epic fail as opposed to small errors.

I was catching up on Twitter last night when I saw a retweet of a story about a woman who was told to pump breast milk in a pet relief area at Dulles Airport by Jason Rabinowitz.

They gave her the choice of a family restroom that didn’t have a power outlet for her breast pump or a room where pets go take a leak on a plastic fire hydrant. Can’t make this stuff up.

Breast Milk

The article reports that they wouldn’t let her into the airline clubs. There are two clubs in the C/D terminal that are an easy walk from the pet relief area, though neither is really anything special.

But, even closer than that is the unaccompanied minor room. I was going to pace it off the next time I get a chance, but I’m guessing it’s 100 feet max from the pet relief area to the unaccompanied minor room. I also think there may be a separate office attached to that room, so lots more opportunities for a mom to have 15 minutes of privacy.

There’s a comment in the article that the “airport” wouldn’t let her go elsewhere, either, and I’ve got to think Dulles shares in some of the blame here.  While United needs to advocate for and assist their customers, so does the airport.  This can’t be the first woman who desired a private place to nurse/pump breast milk.

Maybe I’m just more sensitive to these things because I’ve watched my wife go through nursing two children. But, does a room that smells like urine really send the right message from an airline that they care about families?


    1. Dan, you would think an airport the size of Dulles would have dealt with this before. That’s the thing that baffles me here. Or, couldn’t find an extension cord for the family bathroom.

  1. This is a classic fail, of course, but it stems from the absurd attitudes towards breasts in the USA. Breast feeding is entirely natural and, if done discretely, is of no consequence pretty well wherever you are – but if the weird society in the USA regard breasts as some implement of the Devil, then you end up with staff making poor judgments, such as in this case.

    1. I agree with you in general, but think you’re missing the point here. This woman wanted privacy to use an electric breast pump. Maybe you would be fine pumping in public, but she was not. The failure here is not “attitudes towards breasts” but the lack of suitable accommodation.

  2. I’m honestly torn on this one. Presumably she’s not an elite or club member. Why should she be allowed into the club. Tons of people have reasons to want the extra comfort or privacy of a lounge. Does that mean United should guest all of them in in 15 minute increments? Yes Dulles would fare better to have outfitted their airport in a more sensical manner but I think United is being unfairly criticized.

    1. Heather, I’m not saying they definitely should have let her in the club. I’m saying they should have a solution that doesn’t require a fire hydrant where dogs pee. There’s a pretty good (and likely affordable) solution that Mommy Points talked about yesterday: http://mommypoints.boardingarea.com/2015/10/07/passengers-told-to-pump-milk-where-dogs-poop-and-more/

      There’s plenty of room for one of these in the wide hallway between C and D.

  3. The title of the article is incorrect. No one MAKES anyone do anything. They provided choices she didn’t like. Poor planning on her part doesn’t mean everyone else should accommodate or at fault.

    1. Shanae, full disclosure, I’m not a woman so I’ve never breast fed. My understanding, though, being married to a woman who did it twice is that you need to pump every X number of hours. How is that poor planning? Should she just not travel?

    2. (ETA: Michelle was having trouble logging in tonight so she commented separately and I changed the name so people would know the reply came from her). Shanae as a mother of two who traveled heavily even while nursing, planning doesn’t always take in account every obstacle you may encounter. Keep in mind that Virginia (where Dulles Airport is located) among other states stipulates that childbirth is a related medical conditions specified in the Virginia Human Rights Act to include activities of lactation, including breastfeeding and expression of milk by a mother for her child. I do believe no matter what level the planning the mother did or did not do, it was still a protected right to pump in an appropriate private environment.

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