Manners missing in breastfeeding case

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

Folks in Santa Fe and Vermont are all atwitter about the breastfeeding New Mexico mom who was booted off a plane in Vermont. She was offered a blanket to cover her allegedly exposed breast while she fed her daughter. She declined and was asked to go back into the terminal.

I’m all for organic and natural stuff so I’m all for breastfeeding. In fact, three of my four kids were breast fed. But I also know there are rules of etiquette about it.

Perhaps moms should be discreet, covering the kid and the breast with a jacket or blanket. Some women’s tops even have little buttoned flaps for easy access.

I’ve seen moms discreetly breastfeeding at the North Plains Mall, Hillcrest Park, even a couple of churches in my time.

However, there are people who don’t feel the need to be discreet. Like Dove-Anna in the town of Bisbee, Ariz., an “art community” similar to Santa Fe but much smaller.

Dove-Anna was an acquaintance of my then-wife. Anna added “Dove” to her name because she had a dream with a talking dove in it. The bird said the love of her life waited in Bisbee. To honor the dream she changed her name, moved to Bisbee, married the town’s lone skateboarder and had a baby.

One afternoon I was heading for the supermarket. I had been in the back of the house and didn’t know Dove-Anna was visiting. I walked into the living room and there she was, sitting on the sofa, naked from the waist up, breastfeeding her kid.

She made no move to cover herself. I quickly looked down at my shopping list.

“Milk, eggs,” I said, confirming with my wife. “We need some bleach and Comet too.”
There was a loud gasp. “You’re not buying bleach and Comet,” proclaimed Dove-Anna. “They’re killing the environment.”

Oh! Now she wants to have a conversation with me, I thought. Dove-Anna stopped breastfeeding and was sitting there with the contented kid in her lap, her bust fully exposed.

I started to laugh. I could not have a serious conversation under these circumstances.

“It’s not funny,” said Dove-Anna. “We’re killing the planet with these things. You should go to the co-op and get some Bon Ami, it doesn’t hurt the environment. They also have a really good detergent that’s just as good as bleach.”

“Well, OK,” I said, stifling more laughter. I thought about launching into her, going into a spiel about modesty and manners, but I knew it would open up a whole new can of worms. My moderate beliefs were hopelessly outnumbered in Bisbee. Besides, I didn’t know where to put my eyes.

“I’m off to get some bleach and Comet,” I said as I walked out the door. It was my way of telling Dove-Anna she hadn’t changed my mind.

It’s generally understood there is decorum to breastfeeding. You no more flagrantly expose breasts in public than you would stop at the curbside in downtown Clovis to urinate or cut loose with a loud barrage of flatulence in a restaurant. All are natural processes, but there are such things as manners.

There’s a saying I picked up somewhere: “In life you can do anything you want. There are consequences, however.”

I believe the New Mexico breastfeeding mom and the airline are learning this.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: