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Wednesday, November 22, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mothers stage airport "nurse-in" to protest ejection of breastfeeding passenger

Los Angeles Times

BOSTON — Charlie Yaker's enormous blue eyes rolled back in elation, and a blissful, drunken-sailor expression settled on his face. The 6-month-old had just finished breastfeeding Tuesday morning near the Delta Air Lines ticket counter at Logan International Airport, unperturbed by the frenzy of holiday-season travelers.

"We're here to show people how natural and healthy breastfeeding is," said Charlie's mother, Alison Yaker, 28, of Braintree, Mass. "And to remind Delta Air Lines of that fact, too."

The dozen or so lactating mothers and their babies who gathered at Terminal A were part of a national "nurse-in" staged at more than 30 airports. The mothers said they were outraged that Delta had ejected a woman from a flight in Vermont last month because she was breastfeeding her baby.

Emily Gillette, 27, was ordered off the plane Oct. 13 after a flight attendant — saying "you are offending me" — handed her a blanket and told her to cover up while nursing her 22-month-old daughter. Gillette refused.

The flight attendant has been reprimanded, a Delta spokeswoman said. "Delta fully supports a woman's right to breastfeed her baby on board our aircraft," Gina Laughlin said Tuesday. "Delta regrets that this incident happened and is disappointed with the flight attendant's decision to remove Ms. Gillette from Flight 6160."

Gillette has filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission, which oversees discrimination allegations in that state.

All but 12 states have laws protecting a woman's right to nurse her child in public. The breastfeeding supporters who converged on airports Tuesday urged passage of pending federal civil-rights protection for breastfeeding.

"I think I'm the first one to get kicked off a plane. But I'm certainly not the first to be harassed," said Gillette, who joined a protest at the Albuquerque airport, not far from her home in Espanola, N.M.

Some of the 25 mothers at the airport in South Burlington, Vt., carried signs that read, "Don't be lactose intolerant" and "Breasts — Not just for selling cars anymore."

At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — Delta's hub and the world's busiest airport — about 30 women and children sat cross-legged beside a bustling Delta ticket counter Tuesday. The mothers formed a circle around their diaper bags, toy trucks and My Little Ponies.

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Travelers seemed unfazed by the nursing mothers.

"It doesn't bother me none," said L.A. Cain, 40, a computer repairman for the U.S. Army who was at the airport picking up his son. "A baby's got to eat."

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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