"It's about raising consciousness about our culture's sexualization of the breast. Breast-feeding needs to be supported wherever and whenever it happens. Babies don't know the meaning of `wait,'" said Chelsea Clark, 31, wearing a "Got breast milk?" T-shirt as she nursed her 9-week-old son at the Burlington airport.
About 25 women turned out for the "nurse-in" at the airport, parking themselves near a ticket counter in a peaceful — but not-so-quiet — demonstration. Similar protests were held at airports in Boston; Las Vegas; Columbus, Ohio; Nashville, Tenn.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Hartford, Conn.; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Louisville, Ky.
Some of the women carried signs that read, "Don't be lactose intolerant" and "Breasts — Not just for selling cars anymore."
On Oct. 13, Emily Gillette, 27, of Santa Fe, N.M., was ordered off a Freedom Airlines plane about to take off from the Burlington airport after a flight attendant asked her to cover up while she was breast-feeding her year-old daughter.
She had been sitting on the New York-bound plane — which was three hours late in leaving — when she began nursing. The flight attendant handed her a blanket, but she refused it. She was removed from the plane along with her husband and child.
The airline later disciplined the unidentified employee. But "lactivists" and women's rights supporters were outraged, and Gillette filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission.
"It's a basic human thing that we are doing and we should be able to do it in public without being kicked off planes, without being told to sit in bathrooms," said Susan Parker, 30, who participated in a demonstration at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn., along with 10-month-old daughter Anna.
Gillette herself joined about 30 women, children and fathers at the Albuquerque airport. "When women are harassed for breast-feeding, a woman can end up feeling ashamed and she shouldn't," she said, tears welling in her eyes.
A the Nashville airport, about 25 mothers, fathers and children took part in a demonstration, holding signs that said "Breast fed is best fed" and "Best in-flight meal ever." About 40 mothers nursed their babies at the Portland, Ore., airport.
Passers-by called out words of encouragement at the Columbus, Ohio, airport, where about a dozen women sat on benches and on the floor, some breast-feeding.
And seven mothers, five of them nursing, gathered near Delta gates at Las' Vegas' McCarran International Airport.
"When we hear someone has gone so far as to kick a nursing mother off a flight, it's terrible," said Tami Schlosser, 38, a lactation educator who counsels new mothers about breast feeding in southern Nevada.
But some passers-by disapproved of the protesters.
"I think you should be discreet," Nell Gaupel said upon seeing the demonstration in Louisville, Ky.