Sophie McBain was told to pump in a bathroom at Heathrow Airport, and then a male staff member walked in on her
Sophie McBain, a freelance journalist, wrote on Twitter that she was traveling without her baby and needed a private place to pump her excess breast milk. She says that the airport staff directed her to the baby changing room.
“I used it, feeling a bit bad to be occupying the room for 20 minutes but I was really uncomfortable and needed to do this,” McBain tweeted on Sunday.
When someone came over in need of the baby changing room, McBain didn’t hear the knock, and believes they went to get a staff member to open the door.
“A male attendant came, unlocked the door and while I was still attached to a machine with my breasts out he lectured me about how I should leave the door unlocked or pump outside,” she says. “I felt so exposed and embarrassed. Could a female staff member not be sent? Could he not wait until I was unplugged and dressed? Can breastfeeding women not have a room to pump undisturbed and in private?”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Heathrow Airport said that they regret the incident.
“The response Ms. McBain received following her complaint did not reflect the level of customer service we strive to offer. We apologize the initial reply was handled in the manner it was and regret the experience Ms. McBain had at our airport. We are working with our colleagues to investigate this incident and will be taking actions to improve service delivery, tailored to individual passenger needs.”
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On Monday, McBain said that she received an unsatisfactory response from the airport.
“I told people yesterday that I wasn’t so upset about my horrible experience @HeathrowAirport, I just didn’t want other women to go through the same. But then I received this excuse-filled, non-apology to my formal complaint & I am so sad,” she tweeted.
McBain said she recounted her story to Heathrow, and told them why the experience was problematic.
“To explain why I was upset I compared it to someone bursting in on your while you are on the toilet and then calmly telling you, while your pants are still round your ankles, that you are hogging the public bathroom,” she tweeted. “Also, sticking your breasts into an electric breast pump is so undignified looking I don’t even like it when my husband sees me doing it. Why would I want strangers to see this?”
“I didn’t explain that my right side, which I didn’t pump because I was too embarrassed and stressed, was so painful five hours into my flight that I cried with relief when the @BritishAirways cabin crew said I could use their rest area to pump,” McBain added. “But I did explain that it’s not just that breastfeeding women feel uncomfortable when they can’t pump — it puts us at risk of a painful and potentially serious condition called mastitis. I also did not explain that this kind of s— is why the U.K. has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world.”
McBain said her goal is to change the pumping situation at Heathrow.
“I made clear I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble, this wasn’t about one staff member. It’s a systemic problem,” she said. “No thought has been given to breastfeeding travelers, we have no space to pump/breastfeed in private and staff have clearly received no training.”