One week ago, 30-year-old Lindsay Jaynes asked Delta Airlines a seemingly simple question: What is the company’s on-board breastfeeding policy?
The new mother planned to buy a ticket from John Wayne Airport to Florida with her now 6-week-old son in March.
She wanted to be prepared for her baby’s first trip and hoped to have a printed copy of the airline’s policy when she boarded.
To Jaynes’ surprise, the response from a Delta representative would soon launch her into the media spotlight, transforming the Newport Beach resident into an advocate for breastfeeding mothers far beyond Orange County.
In an exchange that occurred on Twitter, which can be viewed by anyone, a Delta representative wrote that Jaynes would not be able to breastfeed without a cover-up.
Jaynes, using the Twitter handle "@ClassicHippie,” expressed indignation. The flight would be six hours long, and her son needed to eat every two hours, she explained to the representative tweeting from "@DeltaAssist.”
Her son had refused to nurse from a bottle or with a cover since he was born. When she had tried to use a cover, he would begin screaming and flailing.
“What do you suggest?” she asked the airline.
Delta Airlines eventually apologized for the misinformation via Twitter and a personal phone call.
“In a situation like this, if there’s any sort of vagueness, we will make every effort to address it and make sure that it’s cleared up,” Delta spokesman Michael Thomas said Thursday. “We were fairly quick to respond and say that it was an unfortunate bit of misinformation, and that’s exactly what it was.”
The company posted a breastfeeding policy online Wednesday, expressing full support of women’s right to breastfeed on Delta flights, but it made no specific mention of rules related to covering up.
Meanwhile, the damage had been done.
Media outlets seized on the story, with HLN, Fox, BBC and USA Today all chiming in with a story or post.
With her Twitter followers numbering 625 and growing Thursday afternoon, Jaynes also found herself inundated with comments online.
Some users expressed support, thanking her for defending babies’ needs and contributing to the national conversation about breastfeeding. An all-natural vegan cookie company even offered to send her free lactation cookies, which were advertised as a way to help moms build breast milk.
Others online labeled Jaynes immature and immodest. They accused her of simply baiting the media. One went so far as to call her a, um, boob, while more vulgar posters found worse assaults.
Messages from mothers have helped her to get through the negativity. Many shared their difficulties with breastfeeding in public, be it on an airplane, in a restaurant or in a store, Jaynes wrote in an email.
Mothers-to-be have also expressed to her that she gave them the courage to breastfeed, wrote Jaynes, who was unable to give an interview to the Pilot, because she has laryngitis and tonsillitis.
The pressure to be in the public eye arrived at a time when Jaynes already had her hands full caring for her infant. She said she gets little sleep and is trying everything she can to avoid postpartum depression.
“I never wanted to be the spokesperson for breastfeeding in public, but from the outpouring of messages from other mothers, I now feel responsible to see this through and help normalize it,” she wrote.
She added, “I never imagined asking one simple question would turn into all of this.”
After all, Jaynes had tweeted at the airline before.
“Seriously @DeltaAssist?” she tweeted in November. “8.5mo pregnant, in line for 1.5 hours to claim bag after cancelled flight w/1 person working.”
The tweet led to little more than an apology sent from the account almost two hours later, followed by a short exchange.
Before sending the tweet last week, Jaynes tried first to call Delta. The employee who answered did not know the correct response and put her on hold.
After waiting 45 minutes, a frustrated Jaynes hung up and sent the fateful message to the company instead.
Jaynes said she has since turned down a $400 voucher offer from the airline. She has yet to decide if she will buy her ticket to Florida from Delta.