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Mothers today are reminded again and again that “breast is best.” Indeed, they are encouraged, cajoled, and even shamed into moving heaven and earth to make sure that they are able to nurse their babies for at least the first few months of life, if not for a full year. But the practicalities of such a commitment to breastfeeding do not always mesh with the other demands on women’s lives. ...

In 2006, for example, a woman from New Mexico was ejected from a Delta Connections flight (not, fortunately, while it was in midair) after she refused the request of an offended flight attendant to cover her nursing baby with an airplane blanket. She filed a lawsuit against Delta and two other carriers who were together responsible for the flight. As part of a confidential settlement reached this month, each carrier agreed to pay damages; two of them agreed also to pay $20,000 to the state agency that brought the original claim.

In this column, I’ll discuss the woman’s claim, as well as the patchwork of state laws that are designed to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public and the grassroots movement to protect the right to breastfeed in public.