IN the close confines of an aircraft cabin, particularly long haul, particularly cramped in economy with strangers, the tiniest infractions become rage-worthy.

A seat reclined during meal service. A leg-spread into your personal space. A fidget who kicks your seat back, over and over again.

Air travel is one of the glories of the modern age - in moderation, of course, let's think of the planet - but we have made it hellish because very few of us are rich enough to charter a private plane and, so, hell is other people.

Bearing in mind the grim frustration of a regular dunt and shoogle of your seat while trying to sleep, you'd think a breastfeeding mother, in her seat, taking up no additional space, quietly caring for her infant, would be a dream travel companion.

Not on KLM. Royal Dutch Airlines staff approached nursing mother Shelby Angel, from Sacramento in California, with a blanket and asked her to cover up. Now, let's assume Ms Angel was quietly going about the business of feeding her daughter rather than standing in the aisle shooting jets of breastmilk at the other passengers.

Why should she have to cover herself and her child? According to her report of the incident, she was told she had to be "respectful of people of other cultures".

And this would appear to be credible, as KLM has subsequently tweeted that "Breastfeeding is permitted at KLM flights. However, to ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this."

Permitted is an interesting choice of word. Were breastfeeding mothers not permitted to nurse their children on board, what would KLM suggest as an alternative? Start bottle feeding purely for the purpose of the flight? Don't fly at all? Maybe choose another airline. I imagine that last will be the choice of many new mothers following this stooshie.

Of course, there's an easy solution to the problem. KLM can easily and cheaply equip its aircraft with blankets to drape over the heads of anyone bold and bothered enough to complain about a mother discreetly cracking on with the business of keeping her child alive.

It might be overly warm, dark and a bit uncomfortable but sauce for the goose, eh?

Breastfeeding is one of these reliably fraught topics where people are forced to pick a side and middle ground is rarely offered. The rancorous war over breast vs bottle; this bellyaching about whether breastfeeding in public is seemly or not. Why is it so fraught and why no middle ground? Well, of course, it allows for relentless chiding and undermining of women.

And because we get to talk about boobs, which delights us, as a nation with a history of Benny Hill and saucy seaside postcards.

That's one of the dichotomies of the discussion around breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is entirely natural and exactly what breasts were designed for. When a mother opens her top to suckle an infant, she is not a sexual object. Yet, for the majority of her life, her breasts will be sexual objects and we shouldn't have to detract from that to make a defence for breastfeeding.

It's possible to compartmentalise. Sometimes breasts are sexual, sometimes they are functional. It depends whose eyes - or mouth - is on them.

It should be possible to hold two - not incompatible - thoughts in our head at the one time yet one it comes to women's bodies and what they choose to do with them, only one thought is possible: judgement.

World Health Organization (WHO) advice is to breastfeed exclusively for six months and then do a mixture of breast feeding and solids until two years yet, in the west, breastfeeding for these set times is rare, suggesting policies to encourage breastfeeding and persistent messaging aren't working.

At the same time, while the mantra of "breast is best" rings out with alacrity, mothers are tutted at and chided for their immodesty. Breastfeeding in public only became legal in all 50 US states last year, with Idaho and Utah bringing up the rear with a long overdue change in legislation. That's right, last year.

A pregnant and breastfeeding woman becomes public property, judged and shamed if she can't breastfeed, judged and shamed if she can and chooses to do it publicly. I don't have children but do have first hand experience of just how ready strangers are to tell you that you're doing it wrong.

When my godson was little I was bottle feeding him in a coffee shop when a woman approached to tell me I really should be breastfeeding. With hindsight, I wish I'd been quick enough to say something snappy that might have shamed her into silence. Instead, I was so taken aback I stuttered that he wasn't mine.

Unperturbed, she said, "Well, when you come to have your own, you really should breastfeed." The presumption of that. And then, "You just lift your top," she added, doing a helpful mime that will stay in my memory until the day I die, "And pop him on."

Just don't lift your top on a KLM flight. While it seems fairly straightforward to scoff at the prudishness that accompanies a complaint against a breastfeeding mother, you can't really scoff at the airline's point that it serves people "of all backgrounds".

Yes, in the UK and most of Europe, America and Australia, say, we have an overall encouraging approach towards breastfeeding and spats about doing it in public are rare and enraging. But a flight will be full of a mix of nationalities and religions, all of which the carrier has an obligation to accommodate.

Accommodate the mother and child. The likely exhausted, likely over-stretched woman who is doing her best to care for a small, demanding person and who probably feels enough maternal guilt and stress as it is. She's highly unlikely to be ostentatiously breastfeeding, whipping her nipples about the aisle.

That person complaining? Their discomfort and outrage is unjustifiable yet so easily solved. Don't look.