Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Target Stores Target Nursing Moms...Again!

It looks like big-box retailer Target has once again targeted breastfeeding mothers for harassment. It was just two years ago that a Michigan Target forced a nursing mother to leave the store. They actually called the police on her, saying that what she was doing was illegal! However, following that incident, a Target spokesperson said the company policy was not anti-breastfeeding. Apparently that changed at some point!

Michelle nursing her baby (different day) at Target.
Just two weeks ago Michelle Hickman of Houston, Texas, was accosted by Target personnel as she fed her hungry baby. Here is Michelle's story in her own words:
 I'm not the best public speaker or the most educated or outspoken person in breastfeeding rights but I am a mom of 4 who has been harassed and humiliated by Target for nursing by infant in their store. On November 29th around 7-8pm, I was Christmas shopping with a basket full of items when my infant woke up hungry, so I found a remote area of the store in the ladies clothing department close to the fitting rooms and sat Indian style on the floor next to my basket and a display of jeans and nursed my hungry baby with a blanket completely covering him. Briefly I will say that 2 women employees came and verbally asked me to move. The 2nd one told me that Target employees had been told/trained to interrupt nursing and to redirect mothers to the fitting rooms. Even after I informed the 2nd employee of my legal right to nurse in public she still suggested me moving closer to the jean display, turning to face another direction, and also turn my basket a certain way which would have put me practically underneath the jean display and totally barricaded me in. Employee #2 even said in a hint around but threatening way you can get a ticket and be reported for indecent exposure when nothing was being exposed and there was more boob showing from low cut shirts several shoppers were wearing that night. This does not include the other 3-4 employees besides the 2 verbal ones who were all watching and making a spectacle of my nursing by walking by standing around pretending to do something and giving me mean looks and shaking their heads no back and forth. In a side note not a single non-employee customer ever saw the incident so I'm not sure why the employees were trying to act like I was offending "the public" and that it was their job to step in. 
After I left the store I decided to call the Target corporate office during normal business hours the following day on November 30th,  and speak to a guest relations person to notify them of the situation and to suggest that they educate their employees as to the legal right I have to nurse in public. The phone call however took a turn for the worse. The lady (I wish I would have gotten her name) told me that she and Target were aware of our legal rights as nursing mothers, but that Target has different policies because they are a family friendly public place. I can't think of a more family friendly act than breastfeeding and providing the irrefutably proven healthiest diet to my baby. She continued to inform me repetitively that Target's policies were different than the law and even went as far to say several times that just because it is a woman's right to nurse in public even without a nursing cover like I was using doesn't mean women should walk around and I quote "flaunting it" and was extremely rude. I also talked to the supervisor of this rude lady and that didn't get anywhere either.
It saddens me that mothers are being treated this way as if breastfeeding is vile and offensive. If this would have happened to me with the first child I nursed I would have considered giving up on nursing due to embarrassment and that is what concerns me the most. I know that breastmilk is best and that nursing is hard work and a selfless act that mothers choose to do for their babies, and I would hate for this to happen to someone else causing them to give up on nursing. Please help me support the best nutrition for babies and to make a stand in support of nursing in public so this doesn't happen again.

In this country we have some powerful ways to effect change when it is needed. That's exactly what Michelle and some of her friends are doing. They've organized an international Target Nurse-In  for Wednesday, December 28 at 10:00 am. I would love to see our local moms get involved. We have two Target stores in Huntsville that our moms can target! I know this is the second time in two weeks I've blogged about nursing in public, but no mother should ever feel discriminated against for the way she feeds her baby!

Basics by Bravado...Looks like a Body-Silk knock-off.
Last year Target entered into an exclusive relationship with Bravado Designs (now a subsidiary of Medela). Bravado is manufacturing a less-expensive line of bras and tanks for Target. The way Bravado explained it to us retailers was that this allowed women who can't afford Bravado bras to get a good bra for less money. They said that the tanks aren't the same quality as the tanks we sell, and the knock-off of the Body Silk is just that...a knock-off. Then they added that their hope was to expose women to the Bravado name in hopes that they'd look for the "real thing."     Really??

I'm sure I'm not the only Bravado retailer who was a little miffed that they wouldn't give us access to these new products. I'd love to be able to offer a less expensive Bravado option to our moms! We focus a lot of our energy on helping low-income moms!

I decided to call the Target Corporate Customer Service line (800) 440-0680  this morning.  I explained that as a lactation consultant I do sometimes tell mothers about the Bravado bras at Target, and I was concerned about my clients being made to feel uncomfortable if they needed to nurse. I was put on hold, then the representative came back on the line and said, "Guests who choose to nurse in our stores are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable." She added that they may nurse anywhere in the store they wish, and if they choose to use a dressing room, they may do so without being made to feel rushed.

So let's see what happens on December 28! Leave a comment telling which Target you'll be nursing at. I would suggest that if Target is rude in any way whatsoever to any nursing mother, we begin a boycott of all breastfeeding-related products. They sell a lot of Medela products in addition to their Bravado line. I really hope that Targets all over the country make nursing mothers feel comfortable. After all, it's their bottom line that's at stake!