Following an incident in late November at a Houston area Target store where a breastfeeding mom, Michelle Hickman, was “harassed and humiliated” by Target employees for nursing her baby in the store, nurse-ins are being planned at Target stores in nearly every state across the country for 10 a.m. local time tomorrow morning.
Hickman, a mom of four, has created a Facebook group (which currently has over 4,500 members) to help organize the nurse-ins. She offered details of the incident in a document added to the group’s page, writing that she sat down to nurse her baby in a “remote area” of the women’s clothing section, covered with a blanket, after he woke up while she was doing some Christmas shopping. Two female employees asked her to move and said that they had been instructed to redirect nursing mothers to the fitting rooms. Hickman reported that one of the two even suggested that she could get reported for indecent exposure.
When Hickman called the Target corporate office the following day to complain, she reported that the response there was even worse, with the Target employee on the phone suggesting that simply because women have the legal right to breastfeed in public doesn’t mean that they should “walk around ‘flaunting it.’” When Hickman asked to speak with that employee’s supervisor, she got nowhere.
An email reply Hickman later received from a Target representative simply said that Target customers are welcome to breastfeed in public areas of the store without being made to feel uncomfortable and that the company supports the use of fitting rooms for nursing, even if others are waiting to use them—but didn’t apologize for the incident.
For those who would suggest that Hickman forget about it or simply take her business elsewhere, Hickman explained why she found the incident so upsetting: “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.”
The nurse-ins are planned as a peaceful show of solidarity and a statement about putting into real-life practice women’s legal right to breastfeed in public. Writes Hickman, “It's all about normalizing nursing through public awareness, better legislation and laws to protect our rights, education of our rights, enforcement of those laws, and consequences for law-breakers.”
Best for Babes, a non-profit breastfeeding advocacy group, has also reached out to Target headquarters and offered to help develop training materials that can help the company better communicate with its employees about nursing in public.
Have you ever been harassed for breastfeeding in public? How did you react?