Although Target issued a corporate statement supporting nursing mothers in 2006, apparently they are still falling short on efforts to educate employees about their policy. (You may remember the incident in 2006 reported by thelactivist and the incident in 2009 reported by Crunchy Domestic Goddess.)
Yesterday, we received a phone call and an email from Michelle Hickman about her treatment in a Houston Target Store on November 29th. Michelle is organizing a nurse-in at the store for December 28th at 10 a.m. For more information, join the Facebook group Michelle has started. Here is her story: “
I am a mom of 4 who has been harassed and humiliated by Target employees for nursing by infant in their store. On Thursday, 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 female 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 hinted in a 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 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 repeatedly 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 “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.
“Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members,” company representative Kristi Arndt said.
“For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable.
Clearly, this policy is not translating through to employees. Best for Babes hopes that this can be resolved quickly before December 28th and that Target will implement improved employee training across all stores and for all new hires so as to end harassment and discrimination against nursing customers. We have contacted Target headquarters and have offered to help develop materials that can help them effectively communicate with their employees about nursing in public; our information is being passed on to the employee training department and we will keep you posted!
We hope that Target will take this issue as seriously as any other anti-discrimination policies, and make a greater effort to educate employees that breastfeeding benefits everyone, is truly beautiful, and that ALL mothers deserve to be cheered on and encouraged, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or not at all! They may even find that their own employee breastfeeding rates improve, which only helps the company’s bottom line, since every $1 invested in corporate lactation programs yields a $3 return. We hope they will turn to “The Business Case for Breastfeeding“, an excellent program and toolkit for employers developed by womenshealth.gov. Despite recent advances in employer and insurance policies, we still have a long way to go to change our culture, and we need Target to embrace this opportunity and apply their fantastic marketing skills to improving the public perception, and the perception of their employees, towards breastfeeding!
1. Contact Target to share your thoughts (thanks to Crunchy Domestic Goddess for the info). Be constructive and polite : Target Corporation, 1000 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55403. Guest Relations:
(800) 440-0680 or (612)304-6073
(7a.m. to 6p.m. CT, Monday through Friday) or email: email@example.com
2. Inform mothers of their rights. Click here for your state breastfeeding laws. Also, thanks to PhDinParenting via Crunchy Domestic Goddess for this excellent information: This woman, and any woman, that experiences this type of harassment should report it to FirstRight. They maintain an inventory of such harassment cases and can also help mothers to figure out the best course of action (for example, nurse-ins can be good tools but are not always the best first step). Here is the link to FirstRight: http://www.firstright.org/reportdiscrimination
3. Ask your elected officials to support the Breastfeeding Promotion Act. The stronger our national policies, the better for everyone.
Let us know if you have any other suggestions!