We reached out to Target last week on Wednesday, December 21st to see if we could work with them so that the nurse-in scheduled for tomorrow, Dec. 28, 2011 would not be necessary. Nurse-ins require a lot of time, planning and effort from busy moms. All of us have other things we would rather be doing during our holidays. I am a Target shopper and fan, and given my corporate communications background, was hopeful that I could interest Target in taking some proactive steps to ensure that other mothers would not have to go through what Michelle Hickman had experienced, and that we could ask Michelle Hickman to cancel the nurse-in.
So, Danielle and I spoke to Antoine LaFramboise, a corporate spokesperson. We commended Target for having a corporate policy on handling breastfeeding customers and applauded those stores and employees who get rave reviews for supporting nursing moms. At the same time, we expressed our concern that we had heard multiple reports of mothers having negative experiences breastfeeding at Target, that Michelle Hickman’s experience was not an isolated incident. We offered to work with Target on a plan of action to turn a negative into a positive and position them as a leader among retailers in supporting nursing mothers, and help them reap positive publicity for setting a great example. This plan of action would include strengthening their corporate policy, and working with them to develop an employee toolkit that other companies could use–after all, nursing mothers are being harassed at stores, restaurants, airports, courtrooms, etc.! We sent Antoine LaFromboise an email summarizing our conversation on December 22.
Here’s where the frustration sets in. We didn’t hear a peep. We left 2 voice messages and a text message just asking Mr. LaFromboise to confirm that he got our email. Nothing. We checked with Michelle Hickman to see if she had received an apology or had seen any public statement or post from Target that they were addressing the issue with their employees and welcoming moms, similar to what Whole Foods had done in August. Still nothing.
Today, at the proverbial midnight hour before the nurse-in, I thought I would try one last time to reach someone in management at Target. After much effort I finally got a call back from Jessica Clarkson in Media Relations, and shared with her what I had shared with the spokesperson last week. I asked her if she would please summarize her conversation in an email so I could share it with our followers, and here is what she sent.
Thank you for your inquiry regarding Target’s breastfeeding policy. As mentioned during our conversation, as a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing corporate policy that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping at Target. Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, 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.
We continually educate our team members in stores across the country on store policies to ensure all guests have a great experience and we have been in touch with the store where the incident occurred to ensure all team members are aware of our breastfeeding policy.
We’ve worked with this guest directly to address her concerns and are sorry for any inconvenience it has caused.
Personally, I’m grumpy that I had to work so hard to get a response. For pete’s sake, Target has a whole PR staff. It also feels like too little, too late . . . this could have been so easily solved a month ago–Michelle Hickman even suggested to Target back then that they do what Whole Foods did, and welcome the nursing moms. What are your thoughts? How do you think Target has handled this issue? (For the full background on this story, see: Huffington Post, Time.com and our FAQs on the National Target Nurse-In)