When a Walmart employee forces a covered, nursing mother to move from the bathroom to a toilet stall, we know America has hit a new low in nursing harassment.
Exactly that happened on Friday July 25th in Jacksonville, North Carolina when Kelly Messing noticed her infant was hungry. Since she was not comfortable with nursing in public she chose to nurse in the ladies’ restroom, while wearing a cover. During this time, she was approached by a Walmart employee and asked to move to a toilet stall as she was “making other customers uncomfortable” (ReadPaa.la’s report for more details).
What happened to Kelly speaks to us at Best for Babes because fear of nursing in public, and harassment for nursing in public, are big time Breastfeeding Booby Traps®! This is precisely why Best for Babes appointed Michelle Hickman (a.k.a. Target mom) as our Director of Activism and developed our nursing in public hotline. (Read Michelle’s story: Target Employees Bully Breastfeeding Mom Despite Corporate Policy.) We cannot fault the employee, who was clearly not properly trained, for simply responding to complaints. That employee, unfortunately, was unaware of the North Carolina state law and because of inadequate training, did not realize how this action shamed the mom. The fault lies with the national Walmart corporation, that has repeatedly failed to adequately train their employees and put proper company-wide policies in place. The other issue at hand is the fact that patrons in the store complained, a clear indication that we have a long way to go in changing the perception of breastfeeding.
Here are steps you can take to support mothers and babies:
1. Please join the nurse-in at the Jacksonville Walmart on N. Marine Boulevard at 2:00 p.m. today (RSVP HERE). The plan is to meet, then break off in small groups, dispersed throughout the store, to nurse in groups. The hope is that this will subtly normalize breastfeeding for the public and give patrons an opportunity to observe that nursing in public is a normal and natural part of life, much like giving a child a kiss or a hug in public. As a bonus, the participants will receive Breastfeeding in Public cards with info on the North Carolina Breastfeeding Coalition, copies of the State Law, and our very own NIP Harassment Hotline on it!
2. Continue to pressure the local Jacksonville Walmart via Facebook comments and poor reviews. Unfortunately as far as we can tell there is no way to public way rate or publicly comment to the national Walmart corporation, they have been deleting comments (have better info? leave it in the comments!). You can also write or call corporate headquarters and tweet at Walmart; See Paa.la’s post for their corporate contact information and more details. We are happy that the local Jacksonville Walmart promises to train their employees, but one training won’t prevent this from happening again. We need the local Jacksonville Walmart to put pressure on the national corporation to institute a strong and effective company-wide policy and training program.
3. Support the Nursing in Public Hotline by purchasing the cards or by donating $5 to Keep it Alive! Your support will enable us to educate more people about breastfeeding laws but even more importantly, enable us to leverage our partnerships to hold companies like Walmart, Target and Delta accountable, as well as implementing new and more effective strategies to change the public perception of breastfeeding. In the past, Best for Babes has repeatedly tried to gently and positively persuade executive management at Walmart that it is good for business to support nursing customers and employees. Although local managers have spoken with the nurse-in organizers and are planning continued training, the fact that incidences at Walmart have been happening for YEARS prove that there is no company-wide commitment to training. We feel that public relations statements and reassurances by companies like Walmart, Target, Delta and others are clearly lip service and will be looking at developing a new strategy to effect change. Stay tuned and join us for updates!
In the meantime, let’s hope that this new style of nurse-in will effect some change in policy writing as well as in the hearts of the general public visiting.