Photo credit: The Mothers Milk Marketing Board
It’s been a while since I’ve heard a report of a woman being harassed about breastfeeding in public or told it’s illegal and I hoped that meant that the people of the world were wising up, that breastfeeding women and their children were being treated with respect, and that people were more aware of the rights of breastfeeding women and their children. But then this evening a Facebook friend told me about an incident at a Harper Woods, Mich. Target where Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were told nursing in public is illegal, were asked to leave the store and even had the police called on them. Mary Martinez, a mother of three, was nursing her 4-week-old baby in the electronics aisle at the time.
The couple was escorted out of the store. “Forcing me out of the store. Two security guards, the manager or team leader, two officers, they just made a spectacle and a scene. I feel like I can’t go to that specific Target anymore,” Mary Martinez said.
Fox 2 contacted Target’s corporate headquarters and were told they allow mothers to breast-feed in their stores. But, “This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.”
I call shenanigans. I have a feeling their definition of “escalated” is that the mother and father, a Detroit police officer himself, knew their rights – that breastfeeding in public is NOT illegal – and refused to leave.
This isn’t the first time a mother has been told she couldn’t breastfeed at a Target store. Back in 2006, The Lactivist reported that a Minneapolis Target employee told a woman that she couldn’t breastfeed in a fitting room and told her to use the bathroom instead. When the woman later called Target’s national hotline she was told “corporate policy was that nursing mothers were welcome in Target stores.” As such, Target has responded with a public apology and the following statement:
“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.”
If this is corporate policy that Target “supports breastfeeding in our stores,” I think every employee needs to be informed during his/her orientation of breastfeeding mothers’ and children’s rights. C’mon Target, educate your employees and if an incident like this does happen, apologize like you did in the past. Don’t make excuses for forcing a breastfeeding mom out of your store. It’s not cool.
If you’d like to share your thoughts about this incident with Target, you may contact them at the following address:
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
You may also call Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680 (7a.m. to 6p.m. CT, Monday through Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited to add: Thanks to PhDinParenting 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:
And thank you to Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 who pointed out:
This incident highlights exactly why Michigan mothers are needed to testify tomorrow, December 2, 2009, in favor of the pending Michigan breastfeeding legislation. For details, see:
Related post: Download your own license to breastfeed and learn about the breastfeeding laws where you live.
UPDATE 12/3/09: A follow-up post with a statement from Mary Martinez has been posted here.
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