Michelle Hickman, a nursing mother in the Houston area, claims that she was harassed in a Target store for breastfeeding her five-month-old son, Noah, in November. That claim started a movement that resulted in a “nurse-in” at multiple Target stores this week. The nurse-in was unrelated to the Kasey Kahne breastfeeding Twitter scandal that occurred on Tuesday, but the two events highlight the dramatic difference of opinion on this topic in the United States.
According to Hickman, she was shopping for Christmas gifts in her area Target on Nov. 29, when her son awoke. He was hungry, so Hickman found a “remote area of the store,” Time magazine online reported, covered herself with a blanket, and began nursing her son. She was then asked by more than one employee of the store to relocate to a fitting room and, according to Hickman, one Target employee intimated that she could be cited for indecent exposure if she did not move to the fitting room as asked. Time reported that no customers had complained to Target employees, and that, in fact, none indicated that they had even seen her breastfeeding Noah.
Hickman said she called the Target corporate headquarters the next morning and was told by guest relations that “just because it’s a woman’s legal right to nurse a baby in public doesn’t mean she should walk around the store flaunting it.” Hickman then said she vented her outrage to fellow moms, and it was suggested a nurse-in be held. The idea spread, and more than 250 nurse-ins were held on Wednesday, Dec. 28, in at least 35 different states. The closed group, “Target Nurse-In” was created on Facebook and, at this writing, has 7,430 members.
“Recently a mama was nursing her babe in a local Houston area Target,” the description of the group says. “When she was asked to move to a private location, she refused, and was harassed and humiliated by three separate employees. She then called Target's corporate customer service number and was told by a representative, and then her supervisor that they were aware of the laws, but ... that just because something is lawful doesn't mean it’s acceptable in their store.
“Let's show them just how many mamas they've offended. We have a right to shop and meet our babies' needs while doing so. Public humiliation for doing so will not be tolerated.
“***We've set the date for the INTERNATIONAL nurse-in for Wednesday, December 28 at 10am***
“Target has retail stores all over the US, as well corporate locations in other countries.
“Let's spread the word, as this has the potential to become huge!”
Forty-five states have laws regarding breastfeeding, protecting the right of the mother to feed a child when, as well as where, she needs to feed him/her. And, Hickman did receive an email from Target executives on Dec. 16, Time reported, stating, “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 room.” However, some, including Bettina Forbes, the co-founder of the non-profit Best for Babes, says that the matter deserves a formal apology.
“I’m disappointed with Target that they haven’t apologized formally,” Forbes said, reported Time. “It’s lip service if moms are being harassed.” Forbes posted on her website that she did receive a response to her own efforts to speak with Target executives, after several attempts, and she received an email on Dec. 28, similar to the one sent to Hickman. Forbes indicated that the response was “too little, too late” on her website.
Hickman is now working with Forbes and Best for Babes, to try and push legislation forward to support breastfeeding mothers.
Image: Wikimedia Commons