This Month's Target "Nurse-In" Protest.

So, here’s the scoop. I loved that I nursed. I nursed in public all the time. I also nursed in my car sometimes. I usually covered myself, just because it kept my children focused on the task and I didn’t feel like having people see my boobs, not because I was ashamed. When I owned my store, I had a couch and welcomed mothers to nurse if they wanted to. I think it made them stay longer. I think it was good business. I never asked them to cover, because that was my right as a store owner to not make people cover up. I am a huge breastfeeding advocate.

Apparently, Michelle Hickman was discreetly breastfeeding at a Target store the other day when she was approached by a Target employee and asked to move to a fitting room. She said:

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. 

I don’t know how the owner of Everything Birth feels about this Target Nurse in that is being planned on December 28th.  I have a few thoughts on the matter though that I want everyone to consider.

Target’s official policy on breastfeeding is:

“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.”

I would say that each employee that participated in the bullying of Michelle Hickman should be reprimanded. I would think Target should issue a reminder statement to its employees about their official statement. The Target Employees failed to respect their own company’s policy, even at the management level.

I am not saying people shouldn’t have a nurse in. This woman was treated horribly, and as it stands, from what I have read, was offered no real apology for employees that treated a customer in a way that both violated their company policy and violated her dignity. I would like for us breastfeeding advocates to consider a couple of things though:

  1.  A store like Target has to try to do its best to find neutral grounds in these issues because they are trying to please EVERYONE. Their target market is literally everyone. They have a business to run. As written, their policy is perfectly fair. Pretend Target changed its policy to, “You can nurse anywhere in any fashion up to any age at any time at Target because we know that breastfeeding is the best choice for your baby and we want to send a message to people who don’t understand that nursing is completely normal.” It’s an ENORMOUS CORPORATION, do you think that that policy would make every employee at every store be polite to breastfeeding moms?  No matter what their policies, Target will always have rude, uneducated employees to deal with.  All large corporations will. If you participate in this Nurse-In, it would be in the best interests of the entire breastfeeding awareness movement, that you stay focused on the fact that you are merely exercising your rights within Target’s official policy to nurse discretely.
  2. These days, there’s lots of protesting going on and these protests get taken fairly seriously. The main reason I am writing this post is to make sure as you join the Nurse in on December 28th, you consider this: If you breastfeed in a manner that violates Target’s official policy, you will probably be asked to move or leave if your state laws don’t grant you full rights to breastfeed where and how you choose. (Find state laws HERE.) What will you do then? Presumably for it to be a Nurse-In, you will stand your ground. Then what? Consider the adrenaline rush that will go through your body as they call security. Consider the stress hormones you would be giving your baby through your breast milk.  Assuming you know that you will be able to maintain your calm nursing presence, I think showing support of nursing moms is  fabulous thing.
I would love for every store to have a policy like I did at my store. Maybe someday that will happen. Maybe someday that will happen thanks to people like YOU. I just had to mention though, as you hear that call-of-duty to stand up for what you believe in, please make sure that in that moment, you don’t forget the best interests of the baby that you are doing it for.

9 Comments

  1. kelly

    I support nursing and am still nursing my 12 month old. Before I had a baby I thought nursing was gross and should be done in private. After educating myself on the topic I of course realized the benefits of nursing and have loved this time with my baby. Back in my anti-nursing days I would have been dusgusted by a nurse-in, not enlightened. Respect your baby and dont put this precious time with him/her on spectacle. Instead go to Target with your baby and some signs or literature that educated people on nursing topics. Do something that includes all others instead of polarizing. 50 sets of nursing breasts will not change the opinions of our society. Healthy babies can though so that’s the angle to work.

  2. Dawn Babcock Papple

    I agree that that would be more productive. I think it would be far more effective actually. People generally respond better to more passive approaches I think. This Nurse-In will happen regardless though, SOOO I just wanted to make sure people kept in mind that stress hormones are not good for the babies and to keep that in mind. Also, I worry that there will be a small portion of protesters that will deliberately make it more in your face than nursing usually is. While, I don’t mind people shoving boobs in other people’s faces, I think it would be better to demonstrate how easy it is to breastfeed without actually offending even the most squeamish. Girls show way more boob just wearing the clothes they bought from target than a nursing mother usually does. I think that focusing on what nursing actually looks like would benefit the cause more.

  3. Sarah

    I think the difference here is that they have violated the law by asking her to move or cover up. I have the right to breastfeed anywhere my baby and I are otherwise allowed. Period.

  4. Dawn Babcock Papple

    It depends on the state. States have all different laws on the matter. She was in Texas. Their law states:

    Sec. 165.002. RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED. A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be. Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 600, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 28, 1995.

    So, she does have a right to breastfeed in Target for sure.

    But if women are having a Nurse-In in North Dakota for example, they best cover, because their laws says:

    23-12-16. Right to breastfeed. If the woman acts in a discreet and modest manner, a woman may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the woman and child are otherwise authorized to be.

    Women participating in a Nurse-In need to be aware of what is legal in their state if they are hoping to avoid penalty.

  5. Dawn Babcock Papple

    My state doesn’t have nearly as awesome of laws as some do. They just protect us from getting charged with indecent exposure and take breastfeeding into custody concerns. See, here’s my state laws:

    MCLS § 41.181, § 67.1, § 117.4i, § 117.5h,
    Amends various sections of the Michigan criminal code to expressly state that public nudity does not include a woman’s breastfeeding of a baby whether or not the nipple or areola is exposed during or incidental to the feeding.

    MCLS § 722.27a, Child Custody Act of 1970

    § 722.27a. Parenting time.
    (6) The court may consider the following factors when determining the frequency, duration, and type of parenting time to be granted: …
    (b) Whether the child is a nursing child less than 6 months of age, or less than 1 year of age if the child receives substantial nutrition through nursing.

  6. Tara

    I had heard about this incident, but feel that this was NOT a violation of the mother’s rights. There have been numerous articles talking about this matter and from what I have read this mother was looking for trouble. She plopped down in the center of the clothing section on the floor and started feeding her baby. She was blocking traffic to the clothing section and basically was causing a scene.

    Now breastfeeding or not, no one needs to plop down in the center of the floor of an establishment. I agree, women should not be “forced” to a dressing room. They should and can freely breastfeed where they wish. I have personally BF in Target. I never received an issue with it. I DID NOT do it in a dressing room.

    Numerous people have contacted Target about this issue and Target says that they DO NOT have a policy to move women to dressing rooms. They DO have a policy to allow women to use the dressing room if they please for any period of time to breastfeed. They said you are more than welcome to BF on any bench or as you walk around the store. They, however, do not want people blocking traffic and when someone is seated in the floor it is a hazard to others who may not see them and a hazard to the individual who may be hit by a shopping cart.

    I do not think they were unreasonable and I feel this woman was looking for trouble.

  7. kelly

    I would like to add that while Target does have the right to ask that nursing mothers please use a fitting room, most states (like the one I live in) have laws that protect nursing mothers from indecent exposure violations, and that give mothers the right to nurse in public. I would be very offended if I were nursing discreetly and somebody thought it was their business to tell me othewise.

    Forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)

    Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)

    • Dawn Babcock Papple

      In Target in Texas, if I’m remembering the way their law is written right, Target does NOT have a right to ask women to use the fitting room. I believe their law states that women can nurse anywhere the woman is allowed to be.

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