Breastfeeding: Targeted

In case you haven’t heard, Twitter has been abuzz this week with the story of a woman and her family removed from a Michigan Target store because the woman was breastfeeding. Basically, Mrs. Martinez was nursing her baby in the electronics section, which was (according to her) not crowded at the time. An employee informed her that it was illegal to nurse in the store. Her husband, a police officer, explained this was not the case (in Michigan it’s legal to nurse anywhere that it’s legal for a woman to be). The police were called, the family escorted from the store. Target has since reiterated that breastfeeding is allowed in their stores.

At first, this is frustrating to me because it seems really over the top. Calling the police? I mean, c’mon! Employees need to be briefed better on breastfeeding policy, or at least be a little gentler with customers. You aren’t going to earn repeat customers by throwing out a family for doing something that didn’t even bring about any complaints from other customers.

But at second glace, I have been blown over by the really angry, disgusted comments from people over this story. They weren’t geared towards Target; they were aimed at the MOTHER. This has really struck a nerve of mine, so I want to take a minute to comment back on some of the themes I observed.

1) The woman should have just covered up. No one wants to see breasts.
This makes the interesting assumption that the mother WASN’T covered up. The article doesn’t say either way. Why do women automatically assume that a breastfeeding woman is “flaunting” her breasts or the act of breastfeeding? I’m not going to get into the debate about whether women should cover up or not cover up when nursing their children, but in all the women I’ve known who have breastfed or whom I have seen breastfeeding, none of them ever tried to make a big deal out of the act. In fact, they all tried to be discreet, whether that was using a nursing cover like a Hooter Hider or just slipping their child’s head under their shirt. I also think using a nursing cover is less discreet because it screams HEY EVERYONE I AM NURSING A BABY UNDER HERE!
2) The woman should have nursed in a bathroom, her car, or used a bottle.
Um, do you know what happens in a bathroom? Would you want to take your lunch, sit down on a toilet, and eat with all those smells, sounds, and germs? No? Then why should my child? I’ve nursed in a car frequently, but only when it was warm and convenient (I never left a store mid-trip to go nurse in the car). In Mrs. Martinez’s case, this was Michigan in November…never mind the hassle: it’s COLD out there! I had a couple issues with people being uncomfortable with my (covered) breastfeeding during the time I nursed Menininho, but the worst was this summer, when I was COVERED in my CAR. The man who pulled up in the car next to me was so…interested…that I actually felt threatened. Had my mother not been with me to drive us to another part of the parking lot I would have called security. And bottles definitely have their place, and if people prefer to use them, great! I had times where I pumped, particularly if I was going to be eating at a restaurant when my son would be hungry. But, bottles and breastfeeding aren’t the same and some babies don’t take even bottles. No woman should feel forced to bottle feed.
3) Breastfeeding makes other people uncomfortable, so it shouldn’t be done in public.
I have a couple of responses to this. First, people in the US (breastfeeding is not as controversial in other countries) are never going get over having issues with breastfeeding if we all go hide in the bathroom. Breastfeeding moms need to be willing to stand up for their rights, be visible, and show the world that breastfeeding is not gross or shameful. I’m not saying we all need to go topless or make a big deal out of it, but we need to be comfortable enough to breastfeed wherever is comfortable for us and our child, whether that’s in your car, on the bench outside Macy’s, or using a sling to nurse while walking through the grocery store. Second, being uncomfortable is part of life. Hate to break it to you, but the world is not always going to acquiesce just because you don’t like something. People who use crass language, pick their nose in public, smell like cigarette smoke, or dress like hookers make me uncomfortable, but unless it’s extremely out of hand I don’t say anything because other people have the right to exist. Which brings me to my last point: if you don’t like to see a woman nursing her baby, LOOK AWAY.
4) Think of the children. They shouldn’t have to see this/their parents shouldn’t have to explain this to them before they’re ready.
I gotta be honest: I don’t really get this one. I would imagine not too many kids would even notice this taking place for one, and if they did ask about it, not require a long explanation. “That woman is feeding her baby,” should suffice, with “breasts are for making milk to feed babies” for the really inquisitive. I don’t see either of those statements as being controversial or scarring. And, are the same parents upset that their child might see a flash of breast from nursing also removing any actual sexual images from their child’s view? It doesn’t make sense to me that breastfeeding would be inappropriate but Lara Croft, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, or any of the many over-sexualized women in movies would be totally ok viewing.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. I welcome any discussion in the comments, but PLEASE keep it respectful.

And, don’t forget to enter my Little Ones giveaway!


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27 responses to “Breastfeeding: Targeted

  1. ChrisH

    Truthfully I believe that Resturants/Public stores should be required by law to provide a lounge for breast feeding. I dont think that women should be required to use it, however Im sure that most women would.
    1 Public places are required by law to provide ramps and special stalls for the handy capped
    2 In any state where it is still permited resturants are required to have nonsmoking section

    Considering the % of women whom are preg or are breastfeeding at all times during the year, I dont see how this would be a bad idea.

    • That’s a really interesting idea! I probably would have used them. I have breastfed in restaurants with bench seating before, but I found sitting in a chair without my nursing pillow was too awkward and that’s why I’d pump and bring a bottle.

  2. Well said, Maya dear. I might sell those covers, but I never used one past about 6 weeks. Ella has always been a pretty quick nurser (5 minutes or so), and she’s so particular, that the cover actually seemed to hinder the process.

    I’ve nursed just about everywhere, including in Target! I went up to the front and nursed on a bench by the return department. I’ve nursed on a plane, sitting right next to a business man. I’ve nursed on a train….wait…this sounds like a Dr. Seuss book!

    Seriously, though, I think the problem comes with Americans viewing breasts as purely sexual objects. I was once nursing in a surgery center in the post-op area after my mom had knee surgery. The nurse came by and quickly closed the curtain. I thanked her, but assured her I was very comfortable and there was no need (and, not the point, but it wasn’t like my breasts were flopping around for everyone to see). She told me she closed it for ‘the privacy of other patients’. She also told me the doctor wouldn’t be comfortable with me nursing there. What?!?

    Just like any nursing mother, I feel that breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural way of giving your baby nutrition. And if baby needs to eat in Target, baby’s gonna eat in Target!!

  3. Kristi

    It is just unbelievable, the negative stigma that breastfeeding has. It’s sickening. It’s maddening. And, it’s unnecessary! No, I’m not going to sit in a back room somewhere to feed my baby. No, I’m not going to sit in a filthy public restroom so you can feel comfortable. My baby deserves to eat in an environment that is convenient, clean and comfortable for her. That’s it. End of story.
    Great job on this post! Have a wonderful Wednesday. 🙂

  4. I agree with the first commenter that there should be places provided for people to breastfeed or to pump for that matter. You’re right in saying that no one would want to eat in a bathroom so why should your baby have to eat there. I’m not going to lie, it does make me uncomfortable when people whip a boob out (we had a lady that did it in church, uncovered in the front row once) but maybe its because I don’t have kids or because my mom couldn’t breastfeed.

    Another thing though too, a lot of people get crap for bottle feeding babies. My future sister-in-law never had her milk come in after her first and her mother-in-law told her she just needed to try harder. No matter what she did she just couldn’t breastfeed and everyone seemed upset that she had to give the baby formula. I think this is just a debate and issue that is going to be ongoing in this country.

  5. great post! You hit many points I was trying to make to my husband last night. While he supports breastfeeding he is very uncomfortable with it being in public and doesn’t see why women make such an issue about having the right to feed when and where they want.

    I rarely fed in public but that was due to my own issues and the fact I had kids who were either distractable or fussy so the whole process would have been uncomfortable for all. However, I LOVE to see other women nursing where and when they please. If I have a third, I won’t be nearly as uncomfortable with the whole process I’m sure 🙂

  6. I also have breastfed on an airplane, in the car (so many times in the car!), and in Wal-Mart. Sometimes I would find an empty bench in the store. Other times I went into the dressing room area & used one of the changing rooms.

    I was never harassed, thankfully, but I hope I would be bold enough to tell them to mind their own business. Or stuff it. Whatever comes out of my mouth first. 🙂

  7. This is why all of Europe thinks we’re nuts. And can you blame them?

    We have Victoria’s Secret commercials with women walking around in stilettos and underwear for, what we can assume are, recreational purposes, but breast-feeding?


    I liked this post.

  8. I’m glad Amanda mentioned the moms who ARE forced to bottle feed, though. Not only people like her SIL whose milk didn’t come in, but women who take medications that cross over into breast milk and – most obviously – adoptive parents. So. Those moms having been defended, I am in absolute agreement that if the choice is made to breastfeed, it should be open – not something to be hidden or ashamed of or – for Pete’s sake – arrested for. (or, you know, having the cops called). We need T-shirts like the skateboarders: Breastfeeding is not a crime!

    • I agree with you and Amanda. I’m actually one of those moms who had to switch to formula because of my heart medication. I wrote about it in my entry called “End of an Era.” It was a bit of a grieving process. While I believe breast is best MOST of the time, and I want to educate women on how to get support should they choose to breastfeed, at the end of the day we all just need to make the right decision for OUR family and respect each other as women.

      I’d TOTALLY wear the t-shirt btw!

  9. Same old arguments against breastfeeding in public… makes me sad. I wish people would get a grip and realize that mothers have every right to nurse their babies anywhere they want. And the fact that they called the cops when her husbnad was a cop himself? Ridiculous!

    • That’s the part that cracks me up about Target’s bogus response. What police officer is going to make such a scene in public on camera as to “risk the safety of customers” in a retail establishment like that? It just doesn’t add up to me. Target’s response smacks of CYA.

      Angela <

  10. I’ve been thinking about this A LOT today too. It really seems that breastfeeding infants are the last socially acceptable group to discriminate against. (blog post clicky in my name)

    All of the “excuses” and reasons ppl give are unacceptable. Completely and totally. Here’s how you can tell – remove the baby from the equasion and add “female” or “black man” and see if it’s discriminatory (did this in my blog post). If so – then keep your trap shut and leave the poor child to eat in peace!

    Angela <

  11. Nursing mums can be treated like second-class citizens. It is so important for establishments to provide a safe, clean area for feeding.

  12. From what I’ve read around blogs, it seems to me that things in Canada are marginally better (with respect to having areas for nursing in public places) I still had looks and commets when I nursed my daughter, who is turning 5 soon. I can’t believe that this day in age, people can’t get the concept that babies are EATING and BEING NOURISHED by their mothers.
    I did both (nursed and supplemented when my milk didn’t come in ) and I did find it easier with my daughter in public than my son, who is now 9.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting via SITS! You’ve got a great blog!

  13. Great post! I never fed in public with my first. He was an every 3 hour eater, and that was easy to work around. With my 2nd, I fed everywhere. He ate every hour or so for the first 6 months. It was a necessity. I never had any issues with anyone. I fed in the mall, in restaurants, in stores, and on park benches. How frustrating that there are people who think it’s something to be hidden to save others from having to see it.

  14. I’m a TV news producer, and here’s a story I’m running in my show today:


    Honestly, why do people feel the need to berate women who are doing so much for their children’s health… and their own? Nursing moms should be applauded, not alienated!


  15. Mike

    Stores have signs that say no food or drink. Period. Imagine if that baby pulled off and milk sprayed all over one of the plasma TV’s, who’s going to pay for the damages?

    Okay, but seriously…I have no problem with breastfeeding in public. A baby has to eat and I much prefer to see a calm child than one that is screaming because they’re hungry.

    What annoys me is when the issue of breastfeeding becomes a case of , “I want compensation for the humiliation, your Honor”.

    Too many women use these sorts of incidents as a way to get financial gain from a large corporation. When that happens I just laugh at the women and right them off as a greedy opportunist.

    If you want to feed your baby, then feed your baby. Stop turning it into a crusade for monetary gain.

    • Are you speaking of a particular incident, because no where in the Target article did it say that the family plans to sue. I also can’t think of a time that I’ve read about where a mother set out to make feeding her child a crusade…it seems the women are just trying to feed their babies and it’s the people around them who turn it into an issue.

      But if you have an incident to cite where this wasn’t the case, please do share.

  16. GREAT IDEA, Mike!

    I can’t wait for my next baby, I thought nursing was all about feeding and nurturing a child, putting the child’s needs above all others, including my personal convenience or comfort. I’d never thought about how nursing are babies like a meal ticket–almost literally!

    I’m going to start going to stores, taking airplane trips, going to the public pool, and generally lollygagging about while nursing my baby. I figure that if I can get just ONE company to toss me out, I’ll be set FOR LIFE!


  17. Mike

    It recently happened at an H&M store in Vancouver, Canada (Google it)

    After a woman was asked not to breastfeed in the store, a group of breastfeeding mom’s gathered for a “nurse-in” as a form of protest and raising awareness.

    The woman who was initially asked not to breastfeed in the store went after the company for financial compensation for her “embarrassment”. She settled out of court for an undiclosed amount.

    • I don’t have to Google Canada, I know where it is.

      She should go after the company. Any time a woman is harassed for breastfeeding legally she should sue.

      Too many women are embarrassed, upset, and shamed. They don’t mention it. They go home and cry. They feed their babies on a toilet, or stop breastfeeding entirely, all because some punk in an H&M made up a law on the spot.

      I hope she wins a million-billion loonies. I hope H&M, Target, or any other corporation get their collective heads out of a push up bra and stop the madness.

      It’s not about the money, it’s about the baby.

      Although if they don’t accept it’s about the baby, let’s make it about the money.

      • Mike

        I meant Google the incident, not the location.

        “It’s not about the money, it’s about the baby.” – really? Then why does money seems to appease everyone’s concerns?

        Anyway…the discussion has been beaten to death…

      • My guess is because money talks, and that’s what gets these businesses attention (although in the case you cited, it sounds as though the nurse-in was also effective). If the companies aren’t willing to follow the law (and the law in Canada and in at least 26 states in the US is that women can breastfeed wherever they have the legal right to be, however they want to) then they open themselves up to lawsuits.

  18. Mike, I know, Canada, it was a joke.

  19. Anyone offended by me breastfeeding is staring too hard. I bottle feed well my husband does twice a week and it sucks. I’m forced to do that, however no woman should be forced to bottle feed because someone doesn’t like it.

    Society has put the image of babies and bottles into our brains, breasts are for babies!!

    Great article, wonderful read!

  20. I’m late to the game, but this is a great post Maya! I’m not pushy about my right to breastfeed, and have never had to be, thankfully. However, I’ve done a lot of traveling and so I’ve nursed on lots of planes, and very public places so I’ve had some experience with people’s varied reactions.

    I’m completely modest, but not discreet since I do use a nursing cover. I’ve breastfed in bathrooms before, but I won’t again after reading this. It really is as simple as a baby eating, and should happen in a place that’s clean.

    I was THRILLED to find a mother’s lounge at macy’s with nice chairs, changing station and sinks to wash up. I may have spent some extra money there as a result. 🙂

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