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Nationwide Nurse-In

Nationwide Target Nurse-In, December 28, 2011, 10:00am

Breastfeeding mothers in Central Florida and their supporters participated in a nationwide nurse-in at the Seminole Town Center Target store in Sanford, FL on December 28, 2011 at 10:00am. The Sanford event was coordinated by The Breastfeeding Project, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to providing breastfeeding education and support to mothers in the Central Florida area.

The purpose of the event was to provide a peaceful display of support for our breastfeeding sister who was treated poorly by Target staff. Michelle Hickman of Houston, Texas reported that on November 29, 2011 around 7:00pm, she was quietly and discreetly feeding her infant in a remote area of the women’s clothing department at her local Target store when two female employees asked her to stop feeding and move to another location. One of the employees said they had been trained to interrupt nursing mothers and redirect them to the fitting rooms. Hickman explained that she had the legal right to nurse wherever she chose, however, the employees still tried to get her to move or hide under a clothing rack. Hickman reported that three or four other employees “made a spectacle” by purposefully walking near her and giving mean looks; nevertheless, no customers ever saw her feeding her baby. The next day Hickman called Target headquarters to report the incident to the guest relations department. She was told that Target is aware of breastfeeding laws but that they have different policies because they are a “family-friendly establishment” and that although women may have a legal right to nurse in public they should not “flaunt it.”

Our goal was to transform this unfortunate situation into an educational opportunity. We want the Target employees involved, other retail personnel and management, and the general public to understand that mothers not only have a right to breastfeed their babies in any location, public or private, but that they deserve public and social support when they exercise this right. Breastfeeding mothers are well aware of the stigma many Americans associate with breastfeeding, and studies show that many women feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and ashamed to breastfeed their babies in public locations even in neutral or supportive environments. Some mothers plan trips around feedings or supplement with formula to avoid breastfeeding in public, and many choose not to breastfeed at all to avoid uncomfortable situations. Since breastfed infants need to eat about every 1.5-2 hours, not feeding a baby in public is impractical for most breastfeeding moms. Supplementing with formula violates recommendations of the American Medical Association to feed infants nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life and mostly breast milk for one year. Formula supplementation can also cause breast engorgement and reduce a mother’s milk supply.

Although nearly every state in the U.S. has a law that protects a woman’s right to breastfeed her baby in any location, incidents such as the one reported by Hickman are common. Many breastfeeding mothers have been told at some time or another to stop breastfeeding their babies or to “cover up.” As a result, many breastfeeding moms feel particularly sympathetic when hearing a story of another mother being publicly humiliated for feeding her child. The purpose of the nurse-in was to demonstrate support and encouragement for women to breastfeed their babies.

The nurse-in was part of a national (and international) effort to raise awareness about breastfeeding rights through collective action at selected Target stores. Efforts were coordinated through Facebook and other online social networking websites. The Sanford location was selected based on its size and convenient location. To our knowledge, none of the nurse-in participants have had any negative experiences at this Target location. Our purpose was to work in cooperation with this particular Target store to help set an example for stores in other locations that may not be as supportive to breastfeeding moms.