If you thought Target's most notable day of the year was Black Friday, think again. Houston mother Michelle Hickman is planning an international "nurse-in", to be held at all of their locations, next Tuesday December 28th . Hickman says she was harassed and humiliated by Target staff when she found a quiet space in the store to breastfeed her infant, and now wants to "make a stand in support of nursing in public so this doesn't happen again."
[This story has been updated. Scroll down for new information.]
Next week's nurse-in won't be the first of its kind. On December 15th, a Brighton, UK mum gathered 40 women to stage a breastfeeding flash mob in front of Christmas shoppers. And yesterday, 11 mid-western moms tried to activate a similar flash mob at a mall in Troy, Illinois. Security shut down their efforts though.
Hickman told her story to the Best for Babes Foundation, an organization aiming to help moms beat the "Booby Traps" that prevent them from achieving their breastfeeding goals:
"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.'"
And when she called Target corporate to complain, Hickman says the representative she spoke to -- she didn't get a name -- said "just because it is a woman's right to nurse in public ... doesn't mean women should walk around 'flaunting it'".
To organize the nurse-in, Hickman created a Facebook group (with over 2,600 members already) and wrote on the page:
"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."
According to Care2.com, Target has been accused of treating breastfeeding mothers unfairly in the past: in Minneapolis in 2006 and in Michigan in 2009. Following the 2006 incident, Target released 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. 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.
Best for Babes says employees aren't implementing this policy. "We have contacted Target headquarters and have offered to help develop materials that can help them effectively communicate with their employees about nursing in public; our information is being passed on to the employee training department," their website says.
Michelle Hickman's story is (unfortunately) not unique. Click here to see other places where women have been reprimanded for breastfeeding
12/28: Best for Babes reached out to Target last week to see if they could work together in advance of this event. "Nurse-ins require a lot of time, planning and effort from busy moms," Best for Babes wrote on their website with hopes that they could come to an agreement with the chain. Target's response was unsatisfactory, and the organization has decided to move forward with their demonstration, which will take place today, December 28th.
12/29: Mothers across America participated in today's nurse-in. See video below.