Women Are Going Wild for Target's Pro-Breast-Feeding Stance

A picture of the retailer's no-shaming-allowed policy toward nursing mothers is going viral on social media.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jul 14, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

There are a couple of things a mom who is nursing a hungry baby in public usually doesn’t want to hear from a store employee, namely, “Go do that in the restroom” or “Go back to your car.”

It seems making life tougher for breast-feeding mothers has fallen out of fashion at Target. A photo of the retailer’s employee handbook that outlines the company’s progressive stance toward nursing customers was posted on Sunday on the "Breastfeeding Mama Talk" Facebook page, and women are resoundingly applauding the policy. The image has been liked nearly 40,000 times and shared more than 15,600 times. Women are also posting pictures of themselves nursing in Target stores on the Facebook page.

What's so revolutionary about Target's policy? It explicitly forbids employees to shame women for feeding their kids. “Guests may openly breastfeed in our stores or ask where they can go to breastfeed their child,” read the guidelines. Employees are then advised to remember three main points.

First, “Target’s policy supports breastfeeding in any area of our stores, including our fitting rooms, even if others are waiting.” That means no more telling a mom that feeding her baby is making other customers uncomfortable and she needs to leave the premises. And no making her wait for a fitting room behind a half-dozen teenagers who are busy trying on the latest fashions either.

One member of the Facebook group shared how she shopped for nursing bras at Target when her baby was just three weeks old. “Nursed her in the fitting room and nobody said anything but I was nervous I would be asked to leave so someone else could use the space,” wrote Deborah Weiskettel. “Policies like these ease a momma's mind, especially a first time mom who may not be as confident.”

Target's Breastfeeding Policy. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

Target’s policy then goes on to advise employees, “If you see a woman breastfeeding in our stores, do not approach her,” and “If she approaches you and asks for a location to breastfeed, offer the fitting room (do not offer the restroom as an option).”

Women on the Facebook page are especially loving that they won’t be told to head to a store restroom. In March, a picture of an Israeli mom feeding her baby while sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom while her husband ate a plate of pasta in the next stall went viral, and last year a group of students at the University of North Texas launched a campaign to raise awareness of how problematic it is to steer women to restrooms. The effort featured pictures of women nursing in bathroom stalls, along with the caption “private dining.”

RELATED: Mom’s Bathroom Breast-Feeding Pic Causes a Social Media Stink

So, Why Should You Care? Despite breast-feeding being proved to be healthier for babies, women are still sometimes stigmatized for doing so in public. According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 58 percent of Americans think women should be able to breast-feed in public.

No wonder store staff might suggest mothers go feed their infants in gross public bathrooms or abandon a shopping cart full of items and schlep back to a vehicle in a potentially distant parking lot—all while their ravenous baby screams for milk.

Yet plenty of women are fed up with being treated this way, and they're letting companies know it. "Breastfeeding Mama Talk" captioned the picture of Target's policy thus: “Other businesses should take note. Please share this everywhere especially on the Facebook pages of the businesses known to discriminate against breastfeeding!”

TakePart reached out to Target to verify that this picture was from its employee handbook, and yes, it’s legit. “At Target, we want all of our guests to feel comfortable shopping with us. Our breastfeeding policy, which applies to all stores, is just one of the ways in which we support our guests,” wrote Target representative Molly Snyder in an email. And it sure seems the retailer has learned from its mistakes.

Back in 2011 the chain found itself at the center of a national controversy after a mom in Texas was allegedly confronted by several Target employees because she was nursing her baby in the women’s clothing section. Mothers coast-to-coast held nurse-ins at Target stores in support of the mother and walked the aisles of their local Target stores, openly feeding their babies. At the time the retailer pledged to give employees training in how to appropriately interact with nursing women. Four years later some Target employees are schooling shoppers on a woman’s right to breast-feed.

“About a month ago I was nursing my daughter and a customer went and got a manager, brought them to where I was nursing (in the men's section with my husband, covered up) and complained,” wrote Facebook user Laci Crawford. “The manager apologized to me and explained to the LADY that I was allowed to feed my baby where ever I am comfortable doing so. And proceeded to explain to the lady that if she didn't like it, don't watch.”