Candyce Sousa says she was berated by a Walmart employee when she decided to breastfeed her son while waiting in the checkout line. (Photo: Candyce Sousa)
Candyce Sousa, mom to an 11-month-old boy, says she was recently waiting in line to check out at a Montreal Walmart when her son, Phoenix, got hungry. While wearing a baby carrier, Souza decided to discreetly breastfeed her son. “He was in a front wrap, so we casually minded our own business and I fed him in line,” Sousa tells Yahoo Parenting. “As I was feeding him, I interacted with a customer, who wasn’t weird at all about the fact that my son was feeding.”
But Sousa says another person in the store — a Walmart employee — did have a problem with her decision to feed her son, and made her opinion about public breastfeeding known. “An employee in another section of the store who was ticketing men’s merchandise started making a commotion,” Sousa says. “She was going on about how ‘babies can wait, they don’t have to do that in public,’ and that she was a mother and would never think of [breastfeeding] in public. She also said that babies older than one or two weeks of age should be able to wait.”
The employee was speaking loudly enough so that Sousa could hear, though she never addressed the nursing mother directly. “She was very loud and being very passive-aggressive. She never made eye contact with me but it was clear she was talking about me. I was the only feeding mother in the store,” Sousa says. “Nobody else seemed to have a problem with it, and we were doing it in a manner that I didn’t even know anyone could see.”
Sousa says she tried to ignore the employee and focus only on her son, but that the situation upset her. “I could not believe after 11 months of publicly breastfeeding, that this woman was being so aggressive and indirect,” she says.
After checking out, Sousa left the store to collect herself, but 10 minutes later returned to lodge a complaint. She spoke with the manager who said that he didn’t know what the employee’s problem was, that women nursed in the store often, and that the situation would be dealt with. Sousa says she hasn’t heard from Walmart – either that particular store or the corporate office – since. “I started contacting the national office last Friday, and I understand that most of Canada had a holiday on Monday, and there was a weekend, but it’s now Thursday and I still don’t have any information to say they received my complaint or acknowledge my situation.”
It’s not the first time a Walmart has made headlines for its treatment of nursing moms. In February, mothers staged a nurse-in at an Oklahoma store after a manager told a breastfeeding customer to stop what she was doing and cover up.
In a statement to Yahoo Parenting, Walmart Canada said the company has been in touch with Sousa and outlined Walmart’s policy regarding nursing mothers. “Walmart Canada’s policy on breastfeeding supports a mother’s right to breastfeed (including nursing directly, or pumping/expressing milk) in a public area including the public areas of our stores or to be provided assistance in finding a private area if she prefers,” it read. “Our policy also clearly states that under no circumstance should an associate prevent or discourage a customer from breastfeeding in a public area of the store.”
Despite the company’s claims, Sousa says she has not heard from the retailer. “I have been anxiously awaiting a response and I’m not aware of it if they tried to contact me,” she says.
Sousa says she isn’t expecting much in terms of an apology, but she would like to know how the store is addressing this employee, and all of their employees, so that a similar incident doesn’t happen again. “Breastfeeding shouldn’t be shameful,” she says. “It’s beneficial to the child and it’s a human right to do so. What’s shameful is that people could have fears or concerns with what others around them may think instead of satisfying the emotional or physical concerns of their child. If you take away the word ‘breast’ and just say feed, people obviously wouldn’t have a problem with that. You add the word ‘breast’ in front of it, and suddenly people have an issue.”