According to a photo going viral this week, Target has explicitly spelled out its company policy on breastfeeding, which supports in-store nursing for customers. (Photo: Yahoo Parenting)
A photo of a notice to Target employees, which spells out the store’s breastfeeding policies, is going viral this week, with many mothers applauding the company’s explicit instructions to make nursing mothers feel welcome.
The photo was posted to the mother’s group Breastfeeding Mama Talk’s Facebook page on Sunday, and has since been shared more than 15,500 times and received nearly 40,000 likes. The instructions to employees that are featured in the photo state:
“Guests may openly breastfeed in our stores or ask where they can go to breastfeed their child. When this happens, remember these points.
- Target’s policy supports breastfeeding in any area of our stores, including our fitting rooms, even if others are waiting.
- If you see a woman breastfeeding in our stores, do not approach her.
- If she approaches you and asks for a location to breastfeed, offer the fitting room (do not offer the restroom as an option)”
This sign, which spells out Target’s breastfeeding policy, has gone viral on Facebook. (Photo: Facebook/Breastfeeding Mama Talk)
In a caption to the photo, Breastfeeding Mama Talk wrote “Kudos to Target for their breastfeeding friendly policy. Other businesses should take note. Please share this everywhere especially on the Facebook pages of the businesses known to discriminate against breastfeeding!”
Comments poured in, celebrating Target’s family-friendly policy. “Good work to them for getting it right and training their staff properly on this, especially love ‘do not offer the restroom as an option.’ So many other places have been guilty of this!!” wrote one user.
Another frequent shopper wrote, “I’ve nursed at Target in the fitting rooms and just walking around the store. Never got a comment or even side-eyed. … I will always be a Target customer!” Another satisfied mom chimed in that she had seen the policies in action: “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. The manager apologized to me and explained to the LADY that I was allowed to feed my baby wherever I am comfortable doing so. And proceeded to explain to the lady that if she didn’t like it, don’t watch.”
The policies extend to employees, said one commenter. “I used to work for Target,” she said. “It wasn’t just for the guests, they even had a special mommy room for breastfeeding employees. [There] was a fridge, rocking chair, radio, the whole nine yards. It was amazing.”
The positive feedback is a nice change of pace for Target, which came under fire in 2011 when a Texas mom said she was harassed for breastfeeding her son in the store. She claimed that several employees asked her to relocate from the floor to a fitting room, and one implied that she could be cited for indecent exposure. After calling customer relations to complain, that mother said she was told, “Just because it’s a woman’s legal right to nurse a baby in public doesn’t mean she should walk around the store flaunting it.” In response, breastfeeding moms organized a nurse-in at 100 Target stores around the country.
At the time, Target responded that it supports breastfeeding in stores, and the company would work to better educate employees about the store’s policies. If the recent Facebook photo is to be believed, it has done just that. “At Target, we want all of our guests to feel comfortable shopping with us,” a Target spokesperson told Yahoo Parenting. “Our breastfeeding policy, which applies to all stores, is just one of the ways in which we support our guests.”
Diana West, director of media relations for La Leche League International, says the photo is a great example of a company taking a proactive approach to educate employees. “This way there is no confusion about any policies about the rights of a breastfeeding mother,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “It’s also reassurance to breastfeeding moms that they have the backing of the company, so that they can be confident customers and know they will be supported in the stores.”
The policy, and the attention it’s getting, is especially important right now, as a number of stores are coming under fire for poor treatment of nursing moms. On Monday, a mother in England claimed that a security guard asked her to vacate the premises of a Primark clothing store because she was breastfeeding. Caroline Starmer posted on the breastfeeding group Free to Feed’s Facebook page that when she refused to leave, the security guard physically removed her daughter from her breast and walked away with the baby girl. Today, Primark denied the incident and issued a statement saying, “We have investigated this customer’s allegation which we naturally take very seriously indeed,” according to the Huffington Post. “The [security] footage, reviewed by store management, shows the customer in the Leicester store quite clearly during the time in question. We can see no evidence that she was approached by anyone during this period.” The statement goes on to say that security guards deny the allegations, and that Primark supports breastfeeding mothers.
Last year, a nursing mom in a Texas Victoria’s Secret claimed that she asked a sales clerk about using a fitting room to nurse and was told she could “walk outside to a nearby alley,” according to Austin CultureMap. And at an Oklahoma Walmart in February, moms held a nurse-in after one woman said she was asked not to breastfeed in the store. Both companies responded publicly to the claims stating that they welcome breastfeeding mothers.
West says that oftentimes these problems arise because store employees simple aren’t aware of the policies. “This is what they are trying to fix,” she says. “Employees sometimes feel uncomfortable, because they don’t know what to say and don’t want to get in trouble for saying or doing the wrong thing. This way, they will be educated, and they can do the right thing for the company and for the shoppers.” Other stores, West notes, would do well to follow suit and set clear policies and communicate those policies to employees.
Jake Marcus, a Philadelphia attorney and expert in breastfeeding law, says the sign is a step in the right direction, but could do better. “On the one hand, it says guests may openly breastfeed, but on the other hand, it says if you are asked a location, offer the fitting room,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “If I were a not-well-informed employee of Target, I could interpret this as requiring women to breastfeed in fitting rooms only.”
Still, Marcus says the sign is well-intended, if perhaps poorly written. “I foresee more than a few employees saying you can only do this in the fitting room, which is not the intent,” she points out. “I think what they are trying to say is that women can breastfeed anywhere and don’t mess with them. And that’s the way it should be, and the way employees should behave in all states.” Her hope, she says, is that Target conducts employee training to help enforce its policy.
As for the viral nature of the photo, West says mothers have been waiting a long time for this sort of acknowledgement. “It’s a nerve-wracking thing for a mother to do what she needs to do for her family – go shopping, do errands – and also feed her baby. It’s especially hard for someone who isn’t used to doing so in public. This is a company that is saying ‘this is a safe zone, you won’t be harassed.’ Breastfeeding mothers have been waiting for this kind of support for a long time, and it’s a beautiful thing.”