Police called on Breastfeeding Mom in Michigan Target Store

Photo credit: The Mothers Milk Marketing Board

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a report of a woman being harassed about breastfeeding in public or told it’s illegal and I hoped that meant that the people of the world were wising up, that breastfeeding women and their children were being treated with respect, and that people were more aware of the rights of breastfeeding women and their children. But then this evening a Facebook friend told me about an incident at a Harper Woods, Mich. Target where Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were told nursing in public is illegal, were asked to leave the store and even had the police called on them. Mary Martinez, a mother of three, was nursing her 4-week-old baby in the electronics aisle at the time.

The couple was escorted out of the store. “Forcing me out of the store. Two security guards, the manager or team leader, two officers, they just made a spectacle and a scene. I feel like I can’t go to that specific Target anymore,” Mary Martinez said.

Fox 2 contacted Target’s corporate headquarters and were told they allow mothers to breast-feed in their stores. But, “This specific situation escalated to a point where we were concerned for the safety of our guests, so law enforcement was called. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.”

I call shenanigans. I have a feeling their definition of “escalated” is that the mother and father, a Detroit police officer himself, knew their rights – that breastfeeding in public is NOT illegal – and refused to leave.

This isn’t the first time a mother has been told she couldn’t breastfeed at a Target store. Back in 2006, The Lactivist reported that a Minneapolis Target employee told a woman that she couldn’t breastfeed in a fitting room and told her to use the bathroom instead. When the woman later called Target’s national hotline she was told “corporate policy was that nursing mothers were welcome in Target stores.” As such, Target has responded with a public apology and 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,” company representative Kristi Arndt said.

“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.”

If this is corporate policy that Target “supports breastfeeding in our stores,” I think every employee needs to be informed during his/her orientation of breastfeeding mothers’ and children’s rights. C’mon Target, educate your employees and if an incident like this does happen, apologize like you did in the past. Don’t make excuses for forcing a breastfeeding mom out of your store. It’s not cool.

Take Action

If you’d like to share your thoughts about this incident with Target, you may contact them at the following address:

Target Corporation
1000 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN  55403

You may also call Guest Relations at (800) 440-0680 (7a.m. to 6p.m. CT, Monday through Friday) or email guest.relations@target.com

Edited to add: Thanks to PhDinParenting for this excellent information:

This woman, and any woman, that experiences this type of harassment should report it to FirstRight. They maintain an inventory of such harassment cases and can also help mothers to figure out the best course of action (for example, nurse-ins can be good tools but are not always the best first step).

Here is the link to FirstRight:

And thank you to Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 who pointed out:

This incident highlights exactly why Michigan mothers are needed to testify tomorrow, December 2, 2009, in favor of the pending Michigan breastfeeding legislation. For details, see:


Related post: Download your own license to breastfeed and learn about the breastfeeding laws where you live.

UPDATE 12/3/09: A follow-up post with a statement from Mary Martinez has been posted here.

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66 thoughts on “Police called on Breastfeeding Mom in Michigan Target Store”

  1. @Lilibet

    One more thought: I am not challenging your own preference for choosing to go somewhere “more quiet” rather than insist upon your rights. I personally believe that no one should have to be a “martyr” lest they be accused of being a “traitor” to a “cause”…especially when their young children are involved.

    However, I am thankful there are women who insist on their rights. Isn’t that how progress is made?

    No offense to those who literally or metaphorically sat at the back of the bus or otherwise accepted the status quo so they could get to work on time/raise their families in peace/work within the system, etc. But history does need those who refuse to back down in order for those ideas to change.

    One of the reasons I breastfed past 6 months, felt comfortable breastfeeding discretely in public, etc., etc., was because of all the activists who calmly, and politely, insist on their rights. They are the ones re-normalizing breastfeeding.

    And until the attitudes you describe as existing in our culture (and the ones seen in the comments section on the article) are gone–yes, women *will* be kicked out of stores for doing nothing more than breastfeeding.

    You argue people should not support someone simply because she is nursing. That is not what happened here. We read a story in which her story seems the most plausible.

  2. Candace,

    I think we need to agree to disagree. Hopefully, we can both agree that everyone having different opinions is what makes this world so great. It’s my way or the highway never works.

    Nursing never used to be such a volatile topic was one of my points. It was just a fact of life. I think modeling THAT point would be best. Peaceful example vs. militant. The second rarely works and really, is this something that has to be fought for? It’s not like the vote, equality for GLTB, or racial equality. It doesn’t even touch on those issues.

    I nurse, no big deal. It’s how I choose to feed my baby. That worked for me.

    I don’t feel the need to make such a big deal about this. I didn’t need to wear shirts that said, “I make milk” or put a bumper sticker on my car that touted La Leche. I worked with far too many mothers (adopted, using surrogates, or having had breast cancer or augmentation that couldn’t nurse and felt extremely guilty about it) to want to blatantly hurt someone’s feelings. And I think when people do, it hurts, rather than benefits the cause.

    I see that Mary has responded and I look forward to reading about it. Quite honestly, I doubt she’s enjoying all the attention and scrutiny.

    Meanwhile, my husband is having surgery today and I’m going to focus my energies there.

    Best wishes to you Candace. My hope for you is that you can find peace within yourself. Reading your comments, and I’m sure you don’t intend to come off this way, but you come across as being very insecure.

    I know nothing about you and you know nothing about me. Perhaps we could finish this conversation privately. I think we might find more in common than you might suspect.

  3. @lilbet – That I come off as “insecure” is your opinion. You are the one swinging criticism around.

    I have no issue with you handling your life the way you wish to. You are the one saying this nursing mother should have handled her experience better.

    You are not agreeing to disagree. You are trying to push YOUR reaction onto everyone else.

  4. Oh, and just for the record, I am not a militant. I am quite conservative. I have also never experienced an issue breastfeeding in public.

    I also do think that a woman’s right to be out in public with her baby *is* a feminist issue. I am not really an activist but yes I do think it is an important issue.

  5. Barebones of what I said in my first post was:

    1. The truth lies somewhere between what Mary and Target says. I find it interesting that people jump to her defence not even knowing her, not even being there, just because she was nursing.
    2. Cut them both some slack
    3. May have been the mistake of a seasonal employee or one with their own agenda

    Mary is quoted in an update that she wants to focus on other things. I think that’s good advice.

    Compromise is a good thing. It gets better results.

  6. I find it kind of funny that people would blame an entire corporation on one isolated incident. I am sure that not every target store or employee feels this way and I am sure they are remorseful. Although they were in the wrong I wish people would show a better ability to forgive. Holding such grudges can be exhausting :)

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