Mary Martinez speaks about the Target breastfeeding incident

Earlier this week I wrote about the police being called on a breastfeeding mom in a Michigan Target store. Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were shopping in a Harper Woods, Mich., Target store, where Mary was nursing her 4-week-old baby girl in the electronics section. They were told by a Target security guard that breastfeeding in public is “against the law” and told they had to leave. When they disputed it, the police were called. The couple and baby eventually left, feeling embarrassed.

Mary has since kindly told me a little more of what happened this past Sunday. She addressed the concern that some raised that she was not being “discreet” and gave an update regarding her correspondence with the Target corporate office.

I was very discreet. She’s my 3rd child and I breastfed the other 2 until they were 2, I know how to be discreet. LOL If you can watch the news clip, I was nursing then and I imagine that’s as much skin as I showed in the store…none.

I spoke with [Target] corporate yesterday [Dec. 2]. I received an apology and admission of wrong doing, and that no one complained.  I want an amended press release, removing the part that reads that anything escalated and that they were concerned about the safety of their other customers. …Until then, this story is to be continued.

(You can view the video at Fox 2 News.)

Mary also added that she’d like to tell me more about what happened, but she’s been going through a “rough time” lately and is “really tired right now.” I can only imagine. She’s four weeks postpartum, has two older children and is dealing with all of this Target stuff on top of it.

She said that she hasn’t yet contacted FirstRight (a site where they collect information to determine how best to support a mother who has experienced discrimination due to breastfeeding), but she plans on it.

I sent my own letter to Target, copying and pasting what I had written on my blog as well as adding “I like Target. I want to continue to shop there, but I want to see more support for breastfeeding moms and children and I believe an apology from the company to Mary Martinez for discriminating against her and her child is in order. Please make sure employees are properly trained on the laws regarding breastfeeding. It is not a crime. Thank you for your time.”
I received this form letter response from guest.relations@target.com:

Dear Amy Gates,

Thanks for asking us about breastfeeding in our stores. As a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores.

We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping at Target. Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, 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.

We strive to provide a distraction-free environment for all our guests, including nursing moms. 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.

At Target, we work hard to provide you with an enjoyable shopping experience. If you ever have concerns during your visit, please visit the Guest Service Desk and ask to speak to the Guest Service Team Leader. They’ll make every attempt to resolve the issue while you’re in the store.

We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you.

Sincerely,

Matthew
Target Guest Relations
www.target.com
(800) 440-0680

[THREAD ID:1-78AVUL]

It sounds like lip service to me. When I read, “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.” it sounds to me like they are sorry they are getting negative press as a result of the incident, not that they are sorry that an employee discriminated against a shopper and that the police were called. Not that they are sorry for the grief they have caused the Martinez family.

I’m not calling for a boycott of Target. I think that is extreme for this situation. However, I am not sure when I will be shopping there again. I will be watching this case to see how it all pans out. I’d like to see them resolve this well. I think they should have apologized from the get-go and not released the statement about being concerned for the safety of their guests. I’ve never seen a breastfeeding mom and baby pose a safety issue. Most moms simply want to take care of the needs of their baby and go about their business.

I want to address more concerns/issues that were raised in the comments section of my first post, but will save that for another post, another day.

Mary, please know that there are many of us who fully support you. I hope that because of the attention drawn to your situation, it will prevent another mother and child from being discriminated against in the future. As it is House Bill 5515 in Michigan – which would grant to a woman the right to breastfeed in a public place and prohibit practices that would discriminate against the woman because she was breastfeeding a child – passed out of committee on a vote of 11 to 2 after the hearing on Dec. 2. (Thanks to Angela White for this good news update!) As Angela told me, “The committee members did know about the Target incident so while it was terribly unfortunate, the timing just might have helped push forward that important legislation!”

The breastfeeding discrimination might not end overnight, but we are making headway and going in the right direction. :)

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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:
http://www.firstright.org/reportdiscrimination

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:

http://www.blisstree.com/breastfeeding123/michigan-moms-needed-to-testify/

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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