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Mom Nearly Arrested for Breastfeeding

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Your baby's screaming for food in public. What would you do?

mary martinez breast feeding mom

Your 4-week-old baby's crying for food, your hands are full with shopping bags, and you're experiencing postpartum symptoms. Oh, and you happen to be standing in Target.

What do you do?

If you're like many moms, you nip the problem in the bud and start breastfeeding your child.

That's exactly what Mary Martinez did when she visited a Target store in Harper Woods, Michigan on Sunday.

The mother of three says that as soon as she began nursing, Target security intervened, saying nursing in public was illegal, then called the cops.

Mary was appalled, saying that breastfeeding is part of her daily routine whether she's at home or in public. Her husband Jose, a Detroit police officer, knew it isn't against the law, even in the electronics aisle at Target. What's more, the couple says the store wasn't crowded in that section at the time.

When the Harper Woods police were called to the scene, they spoke to the Martinez family until the couple and child left, totally embarrassed.

"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.

"I asked one of them if it was indeed illegal -- maybe in Harper Woods -- to breastfeed. He said, 'No.' And that was it. We got our stuff together and we left," says Jose Martinez.

The kicker? When Target's corporate headquarters were contacted by one television station, they came to Mary's defense, saying they do allow mothers to breastfeed in their stores. However, "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."

"Our security guard overreacted and misrepresented both store policy and local law, and we are ashamed that a Target employee caused the Martinez family so much trouble and embarrassment. We want to reassure our guests that nursing mothers are always welcome in our stores."

Since the incident, Mary has this to say:

She's my 3rd child and I breastfed the other two until they were two years old. I know how to be discreet."

So what do you think? Were these security guards misinformed or were they just a couple of guys squeamish at the sight of a woman breastfeeding?

next: Michelle Duggar Gives Birth to Baby No. 19
30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sam December 11, 2009, 10:58 AM

I guess Britney spears can run around have naked with breasts hanging out and everybody is okay with it, but if a woman chooses to use those breasts for what nature intended it’s a big deal. I’m completed disgusted with America and how we have so perverted a woman’s body that she can no longer feed her child.

Coral December 11, 2009, 11:43 AM

Why would you even take a four week old baby out in the weather?

Slee December 11, 2009, 12:00 PM

That is just appalling. The last time I was in a Target, and I suspect it was the LAST time I’ll go into one, there was a teen male in the women’s dressing rooms with his girlfriend. Somehow that behavior is permissible but feeding an infant isn’t?
Until they start adopting better policies, I think I’m done with the place. There is nothing I need that they sell that I can’t get elsewhere.

jamie December 11, 2009, 12:29 PM

IF the mom was being discreet as in the pic there definetly was an over reaction. however not being there we can not be sure what happened. when I was in the store and needed to breastfeed my children I went in the dressing room.

MarMar December 11, 2009, 12:37 PM

Even if part of her breast was showing, she was feeding her child, not putting on a peep show! Target should be ashamed and the security guy should be fired. And I’m not one to encourage firing anyone in this economy.

Michelle December 11, 2009, 1:30 PM

I agree with the other posters. That security guard should be fired. It’s appalling that mothers are made to be embarrassed and feel uncomfortable about what is natural and best for their child.

Darris December 11, 2009, 1:48 PM

I have two kids and first of all why do you have a 4 week old at Target during Flu season and second I do personally find it offensive when women breastfeed in public! I always pumped or excused myself to a private location not because of my modesty but because it is not appropriate. Be courteous to people around you…some people don’t care to see you pop a boob out and feed natural or not and you are choosing to go into a dept store or resturant so if people don’t like it you can’t be are not in your living room!!!!

Louise December 11, 2009, 2:05 PM

I was in shock when I first read “it is illegal to breastfeed”

I’m glad to see that it is not illegal. When I was breastfeeding my daughter I would do it wherever we were no matter what. I feel that Target should do more to apologize to the family. I also can’t imagine how it escalated into a situation guests felt like they were in danger.

friend December 11, 2009, 3:20 PM

if breastfeeding in PUBLIC should be allowed, why shouldn’t people pee in public too? that’s a basic need! there should be ‘proper places’ that allow for breastfeeding without being in the public’s eye where everyone has a chance to see a mother exposing her body part. there’s a reason why some things are frowned upon. would a breastfeeding mother be angry if a grown man stares? and his excuse would be that he’s ‘just admiring your babies, i mean baby.’ why is it that people always try to force others to tolerate things that they are too lax about? (public nudity vs exhibitionists: if we made public nudity legal, we won’t have to worry about exhibitionists, does that make sense? and is that really true?). a mother should be prepared when in public just like a patient having undergone colectomy should always wear a colostomy pouch, and it’s covered up full time, might i add. unpreparedness is not and should NOT be an excuse or a right. people just don’t stop in their tracks to do ‘what is natural.’

anonymous December 11, 2009, 4:21 PM

OMG… breastfeeding until they were TWO?!?!? that’s way over the recommended age limit. the mom must really love feeding in public. and although practice makes perfect, repetition does not necessarily make one an expert. not all old people are wise and not all wise people are old. also obvious that the mother is no expert in knowing when is the proper time to wean her children off her breasts. you know, if you like, you can actually breastfeed your children into their teens. i’m just saying…

Logical December 11, 2009, 5:30 PM

We are such a pathetic society. We ask that women cover their breasts (well their nipples anyway), yet it is legal to wear the skimpiest of outfits where in reality ONLY the nipple is covered…yet men walk around with their nipples exposed…So, is it the nipple…or the breast? If it is the nipple, I can safely say a baby sucking on it covers way more than an average bikini! I think all women should be able to walk around without a top, and even…yep…exposing their nipples…just like guys do. Whatever…if more women got on board with going topless at beaches, we wouldn’t even be talking about breastfeeding in Target. Just make it legal for the love of God!

Fighting against people's ignorance... December 11, 2009, 8:11 PM

Fact: breastfeeding until the age of two is NOT over the recommended age limit. It IS the recommended age limit. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breastfeeding for as long as mother and child are willing.

Fact: women’s breasts are primarily meant for feeding babies. Their existence as erotic objects is secondary. It’s not the mother’s problem if she is discreetly nursing and a random stranger is inordinantly curious about her breasts. Perhaps they’d say the same about knees in Saudi Arabia.

Fact: it is not illegal to breastfeed in any place in which the mother would normally be allowed.

Fact: I took my three-day-old daughter on the subway and to many other places. She didn’t get sick for the first 2+ years of her life. Building a baby’s immune system=good.

This mom must “love” feeding in public? Come on.

Erin W. December 11, 2009, 9:58 PM

@ friend - Urinating, although a necessity, would cause major health risks if done in public. As well, the need to feed a baby in public is not being unprepared. Sure, she could have pumped breast milk and given her baby a bottle, but that baby was 4 weeks old and giving an unnatural nipple to an infant so young could cause nipple confusion and could have really messed up the way she feeds her child. As a breastfeeding mother, I feel MORE prepared in leaving the house with my child than I did when I formula fed my first. With my first I had to make sure I had clean bottles, plenty of pre-measured formula (or a big hunk of a can), bottled water… By breastfeeding, I can just throw a couple diapers, some wipes, and maybe a spare set of baby clothes in my purse and go. It’s so much more convenient. If you want to call me unprepared by needing to feed my child while I’m on the go, that’s fine by me. My child’s needs are met much more quickly than they would be if I had to dig through all that crap and prepare a bottle for her. That’s all that matters to me.

@ anonymous As a previous poster pointed out, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as long as both mother and child are comfortable with it. So does the World Health Organization. And just so you know, children lose their ability to suckle (not that I’m necessarily advocating going THIS long….) at 9 years of age. So no, by all rights a mother could not nurse her child into their teen years. Do some research before you post something, please.

I think that it is disturbing that so many people hold such negative views on breastfeeding. If only all states would get on board for laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers (and breastfed babies) against discrimination we wouldn’t have to deal with so much of this intolerance.

Jess December 11, 2009, 10:48 PM

Its a boob get over it! There are way worse things in this world to worry about!

ProudBreastfeedingMom December 11, 2009, 11:06 PM

Anyone who is offended by a women breastfeeding is clearly uneducated on the subject. Breastfeeding in public and feeding in public are in no way the same. Educate yourselfs before you say this mother was in the wrong.

Any mom has been in a situation where your baby got hungry at “the wrong time”. What would you prefer, a scream starving baby? Or, a descreatly, quiet, nursing baby?

Target should be ashamed and the security guards owe this lady an apology as does the police department.

George December 12, 2009, 6:16 AM

The security guard, and the managment who made the decision to call the police, should be fired immediately. My family and I are done with Target - it’s a poor excuse for a store anyway, they rarely have what we want - and this is the last straw.

PhotoJoe December 12, 2009, 11:26 AM

1) Breastfeeding in public should not be illegal(opinion) and in most places is not(fact).

2) Indecent exposure is illegal in post places

3) Under-trained security guards are unlikely to know the difference.

4) Target stores are private property.

5) On private property you can follow the rules of the owner or leave.

6) Failure to leave when notified that you are not welcome on private property is called trespassing and is a crime.

7) That guard should be fired (which sucks for him/her, but is better for the community as a whole) to make an example that prevents this from occurring again.

Anonymous December 12, 2009, 11:50 AM

Breastfeeding protection laws allow a mother to breastfeed in public so long as she has the right to be where she is. If the mother was lawfully at Target (as she was), then she had a right to feed there by law regardless of whether the store is private property.

Erin W. December 12, 2009, 4:05 PM

Unfortunately the way it stands currently, as Target is private property, if they choose to practice their right to not accommodate a breastfeeding mother, they can, they stand to be in no trouble at all. Yes, the law says that a mother can breastfeed anywhere that it is lawful for both she and her child to be present, but if Target were to say, “You’re not allowed here,” for whatever reason (even if it is because she was breastfeeding) then by her sticking around, she is breaking the law by trespassing.

I’m not trying to argue for that, but rather against it. I would love to see more states have laws against discrimination against breastfeeding mothers, but until we make our cries loud enough for them to hear (and long enough for them to get annoyed, apparently) there’s nothing that’s going to be done about it.

C December 12, 2009, 7:03 PM

Ignorance is inexcusable, the manager and security guard should be fired, we are costumers, we are paying the salary of the employes and if a woman choses to breastfeed it is her right. It is healthier for the baby and breastfeeding should be allowed in public

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