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Breastfeeding Moms Take Their Protest to Stores

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 29, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Store owners: have you ever seen a woman breastfeed her baby in public in your shop? Well, don't overreact. They may be doing so legally. There are many public breastfeeding laws that specifically encourage and allow women to breastfeed their children.

This includes breastfeeding in the workplace -- and possibly within the walls of your store.

So it's probably wise not to overreact. One Target store in Texas did, and now they're receiving a wave of negative publicity.

Michelle Hickman, a patron at a Houston, Texas Target store, decided to breastfed her infant son. She was breastfeeding in a quiet -- albeit public -- place in the store. Target employees redirected her to use a fitting room instead.

Hickman pointed out she had a legal right to nurse her baby in public. The employees responded by advising her to turn the other way. They also wanted her to essentially barricade herself from public view. One employee even hinted that she could be culpable under indecent exposure laws.

The nursing mom organized an international "nurse-in" at all Target stores.

Businesses should be careful when dealing with nursing mothers. Many U.S. states -- including Texas -- have passed laws that shield nursing mothers from legal liability.

Around 45 states have laws that permit women to breastfeed in public. 28 states have laws that exempt women from public indecency charges. 24 states specifically allow women to breastfeed at their place of work.

So if you tell a woman that she cannot breastfeed her child in your store, you may be in the wrong. You may also end up offending her.

As a business, ensure you are up to date with your state's public breastfeeding law. It may also be wise to train store employees correctly. This way, they'll know how to appropriately react if they see a woman breastfeeding in your public store.

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