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'Nurse-in' supports public breastfeeding

By Nick Valencia, CNN
December 29, 2011 -- Updated 0328 GMT (1128 HKT)
Several women from Wilmington, North Carolina, take part in a national protest Wednesday after a mother in Houston was recently told to stop breastfeeding in a Target store.
Several women from Wilmington, North Carolina, take part in a national protest Wednesday after a mother in Houston was recently told to stop breastfeeding in a Target store.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Protests held at Target stores across country
  • Women are in solidarity with breastfeeding mother
  • That mother said she was harassed by employees
  • Target says it supports breastfeeding in its stores

(CNN) -- A mother who says she was harassed and humiliated by employees while breastfeeding her baby at a Target store in Texas last month prompted a nationwide "nurse-in" on Wednesday to show support for the public practice.

Michelle Hickman, 35, says she was nursing her 5-month-old infant at a Webster Target when several employees asked her to move to the fitting room.

Texas law allows for breastfeeding in private or public, but Hickman says the employees continued to direct her to the dressing room even after she mentioned her rights.

"I was sitting down in the store in a remote area," Hickman told CNN anchor Isha Sesay on Wednesday. "Not a single person came by that was a customer and I was completely covered with a large blanket. So I don't see how they find it that offensive."

Target said it has a longstanding policy of supporting breastfeeding in its stores.

Breastfeeding mom stages 'nurse-in'

"Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable," Target spokeswoman Jessica Carlson told CNN.

"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," her statement read.

"We continually educate our team members in stores across the country on store policies to ensure all guests have a great experience. We worked with this guest directly to address her concerns and are sorry any inconvenience it has caused," Carlson said.

In a show of solidarity with Hickman, women from Kansas to North Carolina to Florida held "nurse-ins" at Target stores.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, more than a dozen women sat comfortably on the ground with their legs crossed while nursing their babies, most of whom were covered by wraps or blankets. Similar scenes played out at Target stores in Sarasota, Florida; Wichita, Kansas; and Houston.

"Things like this are really wonderful because it takes a lot of mother-to-mother support and even though none of us know the mother in Texas, it's just a matter of everyone pulling together and saying, it is OK, don't feel bad about it," Emily Barnhill, mother of an 18-month-old boy, told CNN Wilmington affiliate WECT.

A Facebook page created to show support for Hickman called "Target Nurse-In" had nearly 7,000 members by late Wednesday.

"Let's show them just how many mamas they've offended. We have the right to shop and meet our babies' needs while doing so," the Facebook pages "about me" section said. "Public humiliation for doing so will not be tolerated," it added.

Earlier this year, a Utah woman breastfeeding in a Whole Foods sparked a nationwide "nurse-in" after she said she was asked by employees to move locations. In early December, a nursing mother in Brighton, United Kingdom, invited a nursing "flash mob" to join her after she was told to stop nursing her baby in a cafe.

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