Nursing Is Fine at Target, but at a Women's Aid Center? Into the Closet You Go!

Nursing in public is fraught with issues. Breastfeeding moms have been thrown out of restaurants, pools, and even a therapist's office after making an appointment to discuss her postpartum depression. Looking at the news makes me wonder where a mom can feed her child without hassle; apparently it's not at your local WIC office where one mom was shown to a storage closet to breastfeed.


If you're not familiar, WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children and is "a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, women who had a baby within the last six months, infants, and children under the age of five." You'd think these are exactly the kind of people who would encourage nursing. You'd think this is exactly the kind of place that would be full of people who wouldn't look twice at a breastfeeding mom. You'd think, but you'd be wrong, according to Carissa Clarke. 

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Clarke had been in her Madison County WIC office when her 1-year-old daughter wanted to nurse. Clarke told the receptionist she would sit and nurse her for a few minutes, but the woman insisted she go to a private room. Clarke told her she didn't mind nursing in the waiting room, but it wasn't the new mom's comfort or the child's ability to eat that the woman was worried about. She was, instead, worried that Clarke would offend the other patrons. 

This kind of response is shocking enough at a WIC office, but on the heels of the publicity of Target's smart open policies, it feels even more bizarre. WIC, a place women and children go for nutritional support = bring your nursing cover or be banished to a storage closet. Target, a place where I go in for cereal and leave with $200 worth of merchandise = nursing moms have free rein. What's wrong with this equation (besides my Target $1 bin addiction)?

Alabama state law supports Clarke's request and specifically allows mothers to breastfeed in public openly. There is no mention of a requirement for a cover or a private room. I'm not sure when people will understand that breasts are intended to feed young children and that doing so is not an attempt to offend the public. You are free to look away if it makes you uncomfortable, but a mother and child's decision to eat should not be based on the arbitrary level of discomfort of the viewing public. If you don't like it, perhaps I can show you to a small windowless storage room where you can wait.


Image via © Michael Alberstat/Masterfile/Corbis

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