Victoria’s Secret Apologizes After Store Tells Mom To Breastfeed In Alley

When the mom of a 4-month-old asked the clerk at a Texas Victoria’s Secret if she could use one of the store’s fitting rooms to nurse her child, she was doing so out of courtesy, as Texas law allows mothers to breastfeed in all locations. She certainly wasn’t expecting to be told that she should feed her infant in an alley next to the store.

The 27-year-old mom tells Austin CultureMap that she was shopping at the Victoria’s Secret store earlier this month, and after purchasing around $150 worth of VS merchandise, she posed the question to a sales clerk about using the fitting room to nurse.

“The woman who checked me out began to nod her head yes, but before she had a chance to respond, the employee next to her immediately responded by telling me I was not allowed to nurse my son in her store,” recalls the mom. “Instead, I could walk outside to a nearby alley.”

She says the sales clerk then told her that she should go all the way to the back of the long alley if she didn’t want anyone to see her nursing.

“I was instantly confused and shocked, so to clarify, I asked her, ‘You want me to take my son outside, down an alley, and nurse him?'” she says. “She responded by saying yes. It was cold and windy — there was no way I was going to walk down an alley in the middle of the elements to feed my son.”

Rather than opting for the alley route, the mom went to a nearby bathroom and breastfed her baby in a toilet stall.

“I had never thought of breastfeeding as such a shameful thing, especially in a store where breasts are visible in every corner,” she explains. “But at that moment, I began questioning myself. Why is this not allowed? For a chain that promotes ‘the beauty’ of the female body, and that shows pictures of almost nude women, breastfeeding should most certainly be welcomed.”

Texas Health Code Ann. § 165.002 states in no uncertain terms that, “A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.”

One could argue that the store had a right to not let her nurse in the fitting room as it may have needed the space for customers, but the employee should not have told the mom that she could not breastfeed in the store.

The mom later contacted VS customer service by phone and spoke to someone for more than 30 minutes. He promised that someone would respond to her complaint.

“However, the next day, when I called them back, there was no record of my complaint, so once again, I was on the phone for another 30 minutes explaining my experience. The new contact said they would be in touch as well.”

She also spoke to the manager of the store where she’d been told she couldn’t nurse. The manager promised to respond via mail, but never made good on that promise. An e-mail to VS CEO Sharon Jester Turney went unanswered.

Of course, after the local media got involved, Victoria’s Secret was finally apologetic:

“We take this issue very seriously. We have a longstanding policy permitting mothers to nurse their children in our stores and we are sorry that it was not followed in this case. We have apologized to [the mother], and we are taking actions to ensure all associates understand our policy that welcomes mothers to breastfeed in our stores.”

The mom isn’t terribly impressed with this bland corporate apology.

“It really doesn’t seem like Victoria’s Secret is taking this seriously,” she says.

As happens when someone takes a story like this online, there are skeptics and folks putting the blame on the mother.

To those who accused the mom of staging the incident, she responds, “I have much more to do than take my son to VS with me on a Monday and hope they deny me the right to breastfeed.”

And what about those who say she was acting irresponsibly by taking her child out when she could have done her shopping online?

“So I should never leave my house in order for you not to have to witness a baby eat?” asks the mom. “Truthfully, this is all pretty embarrassing and stressful. However, now that it has become such a story, I hope people will at least be more sensitive to new moms who are just trying to do what’s best for their children — whether it’s breast or bottle. I am just an everyday mom doing what I think is best for my son, as are all the other mothers in the world. I just hope Victoria’s Secret understands the urgency on their part to support moms and nursing moms alike.”

For those curious about the laws governing nursing moms in their states, the National Conference of State Legislatures has this very helpful guide to each state’s particular laws on breastfeeding in public.

[via SFgate.com]

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  1. CommonC3nts says:

    The funny thing about breast feeding in public is men dont even care if women do this.
    All the breast feeding hate is women hating on other women.
    Very weird.

    • MarthaGaill says:

      Not really. I’ve met a lot of guys who are disgusted by it and not ashamed to say so. It’s like they think boobs were invented for their pleasure.

  2. CommonC3nts says:

    On a side note, why would these women not want to go to a place where people normally eat to breast feed that would also have chairs??
    Is there a reason why they would want to breast feed in the middle of a dirty nonfood store or in a dressing room that is not sanitary besides being too lazy to go to a location where people normally eat where there are chairs?? I feel this is an honest question.
    It is also gross this women would feed her child in the bathroom stall, that tells me she wanted to shop so badly she was unwilling to leave the store to find a chair in a clean place to feed their child. I figured a mother would be more caring than feeding her child in a bathroom stall.

    I dont care what they do or where they do it, but it does seem like it is laziness and selfish to not want to feed your child in a place that is held to food sanitary standards like a food court or restaraunt. I guess not everyone can be logical.

    • MarthaGaill says:

      It’s not like she rubbed her breast all over the walls or anything. Germs don’t automatically hop from the stalls to her nipple. If she wants to feed in public, that’s okay. If she wants to find somewhere private, that’s fine too.

      Your calling it lazy and selfish is contributing to the breast-feeding shaming going on. Sometimes you can’t help where you are when your infant gets hungry. They’re growing at an insane rate and basically want to eat non-stop to support that.

      Half the people are shaming women for feeding in public and the other half are shaming when they try to find a private place. They can’t win for losing.

  3. furiousd says:

    My opinion on the matter (and by way of full disclosure, I am male, unmarried) I think that in general that it’s reasonable that the mother should be able to care for her child. If she also was sensitive to the fact that others around may not want to be involved as well and either covered up, went to a designated place as soon as reasonable, or made whatever reasonable arrangements were possible given the circumstances when the infant decided to be hungry. If this was the prevailing attitude, then awkward an insufficient legislation wouldn’t be necessary.

    I understand that babies need to feed, but I don’t want to have to worry about it being done where I am. I also don’t think that the government should be able to say that everywhere in their jurisdiction has to abide by their policies. If on the private property of my business I want to have a policy of no toplessness regardless of circumstances, then people who support nursing mothers doing whatever they please at the expense of the rest of the public have the ability not to shop there. But to blanket state that I’m not allowed to serve who I want to in my own business is an overstep. I also see the hypocrisy of a store that specializes in breast wear employing someone with this attitude, if any business would have an ‘open-boob’ policy I imaging Victoria’s Secret would.

    TL;DR –
    1) The opinion of one employee shouldn’t matter: as an employee of a business you represent that business and are bound by their policies and attitudes while on duty, you don’t get your own opinion.
    2) Businesses should be able to have their own policy on this matter, the government can regulate public spaces and government buildings, but it’s overreaching to say that they can mandate what your policies are on private property

    • MarthaGaill says:

      That’s a lot of BS. Breastfeeding doesn’t require toplessness. Most of the time you see less breast than you do in a lingerie ad, which are generally huge and posted all over the mall/billboards/on your TV.

      It’s not like breastfeeding is done to be sexy or enticing. It’s for feeding infants. Nourishing babies.

      • furiousd says:

        Two things:
        1) I was making a subtle reference to the NYC toplessness permissiveness, also a problem. We share public space, everyone should behave as if it is shared space. Incidentally, I also believe that the level of exposure allowed in much public advertising is too much.
        2) The times I’ve been made aware a feeding was going on is when full exposure has been made. Once when I was 7 doing homework after school in a side room of my parent’s business, a mother came into that room when 3 other rooms of equal privacy level were available and sat down to breastfeed facing me. I got up and left. Second time was in a restaurant where the woman pulled her entire shirt up to feed the child without any attempt at modesty. Most recent time was when using a school computer lab and post-feeding the breast was left out. When asked by the library staff to tuck things back in, she cited ‘the law’ and said it was in case the baby got hungry again.

        I’m certain that it’s occured around me more often than 3 times, but that the general stance of mothers where I live is to be respectful of others and modest with themselves and as such it wasn’t brought to my attention.

        Your ‘sexy and enticing’ stance is why New York caved in to legalizing public exposure. It’s not a good argument, which is why the photographer got fined for his topless photoshoot. Feeding infants, nourishing babies can, in general, be done in a more discreet fashion. In extenuating circumstances, I think we should be more patient and accomodating. But as a general rule, we should all be expected to respectfully share public space.

        • SingleMaltGeek says:

          OK, I apologize for my tone below; your follow-up comment above was much more reasonable. However, the law is really necessary for when people can’t be counted on to be reasonable.

          I have never seen anything just like those three incidents in my life, but imagine these women weren’t breastfeeding and you’ll probably come to more appropriate conclusions. In the one who sat near you when there were other spaces available, that’s odd and intrusive, but technically allowed. The one who was concerned about the baby getting hungry again wasn’t actually breastfeeding at the time anyway, and so IMO (IANAL) that wasn’t protected by the law, it was simply exposing ones self (if that was illegal in that jurisdiction). The woman in the restaurant was taking what was allowed and doing it in a broader way, so it’s like being in a non-quiet Amtrak car but talking really loudly on the phone: allowed, but obnoxious.

    • SingleMaltGeek says:

      Sorry furiousd, you also have to treat those stupid retards and cripples and blacks the same as your good, upstanding white folks, too, if you are open to the public:

      Within US law, public accommodations are generally defined as entities, both public and private (thus treating private business enterprises as if they were part of the government), that are used by the public. Examples include retail stores, rental establishments and service establishments, as well as educational institutions, recreation facilities and service centers. Private clubs and religious institutions are exempt. Public accommodation must be handicap-accessible and must not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.

      [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_accommodations ]

      And as for your concern that “[you] don’t want to have to worry about it being done where [you are]“, well, maybe you should just stop staring when women are trying to breastfeed, and then you won’t have to worry about it.

      • MarthaGaill says:

        Well said!

      • furiousd says:

        Note my response to [MarthGaill] above for your last jab. Summary being that I’m only aware of it when it’s overt, that I’m grateful for the many nursing mothers who have a sense of modesty and respect for others, such that I’ve only noticed it on a small number of occasions.

        As for the first portion of your comments: I still wish the government didn’t force people to do business with each other. I wish I knew which places didn’t really want my business so that I’m not indirectly tricked by the government from giving them my money. Further, how soon until other groups claim discrimination? How soon until an amusement park is sued for not providing equal accommodation for an obese person who can’t fit into the safety harness on the roller coaster, if it hasn’t happened already? And what unfortunate situations have already occurred in the name of not offending someone for fear of being sued? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2502052/Texas-mom-Rosa-Esparza-flung-death-Six-Flags-rollercoaster.html The operators were worried about the safety restraints, but she wasn’t removed from the ride. I’d want to know. I want to be able to make the decision for myself rather than have a regulated fairytale world forced upon me, or worse to be unaware and buy into the delusion myself.

        A bit harsh, on the above example, so I’ll use another: we lived in fear for years that someone would complain that our miniature golf course wasn’t handicap-accessible. The fact is that they just aren’t designed to be. Our building, toilets, party rooms, video games, parking lot, entrances, etc. were all accessible but we were just waiting for that one person to complain loud enough to cost us a fortune or force us to the decision of closing down because the expense is too high. Thankfully, our customers respected us and none of the dozens of handicapped in a variety of forms ever tried to use the government against us. We still have many groups come that we love to have because they’re wonderful people, it’s not a matter of race or physical ability, it’s a matter of attitude.

        • PhillyDom says:

          “I still wish the government didn’t force people to do business with each other.”

          Where do you live, Alabama circa 1954?’

          “…we lived in fear for years that someone would complain that our miniature golf course wasn’t handicap-accessible. The fact is that they just aren’t designed to be….

          I wonder how this place manages:

          http://www.alienvacationminigolf.com/alien-vacation-mini-golf-is-handicap-accessible-2/

          “We still have many groups come that we love to have because they’re wonderful people, it’s not a matter of race or physical ability, it’s a matter of attitude.”

          And some groups (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) just don’t have the right attitude, right?

  4. DaddyBee says:

    This sounds like the employee who suggested the alley is missing a few dominoes to their stack. Not to judge this person from a single action, but seriously, that single interaction shows their level of intelligence and awareness.

    However, for the store and brand to then compound the employee’s foolishness with negligence is really unacceptable. Pathetic level of customer service on all accounts here. Good thing I never give them my money anyway.

  5. Xenotaku says:

    To “those” mentioned in the article that she should do her shopping online: Who buys bras online if they have an option? Size A in Style X is not necessarily the same as Size A in Style Y. I can’t imagine not trying on a bra before buying it, especially as expensive as VS ones are.