In 2011, a woman who was nursing her infant in the clothing section of a Target in Texas said she was surrounded by a group of employees who asked her to move to a fitting room. According to reports, one even suggested she could be arrested for indecent exposure. Soon after, other moms experienced similar incidents at other Target stores, and groups banded together to protest.
Their voices were heard. Target recently joined a growing list of major chains that are "breastfeeding friendly." It announced that mothers no longer have to hide in fitting rooms to nurse their babies. They are now free to breastfeed anywhere in the store. The store's new policy also says, "If you see a woman breastfeeding in our stores, do not approach her."
That's definitely good news for breastfeeding moms.
There's no argument that breastfeeding is healthy for both mother and child. Breast milk contains antibodies that can protect your infant against bacteria and viruses. Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer than women who don't. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the risk of both heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life compared with formula-fed children and are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer under the age of 15.
Breastfeeding rates continue to rise in the United States; in 2011, 79 percent of newborn infants were breastfed at least initially. Still, our country has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the industrialized world and one of the highest rates of infant mortality, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
That's why it's important to recognize August as National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a campaign funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whose aim is to empower women to commit to breastfeeding. To succeed, we need the support of businesses and public places that make breastfeeding easier.
If you're stepping out to shop with your infant in tow at Target, then you already know your feeding will be hassle-free. Here are some other stores that are designated as "breastfeeding friendly":
Laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location exist in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, and 29 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.
To view the list of breastfeeding state laws, click here.