Conscience Laureate

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


When Michelle Hickman chose to publicly nurse her child in a Target store in Texas, employees asked her to move to a fitting room.  Since then, the group Breastfeeding Mothers in America has used the incident as a platform to complain about the “rights” of mothers to nurse wherever they please, regardless of the discomfort it causes to others exposed to the activity.  Hickman was sitting on the floor near a display of jeans when a store employee offered to find her a dressing room so she could have privacy during the milking process.  Instead of accepting the assistance, Hickman refused it and took offense.  Since then, nursing mothers banded together to create a national “Nurse-In” demonstration, calling last week for mothers all around the country to bare their sagging breasts at Target stores in retaliation.  Just because people have the legal right to engage in an activity doesn’t mean that they should do it. 

According to the NationalConference of State Legislatures, forty-five states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.  Of the five states that don’t allow it, only West Virginia has nothing to say about public breastfeeding.  Of the others, Idaho exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, Virginia allows women to breastfeed on any land or property owned by the state, and Michigan and South Dakota exempt breast feeding mothers from public indecency or nudity laws.

Illinois has two statutes relating to the subject.  Ill. Rev. Stat.ch 720 5/11-9 (1995) clarifies that breastfeeding of infants is not an act of public indecency. (SB 190)  

ILL. Rev. Stat. ch.740 !37 (2004) created the Right to Breastfeed Act.  I like the wording in section 10:

Sec. 10. "Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding; however, a mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship."
I don’t understand the place of worship exemption clause.  Of all the places that one might seem to feel safe while nursing, a place of worship would seem natural!  Whipping it out while standing in line at the grocery store would seem like a more sensible exception to me.

The nipple exposure is already covered in the exemption from public indecency, but I loved that the legislature threw that in the statute.  Funny!

I don’t understand why a breastfeeding Mother would rather sit on the filthy floor of a store than retreat to a private dressing room.  Hickman just wanted to create a national furor and hormone-raging postpartum Moms seem like an easy “Target” for such angry and pointless protests.

I have no more desire to see a baby sucking on a breast any more than I do feet without stockings and flabby bare arms on women more than the age of 30.  Consider those who have to look at you before you decide how to comport yourself.  Proper etiquette and good manners should be part of one’s decision making process.  Remember- decency is all that is required to make sure one’s manners are properly attired.


  1. As a past nursing mother of twins and a breastfeeding organization leader and officer, I have rarely seen any mother expose herself in public. Nursing is generally done very discretely and people don't even know that the baby is being nursed or comforted.
    I have had people come up to me in quiet areas of the store and didn't even realize that there was a hungry child being comforted.

    Usually people freak out when their imagination goes under the "hooter hiders" and "sees" what is not in plain sight.

    If there is a welcoming nearby dressing room or nursing area, it would be great to use it. Stores should plainly mark these areas if they want mothers to shop in comfort, but I don't recall seeing many welcoming areas that are convenient or even clean.

  2. Proper etiquette and good manners should be part of one’s decision making process. Remember- decency is all that is required to make sure one’s manners are properly attired

    You should make this part of your decision making process Kathy ;) Why don't you go back and read what you wrote again.Is it considerate or decent ? It most definitely is not.
    You've got your info wrong or altered it to support your point so I'll inform of you of the actual facts.
    #1)WE don't 'choose' when to feed our babies.They need to eat when they are hungry,which is often.If we are in a public place when they are hungry then that is where they eat.(PROBABLY why there was laws put in place to protect this most basic need/function)It is not very realistic to schedule each day around when baby needs to eat-it's near impossible.
    #2)They did not 'ask' her to move to a fitting room they told her she had to.
    #3)Mothers are not using this incident to complain about "their rights to breastfeed wherever they please" They are drumming up awareness about breastfeeding,especially in public and the laws concerning public breastfeeding....and mother's and BABIES rights to breastfeed wherever and whenever they NEED to,honey .As is apparent with your very own post here,there is a lot of ignorance and arrogance surrounding the matter sadly and embarrassingly as a fellow : a)American b)mother c)woman and d)human being. I am embarrassed that you and I share these titles Kathy.
    #4)If you feel uncomfortable in the presence of the 'activity'(ha!) of a baby breastfeeding,that is YOUR own personal twisted perception of something so normal and basic.Mothers and babies shant revolve their lives around the discomfort of strangers.You most often will actually see much less breast with a baby nursing then you will see on women in their shirts/dresses/bathing suits.Let's be real here-it is not seeing breast flesh that makes you and most others uncomfortable and bothered by public nursing.It is the knowledge that a baby is suckling her milk from her mother's nipple,even if you can not see it and it is covered.The fact that you are disturbed by this is .....disturbing.Why would it disturb you or anyone unless you are thinking of breasts as 100% sexual ? EXACTLY.
    #5)She took offense because a) they told her she 'had' to go to a changing room b)they (all 8 of them) were surrounding her and encircling her and shaking their heads contemptuosly and rolling their eyes.How's that for discomfort ?
    #6)Changing rooms are for CHANGING not nursing and it is not very practical to go out of your way to make it to a changing room ,costing you xtra time/energy and then leaving your basket and lugging all your stuff to a changing room.Besides I would be more uncomfortable holding up a changing room that someone else is waiting for, to nurse.
    #7)Why are you using the adjective 'sagging' repeatedly to describe nursing mother's breasts ? Why is that even relevant ? Would you be more comfortable with pperky tits ???? Jeesh.Women did not go to Targets to 'bare' their 'sagging' breasts....they went to NURSE their babies.and their is no 'whipping it out' that you guys love saying over and over.It's a slight lifting of your shirt and it is very uneventful,not a sexual act!Most of the mamas you could not see any flesh at all !!!!!
    #8)I'm going to pray for you and everyone else who shares this backwards and disturbing perception of breastfeeding that God might open your eyes and change your heart and attitude.It is concerning :( .I do wonder if you were breastfed and if you breastfed your children ? I bet I know the answer !

  3. P.S I think I understand the reason you titled the post "I don't want to see your sagging breasts !! "- to grab attention and get folks to read your stuff.lol In fact I'm fairly certain of it. TSk tsk Kathy.

  4. I don't mind as long as you are discreet and use a blanket or something. I have seen women just "whip it out" though and I felt it was really disrespectful not just to those around but the nursing process. It's more then just feeding your child, it's an intimate moment, not something for the whole world to witness especially in such a disrespectful fashion.