Battle for breasts
New mom Manuela Valle says she was told by H&M staff that breast feeding two-month-old Ramona was "offensive" to customers. The event was witnessed by husband Francisco. (Rob Kruyt, 24 hours)
A woman claims her weekend shopping trip was ruined when she decided to breastfeed her two-month-old daughter inside a trendy Vancouver clothing store.
Manuela Valle, 34, said, while waiting for her husband Francisco to try on some clothes, clerks at H&M asked her to stop breastfeeding in an aisle, in accordance with store policy, and move to a private room out of other shoppers' sight.
"One of the girls working on the shift came to me and told me that I was 'not allowed to do that in public,'" Valle recalled.
"The clerk said [that] it was offensive to other customers and that others had complained."
Valle said while she made her argument to stay put, two other clerks joined the conversation and started talking into their radios.
"I felt that everyone in the store thought that I was doing something illegal like stealing," she said.
Humiliated, Valle agreed to feed her daughter Ramona in a private room.
Acting store manager Guru Dass said any miscommunication between Valle and the clerk should have boiled down to "common sense."
"It was just a suggestion for the lady," he said. "[The clerks] were not putting her under pressure and telling her she has to go in."
Dass said clerks offered Valle a stool so she could sit in an aisle if she chose.
Lactation consultant Renee Hefti-Graham said Valle shouldn't have been hassled.
"If they want to provide a room that's fine, but they need to understand that some women may choose not to use that room," she said.
Though H&M has no formal policy for breastfeeding, the provincial human rights commission does.
The policy and procedure manual states, "women who wish to breastfeed or express milk can do so while walking in stores."
H&M Canada spokesperson Laura Shankland regrets any potential wrongdoing.
"We can only apologize if the customer was made to feel uncomfortable in any way," she said.
Valle's supporters may not accept the apology. In a planned show of support on Thursday at 12:30 p.m., women will hold a "feed-in" inside H&M while protestors picket on Granville Street.