Breastfeeding mums fill Vancouver H&M store
Thu Aug 7, 9:17 PM
VANCOUVER (CBC) - Dozens of nursing mothers crowded into a downtown Vancouver H&M clothing store over the lunch hour on Thursday to protest the way the chain treated a breastfeeding mother last weekend.
Manuela Valle said three store employees told her last week that H&M policy did not allow her to nurse her eight-week-old baby in the store because it might offend other customers, and ushered her to a backroom.
Breastfeeding advocates reacted by organizing a protest - dubbed a "nurse-in" - at the store on Thursday.
Just after noon the trendy clothing store in a downtown mall was filled with a sea of nursing moms, strollers, toddlers, dads and others who turned out to make a political point.
"It is normal. It is not obscene. It is every baby's need to have food and be nourished and nurtured," said Veronika Polanska as she rallied the moms to publicly feed their babies.
Most of the women didn't know each other or Manuela Valle, but said they heard about the protest through the internet or media and wanted to make a statement.
"I don't want to live a world or city where that's acceptable to shun women for breastfeeding," said nursing mum Sonia Tilly-Strobel.
As for H&M, their corporate spokeswoman Laura Shankland flew in from Toronto for what could have been a public relations disaster to openly welcome the nursing moms.
"We apologize. And it seems to be a miscommunication and a misunderstanding. Our policy is to allow breastfeeding nursing mothers to breastfeed or express milk freely in our stores," said Shankland.
H&M says it has clarified its breastfeeding policy with all staff in all stores.
But the woman and child at the centre of the controversy were not at Thursday's nurse-in. Manuela Valle's two-month-old daughter came down with a fever after her first vaccination and was home being cared for by her mom.
The right of B.C. women to legally breastfeed anywhere was upheld by a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision 11 years ago.
But protesters said the message isn't getting through, and the H&M controversy was not the only recent breastfeeding incident getting attention.
Erin Tarbuck told CBC News on Wednesday that a WestJet flight attendant recently told her to use a blanket while nursing during the takeoff portion of a flight.
WestJet's vice-president of culture and communication, Richard Bartrem, said Thursday the airline stands behind its employee.
"This flight attendant in particular in this particular case was acting in advance of any complaint that might have come from a guest, so this was simply her decision at the time to ask our guest if she would mind covering up," Bartrem said. "She was never actually asked to stop breastfeeding." .
If you participated in the nurse-in today, I'd love to hear about it!!!!