Breast-Feeding Moms Protest Victoria's Secret

Published: Jul. 3, 2006 at 6:20 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2006 at 11:26 AM CDT
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A woman who said she was offended when Victoria's Secret staff asked her to nurse her baby in an employee restroom organized a nursing protest in front of the store as part of a national nurse-in.

About 20 women and children came out in support of Rebecca Cook in front of the Victoria's Secret store at the Regency Mall in Racine on Saturday.

Cook said she was shopping at the store with a friend last week when she asked to use a dressing room to nurse her daughter. When she was told no room was available, she offered to sit in the rear of the dressing room hallway but was told that was unacceptable, she said.

"They opened up their employee restroom, which is disgusting," she said. "I said, 'No, I don't eat in the bathroom and my daughter doesn't eat in the bathroom."'

A spokesman for Limited Brands Inc., the Columbus-based parent company of Victoria's Secret, said the company has a long-standing policy that allows mothers to nurse in their stores.

"In this incidence it was not adhered to. We regret that and apologize for that," said spokesman Anthony Hebron.

Complaints about Victoria's Secret employees by Cook and another nursing mother from Massachusetts sparked the national event.

In Ohio, about 15 mothers nursed their babies for about a half hour outside a Victoria's Secret store in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake.

"It's kind of ironic that Victoria's Secret, which plasters breasts everywhere, is offended at seeing breasts used for their intended purpose," said Anna Mauser-Martinez, who organized the Westlake nurse-in.

A year ago, lawmakers legalized breast-feeding in public places in Ohio.

In Wisconsin, State Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, introduced a bill last year that would have allowed women to breast-feed in any public or private place where they were authorized to be, but the bill died in committee in May.

Women who nurse in public in the state are protected from criminal prosecution.

Cook said the nurse-in was meant to make people aware that breasts are not obscene.

"I understand that some businesses might not want to open up a dressing room for a nursing mom because it's taking up spots for customers," she said. "It's about being told that it's dirty, that it needs to be in the bathroom and needs to be away in private. That's the mentality that we're trying to fight."

She added that the store's models and mannequins show more breast than the average nursing mom does.

Hebron said the company would treat the protest as an opportunity to remind associates of the nursing policy. Copies of the policy would be posted at employee work stations and store managers would talk to associates to remind them of the policy, he said.