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Breastfeeding in Public – my experience in Ann Taylor
October 19, 2009 4:30 pm | by

Last week, we had to go to the Apple store to take care of a problem with my iPhone. While we were there, I had to back up the old iPhone to my laptop, which, if you own an iPhone, you’ll know can take quite a while. For 45 minutes, I held Elsie. She made it for a while, but eventually she got squirmy and fussy. It was time to eat. We hadn’t planned for a long stay and I was without a diaper bag. The Apple Store is bright and cheery and, by design, doesn’t offer even a corner of seclusion. The lack of a diaper bag meant that I didn’t have a blanket to cover up with.

I could have just fed her. Some people are comfortable openly breastfeeding in public. I’m not opposed to the idea and have certainly nursed my baby in public many times, but never without a cover-up and certainly never in the middle of a well-lit Apple store full of very young, unmarried men. My baby was already drawing attention to herself. She is eight months old and her idea of nursing is ten seconds of nursing, pop off, look around, see if she missed anything and then she goes back to nursing for a few seconds. We do that until she gets full enough to not want to go back to nursing. Her current style of nursing certainly isn’t the most modest approach. A distracted eight month old and full-on breast exposure seem to go hand-in-hand. My breast being someone else’s eye candy is just not my cup of tea. It seemed even less ideal in that particular crowd.
So, for the first time in my nearly six year nursing career, she and I left and headed for a dressing room. Ann Taylor next door was very kind and accommodating. After the debacle a few years ago with Victoria’s Secret not allowing a mom to breastfeed in their changing room, I’ve intentionally never asked to use a dressing room to nurse. I didn’t want to be told no (I’m quiet & would find that terribly embarrassing) and have always anticipated at least a strange look from the usually single girl who has no idea what it means to nurse a baby. I’m also usually well equipped with a sling!
Going into Ann Taylor, I wasn’t sure to who to ask, so I just talked with the first person I saw setting product out in the front of the store. She seemed educated on the topic and politely said, “Of course!” and led me straight back to their dressing rooms.
As she let me in the dressing room, she mentioned that I could use the space for as long as I wanted. They kept it quiet in the back. Nobody knocked on the door to see if I was “finished” yet. The staff treated me just like any other customer as I headed back to the Apple store fifteen minutes later with a now-happy baby.
Thank you, Ann Taylor, for training your staff well. I was in your location on the second level of West County Mall in St. Louis, Missouri. I’ll remember that your store is there next time I forget my blanket in the Apple store!
Have you had a good experience nursing your baby in a public location? Tell me about it. How well are other companies educating their employees about proper accommodations for breastfeeding women?

About the Author

Jenn is the founder of Cotton Babies & creator of bumGenius, Flip, and Econobum, worldwide leading cloth diaper brands. She has four children (Andrew, Oscar, Elsie and Louis) and holds an MBA from Washington University. When she's not working full time, she enjoys teaching business leaders how to implement sustainable economic & social change.



  • Anonymous said...
    December 30, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I have nursed anywhere and everywhere that my son is hungry, without a cover, and no one has ever said anything to me. I think the more we let people see it the more normal it becomes and the less taboo.

  • Brandy said...
    December 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    When my second was born I was having problems from my c-section and had to have an x-ray at the hospital where she was born. She maybe was about 4 weeks old and I needed to pump and dump because they were going to do IV contrast, it took so long for them to get me from the waiting room to back to the x-ray it was time to pump. I asked the lady at the desk where I could go to pump and she told me the bathroom! Okay are we at a hospital or what? I mean don’t they know this is not sanitary? I have never breastfed in public, but on that day I was totally about to pump right in the middle of the waiting room. Those post baby hormones were raging! And believe me you all know that is not pretty 🙂 I pitched a fit and finally they let me use an office about 2 hours later.

  • Babs said...
    November 28, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    It has been many years since I last nursed a baby (my youngest is in her 2nd year of college) but I never had any problems with nursing away from home. I worn what was called a nursing top that worked quite nicely. I nursed in church, grocery stores, retail stores, restauramts, etc. and never used a cover. I also never had anyone say anything to me about nursing in publec. It is sad to hear that now there seem to be so many places where public nursing isn’t welcome.

  • That Danielle said...
    November 13, 2009 at 10:43 am

    @Jessica: Why should you have to take your baby to show her off anyway? Who cares if she’s eating or not eating? She was comfortable and that trumps gawking, especially by a stranger!

  • Jessica said...
    October 25, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I love my sling for breastfeeding in public. When my ds (#2) was about 4 months old, we were on a crowded flight and I needed to feed him. I let the man sitting next to me know that I would be nursing (no point in asking permission) and was amazed when he not only didn’t seem uncomfortable but offered his jacket as a cushion under my arm!

    More recently I was at Target and promised my older kids (3 and 4 yrs old) that we’d look at the toys. Of course as soon as we got to the toy section dd (5 months) started getting tired and wanted to nurse. She was already in the sling so I just laid her down and let her nurse while I pushed the cart and followed my older kids around. One other customer noticed that I had a baby in the sling and made a comment, expecting me to pull her out to show off, but I just smiled and nodded. I felt kinda rude, but I didn’t want to say, “She’s eating” out loud in the middle of the store.
    My third baby has had to be very portable, so she nurses in public much more than her older siblings. The sling and the Hooter Hider have become my favorite baby products!

  • said...
    October 23, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    That was nice of them to let you use the dressing room. I have only asked to use one in a store I used to work in!

    I always feel pressure to buy from a store in situations like that, so I just plop myself on a bench in the middle of the mall and go about my business. I strategically dress to help nurse without having to use a cover. And if he pops off, which he does, he is 11 months old, I quickly push my top around my nipple until he is ready again.

    While I am sure there have been times I wasn’t quick enough on the draw, I think it is important to remember that breasts, in this case, are food and not sexual objects. This line of thinking has now made me less self conscious when nursing in public. When I am confidently nursing, no one seems to mind, or even notice.

    I have nursed on flights next to complete strangers even first class, who either didn’t notice or realized I would not be stopped so there was no point in saying anything. I think confidence has a lot to do with that.

    But if anyone told me to use the bathroom, there would be hell to pay. And I would whip out my breastfeeding card printed with NY State law saying I have the right to BF in public, even with my nipples showing! :p

  • Liz Stewart said...
    October 21, 2009 at 2:40 am

    I have always had good luck at motherhood maternity and of course babies r us. But funny story. I was feeding my daughter Ella in Applebees with a hooter hiders cover with the neck thats stays out so i can see her but no one else can. My husband was sitting across from and and noticed a male waiter walk up and look right dowm my cover. My husband said his face was a look of discust and shock. After he told me that I was so mad at the way our culture is about breastfeeding. Come on people!

  • Upstatemomof3 said...
    October 20, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    That is so nice to hear. All to often the stories go the other way. How nice to hear that they treated you well and were kind. AND that Elsie was happy when you left – that is all that matters in the end, right?

  • Calley said...
    October 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Oh Jenn…I had to laugh as you explained Elsies nursing habits of late…Bailey is just the same! Nurse…stop…nurse…stop…play…nurse…look around! LOL! She’ll even nurse standing up with her butt sticking in the air! Such a site!

    Good story too! I just found Disney’s Child Care Centers this weekend and I will frequent them often! Each park has at least one center complete with changing tables, nursing rooms (with rocking chairs), high chairs, etc…they even sell baby food and diapers (no BGs!) if you should need it.

  • Renee said...
    October 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve never had a problem nursing in public, but definitely understand your concern for the other people present. I shopped for my new stove at Sears while nursing my son in a sling (completely covered). I find that people are more than willing to be accommodating when the situation is not already stressful. The one bad experience I had was at a wedding when my son was 3 months old. We’d just started nursing in the sling, and I was having trouble with him slipping out of it (my hands were VERY ready to catch him in those early stages of not-so-hands-free nursing).

    I went to the “bride’s room,” where I was told to keep my stroller and diaper bag, and as I was trying to get my son (awkwardly) out of the sling, I sat down on the couch to easily cradle him onto my lap. Not a moment later a staff member barged in to tell me “the restrooms are the place for changing babies.” I was stunned and half-exposed, so I apologized and explained that I was not changing a diaper on their couch. I think she was embarrassed and she left in a huff. I told the event coordinator, and she was so apologetic about the unpleasant experience, and very understanding of the needs of all the mothers at the party (there were at least 4 other strollers parked in the brides room).

    I think the stress of coordinating events or working the busy fitting rooms at a store can drive people to be inflexible or rude, because of the sheer stress of their job. Lucky for us, some people have very laid back and considerate personalities in any situation.

  • Anonymous said...
    October 20, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Once I was with my father-in-law shopping for a suit and he was trying them all on at JC Penney (he is older and takes his time). I had to nurse my son and did so on a bench near the men’s dressing room. The saleslady approached me and I was so anxious, expecting a fight- but she came up and said, “I love to see a mother nursing her child! It’s so good for them.” I’m glad this was another story that turned out well.

  • Tosha said...
    October 20, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I thought I was going to read another story of public nursing gone wrong!I’m So glad they trained there staff well.

    I’ve never been given any problem nursing in public. I do prefer a cover, but if I have to I do with out. I go sit in a corner or if I am wearing a big shirt I keep it ready to cover Myself when baby pops off.

  • Ali said...
    October 20, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I put my ds in his ergo carrier and walk around the mall and nurse at the same time. everyone lwats thinks he is sleeping. People always try to peek in and see him thank goodness for the hood! With #1 ds b4 the ergo I felt ubcofortabl nursing in public with or without a cover. Know no matter where we are I pop him in the ergo and everyone is happy and we can keep moving along!

  • Jen said...
    October 20, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I walked into a Banana Republic store and asked to use a dressing room to nurse. The woman told me they were busy and I could use their employee bathroom instead (yuck!). I then changed my plan and nursed her in a small boutique next door. They were very accommodating and I even bought something from them (haha). -Cloth diaper Momma

  • Stacy said...
    October 20, 2009 at 7:18 am

    I always head to the nearest Gap, especially a Baby Gap. Every Baby Gap I have been to has a dedicated nursing room that is comfortable and clean. Plenty of room for the stroller, my 9-year-old, and restful relaxation.

  • Tracy said...
    October 20, 2009 at 6:19 am

    The way I did it was by wearing a layered outfit. A breastfeeding top covered by a baggy shirt works wonders covering up at the bottom and on top. Great post, enjoyed reading this! 😉

  • lilmoxey said...
    October 19, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    I have a 5 month old and I have not been brave enough yet to nurse w/o a cover. I have used dressing rooms in Motherhood Maternity and Target. The Motherhood stores have signs that say they welcome breastfeeding and even let you use the larger room to accomadate the stroller. When I was at Target the worker I asked was younger and I really don’t think she understood what I was going to be doing, but at the same time she really didn’t seem to mind either. I enjoyed reading about other public b/f stories. Thanks.

  • the monkey's mama said...
    October 19, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    That is a great story. So happy to hear it. When I was nursing my daughter we’d go into the department store “lounges” when I forgot my cover. With my cover, though, i was like you–nursed anywhere and everywhere from parks to bars (yes! on a bar stool!), and malls, etc. I can’t wait to start nursing baby #2 in February!

  • jill said...
    October 19, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Incidentally I have nursed with no cover the whole time I have been nursing. Typically I just turn my back on the room if need be or find a place to sit in the least occupied corner. In church I typically used the choir room, but even that was full during a busy potluck Sunday so I fed her in a metal folding chair, facing away from the room. Baby’s gonna bat down a blanket anyway, what’s the point? I even did it outside at a pavilion during a family reunion. I have a very sweet 40+ year old cousin who has mental disability who desperately wanted to see the baby, just when she was in the pop off and on stage, even he seemed to comprehend “I’m feeding the baby now because she’s hungry and I’ll be right back”, his comprehension is that of about a 6 year old. You’d think more adults would be that understanding about it.

  • HereWeGoAJen said...
    October 19, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I live near Orlando, so I go to all the theme parks quite often. All the Disney parks have lovely baby centers with rooms for nursing (and changing and feeding and air conditioning and water). Sea World has the same. The Universal parks do not! It has actually made a difference in which parks I go to most often.

  • jill said...
    October 19, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    There is a family area in Mid Rivers Mall in STL, that we just discovered by accident, sure enough, we needed its’ use for a diaper change and nursing, they have 2 little cubicles with a chair and table with curtains to draw across for privacy. I almost lost my mind at the awesomeness of it.

  • The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe said...
    October 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Actually, thinking about it, when I was a new mom, waaaay back in the day, I was actually turned away from a Thyme Maternity, when I asked to use their changeroom to nurse my newborn. This is a store that sells maternity and nursing clothes. At the time, I just didn’t know any better…

    susie 🙂

  • Melissa Ritter said...
    October 19, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I’ve had wonderful experiences using the dressing rooms of Ross, TJ Maxx, Target, and Wal-mart to breastfeed my son. Ironically, The Children’s Place is where I got the worst reaction, but even so, they still let me use it. One time, a mother who had breastfed her babies many years ago, and was part of LLL, was behind me when I asked to use the dressing room at Ross. She ended up in the room beside me and told me over the wall that I was a wonderful mother for breastfeeding my son!

    Thanks for posting this–I think it’s an interesting topic!

  • Jenn said...
    October 19, 2009 at 6:19 pm


    The Ann Taylor dressing room was set up so the bench was right in front of the mirror. I’ve never had that setup anywhere at home, so I actually did do some observation while I was sitting there. You’re right, I wasn’t showing quite as much skin as I thought I was… but, there were times when I thought I wouldn’t be showing any skin (because of how she was positioned) when I was shocked to find that I was actually showing quite a bit.

    Next time I’m out with just Elsie in the mall, I might just make it a point to do this again so I can “practice” in front of a mirror while sitting down.

    I’m glad you brought this up… it didn’t re-occur to me until just now that the dressing room mirror was a nice little practicing zone for other potentially less private situations. 🙂

  • The Extraordinary Baby Shoppe said...
    October 19, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    I’ve never run into an issue breastfeeding in public, in 10 years, 4 kids later. I will say I’ve never used a cover, and I think you’d be surprised at how discrete you can be w/o, even with an older baby that pops on and off. I keep one hand on the bottom of my shirt, to the side of my breast, if she pops off, I simply pull the shirt down to cover my nipple… never felt exposed, never made anyone uncomfortable. If anything, I’ve always felt this approach to be more discrete than trying to drape a blanket over what’s going on. If it’s not for you, I get it, but give it a go in a mirror, you may be surprised by what you *don’t* see!

    susie 🙂

  • Parker Buttons said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I can’t believe Victoria’s secret has that policy…I, too nurse EVERYWHERE and don’t care. I was once told at “toys ‘r us” that they had a nursing room for “that”…I then told her that “i know” and that it was already occupied…I then ignored her completely.

  • Gwenn S. said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I love hearing stories like this! It makes me very sad and upset when I hear of mother’s being told they can’t bf their baby! One of my online buddies was nursing right outside a fitting room and she was told to go inside the dressing room, how rude and wrong!

    I don’t feel comfortable feeding w/o a cover either and my baby usually fusses with it on anyway.Fortunately I have always been accommodated when I ask if I can feed my baby, the latest being at Target. The staff were very nice and let me use the big dressing room so I could take my stroller and diaper bag in, and said I could use it for as long as I liked.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Nikki said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I found that wearing a Mommy Necklace really cuts down on the popping on and off but if you gotta nurse, you gotta nurse IMO – and I’ll just figure it out. That’s GREAT that Ann Taylor was so accomodating! Kudos to you ladies!

  • Jamie said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Yay for Ann Taylor! It’s so nice when retailers “get it” when it comes to mom shoppers-even if they’re not buying on a particular day.

  • Erin said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    That’s wonderful to hear! I’ve pretty much nursed my 3 month old anywhere and everywhere and have never had any trouble with it. I recently took my older son to an interactive play center, and I was so happy taht when I sat down to nurse the younger one on a bench, one of the employees began playing with my older son and helping him do an art project, knowing that my hands were full. It was really sweet of her!

  • Madison {Life Happens During Naptime} said...
    October 19, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I am the same way about nursing in public. Nursing without a cover is just not for me, I am very modest. And yet my son got to an age where he would just pull up the cover and do the unlatch and lookaround thing too. I got very good and nursing discreetly without a cover (using my clothes to cover me instead) in a back corner =P