A Central Alberta woman is filing a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission because she was told at the Olds Walmart to breastfeed in the washroom instead of a fitting room.
Customer Tanya Planken, 40, said she regularly shopped at the store and often breastfed her 10-month-old daughter Sarah in the fitting room.
“I’ve always believed they had no problem with me nursing there, or they’ve never said anything, so I nursed her there,” Planken said on Friday.
“It’s quiet for Sarah. I don’t have to cover up completely. I’ve tried the cover up. She doesn’t like to be covered up.”
It only takes five or 10 minutes to breastfeed her daughter, said the Mountain View County resident.
But on Tuesday at about 2 p.m., Planken said a supervisor told her to “take it to the washroom” when Planken exited the fitting room after breastfeeding.
“It is illegal to redirect somebody — illegal,” Planken said.
“It’s totally disgusting and humiliating especially in 2013. (Sarah) is a child. She’s a human.”
The Alberta Human Rights Commission says human rights tribunals and courts have determined that breastfeeding is an integral part of being a mother and retailers must allow women who need to breastfeed their children in a public area the opportunity to do so. Retailers should not ask the mother to cover up or move to a different location. While some retailers may wish to provide a private space for breastfeeding, there is no obligation to provide such space, nor is there an obligation for mothers to use such space.
Planken’s family emailed Walmart’s Canadian head office to complain about what happened and was emailed an apology.
“I want to assure you that it is our policy to ensure our customers feel welcome to breastfeed in our stores. Also, if they wish, moms are absolutely welcome to use the change rooms. We have already followed up with the store to make sure our policy is well understood and properly applied,” said Alex Roberton, director of corporate affairs and social media with Walmart, in the email.
In an interview with the Red Deer Advocate, Roberton said moms are Walmart’s core customers and the company wants them to feel comfortable breastfeeding in their stores.
“With a million customers and 95,000 associates and the turnover you see in retail, we have to continually reinforce various policies with respect to what we should doing in our stores. Sometimes when we haven’t done a good enough job, we get a situation like what happened in Olds,” Roberton said.
Planken said she also received a call from one of the supervisors at the Olds Walmart with an apology.
But Planken said that’s not good enough.
“I accept your apology. However, I’m still going to the Alberta Human Rights Commission because in six months from now it’s going to be forgotten and another mother will come along and be sent to washroom.”
Aug. 1 to 7 was World Breastfeeding Week.