Woman Fights For Breast-Feeding Rights

Mothers Rebeccah Peppers with son Jordan, 3, left, Anna Grandt with daughter Lavinia, 2, Melanie Gleason-Vance with 8-month-old son Lincoln, in back, Anna Mauser-Martinez with one-year-old son Sebastian breast feed in front of Victoria's Secret in Westlake, Ohio, Saturday, July 1, 2006. Fifteen moms showed up to protest after news that stores in Massachusetts and Wisconsin reportedly hassled mothers breastfeeding in the store. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, John Kuntz)
AP Photo/John Kuntz
A woman offended when Victoria's Secret staff gave her only the option of an employee restroom in which to nurse her baby organized a nursing protest in front of the store.

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 where she could 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."'

Protests also took place in Ohio and Massachusetts.

The leader of Saturday's demonstration in front of a Cleveland-area store said Victoria's Secret "plasters breasts everywhere" but seems offended when they're used for their intended purpose.

A spokesman for Limited Brands, the 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.

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.

Racine resident Kerry Turner brought her 12-month-old daughter Delaney to the nurse-in to support Cook.

"It was ridiculous. It's a natural thing. Breast-feeding is a natural thing. That's what breasts are for," Turner said.

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.

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 are protected from criminal prosecution in Wisconsin.