Chesterfield mom breastfeeding baby told to move by mall security guard

Updated: Apr. 11, 2017 at 3:50 PM EDT
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A mom breastfeeding her baby at a Henrico mall was told to move by a security guard.

Ashley Cooper, of Chesterfield, went to Short Pump Town Center over the weekend with her family to take photos with the Easter Bunny. While standing in line, her 8-month-old baby started fussing, and the veteran breastfeeding mom knew it was a signal that her little girl was hungry.

Her husband remained in line with their toddler daughter, while Cooper went to change the baby and find a place to breastfeed. She saw the nursing room was occupied and didn't want to feed her child in a bathroom.

That is when, according to Cooper, she found a bench tucked in a corner where she could comfortably breastfeed her baby.

"No one was paying attention to me, I was on a bench, I picked a discreet corner, I wasn't trying to make a statement, I was just trying to feed my baby who was hungry. And it wasn't until security got involved that people were stopping and staring," explained Ashely Cooper.

Within moments, Cooper said a female security guard came over and told her she needed to move to the nursing room, and that she wasn't allowed to breastfeed where she was sitting.

Cooper says she calmly explained to the security officer that she wasn't doing anything wrong, explaining that under Virginia Law, a mother could breastfeed wherever a mom is allowed to be.

"The security guard persisted, saying 'no you cannot nurse her out here, you can't breastfeed here, you have to go into the nursing lounge.' I told her again, I repeated that 'no, I am allowed to feed her out here,' and she radioed for back up," recalled Cooper.

At that point, Cooper began recording through a Facebook Live video, worried about what may happen next.

She eventually made her way back to her husband and other daughter, and the family went to guest services. Cooper said the people working behind the desk were kind and apologetic, telling her the security guard was in the wrong.

Short Pump Town Center released the following statement to NBC12:

We are very sorry for Ms. Cooper's experience at our center. As soon as mall management was aware of the situation, the security officer was advised of the inappropriate way it was handled and all associates will receive additional training to ensure this behavior is not repeated. Short Pump Town Center's policies aim to support our family friendly values and we will work to ensure nursing parents are treated with the utmost respect. We responded to Ms. Cooper's complaint in person, with our apology, immediately after the incident happened as well as through a post on her page. Short Pump Town Center strives to offer a family friendly environment for shopping, dining and entertainment and we will continue to find ways to enhance the overall appeal of the center in order for our guests to feel welcome.

Cooper wanted to share her story with NBC12 in an effort to educate businesses and new moms on what rights they have. She said she does not hold a grudge against the mall, or against the female security officer, but would like the experience to end up being a lesson to area businesses.

"Area businesses need to educate their staff, especially security, better. To know if you see a mother nursing, treat her like you would treat a mother who was feeding a baby with a bottle or spoon-feeding a baby. We're all just trying to feed our children," said Cooper.

A group of mothers are now planning a 'Nurse In' at Short Pump Town Center on May 20, to support normalizing public breastfeeding.

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