Mum thrown out of VS for breast feeding

MELANIE MAHONEY
Last updated 16:07 22/01/2014
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FOX 7 & Victoria's Secret

DOUBLE STANDARD?: Ashley Clawson, left, and a typical Victoria's Secret ad campaign, right.

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For a company that makes billions of dollars a year selling bras and underwear, whose ads feature women dressed in nothing but sexy lingerie, you'd think that Victoria's Secret stores would be breastfeeding-friendly. Breasts, after all, are basically their bread and butter.

But a mum learnt that isn't necessarily the case when, earlier this month she was asked to leave a US Victoria's Secret store to feed her baby.

Ashley Clawson, a mum of two from Austin, Texas, says that she had just finished purchasing almost NZ$180 worth of products in the store when her four-month-old son needed to be fed.

With only a few customers in the store on a quiet Monday afternoon, Clawson asked if she would be able to slip into a changeroom to feed her son.

Much like New Zealand laws, Texas regulations state that "a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorised to be", so Clawson didn't anticipate the response she got.  

"The employee ... responded by telling me I was not allowed to nurse my son in her store. Instead, I could walk outside to a nearby alley," Clawson told Culture Map Houston.

Many Victoria's Secret models, including (l-r) Doutzen Kroes, Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen, are breastfeeding mums.

Many Victoria's Secret models, including (l-r) Doutzen Kroes, Miranda Kerr and Gisele Bundchen, have shared their breastfeeding moments on social media. 

The employee added that it was a long alley, so if she walked all the way to the end no one would see her breastfeeding her son.

"I was instantly confused and shocked, so to clarify, I asked her, 'You want me to take my son outside, down an alley, and nurse him?' She responded by saying yes. It was cold and windy ... there was no way I was going to walk down an alley in the middle of the elements to feed my son."

The 27-year-old ended up feeding her son in a toilet stall in the shopping centre.

"There are many emotions I felt in that moment; disbelief, hopelessness, humiliation, anger and confusion. I had never thought of breastfeeding as such a shameful thing, especially in a store where breasts are visible in every corner.

"For a chain that promotes 'the beauty' of the female body, and that shows pictures of almost nude women, breastfeeding should most certainly be welcomed."

At home, Clawson contacted the company to complain about the incident, and also spoke to the store manager. She says she has yet to receive an official response or apology from the company, which made NZ$7.36 billion dollars in lingerie sales in 2012.

A spokesperson did, however, release a statement to Fox7 News, which read: "We take this issue very seriously. We have a longstanding policy permitting mothers to nurse their children in our stores and we are sorry that it was not followed in this case."

Clawson also wrote about what happened on Facebook, where her post about what happened has garnered her support from around the world.  

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She has also used the page to hit back at the criticism she has faced, with some people even telling her that she "just needs to shop online from now on" so won't have to feed her son while out.

"W[hat the hell], so never leave my house in order for you not to have to witness a baby eat?!" she responded.

One would have to wonder what many Victoria's Secret 'Angels' would have to say about the issue: Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima, Lily Aldridge, Doutzen Kroes and ex-Angel Miranda Kerr are all proud breastfeeding mums. Kerr and Kroes have even both shared photos of them breastfeeding their babies backstage at Victoria's Secret shoots.  

Despite so many of their ambassadors having been through pregnancy and being a new mum, however, Victoria's Secret hasn't extended its range to maternity bras or nursing tops, a fact lamented by many of the brand's long-time fans.  

For her part, Clawson admits that the event has been "pretty embarrassing and stressful" but hopes that it has made others a little more sensitive to the needs of new mums - and aware of breastfeeding in general.

"The posters and everything are just women showing their breasts, and obviously to Victoria's Secret ... [they're] looked at as a play toy," she said.

"Not necessarily means for, you know, nursing your child, which is why we have breasts to begin with."

Have you been asked to move while breastfeeding, or have your experiences been all positive?

- FFX Aus

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