Mom says security tried to stop her from breastfeeding at Short Pump mall

Images courtesy of WRIC 8News

SHORT PUMP, Va. (WRIC) — A Richmond area mom is speaking out after she says security tried to stop her from breastfeeding her baby at Short Pump Town Center.

Ashley Cooper was at the mall last Saturday to take her children to see the Easter Bunny when she sat down on a bench to discreetly feed her 8-month-old daughter.

“I started to feed her and a security guard rushed over and said, ‘ma’am, you can’t do that here,’” Cooper recalled. “I just kind of looked up in shock and she said, ‘you have to go into the nursing room to do that.’”

Ashley Cooper. Image courtesy of WRIC 8News

Cooper wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, so she grabbed her phone and recorded everything on Facebook live.

In the video, she explains, “I informed them that in the state of Virginia, breastfeeding mothers can nurse anywhere they’re legally allowed to be and they are trying to tell me I cannot feed my baby on a bench in the corner.”

Cooper says two security guards stood by until she finished feeding her baby. Afterwards, she complained to guest services.

“They were very apologetic,” Cooper said. “They said that the security guard should not have done that and that I was free to nurse anywhere that I wanted to be.”

A spokesperson for Short Pump Town Center says they let that security officer know she handled the situation the wrong way. The mall intends to give all of its employees additional training to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Pam Howland, Director of Marketing for Short Pump Town Center, sent 8News the following statement:

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 says she isn’t holding a grudge against the security guard or the mall and says she will shop there again.

“I really just want to make sure that mothers know that they have the right to nurse. Wherever they are. If they’re allowed to be there, they can feed their baby.”

Her story on Facebook has fired up moms across the country. The live video has been watched more than 75,000 times.

Cooper is floored by the interest and the supportive messages she has received from total strangers.

“I think anyone who has children can relate to it because it’s just trying to feed a hungry baby. I think any parent has been there,” she says.