Primark has robustly denied claims made on social media that one of its security guards forcibly removed a woman’s nine-month-old daughter from her breast after asking her to stop feeding the baby.
Police are investigating allegations by Caroline Starmer, 28, a mother of four, who said she had attempted to feed one of her twin daughters discretely in the Leicester branch of the discount clothes store.
Starmer claimed on Facebook that she was told to leave by a security guard, and that her daughter was taken from her arms when she refused. Primark said its CCTV footage showed no evidence of any such incident, and that Starmer’sdescription of the security guard as Asian and 5ft 10ins tall did not match any of its staff. It said women were welcome to breastfeed in its stores.
Writing on the Facebook breastfeeding activism forum Free to Feed, Starmer claimed that when confronted by a man she described as a security guard, she told him she was free to feed her daughter Paige wherever she chose.
“Just for the security officer to physically remove my daughter from my breast and walk down the store with her, saying if I wanted my daughter, then I was to come and get her,” she said, in a post that has been shared nearly 10,000 time and attracted more than 4,000 comments.
A Primark spokesman said: “We have investigated this customer’s allegation, which we naturally take very seriously indeed. The CCTV footage, reviewed by store management, shows the customer in the Leicester store quite clearly during the time in question. We can see no evidence that she was approached by anyone during this period.
“We have spoken to the security guards on duty. They categorically deny behaving in the way alleged. Furthermore, the individuals do not fit the description given by the customer. We have therefore concluded that the customer allegation is not supported by the available evidence to date. The company would obviously be happy to work with any police investigation into this incident, should this be needed.”
Emma Slough, the coordinator of the Free to Feed group, said she had asked the Primark store to release the footage. “Until we are able to view the CCTV footage first hand, it is impossible to speculate on the true details of this matter. One word against another,” she said. “I have … requested the release of the footage, as this will bring much needed clarity either way.” Slough also called for any witnesses to come forward.
Facebook users have suggested a nationwide “feed-in” protest at stores, similar to demonstrations held outside Claridges in December, when a mother was told to hide her baby under a napkin, but Slough said she wanted to wait until the facts were established.
The Primark spokesman said it had not been able to get back in touch with Starmer on Tuesday to “reassure her about our practice on breastfeeding”. Starmer and her husband have not responded to requests for comment from the Guardian since Primark’s statement was issued.
A Leicestershire police spokesman said: “We have spoken to the woman involved and arrangements have been made to take a further statement in relation to the allegations.”