Laura Leeks, from Essex, had visited the Braintree branch of Tesco on Friday 4 November and was told the store “supports breastfeeding”.
“I was advised by your customer service team that they could not issue me a parking voucher as I had only bought baby formula,” Leeks explained in a post on Tesco’s Facebook on 4 November.
“On further questioning I was advised that Tesco ‘supports breastfeeding’ and cannot ‘endorse formula feeding by rewarding customers’ with parking vouchers.”
Leeks continued: “I am delighted that you as a company support breastfeeding, however I cannot accept that your policies lead to your staff shaming women who for whatever reason are using baby formula.”
The mother then shared a personal story with the store, explaining why she can’t breastfeed.
When her son was 15 days old he stopped breathing and her and her husband had to resuscitate him. He was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.
Following surgery, Leeks’ son was unable to tolerate the high fat content of breast milk and was fed a specialist low fat feed via a feeding tube.
“Unfortunately as he was still in recovery from this major surgery, the effort needed to breastfeed was too much stress for him and we had to resort to bottle feeding,” she wrote.
“Inevitably, despite my best attempt, my milk production could not meet his demand and I had no choice but to supplement with formula milk.”
Leeks explained her son is now nearly five months old and “fighting fit”.
She ended the post: “I hope you are able to give your staff the training they clearly require in order to treat women in this situation with more compassion in the future.”
Leeks’ Facebook post has had nearly 300 shares in one week at the time of writing,
A spokesperson for Tesco replied on the post to state that Tesco offers free parking to customers who have a £5 minimum spend, but certain items including baby milk are not included.
“I’m very sorry you weren’t spoken to with compassion, and you feel as though you were treated badly,” they wrote.
“This is not the level of service you can expect from us in any of our stores. I understand that this wasn’t relayed in the best manner and I appreciate this is upsetting for you.
“On a positive note, it’s great to hear your little boy is doing well and fighting fit. I appreciate your feedback, with regards to us supporting breastfeeding. However, this is not to say we support women who do not breastfeed, any less. I’m truly sorry if you were made to feel this way though.
“Although, I do need to reiterate that our policy does state, the services not included in the minimum spend include tobacco, lottery and baby milk.”
Tesco offers free parking to customers who have a £5 minimum spend.
When The Huffington Post UK contacted Tesco for further comment, a spokesperson said: “We always strive to provide the best possible service for our customers and we understand Ms Leeks’ request.
“However, due to UK law we cannot promote baby formula in any way, including the offering of a parking voucher.”