In the exhausting first weeks of life with a newborn, a shopping trip can feel like a huge undertaking for a new mom.
For Connecticut mom Jessie Maher, an outing to Target with her 4-week-old daughter, Zinnia, turned especially stressful after a man began yelling at her for breastfeeding in the store's cafe area.
Maher says while she paying for her items, Zinnia started crying. So the new mom hurried to finish the transaction and sit down with her daughter to breastfeed.
"I plopped myself down and started feeding her right away... I was just sort of minding my own business — just sitting there — when the man turned around and saw me," Maher told TODAY Parents. "He started talking to me and yelling at me. He said, 'Do you have to do that here? Can't you go somewhere else? Can't you cover up?'"
The man then began swearing at Maher.
"He just got louder and louder," said Maher. "And angrier and angrier. It got kind of scary. The only thing I said to him at that point — really the entire time — was, 'I am feeding my baby. I have the right to be here.'"
Maher says she turned away from the man, but he continued to speak to her, so she picked up her cell phone and began recording. Shortly after she began filming the now-viral footage, another shopper and a group of Target employees came to Maher's defense, shielding her and telling the man to leave her alone.
The fellow shopper, wearing a green shirt in the video, later told Maher that she has five kids of her own.
"I loved that she kind of stepped in and became my mama bear," said Maher. "I felt very protected and when everyone stood up for me, I knew nothing was going to happen to us."
Kristy Welker, a member of Target's public relations team, says the team members at the store were simply doing their job, ensuring that Maher and all guests had a great experience.
"At Target, we want all of our guests to feel comfortable shopping with us. Our breastfeeding policy, which applies to all stores, is just one of the ways in which we support our guests," said Welker. "Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable."
Maher works as a doula, and says she posted the video because many of her clients and friends have told her stories about being shamed for breastfeeding in public.
"I really do feel like this needs to be talked about," said Maher. "People need to know that I'm not the only mom that's been attacked for breastfeeding. He's not the only man who has attacked a mom for breastfeeding... There's too much shaming of women for all of their choices — too much attacking of moms."
Since the video was posted to Maher's Facebook account, she says she has learned the identity of the man who bullied her that day.
"I do not have any contact with this person," said Maher. "I do not plan on bringing the police into it or pressing charges. I feel like the video going viral is definitely punishment enough."
Maher says she hopes the video brings awareness to the need for women to stop judging one another and to instead show each other support.
"If you see a mom being attacked for anything — even if it's just a choice she's making about how she will feed her baby or where she will give birth — stick up for her," said Maher. "She's made a choice and it has nothing to do with anyone else... Mamas have to stick up for each other."
Maher says baby Zinnia finished nursing in the Target cafe that morning, and took a peaceful nap afterward.
"She kept nursing until she passed out. I didn't move. I didn't kick her off the boob. I didn't cover up," said Maher. "I kept doing exactly what I was doing and she ended up passing out and sleeping the whole car ride home, which was exactly what I was going for."