Nursing mothers of New York may now peruse the stacks of their local Barnes & Noble while breastfeeding their children in peace, which is something they've have been entitled to do since the state legalized public nursing 20 years ago. On Wednesday, New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with the national bookstore chain, which agreed to better educate its employees about laws that protect women's right to nurse in public without interference.
Barnes & Noble also agreed to pay $10,000 to support a breastfeeding awareness and promotion program in Rockland County, where a March incident involving a nursing mother's dismissal from the bookstore prompted outrage across the state. When Shereen Matera, a New Jersey resident, was asked to cover herself or leave Barnes & Noble's Nanuet location, she contacted a local breastfeeding awareness group and organized a "nurse-in" of 15 mothers at the offending store. Matera also filed a complaint with Barnes & Noble's corporate office, but found the company unresponsive in dealing with her issue.
Following its agreement with the attorney general's office, though, Barnes & Noble is now set to improve its customer complaint procedures and become a more welcoming establishment for nursing moms. "Barnes & Noble stores nationwide welcome breastfeeding mothers," said company spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating. "Regrettably, a woman was asked to cover up while breastfeeding in one of our New York stores. We have addressed the situation and have taken to steps to reinforce our policies. We are committed to ensuring our stores continue to be a welcoming environment for breastfeeding mothers."
In addition to the company's $10,000 contribution, all 42 of Barnes & Noble's New York locations will bear the international symbol for breastfeeding at their entrances. Breastfeeding advocates joined the attorney general in applauding the store's decision.
“All New York residents, including breastfeeding mothers, must be afforded equal protection under the law,” Schneiderman said. “No mother should endure harassment for breastfeeding her baby in public. There is one set of rules for everyone in New York, and I applaud Barnes & Noble for taking steps to ensure that moms are not harassed or discriminated against.”