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Barnes & Noble pledges nursing-friendly approach after complaint

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble Inc has pledged to make its stores friendly to nursing mothers as part of a settlement with New York State after a woman who was breastfeeding was asked to cover herself or leave one of its locations.

The agreement, announced by New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, called for Barnes & Noble to educate its employees about the chain’s own policies on public breast-feeding and to strengthen customer complaint procedures. The company will also donate $10,000 to Rockland County’s Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program.

The settlement followed a complaint by Shereen Matera of Oakland, New Jersey, who said she was breastfeeding her infant son in the children’s section of a Barnes & Noble store in Nanuet, New York when an assistant manager asked that she cover her breasts.

“I felt very violated because I have a right to be there,” Matera, who organized a “nurse-in” in the store in protest, said in a phone interview. “It’s all right as human beings, never mind the law, to feed our child wherever we want to."

Public breastfeeding remains a controversial issue nationwide. Many states have statutes protecting the right to breastfeed in public but women commonly face requests to cover up or use a bottle.

“We’ve provided safe environments for women to breastfeed since we opened our first store,” a representative for Barnes & Noble, which also issued her a $50 gift card, said. “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.”

(Reporting By Mimi Dwyer; Editing by Diane Craft)