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Let Me Tell You Where You Can Put That Napkin (Another Woman Illegally Told to Stop Breastfeeding)

June 9, 2008

Like many other news outlets these days, WINK News, a Florida CBS affiliate, allows their registered website users to post their own stories. Yesterday, another story of a woman asked by a restaurant to stop breastfeeding, despite state law, appeared on the outlet’s website. Nicole Newland claims that an employee of Arizona Pizza of Ft. Myers told her to stop breastfeeding immediately or cover up immediately.

Florida law states that “A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”

Newland further indicates that the pizza place employee tried to cover her 3-month-old baby’s head with a napkin. Repeatedly. Despite being informed of the state law, she also asked the mother to breastfeed facing a wall.

Because this is user-submitted content, it obviously hasn’t been vetted the same way a regular news story should be, and includes no official response from Arizona Pizza. However, if you’re an employer, you might want to take this as a reminder to learn the law and educate your staff.

Update: According to this discussion thread (where the mother also posted her story), the manager of the restaurant has called to apologize “up, down, and sideways,” and has been receiving emails on the incident “from as far away as Indonesia.”

Update 2: There have been some reports that this story was made up, and that the pizza place has video proving that it did not happen as reported. I cautioned earlier that it had not yet been properly vetted, but that businesses in states with breastfeeding laws should review them, as this type of incident does occur. Thanks to the commenters for pointing me to the updates. I’ll have a post later on how this, and those Facebook/MySpace “bought you as a pet” messages, trivialize real problems.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2008 4:45 pm

    these anti-breastfeeding people need to get a grip. Imagine, a breast being used for what it is meant for!

  2. June 9, 2008 4:52 pm

    Labor Nurse, no kidding. Aside from which, any woman should know that repeatedly trying to cover the head of another woman’s baby with napkins is not going to get a good reaction. Kudos to the mama for reacting so calmly, reciting the law, etc.

  3. Ashleigh permalink
    June 9, 2008 7:02 pm

    This is outrageous and if that would have happened to me where the law clearly states that it is OK wether the whole breast is showing or not. And on the napkin front, I would have knocked that waitress on her ARSE if she tried covering my babies head up more than once!! If this were me, I would sue!!!

  4. onesillyme permalink
    June 9, 2008 8:03 pm

    What I found most interesting were some of the responses to Ms. Newland’s original post– “kind of nasty” and so on. Geez, it’s a baby eating dinner, let’s all take a deep breath and eat our pizza!

    I had my kids well before WA state’s very similar BF law passed. With my twins, born 1988, I spent more than a little time nursing in restrooms. Partly because I was embarassed, descrete was hard because of my really large breasts, partly because it was a contained area and partly because with the two of them it was so involved and I needed some space to set up camp. (Thank you Norstroms and Bon Marche for the ladies lounge!) Even there I got rude comments, and I quit when they were 6 mos.

    Whole different story with my younger daughter, born 1994. I was a lot more confident. She refused to have her head covered. When baby was about 3 mos. my 3 daughters and I went to visit Grandma. Stopped at an off-the-highway Dairy Queen in Ellensburg WA for lunch, and the baby woke up as we were about to drive off. So I nursed her in the car… A man came over asking for directions, which I gave, and was so amazed at the sight that he literally went around the parking lot exclaiming “you’ve gotta see this!” If I hadn’t been alone with a car full of kids I would have had something to say about his behavior…

    The happy ending of this story is that this baby was nursed until 11 mos., when SHE decided to quit. I imagine the jerk in the parking lot is still telling the story of when he found out there was “another” use for boobs. 😉

  5. Meg permalink
    June 11, 2008 12:29 am

    I’ve been around breastfeeding mothers in public and quite frankly it makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s a matter of where. When you are expecting nudity, you can choose whether or not to be around that area. When someone is naked in public…ie flashing, they can be asked to leave. Complaints can be made. But somehow, mothers are exempt from this.

    By using a piece of cloth you are being polite, and thats what I think it comes down to. Most especially in a restaurant, where many people expect a standard of behavior and are half paying for the atmosphere. It’s like someone flossing at the table, it’s kind of gross, not illegal, but it doesn’t help your appetite.

    By not using a cloth the woman is in essence stating that she doesn’t care how she makes the people around her feel, that it’s natural. She’d be right it is natural, but I wouldn’t make out with my boyfriend in a restaurant, I wouldn’t pee in the middle of a restaurant and I wouldn’t flash people in a restaurant.

    Why shouldn’t mothers be held to the same standard everyone else is? Instead of trying to force nudity on people, I’d try making businesses have feeding rooms. The mother’s would be happy and the people who complain would be even happier.

    • Get Over It permalink
      January 26, 2010 2:09 pm

      You obviously don’t care how you make her feel. Just because you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean she has to cover her baby when feeding. Get over yourself.

    • Eden permalink
      December 6, 2011 2:16 am

      Breastfeeding isn’t nudity. I breastfeed my babies ALL the time and have never gotten naked to do it. The thing I don’t get is why an idiot’s feelings would ever be more important than a baby’s needs. I see more boob popping out the top of shirts of childless women than I see when a baby is nursing. We see boobs everywhere and it is “fine”–unless the boobs are used to feed a baby and then people get all stupid about it. Before I had kids I showed more flesh at the grocery store than I do now nursing. People just have weird hangups and need to get over themselves.

  6. Vanessa permalink
    June 11, 2008 4:00 pm

    Has anyone EVER considered that we as Humans are the only mammal that has the option not to provide breast milk?

  7. nikki permalink
    June 11, 2008 4:50 pm

    I had the privelage of breastfeeding all four of my kids. I think that it’s wonderful that laws have changed to allow a mother to feed her baby wherever the need arrises. I have tried to feed my baby in the ladies room and let me tell you… have you ever eaten in the rest room? It’s nasty. Why should our babies have to do it?
    I am all for a little modesty though. If my baby decided that she needed to eat right then I didn’t just whip out a breast and start feeding. There are tons of clothing options out that that make it not only convenient but even stylish to cover up your breast while still being able to publicly feed your baby.

  8. June 11, 2008 4:56 pm

    Nikki, I think that “whip it out” thing is mostly rhetorical. I have seen many women breastfeed, and I have never seen anyone do what I would consider “whipping it out.” It’s not like a burlesque show! LOL

  9. Ellie permalink
    June 11, 2008 7:33 pm

    Apparently, the story ISN’T what it seems!

    the response from the president of arizona pizza.

    From: Azpcoflorida
    To: Azpcoflorida
    Sent: 6/11/2008 6:30:26 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
    Subj: Breast feeding incident at Arizona Pizza Company

    This is an e-mail broadcast to many of the people that have voiced their opinion regarding an incident at one of our restaurants last Saturday evening, Attached is a response from my partner regarding the incident. We never had a chance to respond and were never asked to respond. This one sided story has tarnished our reputation in the community that we live in. What is portrayed in Nicole’s email is embellished way beyond what actually happened. We have video surveillance in our restaurant for our safety and the safety of the public. We have Nicole’s entire visit on permanent record along with the actions of our employees during her visit. We have not concluded our internal investigation as yet but I believe it’s time for a response. As you will see below, we took action immediately not fully knowing what had happened but based on receiving emails suddenly from everywhere. I just wish Nicole had spoken to a manger or given us an opportunity to respond before everyone decided to play judge and jury before the defendant arrived at the court. We are a family restaurant in every sense of the word. That is our concept and theme throughout. We have always welcomed breast feeding mothers and will continue to do so as long as we are around. Our business has suffered badly from all of this.
    I have personally spoken to Nicole twice over the past couple of days and explained to her our sincere apologies for what she described had taken place. I reviewed what we were doing for retraining in all of the restaurants nationwide. The emails keep coming and I know we can’t stop that. We are being accused of child abuse, assault on an infant etc. Hundreds of people have been effected by a story that was not factual by any stretch.
    I also told Nicole I could no longer sit back and watch our business deteriorate from all of this.
    Thank you all for taking the time to read this. There is more below.

    June 11, 2008

    As the Co-Owner of Arizona pizza I am saddened by the course of events that have taken place as a result of an email sent from a third party about a young lady breast-feeding her baby in our restaurant. We have received threatening e-mails from all over the world stemming from an e-mail sent out to the media and other websites that suggested we told this young lady to stop breast feeding in our restaurant, and that we tried to cover the babies head with a napkin several times. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and we have 33 minutes of very clear video surveillance tape to prove it. We acted immediately on Monday when we found out and ordered a full investigation. The employee in question was relieved from duty pending the result of a full investigation. She is devastated by these allegations. This 10-15 second encounter was part of the mother’s 33 minutes of breast feeding standing in the isle of the restaurant next to her table. At no time was the mother or baby touched during this brief conversation, the mother was never told to stop breast feeding her child and the breastfeeding was never interrupted. We acted immediately and re-trained all our employees on the laws involving mothers and breastfeeding. We ordered a video tape of that evening and asked everyone working that evening to submit a report in order for us to conduct our investigation.

    It’s sad that this event has seems to have taken a life of its own. Breast feeding has taken place in Arizona Pizza from the first day we opened, both my daughter and daughter-in law were breastfeeding their babies at the opening night party. One of our managers in Estero is still breastfeeding her daughter at Arizona Pizza Co. To say we are against breast feeding at Arizona Pizza is just wrong. Arizona Pizza is a family restaurant that has donated thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to community projects. It breaks my heart to read the emails and allegations from people who are viewing us from a far

  10. Marge permalink
    June 12, 2008 6:06 am

    Ok, Nikki is busted. This story is made up and preplanned. She was after the attention and it backfired!
    Sorry for everyone who was upset by this.

  11. June 12, 2008 6:23 am

    Thanks ladies, see the update to the post. I plan on having something later on how this type of thing trivializes real issues.

  12. Andrew Miller permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:00 am

    for the record:
    The manager never once tried to put a napkin on the babys face.
    He only approached the breastfeeding mother once to request that she please be a bit more descrete and even then, spent no longer than 2 minutes at this request. (He had no problem with her breastfeeding. He had a problem with her disturbing the other guests and their children.)
    The breastfeeding mother was standing up, facing away from her table, with both nipples exposed.

    Now I’d like to state clearly for you all that I am all for breastfeeding. I support it, and I have no problem with a mother choosing to do so in public. You have every right to choose to breastfeed in public, HOWEVER, it is obvious to me that this peticular mother was simply challenging society for the selfcentered purpose of generating media hype, be it meaningless in proportion or otherwise.

    I used to work at a resteraunt and I’ve seen many mothers tactfully and gracefully breastfeed in public. Usually a sort of blanket or other cover is used. Sometimes I’ve seen a mother have only one nipple exposed, but in all my years I’d never seen a woman stand up and face away from her table and clumsily bounce her infant as he/she tries to suckle and swallow that much desired nourishment without choking.

    This woman is mocking your rights as mothers.
    She is deliberately exposing herself for the attention and putting your rights at risk.

    What do you think mothers? Is this really the type of woman that you would support? Is this how you behaive when publicly breastfeeding, or do you prefer class and dignity over attention and stubourness?
    This woman is a disgrace.

  13. Andrew Miller permalink
    June 13, 2008 9:05 am

    I’m sorry for my spelling errors. I’m so appauled by this womans behavior that I did not stop to make sure I was spelling this correctly. I’m sure you get my point regardless.

  14. June 13, 2008 9:14 am

    Andrew, you might be interested in the follow-up post here. I’ll be interested to see if the local media there actually sorts out the facts and reports on it.

  15. Andrew Miller permalink
    June 13, 2008 10:04 am

    I’ll be sure check back. When people do this sort of thing for attention… it’s jsut… not cool.

    True story: I believe that everyone should live their life the way they want. I have my opinions but I would never tell someone that they aren’t allowed to do what they want.
    True story: People need to understand that if they choose to do what they want for whatever reason, they have to be willing to accept those consequences.
    True story: This woman is taking advantage of the attention and support of women across the globe. I kiiinda hope she gets sued.

  16. jandcandme permalink
    June 13, 2008 7:51 pm

    Andrew – are you an employee of Arizona Pizza, or were you a customer at the time of Nicole’s visit? I just want to be clear where the source material comes from.

  17. June 14, 2008 8:01 am

    j… I’d like to know the same thing. There is so much unsubstantiated info flying around.

  18. Marge permalink
    June 14, 2008 10:58 am

    Andrew- I have seen several different stories Nicole has personally posted that change by leaps and bounds each time it is told. I think that she is a liar and blew the story into something it’s not.
    I say that because I do not want to be accused of being her supporter. But, I think you are lying. The manager was never there and a woman approached her, not a man. I do not believe you were even there. You do not need to try to attack her, she has done enough damage to her credibility herself.

  19. June 22, 2008 9:47 am

    As a mother of three,I never saw anyone give me a dirty look or glance. Actually, it almost had the Madonna effect.I breast fed in both public and private areas. I feel that as long as it is done with discretion ,what’s the big deal?.America is so “dark ages” sometimes. We have a booming porn industry,a fetish of breasts and sizes which have a lot of us zipping of to the surgeon for lifts and enhancements, but God forbid should a woman utilize her natural ability to feed her child without inciting upset? Please.I applaud this woman for her fortitude and using legislation to support her right as a woman. Good going girl!

  20. Jody permalink
    July 3, 2010 12:52 am

    Before taking this woman’s word …

    Chances are she made it up.


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