Breastfeeding Controversy at Beverly Hills Anthropologie Sets Off Firestorm

Beth GreenfieldAugust 21, 2014

Do not mess with breastfeeding moms in Beverly Hills.

That was the message sent to retailer Anthropologie, loud and clear, by a posse of protestors that turned out on Wednesday in support of Ingrid Wiese Hesson — a new mother who says she was unceremoniously escorted to the bathroom with her 6-week-old infant, mid-feeding, by a manager named Meredith.

“Shocked,” wrote Wiese Hesson, who shared an account of the incident on her Facebook page Tuesday shortly after it occurred (and after spending $700 on merchandise). “I unlatched the infant, he began to cry, and we did the walk of shame to the stock room bathroom. There was nothing but a toilet in the room. ‘Sorry we don’t have a chair.’ I left the store embarrassed and called back to talk to Meredith and verify what I had just experienced. ‘I thought you and the other customers would be more comfortable off the sales floor,’ she explained.”

The nurse-in at Anthropologie. Photo by Ingrid Wiese Hesson/Facebook.

The post set into motion a powerful chain reaction that began with supportive comments and hundreds of shares and led to, in less than 24 hours, a massive nurse-in right back at the Beverly Hills Anthropologie location. “Amazing! All started by YOU!” wrote one of many supporters on Wiese Hesson’s Facebook page. Wiese Hesson, who could not be reached for comment by Yahoo Health, reported on her page that there were more than 100 women involved in the protest. And she and many of those in her corner pointed out that California state law allows a woman to breastfeed her child in any public or private location (with the exception of a private home) that otherwise allows her presence. Although, like the majority of other similar state laws regarding public breastfeeding, there is no enforcement clause, meaning there’s no official way to hold businesses’ feet to the fire.

Related: Olivia Wilde’s Breastfeeding Photo Causes a Stir

Wiese Hesson. Photo by Ingrid Wiese Hesson/Facebook.

Anthropologie corporate offices did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo Health, though Wiese Hesson noted on Facebook that a general manager for the local California store eventually called to apologize, telling her, “No one should have a bad experience at our Anthropologies.” In addition, the company posted the following apology Wednesday on its Facebook page, where it was being roundly criticized by hundreds of commenters:

“We are disappointed to hear of the unfortunate experience that occurred in our Beverly Hills store. As a company comprised of hundreds of mothers, which seeks to put the customer first, we celebrate women in all of their life stages. Given our staff’s dedication to providing exceptional customer service, we welcome this as an opportunity to enhance our customer experience by providing further training and education for our staff. Our aim is that all women – all mothers – be comfortable in our stores and delight in their relationship with Anthropologie.”

Related: Pot-Smoking Mom Fights to Breastfeed. What Are the Risks?

For what it’s worth, this is not the first time that Anthropologie has upset a group of people; it’s been widely reported over the years that Richard Hayne, CEO of the retail company that also includes Urban Outfitters and Free People, has donated thousands to conservative causes, including supporting the 2008 presidential run of Rick Santorum, a vocal anti-gay-rights candidate.

And it’s far from the first time that a shamed breastfeeding mom has rallied the troops in support of the cause. In June, a group of nursing activists defiantly took to the street in front of the studio that houses “The Wendy Williams Show” in New York — a response to the host’s on-air comment that she is “all for breastfeeding,” but not “breastfeeding in public.” That came on the heels of a nurse-in at a Friendly’s restaurant in Connecticut as well as at various other restaurants, gyms, and businesses across the country, and a collective, nationwide freak-out over Karlesha Thurman, the 25-year-old college grad who dared to breastfeed her baby, post ceremony, while still in her cap and gown.  

Wiese Hesson’s experience of being led to the bathroom was eerily reminiscent of a recent breastfeeding-in-public student campaign, which depicted young mothers nursing their babies in public bathroom stalls as a way to bring awareness to the situation faced by many lactating moms “when nurture calls.” Just life imitating art imitating life, apparently.