This week, all the internet was in an uproar over a Singaporean mother who was breastfeeding on the MRT. Someone surreptitiously snapped a photo of her, and it spread like wildfire.
We won’t republish that particular photo here to respect her privacy (and of her kids!), but it did get us wondering – should there be a sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not when breastfeeding in public?
To her critics, this is what she had to say on her own Facebook page:
For such a divisive issue, we decided to speak to a few people about what they thought.
Jason Leong, comedian, 32
Generally I feel breastfeeding is very important for both mom and baby and sometimes in a woman’s hectic schedule she has no choice but to breastfeed in public. When a woman is lactating, her breasts become engorged and if she doesn’t breastfeed, it may lead to an infection known as mastitis. So overall, breastfeeding: YES. Breastfeeding in public: YES.
If it was the other way around, if nature made it such that MEN breastfed, trust me, we’d all have no problems doing it in public. However, I can *understand* if some people think that what she is doing isn’t okay, and that perhaps a scarf may provide more privacy. That sentiment is also perfectly reasonable.
Ezra Zaid, radio producer and presenter, 33
Well, maybe she doesn’t have the time & luxury to accommodate a judgmental society… I mean, she’s got a kid to feed. If you’re uncomfortable with it, isn’t the solution just to look away? Done.
Keshia, communications manager, 30, mother of 1
I’m super mixed about public breastfeeding. There’s the whole #normalizebreastfeeding, but personally I feel that mums should cover in public because although it’s completely natural, and it’s important to feed your baby if she’s hungry, I also don’t want any weirdos sexualising such an intimate act (you don’t know who is looking and taking photo and then might like, wank to it).So…normalise breastfeeding by all means. We should! But modesty is also important. Every mum has every right to feed in public. It’s their body, their child, their decision. Anyway, it’s not for me to say it’s appropriate for her family or not.
Theresa, entrepreneur, 46, mother of 2
I think a woman has a right to breastfeed anywhere she wants but to cover up or not depends on where you are. If you are a liberal in a conservative community you will just unnecessarily rile people up. With everything, there’s a time and place. Being considerate is part and parcel of living in a crowded planet.
Kavin Jay, comedian, 37, father of 1
As a woman, she does have the right to her own body and if she wants to breastfeed a baby on an MRT while watching a drama on her phone, she shouldn’t be judged for it. The society should be desensitised by the scenes that happen around us especially when it’s not supposed to be sexual. Who are we to judge the morality of this based on her choice of clothing? And as a mother, she should be allowed to breastfeed on an MRT if she needs to without judgement.
Ching Yee, operations manager, 29
My first reaction is that it makes me uncomfortable. Not because I think it’s sexual, but because I think this is a private moment between a mum and her child. It’s not like a takeaway from Subway where you can eat wherever you want. I also don’t expect her to dress differently or feed her baby in the toilet (that’s kind of disgusting), but perhaps it would be better if she could try to create some sense of personal space by sitting closer to her husband or something. But generally I’d leave people to their own devices and just not look.
Zan Azlee, journalist, 39, father of 2
As far as I know, eating and drinking is not allowed on the MRT.
Evelyn, consultant, 37, mother of 2
As a mother I feel like she is misusing the liberty to breastfeed – she is forgetting that it will make others feel uneasy. There are so many ways to breastfeed without exposing herself and people will still respect her effort of giving the best to her child.
Eugene, asset manager, 40, father of 3
I have always been an advocate of breastfeeding. So my immediate response is that of course it is appropriate. Especially when you are faced with a hungry baby/toddler. They will not wait for you to tell them when is the right time to feed or not.
But at the same time, we being Asians, have to also be a tad more sensitive of the surrounding culture. Like it or not, definitely will attract people to stare! So to me…it is okay to breastfeed in public so long as you take the necessary steps e.g. cover up accordingly unless of course the mother does not mind strangers staring at her exposed breast.
Let’s be honest and real here. She is actually not too bad looking. Men would not mind drooling at the sight of her, and the only women that would feel uncomfortable are probably those that are envious of her. Other than that, why would anyone feel uncomfortable?
Alicia, medical sales specialist, 28
It’s one thing to be able to feed your child in public with no supposed ‘restrictions’ or ‘concerns’. Another thing altogether to have your whole boob out of your top for the rest of the world too. Try doing it in Malaysia
Jill, consultant, 34, mother of 1
I’m all for breastfeeding, and I don’t think the woman should hide in the bathroom to do it, but I think there should be some modesty. I’ve breastfed in public before, but always with a cover. It’s a matter of getting the child used to it, or the mother can wear a top that is not as revealing. It’s a very public area and it can make a lot of people uncomfortable! It’s about finding a balance. You have a right to breastfeed where you want and when you want, but do be mindful of others. Sometimes, I think some people might say things to openly support other women’s right to breastfeed but given the same circumstance, they might behave differently.
Plus, it’s a toddler who can learn to wait, not an infant who can’t. So she didn’t REALLY have to feed her there and then. She could use this as an opportunity to teach her child delayed gratification.
Adam, IT consultant, 38, father of 1
I’m an advocate of breastfeeding in public. I think it should be a non-issue. For many reasons breastfeeding (assuming you can) is the best way to nourish your child. Period. From a social perspective, it’s obviously sensitive in more conservative cultures, but that’s all the more reason to get rid of the stigma [associated with breastfeeding in public]. Look at it this way: if you don’t want to eat in the toilet, for example, then you shouldn’t expect a nursing mother to feed her child in the toilet either.
The second issue at play here is that I also think that women should be able to wear what they want, which in this case appears to be a strapless number. Why should breastfeeding mums dress down if they don’t need to? The problem here though is, bring this particular top down and suddenly you also look topless. While I personally don’t have a problem with it, and more power to the mother, I can see how in this twisted world the fact that you are actually breastfeeding is going to be lost on the fuddy-duddies.
Angel, stay-at-home mum, 36, mother of 3
My husband say I cannot. Other people’s wife ok
Jokes aside: I am pro-breastfeeding and would give nursing mothers due privacy. If you need me to hold a sarong and shield you from public view, no problem. However, would you subject your body to public viewing and public’s discomfort? Or do you respect it enough to be modest? This is a personal choice, but surely there is a law against indecent exposure? Personally, I would feel bad for making others feel uncomfortable without appropriate cover. That is conscience, courtesy and consideration. 3Cs – that is important where I live. No man is an island.
Evidently, there is much discourse to be done on the “social conduct” when it comes to public breastfeeding. But one thing’s for sure – every mum and child has their own quirks, preferences, likes, and dislikes, so as a society we should learn to withhold judgment and create a more supportive environment for all!