A mother feeds her child and our nation disquiets. We weigh in on how Singapore takes on social issues on social media on this delicate matter.

Earlier this month, the picture of a mother breastfeeding in public without donning a cover went viral in Singapore. Here’s a summary of what happened:

On 12th March 2017, a mother, Sheryl Lee, openly breastfed her baby in an MRT train; A photo was taken by the passenger opposite her and the photo made its rounds on social media and local news, sparking countless arguments wherever it went.

Some criticised her for being immodest and insensitive to the local conservative culture while some offered her praises and encouragements. This brouhaha of open breastfeeding has led mothers from all walks of life to share their experiences of breastfeeding in public.

Local blogger and a new mother, Ms Wendy Cheng, more commonly known as XiaXue and for her unflinchingly honest personal views weighed in on the issue with some refreshingly valid points, albeit with some vulgarities and extreme suggestions. Well, that’s XiaXue!


While the whole nation was engulfed by the debate of open breastfeeding in public, the team at Brand Inc still couldn’t help but wonder if the law against eating and drinking in MRTs applies to babies. Before prying open the next Pandora box, let’s address the current issue at hand.

National University of Singapore (NUS) sociologist, Tan Ern Ser, explained the differences in opinion is due to the different thresholds of different members of the public.[i]

While it is rather impossible to please everyone, it does no harm to try and understand the argument from everyone’s point of view, calmly and rationally.

Mothers would never wish to starve their young. Very often in our society, parents are often also embarrassed by the deafening cries of their hungry babies.

It can be puzzling to see that a society can tolerate or even admire 500-year-old masterpieces of young Jesus suckling in museums but irked by a mother feeding her child in public.

Aside from being a fantastic solution to the steep price of formula milk in Singapore[ii], breastfeeding is advocated for its benefits on babies’ immune system, the mother’s health and in fostering maternal bond[iii]. Nonetheless, lack of awareness and support at workplace and from the community in general has contributed to an extremely low breastfeeding rate in Singapore[iv].

Unless the society has reached a consensus, the decision of covering up or not still lies with the mother.  Instead of focusing on the discomfort of an exposed breast, perhaps creating a conducive and less judgemental environment for mothers to breastfeed would be a good start.

What’s certain for now is that social media have evolved to be a social soundboard, for now.

[i]The New Paper, People have ‘different thresholds’ for breastfeeding in public, 25 March 2017, http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/people-have-different-thresholds-breastfeeding-public.

[ii]The Online Citizen, Price of Formula Milk in Singapore Has Gone Up by Nearly 40%, 23 March 2017, https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2017/03/23/price-of-formula-milk-in-singapore-has-gone-up-by-nearly-40/

[iii]SingHealth, Breastfeeding For Working Mothers, 2014, https://www.singhealth.com.sg/PatientCare/ConditionsAndTreatments/Pages/Breastfeeding-For-Working-Mothers.aspx.

[iv]Today Online, Why is Singapore Still Uncomfortable With Breastfeeding?, 1 August 2016, http://www.todayonline.com/lifestyle/why-singapore-still-uncomfortable-breastfeeding

 

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