People have 'different thresholds' for breastfeeding in public
Woman in viral breastfeeding photo supported by some people, but others say using nursing cloth is important
A photo of a breastfeeding mother with her tube top pulled down on an MRT train has gone viral after it was posted online last week.
Responding to those who said she was being immodest and insensitive, Ms Cheryl Lee, the woman in the photo, said in a Facebook post on March 15 that the public has the choice to look away if it disturbs them.
"I have a nursing cover, but my girl will cry and struggle when I use it," she said.
"I put my baby first, so as long as she is comfortable and feeding well, I don't really care what others think. It isn't that hard to just look away if you don't like to see a baby drinking milk."
While her response elicited support, it also raised the question of what is acceptable behaviour when it comes to breastfeeding in public.
Madam Nur Ezara Kasim, 33, a mother of four, told The New Paper she breastfeeds on trains at least twice a week.
Having breastfed for eight years in total, she said: "There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, just cover yourself up. I wouldn't want dads, grandpas, uncles and other women's husbands to be looking at me exposing myself."
But Ms Lee's husband, Mr Ng Zhen Yu, 27, told TNP: "I don't feel that there is anything wrong with breastfeeding in public, with or without a cover.
"Most men wouldn't be turned on by a breastfeeding woman, and if they are, they are probably perverts who would be having sexual thoughts even if the woman wasn't breastfeeding."
But Madam Kasim, a quantity surveyor, said mothers can condition their children to be under a nursing cover when breastfeeding in public.
"It's about how you train your child," she said. She breastfed her four children till they were two years old.
"Once, when I forgot to bring my nursing cover, I used a muslin cloth to cover myself."
But a mother of two boys, who wanted to be known only as Madam Nur, 29, said that even though a child can be conditioned to be under a nursing cover, a mother may not want to force it upon the child.
Explaining these differences in opinions, National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "Members of the public have different thresholds. Some may see it as not such a big deal; some may dismiss it as 'none of their business'. Some may see it as disgusting; some may decide to tell the 'deviants' off."
Madam Maureen Chan, 50, a lactation counsellor from Joyful Parenting, said mothers can always use shawls, slings with buckles or nursing blouses.
"Especially the blouse, it allows the mother to be covered."