Much more must be done to help breastfeeding mothers

The case of the taxi driver who posted a picture of a mother feeding her child in his cab has highlighted the lack of awareness and support for breastfeeding

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2016, 1:47am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 December, 2016, 1:47am

So common is the use of social media these days that some people have become increasingly insensitive about what they share online. The latest controversy involves a taxi driver posting a secretly taken photo of a passenger breastfeeding a baby inside his cab, with a caption asking “seriously, is this for real?” His action has sparked a public outcry and he was arrested for accessing computers with criminal or dishonest intent last week.

Criticisms and sanctions aside, there are broader issues to address. The incident is not the first of its kind. Two years ago, a photo of a woman breastfeeding a baby on a public bus went viral, prompting a debate on public decency and privacy. Early this year, a woman breastfeeding her baby while waiting for a consultation at a hospital was asked by a nurse to go to a room on another floor, just because other patients were upset by what she was doing. These are just examples of a lack of awareness and respect for breastfeeding mothers.

Hong Kong is still a backward fishing village when it comes to some basic attitudes

Admittedly, some people are still not used to the sight of women breastfeeding infants in public, even though many already do so in a discreet manner. A recent survey showed that more than 80 per cent of mothers had done so in restaurants, shopping malls or public parks, but as many as 40 per cent said they have had unpleasant experiences.

Adding to the problem is a serious lack of supporting facilities. Unlike the provision of barrier-free facilities for the physically disabled, new buildings are not mandated by law to provide premises for breastfeeding. There has also been a report about a mother being forced to travel around the city in a taxi because she had nowhere to breastfeed her baby outdoors.

INTERACTIVE: Hong Kong breastfeeding map - the public places where you can nurse your child

Even though the situation is gradually improvingafter more companies, shopping malls and public transport operators joined a public campaign, premises with childcare facilities are still the minority in our city.

The latest incident is yet another reminder that a lot more needs to be done on this issue.