(SCMP, October 24, 2002) By Victoria Button A mother was stopped from breast-feeding in Central Library by a security guard who told her food and drink were not allowed in the building. Another mother complained that over-zealous guards had barred her from bottle-feeding her son in the library's public area. Library staff said they were investigating the incidents and admitted the design of the $690 million, 33,800 square metre 'world-class cultural centre' could be more baby-friendly. Government policy encourages breast-feeding for health reasons, and women have the right to breast-feed in public under the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission. Clarissa Ng Lai-ping, 39, from Hunghom, said a security guard had tried to stop her breast-feeding her 22-month-old son Junien on October 18, telling her that food and drink were banned in the library. Ms Ng said: 'I was very angry. If you don't feed them they will cry and make the library really noisy and affect other readers. 'When I breast-feed, I am careful not to reveal my breasts.' Staff then tried to move her from the children's section - which she was visiting with Junien and her other son, Quentin, five, - to a sick room on a different floor, but she refused to go. She said the government could not expect its efforts to encourage breast-feeding to succeed if its own organisations failed to allow mothers to feed their babies in public. Ms Ng said a member of staff told her some users thought it was inappropriate for mothers to breast-feed in public, adding: 'She [the staff member] commented that these users were indeed correct.' Another mother, Li Wah-ey, had hoped to instil a love of books in her son by making a weekly visit to the library. However, her first visit in March, when he was 14 months old, became her last when she was unable to find a nursing room and staff shouted at her for bottle-feeding her son in a public area. 'The guard . . . ignored my pleas to let me finish feeding my baby and continued to make exaggerated gestures with his hands in my baby's face. My baby was very frightened,' she said. 'I am not surprised Central Library failed in its role to be an information and research hub when they are being so hostile to its users, especially mothers and babies,' she said. A Leisure and Cultural Services Department spokesman said the incidents would be investigated, and that there was no rule against breast-feeding or bottle-feeding in any part of the library. Staff were being briefed on the availability of a common room which nursing mothers could use if they wished, she said, but it was not sign-posted. Associate professor of nursing at the University of Hong Kong, Marie Tarrant, said such incidents contributed to Hong Kong's relatively low breast-feeding rate. The library should provide nursing facilities on the same floor as the children's section, she said. 'It's even more sad that this is a government building. The government should be setting an example to private companies and other people.' A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said breast-feeding was a short-term investment which yielded long-term benefits for both mother and child. The South China Morning Post has been flooded with correspondence in recent weeks, both for and against breast-feeding in public, in a debate sparked by a letter from Ines Noe-Moult. She received an apology from the upmarket food store Great after staff twice asked her if she would not prefer to feed her son in the women's toilets. Glossary over-zealous (adj) too enthusiastic instil (v) to introduce persistently and gradually plea (n) a sincere request hostile (adj) being very unfriendly and showing ill will even + a comparative (adv) To emphasise the intensity of the quality concerned, which is becoming greater than in a previous occasion. From the article, we can deduce that Marie Tarrant was dissatisfied with the lack of baby-feeding facilities in public areas and the overall low recognition of breast-feeding. However she felt sadder because the incident happened in a government building. Discussion points - Should food and drink in general be banned in libraries? What are the problems with people eating and drinking there? - Should rules against feeding babies be introduced in public libraries? Why? Why not?