Why was this Singaporean mum asked to take the next taxi by the driver?

Why was this Singaporean mum asked to take the next taxi by the driver?

Because he thought she was breastfeeding her four-week-old baby. It's about time we started to support mums breastfeeding in public, don't you think? Read about Rafidah's experience here...

On Friday 20 November 2015, mum Rafidah Osman Alhatib hailed a taxi to get to her next destination, as many Singaporeans often do.

At the time, she had her older daughter and 18-month-old foster child with her, and was breastfeeding her youngest child — just four weeks old — under a full nursing poncho. She was also wearing a modest, long-sleeved top.

Rafidah told theAsianparent that the taxi driver had asked her if the baby was breastfeeding and if she was, to take the next taxi instead of his.

The baby had stopped nursing by then so Rafidah showed the taxi driver her baby’s head and said she was done.

But the driver was still hesitant — Rafidah said she could see it on his face — and kept checking his rear-view mirror to see if she had re-commenced breastfeeding her baby.

Rafidah told us that she was very anxious that her baby would start crying again on the way and want to nurse, since she didn’t have a full feed earlier. However, her little one didn’t want to breastfeed again until she got off the taxi.

When Rafidah reached her destination, she told us that the taxi driver had pointed to a statue in the car and mentioned that he’s a “praying Buddhist”, which is why she can’t breastfeed inside the taxi.

breastfeeding mum asked to leave taxi

Singaporean breastfeeding mum asked to leave taxi: This is how Rafidah was holding her baby on the day. As you can see both the baby and Rafidah’s body are completely covered.
Image supplied by Rafidah

Is it true that Buddhism discourages breastfeeding?

We did our own research and certainly, nowhere in Buddhist texts and scriptures does it say that breastfeeding should not be encouraged.

In fact, a Breastfeeding Medicine article states:

“In Buddhist texts from China’s Tang Dynasty (618–907), there are such phrases as ‘drinking one’s mother’s breast milk adds up to one hundred and eighty goku,’ and ‘I grew up healthy thanks to my mother’s one hundred and eighty goku of breast milk.’

“In China and Japan, those were well-known expressions to show the kindness received from fathers and mothers, or the ‘indebtedness to breastmilk feeding’.”

The Japanese even had an ancient ritual that is still practiced by some today, of “visiting a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine to pray for abundant breastmilk secretion for the mother as well as the sound development of the baby.”

So with breastfeeding being offensive to Buddhism ruled out as a reason, why was the taxi driver so opposed to Rafidah nursing her tiny baby in his car?

Whatever the reason, it shows the need for more general awareness to be created about breastfeeding in public, and why there’s nothing wrong with it.

Rafidah has a kind request for the Singaporean general public. Keep reading on the next page.  

The right to nurse in public

In Singapore, it is not an offence to breastfeeding in public.

Anita Daubaras, the former Vice-President of the Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group Singapore (BMSG), says:

It is not an offence to breastfeed in public in Singapore, if the mother is decently clad and does not expose more of her breast than is necessary to breastfeed.  Breastfeeding is a beautiful act of tenderness and nurturance.

The discomfort that many experience when they see a mother breastfeeding stems from cultural sensitivity and conflict between the breast being perceived as a sexual object and a means of nourishing a young child.

Many mothers choose to breastfeed in privacy, in nursing rooms or at home. Some do so in public, but very discreetly. Some may not breastfeed openly because they do not want their infant feeding choice to cause discomfort for others. Nevertheless, it is an individual mother’s choice.

Meanwhile, general practitioner Mythili Pandi, who is the current President of the BMSG, says, “Breastfeeding is the normal way of feeding an infant―it is the source of nutrition, water, security, and comfort all in one! If an adult can have his meal on the go, why not a child?”

breastfeeding mum asked to leave taxi

Mums should be supported through their breastfeeding journey, not made to feel ashamed.

Determined to keep breastfeeding

We asked Rafidah if the incident had put her off breastfeeding in public. But she is determined to continue for as long as possible.

While the taxi driver’s negative attitude towards breastfeeding did upset Rafidah, this mum has a strong message for Singaporeans:

“I was quite shocked, sad, upset and angry over the incident.  I was fully and decently covered. We have our rights to nurse our babies as we are their only source of food, especially if the baby is fully breastfed like mine.

“I hope all Singaporeans will be kind enough to allow us to do so, especially when we are decently covered. We too have self-integrity and try our best to nurse without exposing ourselves. Really, why would we want to [expose ourselves]?

Breastfeeding mums should be allowed to continue to do the best we can for our babies by providing them with our breastmilk for as long as possible, if we can.”

More strength to you, Rafidah and all other Singaporean breastfeeding mummies out there.

Remember, for all those who don’t support your efforts to give your baby the best possible nourishment when out and about, there are others who have got your back, like the members of the Breastfeeding Mums Support Group, and these Singaporean dads.

*We have contacted the taxi company in question with regard to their stance on breastfeeding in their vehicles. We are yet to hear back from them. 

Leave your message of support for Rafidah and other Singaporean breastfeeding mums in a comment below. 

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