updated 21 Nov 2012, 17:17
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Fri, Nov 16, 2012
The New Paper
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Teen abuses breastfeeding mum in library
by Linette Heng

SINGAPORE - She desperately needed the nursing room at Woodlands Regional Library to breastfeed her hungry child, but found it occupied by a teenage boy.

The mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Wong, said it was urgent because her daughter, who is turning two in a few days, needed to be fed before her nap time.

Mrs Wong, 32, said: "She will start to get cranky and start crying if she doesn't get sleep. I didn't want that to happen since we were in a library."

But when she asked the boy, Ryan (not his real name) politely if he could leave the room, the teenager, who was busy playing with a portable gaming device, retorted: "I am also feeding my baby."

Shocked, she left the room to ask for assistance.

The librarian was busy, so the mother decided to confront Ryan again, this time recording the whole incident on video.

Mrs Wong said: "I was only recording it to show it to my sister and a close friend, who put it up online."

The teenager, who now had a friend, Kenny (not his real name) with him in the room, used vulgarities and made a rude sign at Mrs Wong. All this while, everything was caught on video. The Secondary Two student challenged her to post the video online.

After Mrs Wong took the video, she asked the librarian for help again. The teenagers left after a talk with the librarian.

But not before Ryan threatened her.

Mrs Wong said: "One of the boys put his face close to me and told me not to put the video on (the Net) because his parents are important people."

Ryan later told The New Paper that he was upset that Mrs Wong pointed the phone at him in a rude manner.

The episode has gone viral, drawing flak from parents and netizens alike.

Netizen Fiona Loh said: "They are rude and behaved like uneducated brats and deserved to punished (sic) accordingly."

Another netizen, Serena Leow, said: "I was a nursing mother myself before. This is really not acceptable. We need to feed our hungry babies."

The incident, which happened two weeks ago at about 2.30pm, was posted on two websites last week.

To date, it has received close to 88,000 views on one site and over 80,000 views on the other.

When contacted, a spokesman for the National Library Board confirmed the incident.

Mrs Fatimah Sulaiman, Assistant Director, Library Development and Corporate Services, National Library Board, said: "Generally, our library users have been very cooperative in the usage of our facilities including this nursing space.

"It was unfortunate that the two teenage boys had ignored the notices and flouted our library rules by consuming drinks in this room.

"After being alerted by the mother, our librarian went to check, reminded the boys of the library rules and escorted them out of the room. Thereafter, our librarian arranged for the room to be cleaned, by which time the mother had proceeded to nurse her baby.

"We apologise for the inconvenience that she encountered on our premises."

Parents, especially breastfeeding mothers, were aghast to hear about such an incident.

General Practitioner Mythili Pandi, 31, who has two young children aged six months and two years,said she was dumbfounded by the behaviour of the teens.

She said: "I was shocked and annoyed after watching the video. These boys need disciplinary action."

Nonetheless, she feels that this is an isolated incident. She frequents the nursing rooms at Wheelock Place, Thomson Plaza and Takashimaya, and notes that people who occupy the nursing rooms would usually leave when requested to do so.

When asked how she would react if faced with a similar situation, she said: "It depends on how distressed the baby is. If I have no choice, I will just go into the room and nurse.

"Most people would then leave because they will feel uncomfortable."

Dr Yong Tze Tein, president of the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy (Singapore), suggests using the baby as a "weapon" to appeal to people's kindness.

She said: "The mother can say, 'My baby needs to feed, we really need the room.' People can ignore the mother, but they won't ignore the baby."

Some people questioned if Mrs Wong should have resorted to recording the incident .

But Dr William Wan, general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, thinks she has made the right judgment call.

He said: "My sympathies lie with the mother. The boys were not behaving properly and there was no business for them to be in the nursing room."

He added: "If you want to take a picture when someone is behaving ungraciously, your purpose must be made clear. For instance, if someone is breaking the rules, and you take a picture as evidence to report someone and teach them a lesson.

"It is only ungracious if you are taking a photo of someone doing wrong, but without finding out why and just posting it online."

Teen says he was provoked

I was provoked, claimed the teen in the video.

Ryan and his friend Kenny (not their real names) brought lunch to the library and seeing that the nursing room was unoccupied, they decided to eat there even though it was against library rules.

The two teenagers are classmates from a neighbourhood school in the east. Kenny lives in Woodlands.

And Ryan, the teen who was playing with his portable gaming device, is still adamant that he was not totally at fault.

The Secondary 2 student said: "She used a very sarcastic tone with me to tell me to leave the room.

"I was actually about to leave the first time she asked, but then she came back with her phone."

When asked why he pointed his middle finger at the mother, he insisted again that he was provoked.

"I was actually pointing my finger at her phone," Ryan said.

But the other boy in the video, Kenny, is now worried about his involvement in this matter.

The 14-year-old kept quiet throughout the incident.

He said: "When the lady left, I asked my friend to leave the place, but he insisted on staying."

Kenny said that a teacher spoke to them about the episode and Ryan could be in some trouble.

He said: "But for me, I was just being silly to stay with him."

When asked if he regrets his actions, Ryan said: "I haven't reflected on it yet."

And he said that even if he reacted rashly, it was because he was incited.

He said: "Imagine if someone put a phone in front of you, I'm sure you would have been angry too."

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