New breastfeeding areas are now available to the public in 20 interchange subway stations, the MTR Corporation has announced.
The stations include Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Tong and Sunny Bay. The MTRC website says that private rooms can be arranged in other stations by asking staff.
“As breastfeeding becomes more common, we understand the growing demand for breastfeeding facilities inside train stations. As such, we revamped the staff rooms in 20 interchange stations to make room for breastfeeding areas,” the MTRC told HKFP in a statement.
The breastfeeding rooms are equipped with tables, seats and sanitizer. The MTRC says it hopes to provide privacy and a comfortable environment for mothers to nurse their babies.
According to MTR Service Update, an unofficial group run by people affiliated with the MTRC, anyone who wishes to use the facilities will first need to contact the station staff.
The change was received positively online. A Facebook post announcing the news by MTR Service Update has been shared more than 350 times, with people commending the railway company.
A commenter shared her experience of having to look for a place to breastfeed her child while riding the MTR. “My son suddenly became very sleepy and threw a tantrum. To avoid affecting other passengers, I got off as quickly as possible, at the University station,” she wrote.
“There was no breastfeeding room, but the station staff were very helpful and they asked employees to clear the staff room and let me breastfeed inside. They even had staffers wait outside in case I needed anything… I am very thankful.”
Despite support from big companies such as the MTRC, many women in Hong Kong continue to face discrimination for breastfeeding in public.
Last year, a taxi driver posted a photo of a passenger breastfeeding her baby online in an attempt to publicly shame her. The driver was later arrested for accessing a computer with dishonest intent following public outcry over his actions.
In a poll conducted last year by the Hong Kong Committee for the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around 80 per cent of 3,545 mothers responded that they have breastfed in public places. Of those, 40 per cent reported having encountered unpleasant experiences, such as being stared at or complained about.
The survey also showed that mothers would be more encouraged to breastfeed in public if there was more support and acceptance from the general public.
In August, the government proposed an amendment to the Family Status Discrimination Ordinance with a view to prohibiting discrimination against breastfeeding mothers. It said the bill is one of the government’s top priorities.
Correction 15:00: A previous version of this story stated that around 40 per cent of 3,545 mothers surveyed said they had unpleasant experiences while breastfeeding in public. In fact, 80 per cent said they have breastfed in public, and 40 per cent of those reported having encountered unpleasant experiences while doing so.