Parliament: More schools to have lactation rooms in next three years

Lactation facilities are now a standard building specification for the Ministry of Education. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Over the next three years, more schools in Singapore will have a room for mothers to breastfeed or express their milk, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Education Low Yen Ling on Thursday (March 26).

Currently, about 85 per cent of primary schools, 65 per cent of secondary schools and 90 per cent of junior colleges and centralised institutes have a lactation room.

"For the remaining schools, MOE will progressively provide lactation facilities where feasible over the next three years," said Ms Low.

She added that all institutes of higher learning are already equipped with lactation facilities.

Ms Low was responding in Parliament to Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) who had asked about the current situation and if the ministry could make it compulsory for all schools and educational institutions to have at least one lactation room.

Ms Low said that lactation facilities were now a standard building specification for MOE.

Mr Ng also asked if these rooms were specifically lactation rooms and not a spare room.

In response, Ms Low said that, as a mother of two children who had breastfed each for slightly over a year, she understood what it took to persevere on the breastfeeding journey.

"MOE will certainly continue to work with the existing schools to ensure that all schools will have lactation rooms at the nearest feasible date," said Ms Low.

She said that since 2010, the requirement of a lactation room was added to building specifications for primary schools as part of their upgrading, and similar requirements were also added for secondary schools and junior colleges subsequently.

Mr Ng also asked if there were regulations prohibiting mothers from breastfeeding their children in public.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs Sun Xueling said that there is no law prohibiting mothers from doing so.

"Indecent exposure and appearing nude in public are criminal offences. Mothers who are genuinely breastfeeding their children in public are generally unlikely to fall under these categories," said Ms Sun.

Mr Ng also asked if mothers are allowed to breastfeed their children on board public trains and buses.

In response, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Transport Baey Yam Keng said that it was not prohibited and there is no regulation requiring mothers to be covered up while nursing on public transport.

He added: "For those who prefer privacy for breastfeeding, we provide nursing rooms at key transport nodes, and we'll continue to build more."

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a written reply to Mr Ng on Thursday that there are nursing rooms at half the number of bus interchanges here, and the rooms would be provided at all new bus interchanges and integrated transport hubs.

The MRT network will also have nursing rooms at all new interchange stations, he added.

Mr Ng had asked about the situation at MRT stations and bus interchanges, and if it could be made compulsory for all MRT stations and bus interchanges to have at least one lactation room.

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