Photo of breastfeeding mom in public ignites online storm in China

This image of a woman breastfeeding her baby on a crowded Beijing subway has been widely shared on Chinese social media site Weibo.

Story highlights

  • Photo of nursing mother goes viral on Chinese social media
  • Pictures ignites debate over breastfeeding in public
  • Breastfeeding rates in China below global average

Beijing (CNN)A photo of a woman nursing her baby in a crowded Beijing subway train has unleashed a furious -- and some say much needed -- debate over breastfeeding in public in China.

A passenger posted the original photo on Weibo, China's equivalent to Twitter, with the caption: "Let me remind you -- this is a Beijing subway not a bus running in your village."
    The snapshot went viral after being reposted by Beijing Tale -- a volunteer organization that helps clean up subway flyers. It criticized the woman for exposing her "sexual organs" in public.
      But many Internet users condemned the passenger and the organization for taking and sharing an intimate photo, and defended the mother.
      "It'd be ideal if she had used a nursing cover, but it's not a big deal if she didn't have one. Breasts are...for babies; they are not sexual organs," Ou Qian, a Guangzhou doctor and a mother herself, said.
      "Babies need to be fed when they are hungry. She is a great mom."