The following is a letter from one Christian father to another regarding the topic of breastfeeding in public. It was written after a lengthy discussion among breastfeeding mothers, their partners, and one man who stated that public breastfeeding is a 'temptation to men' and declared, "THIS IS WHY MEN HATE WOMEN" [his capitalization]. This private letter of response was shared with DrMomma.org and we were granted permission to post publicly. Names have been changed for the protection of those involved.
I applaud your approach to write to me privately.
The first thing I'd like to respond to is the Biblical and Christian side of this. I sense a dangerous line being crossed in terms of legalism. We need to be careful about what it is we bring up to our brothers and sisters in Christ and what it is we want them to do or not do. I would encourage you to consider and hope you agree that breastfeeding and nursing is by no means sinful or negative.
The Bible clearly recognizes breastfeeding as a blessing. In Genesis 49:25, Jacob states a blessing unto Joseph, "Because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.” The breast was created for the function of nurturing and nourishing the child in addition to be enjoyed by her husband intimately. The woman does not nurse her child for the enjoyment of other men, only for the functional use of caring for her baby. To correlate the two is taking it out of context, or to an extreme.
You being uncomfortable seeing your wife nurse is a personal thing in your own heart and mind. Saying that a women needs to be 'mindful' of breastfeeding for fear of sexually turning on a man is way out in left field. I went back to read your first comments about telling a nursing woman to cover up. To me it sounds like you would do this based on those uncomfortable feelings you have. A woman is not willfully tempting you to act on sinful desires by breastfeeding, so you need to be careful in how you approach someone based not on something they are doing intentional, but a the way in which you are interpreting it, which is tempting you to sin.
For example, If I am an alcoholic and I go to the store to buy bread and I see a man buying beer, should I tell the man buying beer to use the next register over or cover up his beer and wait to make his purchase until I am done in the store so that I am not tempted to pick up boozing again and ruin my life? Do I avoid stores all together? Do I avoid restaurants altogether? A therapist would tell me that I need to cope with my own fear and temptations or I will be controlled by them and act irrationally - potentially damaging my life even more.
If you are addicted to internet pornography and you visit an establishment that has internet access and allows people to use their computers (Starbucks, for example), do you tell the patrons to turn their computer off so as not to tempt you?
Does it sound crazy - to tell that man to stop buying his beer because of my fear and anxiety to be tempted, or to tell another patron to shut off his computer so that I don’t lust? If so, that is the point of view of the women towards nursing that you were corresponding with on this public Facebook thread. These mothers would be 'the man buying beer' or 'the patron with the computer' who may find you to be a bit crazy because of your extremism regarding the natural feeding of their children.
I would expect that you now then to go forward and tell every woman you see with massive cleavage to make sure they cover up. I suspect you do not visit the beach for fear of seeing too much skin. If you think I am odd for suggesting that you tell every female to cover their cleavage, and you would not follow through with it, than it is hypocritical, and discriminatory of you to demand that a nursing mother cover up (especially when the majority of women are discreet and show nothing while breastfeeding).
My point is not so much on your view of breastfeeding - which you clearly say you endorse and promote - it is how far you take things to an extreme, and relate nursing babies to matters that cannot be compared with it, and assert that this is a 'man vs. woman thing.' This is the reason you came across as a sexist jerk in the eyes of these mothers.
If your pastor has a big problem with women nursing in the sanctuary, what are his procedures for dealing with it? Does he follow Matthew 18? If a woman protested and asserted her right to feed her child in church, what would you do? Do you suggest other alternative locations for nursing women who are made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding among others at church? Or do you MAKE women move to another location regardless of their comfort level because you yourself are uncomfortable? Would you call into question a woman’s faith for not submitting to a man's wishes?
One faith leader of mine use to say, “Don’t major on the minors. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.” This is why I mentioned the whole legalism thing. If you are setting up rules in church, or in your own life, that people must to live up -- your standards or a groups' standards which make others feel less then valued, and these standards are not supported Biblically, that is legalism.
You cannot tell someone that because they are a Christian, they should be mindful of where they breastfeed, because breastfeeding is not a sexual act, nor is it foul, crude, or distasteful (what did they do before plastic bottles?)
Remember that Christianity, walking with Christ, is relational - not law abiding behavior. It is by our faith that we are saved, not our works. Church should be a welcoming place for all, not one where people are looked down upon for what they do. How else would we, as vessels of the Holy Spirit, help spread the gospel? If it is sin, call it sin, and restore the individual to be reconciled with God. If its not sin, move on.
Did Jesus put down the actions of those who followed him or the sinners that repented and make them less of a person? No, he called out the hypocrites, the Pharisees, the keepers of the law (i.e. legalistic people) who tried to keep others in their place by putting undue restrictions and burdens on them so that they would appear righteous.
I keep going back and thinking this discussion surrounds breastfeeding. The tone and statements made by both of us men seem to make breastfeeding out to something scandalous. It is not like my wife was purposefully flashing others, nipple and all, to hopefully gain the attention and lustful thoughts of men whenever she wanted. Our energies should not be put toward 'correcting the behavior' of nursing women because, as I stated before, breastfeeding in public is not a sinful act but a natural one. The breast may occasionally serve a dual function - both for pleasure and for a baby's nourishment and comfort. But you cannot put limitations on nursing, and use God's design of men and women's sexual companionship to support your limitations. They are separate functions - one does not take precedence or dominance over the other.
The Normal Feeding of Baby Jesus
We'd have to disagree with Andrew on one small detail - one purpose of the human breasts does take precedence over another - this being first and foremost a source of food, drink, and comfort for the human child. Then, they are for a woman to use as she deems fitting.
For additional good books, websites, and articles pertaining to breastfeeding, see: Breastfeeding Resources.
Breastfeeding Baby Jesus
Breastfeeding in Church: A Picture of Christ's Sacrificial Love
Thank You for Nursing in Public
12 Breastfeeding Days of Christmas
Mary's Reflection: Blessed Am I Among Women
Watch Your Language
Breastfeeding Baby Jesus
I nurse in my pew at church. I sit so my husband blocks the view from most. I do use a blanket to cover most of the time. No one has ever commented. I don't think most of them even realize I'm feeding her during service. I live in a town where public breastfeeding is well accepted though.ReplyDelete
I attend a modern Christian church. The church has a mothers room which is primarily to allow a parent to deal with a noisy child while still listening to the service (though there is no obligation to take your child there).ReplyDelete
I nurse in the pew. I make no extra effort to cover up. When I was a new mum strappy singlets/tops were all I could feed in so that is what I wore. If anyone says anything I would say "God has seen my boobs".
I actually laughed out loud, "God has seen my boobs", that is awesome! I nurse in the pew and hardly anything shows. Luckily, no one has ever been negative about it, in fact, other nursing moms have said they wish they were comfortable enough to just nurse whenever wherever.Delete
"God has seen my boobs." LOVE IT!! That is now my new stock response to nosy griping legalistic nonsense!!Delete
I also nurse in church, but I don't feel the need to use a cover anywhere. No one has ever said anything to me about it, and honestly Lord help them if they do! I nursed my daughter during a Catholic wedding when she was five months old. At the reception a woman approached me to tell me she thought it was beautiful that I was nursing my child in church during a wedding. She said she couldn't think of a more appropriate place! I really appreciated that.ReplyDelete
I am no longer Christian, I'm a "born again Pagan" LOL!ReplyDelete
When I was growing up/living with my parents we went to church every sunday, and stayed for every potluck, sunday school, Wednesday nights, choir practice, etc.
Our church was very traditional, only hymns with piano/organ, no clapping, no bands/modern music. I don't think any of the women who attended actually breastfed their children, although this might have changed in the past few years since it seems like society is becoming more AP/natural parent friendly.
There was a cry room right off the sanctuary, where it would be perfectly easy to breastfeed. The nursery was in another part of the church alltogether where there were rocking chairs, a crib, etc. There was no nursery-daycare type service, all the children had to sit through the whole service with the adults.
I guess that's all I can tell ya, thankfully my only "church" nowadays is meeting with my fellow students and our HPS every sunday, like she would care if I was breastfeeding! We do worship the Goddess after all, and a woman's body is something sacred ;)
While my church encourages mothers to go to the nursery (where they cannot see or hear the service, btw) to nurse, we did have a pastor who nursed her daughter WHILE delivering the sermon. I think both situations are extreme. I usually went into the narthex (foyer of sorts) just because Ellie slurped and gulped, but my reason was exclusively noise.ReplyDelete
Our church nursery is run by a man, so not exactly the best alternative! Though I am a completely pro-uncovered and nursing during the sermon kind of girl, I respect that not other Moms may feel as comfortable as I do or go to a church as easy going as mine. But I feel sorry for Moms who are made to feel ashamed or who cover up for the comfort of others when nursing should really be about the baby first. By the way, I am performing a wedding a month and a half after my baby is born and plan to wear him in a pretty sling during the ceremony just in case he needs to nurse, nobody will be able to see and the bride and groom gave it the enthusiastic OK. ~ElisabethDelete
I have to say this brings to mind a post I saw yesterday, about how it is the patriarchy that sends the message that men can't control themselves, while feminism that assumes that men are mature and capable. By telling women that they are responsible for men's reactions to their bodies the patriarchy is sending the message that men are not able to take responsibility themselves. This guy saying that THIS IS WHY MEN HATE WOMEN just makes me even more disgusted with him or any other guy who would make this kind of argument. It's immature and it really makes the GUY look bad. The nursing Mom has NO REASON to be ashamed, though she often does. I also have to say that the attitude that nursing in public uncovered is unnecessary is born out of a complete lack of understanding how nursing works. Bottle feeding is NOT the same even if your own pumped milk is in it. Engorgement can become a problem, as can supply issues, not to mention all the stress and planning and MONEY for a pump that has to go into it simply to spend the afternoon at the park or go out to dinner when, hello, it is easy and completely legal to just nurse in public. Covers are hot, and nursing is a relationship. I like to SEE my baby when I nurse, we make eye contact, and besides, every nursling seems to get to the point where they won't tolerate the cover anymore anyway. Plus, I think they look kind of funny, they draw more attention (there's a baby sucking on a boobie under there, I know it!) even though you see nothing, but that is just my opinion...I support whatever works for Mom and Baby without consideration of what anyone, especially guys like that (not the author, the recipient). He is an example of why WOMEN HATE MEN. Lol, most women like men at least a little, but you see my point? ~ElisabethDelete
Thankyou for pointing out the real function of breasts. It is MAN who has found them to be arousing. I don't see a male dog falling all over himself for a female dog's teet. ferreal.ReplyDelete
I have no patience for ignorant, emotionally and sexual immature men. I can't comment on this issue without getting completely disgusted.ReplyDelete
I was at a community meeting today and fed my daughter. My husband insists I cover up, which I do when we're out together, but don't when I'm on my own with her. My husband made a comment which made me laugh. He said - I don't think anyone will say anything about you feeding her here. And if they are dumb enough to, I know they never will again!ReplyDelete
As for church, we used to have a room where mothers could go to nurse, and the sound would be piped in to them so they'd not miss the service. I don't think it was about the nursing though - it was more about crying babies. I don't recal anyone not being 'allowed' to nurse in the seats.
We attend a baptist church in northeast, OH where we have had 9 babies born since last summer (with more on the way!). All of the mommies, including myself, nurse in the pews during the service. Nursing is very much supported, and we have never had any negative comments.ReplyDelete
I nurse during the church service as well as during the meal afterwards. I may get a few strange looks from some for nursing at the dinner table but my baby and I both need to eat and my infant daughter was always hungry whenever I ate. I just got used to nursing while eating. I wear nursing camis which help immensely with being discreet. I also have a nursing cover which works for infants. I stopped nursing her out in public once she became extremely fidgity. But I would if our society accepted it better. I just got tired of all the weird looks for bfeeding after 1. She still nurses now even though I have dried up and am 5 months pregnant. I love the relationship we have though through nursing. :)ReplyDelete
I nurse in church all the time. My 16 month old would rather nurse than eat and that means a lot of time latched!ReplyDelete
Someone once tried to cover my baby's head (and that was all that was showing) with my poncho but she got cross and fought to get out (why say anything when the baby says it best? ;-) )
I don't dress up for church because God is with me all the time so I feel it would be hypercritical of me so why should I cover in church?
Typically at my church, women do not breastfeed in the sanctuary. I've never seen any mom doing it, but maybe I'll be the first, who knows! There are two separate locations where a mom can nurse her baby at my church...either in the women's lounge which is connected to the ladies restroom, or in the nursery. I've used both places, but then I have to miss out on the service to do so.ReplyDelete
I have seen my pastor's reaction to me nursing though. I was sitting in our youth pastor's office (who is a close friend of my husband and mine) sitting on his couch discreetly nursing my daughter (who's now 2) without a cover, and our pastor walked in, saw me nursing and hid his eyes, and walked out extremely embarrassed. I wasn't embarrassed in the least. I think I would make him uncomfortable during the sermon if I were to nurse my 2 month old son in there. I'd be a little uncomfortable nursing in the sanctuary because of that, but would do it if I have to. When I nurse in public, I typically use a cover for my own comfort, but my son I can tell already doesn't like the cover. If I were to nurse my son in the sanctuary, he would be rather noisy (he's a noisy eater/burper anyway), and I'd probably need to step out anyway...I hate being the center of attention, lol!
I also nurse often in Mass, without covering up. I will use the edge of my sling as a cover if my toddler is trying to play with my shirt or if I am going up to receive Eucharist from the priest (I do feel it is right for me not to show cleavage or parts of the breast in this particular instance out of respect for the difficulty I imagine would come with priestly celibacy). Our church provides a nursing mother's room that is nicely furnished and fairly quiet, as well as a 'cry room' for loud children. I have used both with a fussy baby and been pleased. I have never had anything but positive comments about nursing in any area of the church. Everyone, including our priests and religious, are supportive of nursing!ReplyDelete
I always nurse in church lol it's the only way to keep her quiet!ReplyDelete
If any Christians want to reproach me on the nursing issue, I will direct them to www.christopherwest.com and the Theology of the Body.
I have only nursed in one church which is a synagogue but the sermon is actually UU. There is an additional section to the women's restroom with a changing table, rocking chair, and a door for privacy. However, one is not encouraged to utilize this area unless they desire it. I nurse in the main area with everyone else and have always had very positive reactions, if there was a reaction at all. The pastor even thanked me for keeping the baby in the room rather than leaving!ReplyDelete
I nurse in the pew during church. I cover up, but I always do in public. There is a cry room where I'll go if my older is being noisy/too busy, but it doesn't have anything to do with nursing. I've never felt uncomfortable/stared at, etc... I actually enjoy it because it gets me out of the whole sit/stand/kneel deal.ReplyDelete
I did feel uncomfortable ONE time and couldn't bring myself to nurse, but it was the sports team blessing morning and I was surrounded by 15 and 16 year old testosterone filled football players. :)
My mouth is also a source of pleasure ( in many ways ).ReplyDelete
So should I cover it up?
I wish I had the courage to nurse in the chapel. I never see anyone else do it, and I feel like people would stare at me. But we are supposed to stay in the chapel unless we have a noisy child. If I nursed him, he wouldn't be noisy!ReplyDelete
There is a mother's room with speakers so we can still hear the service, but mother's change their kids' poopy diapers in there, and it's so gross.
I wish they would just announce over the pulpit that it's okay to nurse in the chapel. That would be all I needed to do it.
Reading this made me cry. I am a Jesus-lover (the term 'Christian' has so many negative connotations today) and I absolutely love (more than anything) to worship in church. However, since my baby was born almost 2 years ago I have only been able to attend a handful of times (when he was little and I could keep him quiet or leave with him when he got too rambunctious and 3 times in the past year when someone else watched him during a service). Otherwise, he is very much a mama's boy and wants to nurse all the time. I have no problems with this, but I have NEVER seen another person nursing in church (not even a newborn) and I know that I'd probably get booted out of there if I let my 2 year old nurse during the service.ReplyDelete
It really hurts me because there is no place that mothers can participate (or even listen to the service) if they have young children they need to tend to at the same time, or breastfeed.
I don't understand how a community of people who say they are family-friendly can be so ostracizing of nursing mothers.
To make matters worse, almost like a slap in the face, our church opened a satellite branch that DID have a family room in the back. There was glass and you could let your toddlers play and nurse in there while you still participated. Guess what? As soon as they bought the building, they took that room out!! I couldn't believe it.
Thank you for addressing this concern and to other people for nursing in church. Maybe someday I'll be able to as well.
Jacie, loved your comment - I too rarely refer to myself as a Christian (altho I am), but usually a JESUS FREAK. ;)ReplyDelete
we have alot of young families in our church, and the 3 babies we have get nursed during sermon all the time. one lady, of phillipino descent, moves to a little vestibule area near the back door, but she can still hear everything. the other 2 mums have also nursed during church.
we started attending our church when my youngest was 8 months, and with his schedule, he USUALLY didn't need a feed during church, but there were a couple of times i did. i NEVER cover up, and Lord help the person who tells me to, SERIOUSLY. #3 will be fed whenever and WHEREVER he/she needs to be, END OF STORY.
good on Andrew for such a well-thought out reply... and i do agree with you Danelle - DEFINITELY the breast's FIRST FUNCTION is nourishment... everything else 2nd. "primitive" tribes showcase it best - they don't hide theirs, so bubs ALWAYS has easy access!
When my youngest was 3 weeks old we had to attend a 3 hour nuptial mass (We are in Spain). Because my youngest was only tiny I had to feed her to stop her disturbing the wedding. So I sat at the back and discreetly breastfed her. A little old woman who was at the back immediately came over and started saying I shouldn't do that in the house of God and that there was a perfectly good bench out side to do such things. It was February and not particularly warm. Ironically I was sitting right under a painting of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus. I pointed to the painting and I kindly asked her how she thought Jesus had survived babyhood and if she could name me a formula milk that they fed babies? She looked stunned and then continued on the immoral lines that breasts are private...I just reminded her that Mary would probably have publicly breastfed Jesus in front of God and Angels so it can't be THAT offensive? Maybe she should ask God what he thinks, because if it's good enough for Jesus, it definitely good enough for my kid... She just stormed off.ReplyDelete
AWESOME!!! And anyway, you were keeping your breasts private, only this woman had to come up to you and invade the personal private space you created to tell you that wasn't good enough, you were offending all the angels. LOL.Delete
I loved this! What a wonderful letter. I nurse in church; always have and always will. The only times I leave to nurse in the "mothers' room" is if my child is loud or fussy. I don't cover my child either; my Moby wrap covers just the top of my breast perfectly, or I use a small burp cloth to do it.ReplyDelete
I've never heard or seen any negativity from doing this. In fact, my pastor (who I'd heard someone say was not a fan of nursing in church) walked up recently to say hi to me...and I was nursing. He didn't realize at first, but when he did he smiled and patted my shoulder, then wandered off. It was nice! And honestly, no matter what anyone said to me about it, I'd keep doing it. We must normalize breastfeeding in our society!! :)
I nursed all 4 of my children during worship over 20-30 years ago with never a negative comment.ReplyDelete
One time as I was nursing #2 child one of the elders walked past and he paused to touch my daughter's head. I was a little surprised and hoped she wouldn't stop to turn and look at him. He said something to me about how contented she was or something like that. I just smiled and she continued to eat. Afterwards he came and apologized saying he hadn't realized what I was doing. I just laughed and tried to put him at ease. To me it was a compliment,I was discreet enough without a cover to fool him.
Thanks for the post. Always nice to see men defending breastfeeding. I think it has been a fairly recent phenom that people equated breastfeeding with something lascivious. I think part of the problem is that it has been several generations since breastfeeding and large families were the norm. Certainly at the beginning of the 20th C, there were no other options. And frankly, mothers were too busy to constantly retreat to "private" areas to feed their babies. And often church services (and eating) were day-long affairs since people traveled distances. But since breastfeeding would have been a normal experience of life for everyone, no one would have commented on it.ReplyDelete
Our church (Anglican), and very conservative in many ways, seems to be very open to families. I don't breastfeed during the church service, but that is because I seem to have particularly rambunctious and noisy babies, while they are eating. There are several rooms where the service is piped in, where I would go if they needed to be nursed. Additionally, our church has chairs, not pews, and it is harder to be inconspicuous. I have nursed in front of our Rector, while having a meeting with him, nursed in Bible Studies and Sunday School, and in various other church meetings. I don't cover up because it makes more of a deal and the babies don't like it.
The more we treat breastfeeding as a normal part of raising a child, the more people will become used to it and it won't be such a shock.
So well written. It's tempting to print this out & hand it to anyone who has issues with nursing in public.ReplyDelete
As a fellow Christian dad, I appreciate this post very much. I am very pro-breastfeeding and encourage my wife to feed our daughter in public on a regular basis. Neither of us have a problem with it. I've also had discussions with other Christian guys about this topic, so it's good to see another dad agree that breastfeeding is perfectly normal, natural, and quite literally the best thing for a growing baby.ReplyDelete
Most of my pre-motherhood exposure to other nursing mothers (and my first exposure to a tandem-nursing mom) were at my former UU church (we have since moved and attend a different UU church, to be clear). The moms there made sure I had support and realistic advice through my first pregnancy (as did my fabulous team of CNMs, which those moms helped make me aware of). Our old UU church didn't have a convenient place for moms to go outside the sanctuary (small building, going anywhere more private would have meant using one of the offices that I think were locked during service, taking up one of the two toilets in the women's room, or going down to the lower level somewhere if there was somewhere down there that wasn't already in use for RE - I never did make it down to that level of the church because I'm physically disabled and there is no elevator).ReplyDelete
Our "new" UU church (we've been attending regularly since July 2004 when my eldest was a newborn, we moved when he was a month old) is similarly predominantly breastfeeding families (of the families with small children - like many churches, the mean average age is close to 60). I have personally worked to make it even MORE breastfeeding friendly, with the full support of the ministers. There is a Boppy behind the last pew in the section that is reserved for families with small children (back corner of the church since they're most likely to arrive late and/or need to escape to change a diaper or calm a loud child), there's a MyBrestFriend pillow in the "crying room" off the sanctuary (where audio and video of the service is piped in), and when I come across more (I pick them up at garage sales and such) there will be one in the other comfortable rooms near the sanctuary that have audio of the service piped in (there are two more such locations) and possibly one for our small chapel that sometimes gets used for smaller weddings & such (and is next to our banquet room). We also have a nursery with a glider and nursing pillow, but it's a much further distance from the sanctuary than those other 3 locations and most of our 6m and younger babies tend to be with their mothers instead of in the nursery. I also make and give as a gift a ring sling to new moms whenever I can, to help out, and give the moms the advice of taking baby from carseat and putting into the sling inside mama's coat when the weather is gross - reduces the weight they carry & makes noticing that the baby is hungry before it gets noisy in the sanctuary SO much easier!
I go to the same Anglican church as Kimberly, above, who pointed me to this GREAT post.ReplyDelete
I have nursed my babies sitting the service, in the Rector's office, in vestry meetings where I was the only woman in the room and in the office of the children's ministry director (which is the closest thing we have to dedicated nursing room). No one has ever given me a second look that I'm aware of, and the only comments I've ever received have been positive. It's just so not a big deal at our church.
One time we were visiting my brother-in-law's church-- I think one of his kids was being baptized that day-- and when I dropped my baby off in the nursery I sat down to top him off before I went into the service. There was a kid in there, a maybe 10 or 12 year old boy, and when the lady in the nursery saw me nursing she literally threw a blanket over my baby's head, making reference to the kid. I was stunned, and then pretty angry about it once I got over being stunned, but decided it wasn't worthwhile to make a huge deal out of it since it was a place I was unlikely to visit again with any frequency.
I have mentioned in other places that part of what bemuses me about this whole conversation is that it seems largely confined to Western Christianity. This conversation wouldn't even need to happen in, say, a Ugandan or Nigerian church, where you'd most likely see women not only nursing, but just pulling out the whole breast to do it. Our culture has so submitted to the premises of the pornographic that we have forgotten what you pointed out-- breastfeeding is not sexual. At ALL.
I nurse at church. I do believe that breasts are attractive, even (especially?) when nursing, and I think that it is important to be mindful of not stumbling others, so I am careful about being modest. For me, that usually means nursing in my ring sling, but sometimes not. I definitely make sure I'm wearing nursing friendly clothing to help it be discrete.ReplyDelete
We have a mother's room with sound... just a baby monitor on the pulpit, and the receiver in the mother's room, which is a very easy and cost effective way to do things (not always the best sound quality, tho). Many of the moms use it to nurse in. I find I can't focus well on the service with just sound, so unless I have a very noisy baby or need to change a diaper I don't usually use it.
I am a 72 year old male who attends a small (75 or so) UU congregation composed of people of all ages. Part of the service is a children's story reading time which takes place prior to the children leaving for Sunday school in another part of the building. The children gather in front of the congregation during this time. Almost invariably a baby or young child requires feeding and it is common for the mother to simply begin breastfeeding. This has never bothered the children, teens, or adults and the sight of a nude breast being presented to the child is simply accepted as normal. I cannot understand why anyone would consider this to be immoral or in any way sexualization of the mother.ReplyDelete
I attend a UU church. I am actually an athetist but appreciate and respect Christian viewpoints. There is never a problem with moms nursing during services. I tend to take my little one to a "crying room" though because he is really loud smacking and slurping the whole time. I have never recived anything but respect when I nurse my child at church. A lot of mom at my church breastfeed their children for years and I have never heard anyone ask a mom to not nurse during services.ReplyDelete
I hope I can someday find a way to nurse in church. I unfortunately attend a church where it is not encouraged at all. There is a nursing room, very far from the sanctuary. It is really more of a storage closet with a folding metal chair off the nursery.ReplyDelete
I am sad that I am a minority, and I know as my son gets older and nurses beyond a year, hopefully 2, it will only be more of a challenge. We are actually praying about looking for another church that may be more friendly to ap/natural parenting. I think it is just obvious that God made us this way, why hide it.
oh my gosh...great letter!! I am a youth pastor at a United Methodist Church and I nursed my daughter for 2 1/2 years and we nursed everywhere and with the company of friends, family and strangers, including in the pews, on planes, at coffee shops, at the mall, restaurants, etc.ReplyDelete
I remember one occasion that gave me great satisfaction. We were on a plane and there were two seats on each side of the aisle. I had a window seat and an elderly gentleman sat next to me. Gigi was well over a year old, but we shared a seat. She nursed/slept on my lap practically the whole flight. The man at the end of the flight was so impressed with how "good" she was. I didn't tell him why, but I knew it was because I wasn't afraid to nurse her anywhere, anytime, and in the company of anyone. Amen!
My husband has a church now and I am excited to make our sanctuary and whole facility breastfeeding friendly!
I'm the grandmother of nursing babies now, but back in the day I always nursed my babies and toddlers at Mass when necessary. The only comment I ever received about a nursing baby was not directly on breastfeeding. After an ecumenical prayer service Brother Roger of Taize took my 4 week old baby in his arms and told me "It is very important to bring the children in church."ReplyDelete
I figure that the Old Testament reading for Ash Wednesday, which specifically mentions including "babies at the breast" in an assembly of the faithful, was my ticket to nurse my children at church.
I visited a church in Vancouver BC recently. When I read the bulletin, it stated that nursing mothers were welcome to feed their babies in the sanctuary (I forget the exact wording). And then said that if parents needed somewhere to go with their children, there was a room just to the side of the sanctuary where you could still hear the sermon. I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of them to explicitly mention nursing in the sanctuary, as, being a visitor, I wouldn't have known their stance - though I would've just gone ahead and nursed in the pew anyway as I do at my home church!ReplyDelete
I no longer attend Meeting but was, for many years, a Head-covering Quaker (Society of Friends). Our Meeting always supported a woman's right to nurse her child, covered or uncovered, at any time. I have three children and have nursed them all in Church, both my Meetinghouse as well as my husband's Roman Catholic Church and my childhood Baptist Church, at some point during service. Sometimes I was covered, sometimes I just wore a modest nursing shirt. I nursed them at many ages from newborn to 3 years old in public without a single negative word said to me. In fact, there were several times in the beginning when I would step out of worship to nurse in an empty room out of respect for the congregation and fellow worshipers and even the Priest would come up to me after service and tell me that they would much rather have be nurse in service than to have me miss God's Word. I always felt very welcome as a nursing mother in the three Churches I have attended.ReplyDelete
I've been blogging in an intermittent series about this topic for a while now, as it is near and dear to my heart.ReplyDelete
The latest is here: http://www.as-for-my-house.com/2009/09/children-in-church/ which has links to the earlier episodes.
We are currently still agitating for a "family nursery" in our church, where we can be with the Littles and at least hear and possibly see the service. We are quite welcome nursing in the pews, though, and my 2 year-old usually nurses and naps through the message each week.
As a mother of three children, all of whom I nursed in Church I would like to share my perspective on Breastfeeding.ReplyDelete
A factor I see coming into play with regards to breastfeeding in our culture is the over-sexualization of women. They are constantly depicted as objects of men’s desire, for their pleasure rather than as coequals in Christ. Since men in our culture are constantly bombarded with sexualized images of women, including pornographic images I can understand their knee-jerk reaction to viewing a woman’s breast as well as those of a protective husband who does not wish to have another man lusting after his wife. Men have been conditioned to responding to a bare breast in a lustful way through media bombardment.
However, I would like to propose that allowing women to breastfeed openly in church is a way in which the dignity of woman can be reclaimed. For the very dignity of woman is in her ability to give of herself. There is a very special grace given to women in that only they have the physiological ability to give over her very own body to the growth and development of a human child.
The very act of nursing an infant is a sacrifice. “Believe me, after nursing three children, they don’t always cooperate with a woman’s desire for modesty nor do they time their demands to suite a mother’s convenience.” Viewing the act of a mother nursing an infant provides the opportunity to explore an image of self sacrifice that God encoded into our very DNA.
Each person’s human dignity and wholeness is rooted in our ability to give of ourselves. We are called to follow Christ’s way of the cross. We are called to live his life, death and resurrection. “No greater love has anyone that to lay down their life for another.” Nursing by its very biology is a laying down of ones life. It takes a tremendous amount of physical energy to nurse a child. In the act of breastfeeding a woman is making her body available to nurture another life that is completely dependent on her. She has to die to herself again and again in order to respond to the constant needs and demands of a breastfeeding infant. Any woman who has breastfed knows the sleepless nights and the patience required to be available around the clock. She is also familiar with how much time in her day ends up being devoted to a child who’s demands necessitate her constantly setting other priorities and tasks aside in order to care for the needs of her infant.
If pastors could be more open to exploring this image of self sacrifice, they could be influential in desexualizing the image of a woman’s breast and putting the men in their congregation at greater ease. Possibly men could even find, that by understanding the purpose of breastfeeding in God’s design as a picture of His sacrificial love, they could reprogram their responses to images of women’s breasts and they could gain a greater appreciate of the dignity of the woman as created in the image and likeness of Christ.
I don't think this is a moral question at all. Not feeding a hungry infant is a much more relevant moral question!ReplyDelete
The real question, I suppose, is only one of propriety, which varies from place to place. Over many years women have discreetly breast-fed their child during worship in churches I've served or been a member without any fuss. How this would offend our God is beyond me!
I know of an Episcopal parish in which the rector got in a heap of trouble for installing a rocking chair in the rear of the nave for breastfeeding (in an area with materials for kids). What was ironic is that -- I am not making this up -- just above this chair was a stained glass window of Mary breastfeeding Jesus. Apparently people think that it's fine as long as it's in pious-looking stained glass, but some Episcopalians cannot abide incarnate people being people. Sigh.ReplyDelete
I have noticed that those who are most vociferously opposed to the idea of women nursing in church are also the first ones to complain about crying babies.ReplyDelete
Make of that what you will...
(who nursed both of her children in church)
I wonder what an exploration of the offended man's computer would find. He may have been thinking "unclean thoughts" if he was concentrating on something other than satisfying a baby's need?ReplyDelete
Oy Vey. Anyone who would complain about a woman breast-feeding shows only themselves for a weirdo!ReplyDelete
I object to the turn our culture has taken, where the feminine form has been conscripted for strictly sexual interpretation, and the coarser the better. Which is more offensive, males who turn every woman's body into pornography, or females who display cleavage and thigh we never needed to see?ReplyDelete
None of that applies to nursing, which is not a sexual act, whatever prurient thoughts pop into someone's head. It's been awhile since I nursed (1986, maybe?) but I remember trying to nurse in womens' rest rooms, places with arguably the dirtiest floors and least restful furniture, when any was available. After baby #2, I gave it up, threw a cloth diaper over my nursing shoulder, and let the baby have her dinner. (Mine was always hungry just as the food arrived, too.) I learned to be discreet and face down those who wanted to make an issue of it, although there were very few. At church I found sitting at the back allowed me to nurse without being observed.
When I was a newly ordained priest, 46 years ago, in the mid-'60's I was sent to an inner city parish for a few weeks that summer. I taught an inquiry class, and one day, near the front, sat an African-American woman holding an infant girl. When the child became restless, the woman, in a completely natural and unembarrassed gesture, put the child to her breast to suckle. It took me by surprise, but at the same time I have always considered it one of the most beautiful learning experiences I ever had as a young priest; in fact, even a sort of compliment in that she was self-confident enough in that setting to risk being somewhat vulnerable in front of me, a white, male religious authority figure. My feeling was that I was the stranger in her home territory, so why would she not feel free to nurture her child in that way. It seems to me that the objecting man in question may have some "issues". I'm certain that God doesn't mind - after all, it's God's house!ReplyDelete
I always tell people who are upset - they don't have to look -- but seems they have to - again and again !!ReplyDelete
Some babies will not feed under a hot, suffocating covering. And why should they have to? After all, would any of us want to eat our dinner under a burqa?ReplyDelete
I'm with Ann on this one. If (collective) you are offended by women nursing, just look the other way. If you can't, then I humbly suggest that there is something else going on with YOU.
Breast feeding is good for babies. It boosts their immune systems, supports growth, and facilitates parental bonding. Setting women apart to nurse adds to society's discomfort with the practice and suggests that it is even shameful. It confirms the unease that some mothers-yet-to-be have about breast feeding. Why would we want to discourage the practice? Nursing is normal and healthy.ReplyDelete
Regarding covering babies up, babies often want to look into their mother's eyes while nursing. Try breathing under a sheet for 10 minutes. It's not really that comfortable.
For those interested in knowing about the law, look here: www.mothering.com/breastfeeding/public-breastfeeding-laws-map
~a mother who breastfed her children
I think fellow parishioners are not always thinking about the hungry baby. Why should the sensitivities of grown-ups--who can, after all look the other way or sit somewhere else--trump the needs of a hungry baby? What is "Christian" about demanding that their desires should supersede the needs of an infant?ReplyDelete
In the general culture, opposition to nursing in public is generally rooted in objectification of women's bodies. It is maddening to see that carried over into the church--especially, as several commenters have noted, when visual depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary nursing the infant Jesus are in evidence!
I used to PLAN to nurse in church, so i could sit back and pay attention, with a happy, nursing, sleeping baby. I often had him in the sling since that's what I wore when we walked over, but made no effort to hide. I nursed him in church until nearly age 2. The only reaction I ever has was an elderly man who came over and told me how wonderful it was that I was nursing my baby.ReplyDelete
With my older daughter, she had difficulty nursing, lots of gas and popping on and off, gas, crying. She was frequently overstimulated and cried when held, she had sensory issues. I missed church for most of a couple of years because she was so loud and it was so stressful. I would have been happy to nurse her there if she was comfortable with it.
Hi there, I am new to the blog and just catching upwith some older posts and wanted to answer this as it wasrelevent to me (although I can see you have had lots of answers already!).ReplyDelete
I am a Christian and attend a church and I breastfeed during the service, as does my friend who often sits right next to me, and we are not expected to leave the sanctuary at all. We both use covers because that is our personal feeling about modesty.
I have to confess here that while I agree mostly with the letter you have published here, and while it sounds like the tone ofthe other letter was indeed legalistic and by no means the tone I would take, I can sympathize with the notion that women should consider how much they are revealing while breastfeeding in public. I would never criticize another woman asI agree with this writer that is a matter of personal conviction, but I know for myself I would never feel comfortable having my breasts exposed in front of men other than my husband, as whilethere is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding our children, I do still believe my breaast is a sexual image for most men and I do want not only tobe considerate oftheir feelings but also gaurd myself in terms ofmodesty. But, as I said, that is a metter of personal conviction, and I would not force that opinion on anyone else, and I believe the laws shoudl fully support a woman's right to breastfeed in whatever way fits her best.
Thanks for the thought-provoking article, and I am definitelyappreciating the blog as a new mom!
I am a discreet public breast feeder. If I am in the comfort of my home, my mother or in-laws, or even a friends, I am not as discreet.ReplyDelete
When I am st church, I will go to the nursery, where the sermon is piped in, to nurse her. Due to her age, she gets too distracted if there are too many sensory things going on around her.
If I was to nurse in the sanctuary, I think that she would pull away to look around and expose my breast. I really don't want to get the stink eye from others. I am not sure that I would, but I just don't do it.
Great letter though. I am so impressed with Andrew's knack for handling someone that is ignorant.
just an interesting postscript (to me at least ;) ) since I commented earlier. In the intervening time I gave birth to my 3rd son. I had half-jokingly said as long as the baby was born more than 24hrs before services started we would be at church the following Sunday. He was born at home on Saturday just before 8am and was at church with me the following Sunday for the 10:30am service, where he nursed in public for the first time in the sanctuary. I did not cover his head, I did wear clothes that allowed him access to my nipple without exposing the top of my breast (nursing top). And I had a friend sitting next to me take pictures to mark the occasion for my son's scrapbook. I can't remember where I was the first time I nursed my other two in public but I'll always remember where this one was!ReplyDelete
My church is very nursing friendly. There is a rocking chair that was bought specifically for nursing moms in a nook along the side of the sanctuary. There is a little half wall that offers the mom some privacy. I was too shy to use it at first and said something to the pastor about wishing there was a speaker in the choir room. He told me to just go ahead and feed DS in the pew if I wanted to- and to use a cover if that would make it more comfortable for me.ReplyDelete
I nurse him wherever he will eat best. Sometimes that is in the pew, but other times I take him into another room so he can concentrate. Sometimes I just turn my back for my own privacy.
If a man sees a woman nursing a baby and thinks it's sexual, then I'd say he needs to deal with why he feels that way. God intended the breast to nourish our babes. We are the ones that have gone and sexualized them.ReplyDelete
A man against breast feeding probably was not breast feed and has other "issues" in life he needs to deal with.ReplyDelete
At our church, where my father is the pastor, whenever a child squeals or baby cries, he'll take a moment to address that family.. It goes something like this:ReplyDelete
"Please be at ease, and know that many of us have been where you are. It brings me such joy to hear the sounds of the children in our sanctuary. We as a church love too see our family grow, so do not be embarrassed..."
Our church is our FAMILY. With God as our father, I could not imagine a father asking his child to hide his grandchild.. it's so backwards.
I've nursed at church many times. I've even nursed wearing my child in a sling while walking up to take communion. No one has said anything to me. It's a pretty small church so I don't think others have nursed there, nor do we really have a nursing policy. I try to be discreet but that doesn't mean I always use a blanket or cover. If I do use something, it's usually only at the start, or if the baby is particularly squirmy that day. I've also had to nurse at meetings with a church staff member. Other male staff walked by and still no one was bothered by it. It's a very supportive place for families and mothers!ReplyDelete
Great post! It is refreshing to see a fellow dad who feels the same way I do. I can not tell you how crazy it drives me when other men and dads I talk to instantly become uncomfortable or grossed out when I mention breastfeeding! It is without doubt one of the most beautiful natural process designed by our Lord and Creator! I am proud to say that my wife breastfeeds anywhere and everywhere. She even breastfed our firstborn on the floor of the House of Representatives in DC when we were visiting! She is discreet, certainly, but she knows her rights as a created being. Nobody has the right to tell her that she can not breastfeed in public. If someone is offended at the beautiful process, they can leave. But I'm sad to say that we find opposition to our viewpoint even within our own extended family. It's sad how far we have strayed from Biblical simplicity. Now the modern pharisees have made it a moral issue if women want to (heaven forbid!) do what is right for their children. I just praise the Lord that there are women out there who are willing to stand on principle and do what is right for their children. I tip my hat to them.ReplyDelete
I find it ironic that breasts are only for breastfeeding and our husbands enjoyment. What about our enjoyment of them? They are attached to us after all. Does breastfeeding completely stop the woman's desire to have them touched intimately? He should have to work for the privilege to enjoy them. How is it fair that everyone else gets to use them but us?ReplyDelete
This isn't a church story, but when I was a high-schooler, we took an AP biology class at the local college. Our lab instructor had just had a baby, and she brought the baby in a sling to the class and breastfed while instructing with none of us the wiser. I only figured it out afterward. More power to her!
Not a mom yet (hopefully will be soon) but I completely support breastfeeding in church and plan to breastfeed my babies in our church. My preacher (small Presbyterian church) preaches barefoot, so I am pretty sure she will be supportive. I think in my church I would be more likely to be asked whether I was producing enough or whether I was having latch trouble before they asked me to cover up.
I'm with Katie Press in that I'm also a born-again Pagan, but my situation is a little different, since I AM the High Priestess! I've nursed mine while teaching public Wicca 101 classes, while leading ritual, while teaching Dedicant classes, while officiating at Council meetings, and while hanging out, and this has all been done with a nipple shield, meaning that I quite frequently "flashed" a good measure of boobage while getting him latched on. I hope that seeing me nurse is setting a good example for my coveners, one of which is due with her first child in October (and plans to breastfeed!). I don't ever apologize for nursing, except to say, "I hope you don't have a problem with boobs, because you'll probably see mine a lot over the next few hours!"ReplyDelete
Thanks for the excellent post! This Andrew (me) agrees with the Andrew who wrote the letter. :) As a man, when I see a woman breastfeeding her baby, I use it as an opportunity to remember how wonderful is a mother's love for her children, and how this love helps us understand the love of God for us. Indeed, I also remember how Jesus said that His love for us is like that of a hen (mother chicken) gathering her chicks under her wings (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34). I am saddened that there are those who call themselves Christians who would see breastfeeding any other way.ReplyDelete
I am not a mum myself yet (me and my hubby have bad fertility issues). But i am a huge supporter of PP/AP, and will deff try my best to PP if/when i have a child!ReplyDelete
The Church I attened/still go to sometimes supports BF it's a very large congragation (around 250 people each week for the family service)and mums are regularly feeding during the service. However we also have a room of to the side for any mums that wish to feed elsewhere/have a noisy child. But it has the service piped in and a screen so they can see what is happening.
They also have a mid-week womans group and you often have several mums BF around the circle at once! Such a beautiful sight!!!
This church then planted another church which is my church now. We don't have a room for feeding/noisy children. It is all seen as totally normal and fully accepted. partly becuase we need to be that way (we have more children at our church than adults atm. We have a creche and sunday school for anyone that wishes to use it, but no child is made to go out and can stay in the service. Every sunday we will have children running around free while the service is happening. I love this!!! :D
I go to a non-demonational church, When I had my son I was shown the nursing room, It is a little room that is off to the side of the nursery and has 2 rocking chairs in it. I have never tried nursing right in church because It seems they just expect I use the nursing room and I have never seen a mom nurse during church. Now I sorta want to just stay seated during the sermon and nurse him right there though!ReplyDelete
Children sit in during services at my church. Everyone is expected to worship together. There is a room where mothers go to rock, nurse, or change their babies or if their babies are fussy. (There is also a room on the other side that is for moms and dads to use and is for older children.) I go in the baby room because my daughter is sleepy and the lights are usually off and it's quieter. There are 6 rockers in there and I'll nurse her to sleep. Most days my preacher's wife is nursing her son in the rocker right beside me. LOLReplyDelete
I use a cover in public for my comfort and especially now because she's 8 months old and she gets very distracted by things going on around her...and she'll pull. :)
Everyone is supportive of breastfeeding in our church, though I would cover my breast out of my own modesty. I would also sit in a rocking chair that is in the hallway next to the room we have service in sometimes, the two are not seperated by a door - only an open frame. I go to a small town church numbering 20-30.ReplyDelete
I nurse in the middle of service. It helps that we have one of the more well known doulas in Georgia (she's helped deliver almost 500 babies)in our congregation, so she of course encourages nursing during church service! I don't know how the other members feel about it but no one has ever said anything to me about it, though I do use a cover (for my own comfort). I always change my daughter's diaper in the nursery during announcements, and it always amuses me when the women in there ask me if I need the rocking chair to feed her. I always smile, say no thank you, and then go back to my seat. I might be more willing to nurse her in the nursery, but you can't hear the sermon in there!ReplyDelete
I nurse my 6+ month old daughter during service. It helps that we have one of the more well known doulas (she's help deliver almost 500 babies) in Georgia in our congregation; she definitely encourages it! I've never had anyone say anything to me (although I do use a cover for my own comfort), but it does amuse me when I change my daughter in the nursery during announcements and the women always ask if I need the rocking chair to feed her. I always smile and say no thanks and then return to my seat. lol You can't hear the sermon in the nursery; I'm not going to miss out!ReplyDelete
Our church has "mother's rooms" where mothers may go to care for their little ones while still being able to hear the worship service. The use of this room is only for the mother's convenience, mothers are welcome to nurse in the chapel or in one of the foyers just outside the chapel -- really, wherever they feel comfortable doing so.ReplyDelete
Personally, I think it is important to choose whichever location will create the least amount of disruption -- when my children have been infants, I would generally nurse in the chapel unless they were fussy because it would have been disruptive for me to get up and leave. With my toddler, I generally take him to the mother's room so he is free to comment and move around as he chooses.
As long as our goal is to be respectful of the worship service and of the people around us who have come to worship, I think our choices will be positive ones.
To the people that think it is wrong to nurse in the sancuary, do you think that Jesus asked those listening to him to go sit someplace else while he preached? I think he would be upset with those who told a nursing mother to move just like he was upset with his disciple when they tried to keep the children from coming to him.ReplyDelete
My church has a great big lovely room dedicated to nursing mothers with a big comfy couch. And a nice big TV with a live feed in from the service. Only problem is that it's a bit far from the sanctuary for my taste. There is a little foyer into the ladies' bathroom with a nice couch and a changing table if need be. I've nursed both places, and also in the pew. I haven't had to do it in awhile now that my baby is older, but I would either use the hooter hider or just sit towards the back. Nobody ever said 'boo'. My church is a pretty small, family centered loving place so I'm not surprised by that.ReplyDelete
My christian husband also wrote a great article. You can find it on my site:ReplyDelete
I have a fantastically supportive church, I have been going with my daughter every week since she was born I feed her in a pew as and when she needs it, she is now 3 and only feeds at night. Most of the older ladies 60 plus are fantastically supportive there are a couple who have never married and obviously feel uncomfortable at times. I have 2 female vicars the one in-charge used to be a Health Visitor and was always supportive even putting breastfeeding is welcome stickers on the door :DReplyDelete
I tend to where a big top which covers my daughter I honestly would rather not flash my boob if at all pos in public full stop but my daughter went through a stage of flashing me :-/
The church I am at now, my 8 month old keeps coming off the breast to look around. So I accidentally flashed some people for a few seconds and I have been asked to cover. I held strong to not covering. What it came down to is either I cover or I am told to leave.ReplyDelete
Doula Harley Jennette
Depending upon the laws in your state, they may have broken the law by telling you to cover.Delete
Thank you for writing this from a man's perspective. I am a mother that has recently gone through a serious issue with my church about breastfeeding uncovered in church and it is breaking my heart. It especially pains me to see how much of culture that is against God has made its way into churches... especially about this subject. Thank you again. PLEASE find me on Facebook under Doula Harley JennetteReplyDelete
Could NEVER see how a maginificent GOD could ever think that the beautiful mother-baby connection and nourishment of breastfeeding, that HE Himself created, could ever think of it as sin or distasteful, or that it needed to be covered up. Silly how his believers find His very own creations to be quiet scandalous. Beauty is intimidating.ReplyDelete
The whole "women tempt us with their boobs while breastfeeding" can be compared to "women tempt us with their existence while living" <-- and a religion I will not name likes to have them cover from head to toe because of it. Because some weak & dirty minded men can't deal with seeing any part of the female gender... I think people really need to look at themselves FIRST before calling something they see offensive, maybe they just need to go wash out their minds with soap.ReplyDelete
THANKYOU :) My husband and i are trying (take a test today to see if i am :D ) and we go to a small multi-cultural church in adelaide. although there's a few children there, I'm a fairly recently converted chrisian and didn't go there when they were babies. I was actually wondering recently if it was accepted in christian churches. thank you for the letter, and thank you for all the posts, it took me a while, but i read every one of them, and they all gave me the confidence to breastfeed in public, not matter where i am.ReplyDelete
My husband, one yr old daughter Finley & I went to Rome for vacation. We toured St Peters Basilica & my daughter needed to nurse. I found a spot, out of the way of the tourists and sat down on the floor to nurse discreetly. The Italian guards came over to me & motioned for me to get up while saying something in Italian. I motioned that I was feeding my child. They were persistent & insistent that I get up. Apparently they don't allow sitting at St Peters, which I understand, but come on! I wasn't loitering, I was nursing my baby! So I stood and nursed her while standing. It wasnt ideal or comfortable, but her belly was filled. Later, I nursed her inside the Sistine Chapel while sitting between two foreign ladies who smiled at me like they understood how special that was to do, in that holy place.ReplyDelete
That experience made me think of Mary & what it was like for her to nurse Jesus. I wonder how long she nursed him. I wonder if we've made progress as a society as far as breastfeeding goes, or if we have regressed backwards.
I go to an Eastern Orthodox Christian church. I think a wonderful example has been set for us by our priest's wife. I know it made me so much more comfortable when I was pregnant with my first to see her nursing her seventh baby. At Orthodox churches, the children are always present during the divine services, and at my parish there are more nursing women in any given service than I can count. Many choose to use covers, but many don't. Also, it's common to see nursing toddlers in services--helps keep them quieter! :)ReplyDelete
I have breastfed in a number of churches & never had an issue.ReplyDelete
A previous poster had brought up a passage commonly used in catholic churches on Ash Weds. I think this is what she meant:
New International Version (NIV)
Rend Your Heart
12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the LORD your God.
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
I cannot fathom how anyone can claim to believe in any higher power of any denomination 7 then think that the higher power has such inherent flaws in our basic design. Then again - this also falls into my thinking on circumcision....that by design we have the parts we are supposed to have & that we ought to use them as they were intended to be used. There are cultures in this world (like the Mali in Africa) that do not at all sexualize the breast in any way. They think of our culture as perverse because they think men seeing breasts as sexual, when to them they are entirely for babies, somehow crosses over slightly almost into the realm of men being sexually infantile. While me may not share their same feelings, we can then see why it is the culture that is sexualizing the breast. Men might be bombarded with sexual images in this culture, but so what? I am bombarded by things all the time that tell me I need to be tall, thin, have perfect skin, I choose to look away & stay true to who I am & what I know to be right. Each individual has to take personal responsibility for what they allow to enter their brain & heart & to rid themselves of that which is unhealthy or detrimental. Ye sour world is full of ads & other things, but we can turn off the TV, we can block ads on our computers, we can choose not to look into the direction of things that taint our minds. IF we choose to blame others for our own "temptations" then we in effect hand our power to them. That is a huge cop out. Others may try to influence us, but we must choose to walk away.
I am not a big fan of seeing an exposed breast regardless of where I am. (Therefore if I see a woman feeding her child and not covering up I look away!) The thought that nursing your child is any more or less appropriate based on where you are is silly! I love the comment above about how not feeding a hungry infant is the more relevant moral issue!ReplyDelete
I am currently breastfeeding my child, and I have breastfed my other two as well. I feed my daughter whenever and where ever I am. I have even on many occasions fed my daughter while walking through a store or at the beach. I do cover up... but not because I am ashamed to be breastfeeding. I cover up because I would rather not expose myself. When it is hot I use the blanket to cover myself and just a tiny bit of my daughter's face so she isn't uncomfortable.
However... if my daughter were so adamantly against the blanket even just barely covering her face I would do what I had to do and feed her where ever I was. As discreetly as possible. But it would be more important that she eats than that I get to retain my modesty!
my church has a room set up with rocking chair boppy and changing table its very nice or some sit in the entryway and listen to the sermon with there noisy kids. i dont feel that the room is to get u out of the way just a comfortable place for someone very modest or still having issues latching the baby on. my two gave me tons of trouble latching on at first so it was nice to be in a seperate area where we could get together without fear of my boob showing.ReplyDelete
I'm a mama to two wee ones under 3 and I'm an out loud kind of breastfeeding mama! Reading this I felt a little ashamed that he calls himself a Christian. We attend a church in Texas that is 100% pro-breastfeeding, in service, covered, uncovered and we have a nursing room for mama's who are not so "out loud and proud!" Our church is filled with littles and almost all of those littles are born at home and are breastfed in the service.ReplyDelete
I 100% agree that this has to do with sin in this mans heart rather than in the heart of a mama doing what God designed her radiant body to do for her children.
Amen and amen, mama V
I nurse in church. With and without a cover, but that's my choice. The Catholic Church is very supportive of breastfeeding. We live in a rural area of TN, and I've only ever had odd looks from the congregation at one church. Otherwise - all the mama's with babies and toddlers are either breastfeeding or their little one's are sleeping, lol.ReplyDelete
Andrew - thank you for this wonderful letter! I don't know when I've ever read a more thoughtful, wonderful response to some of the ignorance and judgmental attitudes out there. You're a star!ReplyDelete
The Sin is usung a bottle with formula unnecessarily!ReplyDelete
I have nursed in church too. I admit to not always feeling comfortable but then I asked myself if I would nurse my baby in front of the Savior and I quickly answered yes. That is my standard. I finally wrote about my thoughts in this blog post: http://thegiftofgivinglife.com/breastfeeding-and-modesty/ReplyDelete
I'd like to share what our church does. Many women, myself included, feel free to nurse in the sanctuary. No one has ever been told to leave or cover-up. There is a nursing room for those who may not feel comfortable nursing during the service. This room consists of baby swings, rocking chairs, a changing table and a speaker to hear the sermon. It's a great place to go if you have a fussy baby and you don't want to disturb or distract the congregation.ReplyDelete
I think this is the best way to handle the subject of breastfeeding in church. I know a few women who are just not comfortable nursing in front of people. It's nice to have an option for them while not forcing that on other women.
The idea that women should leave the room to nurse really irritates me. Until I see some uproar about all the sexuality in front of my children on billboards and other media, I'd better not hear complaints about the proper use of the breasts.
Thank you for sharing this letter. I love your site.
I think that this article and all of the comments are so awesome! I am a mother of a 12 year old and a 7 month old. I am still nursing my 7 month old and I live in a town that does not look upon nursing as good. We have a large elderly population and I think they were taught differently when they were raising children, but I have had some women go out of their way to tell me that I am disgusting when I was nursing my baby. I was nursing him at a womens expo in town and there was no where private to go, I had no cover up and an older woman and friend walked by and made that comment. I decided that instead of being angry that I would start a breastfeeding support group for the area. We are starting it next month and hopefully all will go well with good turn out.ReplyDelete
As far as my church is concerned, contemporary service has a mix of older and younger folks and the idea is for the nursing mother to go downstairs into the nursery to breastfeed. There is a television turned on down there to watch the service. I guess it's not a huge problem. I would rather have a little privacy because I am not trying to show anyone my nipples! :)
I would, however, like the general public here to be more accepting of nursing mothers and their choices to nurse in public. My baby hates a cover up and I think rooms should be available in all churches, malls and stores for nursing moms. Not a dirty bathroom, which by the way I have been told to nurse in those....yuck! Andrew, you have a great article...my 7 month old is named Andrew too, and I hope he grows up with the same views. Especially because he is and will continue to be a breastfed babe!
Love that even though this article is a couple of years old, we're still commenting. :) I'm Catholic, and our parish family is made up of a fabulous variety of people--young, elderly, married, singles, and TONS of big families. And I mean with our six children, we're on the small side of average. I have always nursed my babies in the pew, and so do all of the other Mamas I know. We do take our fussy babies out to the narthex, but a nursing baby is not a fussy baby. We are able to fully participate in the Mass in the narthex, but most of us are hoping that our little ones will learn to participate in the Mass too, and you can't learn that unless you're in the midst of it. Our bishop resides in the rectory of our parish (we are at the Cathedral), and the rectory is adjacent to the narthex. When he comes in prior to the beginning of Mass, he is almost always greeted by families engaged in a variety of acitivities, from wiping noses to smoothing hair to Mamas getting a quick nursing in hopes to have a quiet baby at the beginning of Mass. He loves it, and we're very grateful for his support! I think there is one caveat to this though. I think there are times and places where it is appropriate to make a move toward modesty, either by layering or by draping with a light blanket or sweater or shawl. Not covering, mind you, but just laying the fabric to ensure that attention is not drawn toward something where it should not be. During Mass, my attention and that of others does not belong on me, it belongs on the Altar and the things happening there. When I nurse my babies at Mass, I make sure that from the side, others are not drawn to what I am doing. I do this through layering my clothing, and sometimes, putting a muslin wrap around the side I'm nursing on. It's the one time I feel that "covering" for the sake of others is appropriate. In other instances, if I choose to cover, it's more to protect my own sense of modesty than to make others more comfortable.ReplyDelete
I have never been to a church that condemns breast feeding during service, Thats just stupid. But then again I am non denominational, more of a spiritualist then religious and stick to smaller more tight knit churches.ReplyDelete
My church is very welcoming to breastfeeding moms. Moms can nurse in the sanctuary. If they are not comfortable with that we have a sound proof glassed off room next to the sanctuary where moms can comfortably sit and nurse and play with their babies while still viewing the service. I love my church!ReplyDelete
I've been to churches that discourage and even condemn women for breastfeeding in church while there are teenage girls wearing short skirts on stage singing. infact at one church in particular i stopped coming during the times when my babies were to young to wait to eat. i was told i was being indecent and a "temptress" and if i "had to do that" to go into the hallway or bathroom. i would often hide behind my husband but i still got comments....ReplyDelete
oh yea that makes a whole lot of sense....(NOT!)
but MOST churches that i've been to support and encourage breastfeeding as God's design for moms and babies. my current church i usually slip into the nursery just because my baby dosen't like to nurse with me sitting in the pew. she'd rather i lay down with her.
The church I currently attend is very breastfeeding friendly. I did have one woman talk to me about covering up because her teenage sons were feeling uncomfortable. I appreciated the fact that she came to me directly and was looking for a way that wouldn't inconvenience me but also was considerate of her sons. I explained to her that my daughter did not like to be covered at all, but when they were at the same service as us (which happens about three times a year!), I would be happy to move to one of the comfy chairs in the narthex when my daughter needed to nurse. The doors between our narthex and sanctuary are open, so I can still hear and be a part of the service, and be respectful of them at the same time. However, the church we used to attend had a number of people complain to the pastor about me breastfeeding in the sanctuary. That church had no alternative place for me to nurse, and they were very rude about it. Ultimately, that was the reason we left that church.ReplyDelete
I pretty much only use my cover once a week, and it's during the church service, for one reason only: the pastor has made it clear through his comments about breastfeeding that he definitely supports it, but thinks it's a woman's prerogative to be respectful of others. So, sure. Whatever, I'll cover if you really think a glimpse of my nipple is going to derail others in this congregation. I do respect his wishes. My daughter is fine under there, even though it's a slight hassle to get the thing on and *keep* it on.ReplyDelete
My church, Hope Trinity Anglican Church in Mackenzie, BC Canada, is wonderful for nursing moms. I often nurse my little guy right in the pews during service, or if he is fussy and squirmy they have a nice big comfy chair in a windowed room attached to the main room. Its the kids playroom and it has speakers so you can not only see the sermon through the big glass windows you can also hear it. The Reverend's wife is a nurse and we have multiple families with young children so no one even bats an eye at breastfeeding. They help us younger moms realize the miracle of our bodies!ReplyDelete
My problem with using the cry room (or a designated nursing room) to nurse while in church is that it splits up the family. We went to a church for a while that did not allow children in church service at all. So my daughter would sit in the cry room with her baby and nurse on and off while her husband and the rest of the family sat in the sanctuary. It got to be really annoying to find each other after church (it was a large church) and frankly, I like going to church with my family. We quickly found a church that allowed children in church and she would hold her baby in church and nurse as needed.ReplyDelete