As World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to share my thoughts about the breastfeeding Christian mother nursing in public. I am not writing this post out of judgement on other Christian women, but to share what I believe scriptures say to us about how to go about nursing in public. Just as we each attend different denominations and have various interpretations of scriptures, the topic of the Christian breastfeeding mother also has varying viewpoints. It is true that the Bible is silent on this topic as it is with many others about life, however, I think it is one that we need to consider carefully.
One of the most important things to consider is the purpose and function of the breast. Scripture clearly shows us time and time again that the breasts are sexual (Songs of Soloman) in nature. He created our breasts to be pleasurable to our husbands. I highly doubt there is a man that would not agree with that :-) When looking at the structure of how God has formed the family, the wife's first priority is to her husband and then to her children. Therefore the breasts first function is to her husband and then to her children. We can't deny that the breasts sole (and only) purpose is to feed her children and not sexually.
A passage of New Testament scripture that shows us how Christian women should be and act is Titus 2:5 "to use good judgment, and to be morally pure. Also, tell them to teach young women to be homemakers, to be kind, and to place themselves under their husbands' authority. Then no one can speak evil of God's word." This scripture in Titus reveals how we are to live a godly life in honor of God. Our lives should show others (i.e. non Christians) we are His children in everything that we do and say. I would like to emphasize the "use good judgement" in the scripture. In many translations it interprets as "be discreet". If everything we do and say in our lives are supposed to honor God that would also mean that we need to "be discreet" and use "good judgement" when breastfeeding our children as well.
So what does it mean to be discreet when breastfeeding? My good judgement tells me that discreet means covered and not drawing attention to myself. If I am completely covered then there is no chance of even a glimpse of my breasts. I will not make excuses for why I can not use a cover so I can breastfeed discreetly. How can I argue with scripture? To share my personal experience with breastfeeding Ethan, he was not an easy child to breastfeed! The first several weeks were quite the ordeal. He would scream and refuse the breast. I also had issues with both of my breasts emptying correctly for many months. I had to consistently use breast compression to avoid getting plugged ducts. It took me a while to catch on to breastfeeding and master doing so under a cover. However, I still used my good judgement and discreet means of breastfeeding my child where ever I went. Sometimes that was right at the restaurant booth because Ethan always had to eat while I was eating. And sometimes that meant sitting out in the car for a few minutes so I would be comfortable and not worry about using a cover at all. Never once did anyone stare at me or say anything to me about what I was doing. I always felt comfortable and blameless. I was never mad or frustrated because I had to feed my child before I fed myself for the sake of discretion as the Bible called me to do.
Another important passage of scripture that we should look at when it comes to Christian women breastfeeding in public is 1 Corinthians 10:23- 11:1. It says, "Someone may say, "I'm allowed to do anything," but not everything is helpful. I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth. People should be concerned about others and not just about themselves. Eat anything that is sold in the market without letting your conscience trouble you. Certainly, "The earth is the Lord's and everything it contains is his." If an unbeliever invites you [to his house for dinner], and you wish to go, eat anything he serves you without letting your conscience trouble you.However, if someone says to you, "This was sacrificed to a god," don't eat it because of the one who informed you and because of conscience.I'm not talking about your conscience but the other person's conscience. Why should my freedom be judged by someone else's conscience? If I give thanks to God for the food I eat, why am I condemned for that? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything to the glory of God. Don't cause others to stumble, whether they are Jewish, Greek, or members of God's church. I try to please everyone in every way. I don't think about what would be good for me but about what would be good for many people so that they might be saved. Imitate me as I imitate Christ."
This passage in 1 Corinthians shows us that we need to be considerate of others (not just other Christians either, everyone!) around us. Even if we have the freedom to breastfeed where ever, when ever, we are to be sensitive to those around us. As I mentioned before I have been blessed that I have not bothered anyone when I was breastfeeding in public. I would like to think that is because I was discreetly covered. If I was approached by someone who was offended by my covered breastfeeding what should I do? Just because state laws allow me to do so does not mean that I should make a big scene and demand that it is my right. Scripture says that I should be sensitive and gracious when confronted with a situation. As scripture states even eating and drinking is to the glory of God so that would also mean the "eating" (nursing) of our babies should be as well! I pray that my discreet breastfeeding of my baby is an action that glorifies our Father as well as show I am a child of God! When we also follow this scripture we can avoid causing another brother to stumble. This does not mean just Christians either. Remember that I mentioned earlier that the breasts are sexual. Say for instance I was nursing uncovered and some of my breast was showing. How much or how little that is showing is not the issue, it's the whole point that my breast is exposed. If a man approaches me that is uncomfortable with my public nursing and suggests I leave or go to another room how am I to know his reasoning for it? What if it is a stumbling block to him? It is not my place to judge him and ask him why. I would have to answer to God if I caused a brother to stumble.
There is one more scripture that I think would apply breastfeeding in public. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, "Also, make it your goal to live quietly, do your work, and earn your own living, as we ordered you. Wow, live quietly? This goes hand and hand with "be discreet". To me this means that we should not be raising a ruckus so to speak. Go about your business and do not draw attention to yourselves. He also says to make it our goal! When we follow God's scriptures in this passage we will have the respect of others (i.e. non-Christians esp!) and bring glory to God.
I want to share one other personal breastfeeding story. When Ethan was a newborn we had to travel out of town for a family funeral. This was an all day affair practically. When I needed to nurse Ethan I would head off to a side room in a church and had the peace and quite of nursing my baby. After the funeral there was a meal for the family. Of course, Ethan had to eat once again. Since I was in the middle of my meal I put on my cover and let him nurse while I finished the last few bites of my meal. When a male relative got up to throw away his plate he purposely went around on my side of the table to leave. He walked very close to right behind my back for one reason which was not only apparent to myself but also to my husband, to see if he could catch a glimpse of anything looking down into my cover. Even though I knew he would not be able to see anything, I quickly collapsed the top part of my cover so you could not see down into my shirt at all. I knew that I was completely blameless in God's eyes. But what if I had not been using a cover? I'm sure he would be trying to catch a glimpse of anything he could if I nursed uncovered. I don't believe I would be blameless in God's eyes in this situation.
I pray that that my post has perhaps opened your eyes to a different perspective to how a Christian mother should nurse in public. Anytime we are shared a different perspective or shown scripture in a new light I believe we should look at it and prayfully consider it. It is difficult at times when we discover that a way we have been acting or treating someone wrong , or a false attitude that we have been harboring that was not honoring God and was against His will. As Christians it is a day to day battle and a constant state of change to become the child of God that He sees for us.