Friday, August 6, 2010

My Thoughts about Christians Nursing in Public

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.

God Bless!

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Jill said...

I have to respectfully disagree with you here. The fact that you're taking ANYONE into account other than your husband or child is ridiculous. You can't help that some skeevy guy at a family function decided to try and peek down your shirt -- and it does NOT make you 'bad' or 'to blame'. He makes his own choices and you can't help that. Was it wise to do so, of course it was. But, he is the skank, not you. Sure, be modest, it's the rational thing to do, but every man, woman, or child has the ability and obligation NOT to look if it bothers them. Just like you might not look at something that bothers you. I take personal offense on your judgment, saying others are doing the wrong thing because they breastfeed in public and don't take EVERY other human being in the room into account. Then, you are NOT putting your husband and children first, you are putting that other person first. Sometimes, things just ARE and don't have to be an issue of any sort.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing. You have opened my eyes. I never thought of it that way. Do you mind if I share this on my blog?

Katie said...

I agree 100% with Jill. And while I'm not a church-going person, I'm pretty sure God would rather you feed your child comfortably than worry about what others think of you. My daughter HATED when I'd use a cover and wouldn't eat. It was far more important to me regardless of anything that my child was eating.

Chari said...

Jill- It sounds like you are missing my whole point. Even though I want to argue back, scripture tells me not to engage in arguments like these. I wrote this to share how I felt the Holy Spirit leading me, not to point fingers and argue.

I will, however, point out one more scripture. Proverbs 16:2 "All of man's ways seem innocent to him but motives are weighed by the Lord."

Chari said...

Thank you Sarah, I appreciate your kind comment and feel free to share with others :-)

B.A. Hunter said...

Great post! I couldn't agree more on the matter. There is a time and place for everything. Sure, using a nursing cover is not always the convenient thing to do, but it is the respectful thing to do. I don't cover at home with my family but never would want anyone seeing my breasts and don't want anyone feeling uncomfortable when I NIP.

I know a lot of woman do not like to cover, but they do make nursing covers with boning in them that allow you to completely watch your baby while nursing. It gives the baby plenty of air too. There is also Baby Bond which is a cover up which allows nursing without a cover while completely covering your breasts. There is always a way to be discreet without letting the whole world see the top of your areolas!
Personally I think there is some woman that expose as more of a way to prove a point and are not very courteous to those around them. I don't feel this is right. And I agree from a Christian stand point that modesty needs to always be the goal.
I have had men try to "sneak a peek" at my breasts while nursing as well. I can't even imagine if I was not covered. Yes, nursing our babies is a natural process and we need not be ashamed by it. However, our breasts serve a dual purpose both naturally to feed and sexually. But..our vagina's also serve a dual purpose both to give birth and sexually and it is not okay to walk around exposing THAT end of our bodies just because it's natural. Anyway...this is getting long. Thanks for sharing on this topic. I like the way you lovingly shared your feelings without being judgmental or arguing.

dannyscotland said...

I have to disagree with you. That's all I'm going to say.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree with you. I am a discreet person and do not like anyone staring at me while breastfeeding. Even in my home if I have relatives over I would not feel comfotable having male relatives watching me breastfeed. Nor would I be comfortable at someones home where their breast was exposed and my husband was present. Thats just my opinion.

ReAnna said...

I totally agree! In short scripture says to put your husbands’ needs before your own and then your children, that’s why God is number ONE and then your spouse then your children. These particular scriptures Chari has shown are just that, but they also show to be mindful of other people and don’t let what you do interfere with their walk with God in a negative way. Because we are to set an example of obedience from God taught through the Bible. This part 1 Corinthians 10:23 “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. Is a prime example that just cause we as people in this nation and on this earth can do anything by law or will, doesn’t mean we should. In plain English, God gave us the free will to make choices and it is all in account to how we lay them out. Just because our laws state that women have the right to breastfeed in a public place doesn’t mean that all the word of God goes out the window, that’s why we have a conscience. I believe that the closer you are to God the more your conscience speaks to you i.e.: Gods word becomes your conscience. We grow and learn to identify situations that could lead to harming others path to God and teach ourselves not to do those things anymore. We are not perfect. No one is, except God and his son. So that is why we have to go above and beyond the norm. To make that lasting impression and if a discreet mother can impact a young lady noticing her breastfeeding and she might what to do the same when she has children of her own to bring honor to God then it was all worth it.

Flowerg said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! I totally agree with you on this. I think it is great for moms to breast feed their babies. But they don't have to show their breast. My mom and sister both breast fed and never showed their breast. I think it is great when women are modest in all they do. When I become a new mommy, I am going to use all the great products out there for this. Great positive post :).

Anonymous said...

I disagree that god would blame you for not covering yourself when you feed your child. But that's a whole other topic because I don't believe in the bible.

I do agree that while in the company of men you should give as little as possible for them to look at, because they will look. It's in their nature and even the good ones can't help it. While in the company of woman and children I feel less like it's a need to cover the little bit of my flesh that's exposed.

JenT said...

I agree with this post. Very well written.

Midas Valley said...

Chari, I would love to know your opinion on an article by my boss, midwife, and Christian friend. Breastfeeding in Faith. It is not necasarily about NIP but does include it and it too uses many scriptures about the subject. I very much disagree with "the Bible is silent" on the subject of breastfeeding. If you would like to read it let me know and I can email it to you, it is too long for a facebook message.

sarahward said...

Great post, Chari! Good points and well thought out.

Yes, breastfeeding is a HOT topic and everyone has their own opinion. I appreciate how you based your thoughts on what the Bible says, rather then allowing our own excuses to superceed. Modesty is a dying ideal in our culture. Thanks for holding up the standard!

HannahAchrissmile said...

Beautifully and graciously written. People may disagree with you, but they definitely can't judge you for the "tone" of your writing!

NurseMommy said...

I agree with you too. I am always bothered when moms do not covered. It's not hard to BF modestly.

Teresa said...

I agree with the post. I don't believe in the religious part of it, but I believe in being modest and that breasts have a dual purpose. My mom didn't even see me breastfeed.

Stacy said...

Wonderful post. I agree with you. It doesn't bother me (or my husband)to nurse in public even without a blanket or cover (though my breast/nipple is never exposed). However, I know that it does bother people like my brothers in law and father in law. For me to purposely nurse while not covered would be antagonistic of me and (since I don't know their motivation for it bothering them) could make me a stumbling block. One of my BIL's has complimented me on how he appreciates me BFing while covered.
As to the gentleman at your family gathering. No you are not responsible for him being a perv, we can't take on all of everyone's weaknesses. That being said, if you know someone is struggling with this and knowingly "tempt" them that is wrong.
Additionally, I don't know that it is the same in all area's but around here no one breast feeds it seems. And so I try to do all I can to give a positive view of nursing. If that means that I respectfully will cover up so others will have a better view of nursing, I will gladly do so!

Annie said...

I was wondering why I missed this post last year - then I remembered - I was suffering from first trimester exhaustion and didn't read my blogs regularly in August! LOL

I LOVED reading it. You wrote it so well Chari. I admire you for writing it because it definitely not what the world believes. As Christians we are to be set apart and different from the world - like a light in the darkness - completely different.

In church I nurse in our nursery. I am especially careful with the men in my church. We are to "bear each other's burdens" as Christians and be selfless. I believe God will bless my efforts to be sure I draw no attention to my breasts in church. Some might say "It is their problem, not yours!" but God does tell us as Christians to watch out for one another.

I LOVED that verse about being free to do something but it still not being right. What sets Christians apart from the world is our selflessness, gentleness, love, respect and being slow to become angry. Those are not natural traits! They are given to us through the Holy Spirit and mature through repeated use.

Thank you for writing this Chari. I totally agree with you!


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