Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why Christians should Breastfeed in Public

Photo by zieak
I recently read a comment from Claire in Tasmania that made a deep impression on me. In reference to another mom bringing up the issue of modesty, she answered, "I've decided it's our ministry to nurse in church because
a) for those who 'don't know where to look' (which someone apparently said to the minister's wife) - it's a life skill they need to learn, and where better to learn it?
b) for everyone who reads passages in the Bible written by people who assume knowledge of breastfeeding ("like newborn babes crave pure spiritual milk"), there is so much more to the imagery there than just nutrition, yk? Peter's imagining that great big grin as your hungry baby sees that he's about to get what he wants, and the responsiveness of the relationship, and the bonding and the contented, milk-drunk smile at the end... If we don't provide that subconscious imagery, who will?"

Wow. It is only in the last few generations that so many people, male and female, have grown up *without* all of that beautiful imagery to form part of our understanding. The way a newborn, whether asleep or awake, will orient herself toward the breast. The peacefulness of a babe who has been satisfied. The frequency with which they want more (no place for scheduling here: "It has only been two hours since you read several Psalms. You have to wait another hour."). Gazing into each others' eyes, breathing in each others' scent. The trust and joy in relationship.

I think of passages like Isaiah 66:11-13 (New International Version)

11 For you will nurse and be satisfied
at her comforting breasts;
you will drink deeply
and delight in her overflowing abundance."

12 For this is what the LORD says:
"I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
you will nurse and be carried on her arm
and dandled on her knees.

13 As a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

Verses like these have become so much richer to me since I've nursed my own children, seen their delight, held them in my arms, and comforted them. I imagine that this was the norm when the Bible was written, yet today breastfeeding has become something to do while hidden away in a bathroom stall, or under elaborate covers and blankets. Many people are unaware of the expressions and habits that nursing moms take for granted.

So, when you are out with your baby and she gets hungry, nurse her wherever you are. If you don't have nurslings of your own, encourage the moms around you with a smile and a kind word. You will be "doing unto the least of these" what Jesus would do, and may even discover some spiritual riches that you hadn't noticed before.


Claire in Tasmania said...

lol at the idea of scheduling Psalms! Although I have heard of God giving a person a 'ration' of the Bible for a season - like, he wasn't allowed/able to read anything but Ps 91 for a year! BUT he got to read that psalm anytime he wanted :)

Maria said...

Very insightful. Do you mind if I share your post?

dulce de leche said...

Thank you so much!
I'd be honored for you to share it. :)

Brian and Eva said...

I agree 110% with everything! You go mama!!

Kate said...

I completely agree! When I started, I had no idea that breastfeeding would be as important to me as it is now 2.5 years later. There are a couple of very specific circumstances where I will cover (I have some friends who are orthodox Jewish, and a FIL who really doesn't know what to do so he just stares at the breast the entire time).
I think there are certainly ways to be discreet and there's no reason to beat people over the head or announce, "I'm going to breastfeed now!" like some of my more militent friends. However, we shouldn't be hiding in the toilet either.

Kristín said...

great post!

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so much! Because of parents like you, I believe that our daughters and grandchildren will be shamed less. <3

Karen said...

Amen and AMEN! I was just spoken to this way (or, at least my DH was) last Sunday while attending a church while on vacation, and I nursed my 15 month-old son during the sermon. My DH is an Episcopal priest, so the offended party approached him after the service with a kind smile and the words, "I'm sure you know better as a pastor, but you might want to say something to your wife..." He cut her off with, "Oh, you mean to encourage her? Like in Isaiah, or the Psalms? About how images of God as a nursing mother run throughout the Bible? Thanks! I'l be sure to share that with her!" The expression of pure, unadulterated shock on her face was priceless. NOT the response she expected, but certainly appropriate, considering he is the father of SEVEN breastfed children!

Michele said...

I could agree more!! I wish BF moms would nurse in public (NIP) more. I think it would make it seems the norm, as it should be. I was a nervous wreck about NIP when she was a baby but have become a pro as I'm proudly still nursing my 15 month old.

dulce de leche said...

Karen, your comment made my day! A big cheer for your dh, and you too! :)

Michelle, you rock! It can be so hard to NIP, and especially as your baby grows. I am so glad you found the confidence to do it!

Kori said...

I know this is an old post but a friend of mine just shared this on FB and I LOVE this. I am currently nursing my 5th child, and it would never in a million years occur to me to NOT nurse my child wherever she got hungry. While I don't and wouldn't blatantly bare a breast, I also don't make any special effort to conceal what I am doing; I simply pull my shirt up and latch her on, and we don't use any kind of cover up, including a blanket. If she is covered, how can she look up and see me, and vice versa? However, when I was younger and nursing my three older children, I bought into the whole idea that it was somehow shameful and needed to be hidden (which probably has a lot to do with why I weaned early with those three). As I matured and learned more about breastfeeding, well, my now five year old self-weaned at 18 months and my 4 month old blissfully eats whenever and wherever she needs to.

Sorry-I should have just written my own blog post about this. It just really struck a chord in me, from the biblical references to the supportive and insightful comments. So thank you for that!

dulce de leche said...

Kori, thank you so much! It is awesome to hear from courageous and loving sisters in Christ like you. <3

Kathy said...

Hi, I just wanted to say thank you for this post and generally for your blog. I am so excited to have found it! I have been lurking around 'attachment' and breastfeeding type sites for a while now - I have a 4 yo (still nursing v occasionally) and a 19 mo (still at full tilt). But it is so fantastic to find this approach to parenting from a Christian point of view. Most of my 'breastfeeding friends' are not Christians, and vice versa. I am also working my way through all your posts on sexuality and on discipline - it is all very helpful and thought-provoking. Thanks again and I look forward to reading lots more.

dulce de leche said...

Kathy, thank you so much for commenting! <3 And huge applause to you for tandeming! :) For the longest time I felt so isolated, too--it really made me question the way God was leading us to parent because I didn't see many other Christians doing things that way. Since then I have made so many fabulous friends who lift me up and encourage me. It makes such a difference! I am actually working on a post that is full of links to all the other Christian AP bloggers that I know. :)