Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Why I Advocate Breastfeeding in Public (A Christian's Point of View)

Oy with the Poodles already.
First off, high five if you understood that first reference. We just became best friends.
If you're friends with me on Facebook, and haven't block me from your newsfeed (ha!), then you probably know that I advocate for breastfeeding in public. It's natural and it's normal. It never fails that I am going to get at least one "friendly" message telling me how wrong it as a Christian. And since I get relatively tired of typing the same novel over and over, I am putting it here so I can just send them a handy dandy link. You'll see that I am a sucker for convenience.
First, I live in a small town in a rural county in conservative Alabama in the heart of the Bible Belt (no complaints, just setting you up for this post) and I am well aware that my opinion is not the popular one. Weird, hippie, I really don't care what you call me, although I do prefer Staci.
I 100% support breastfeeding in public. I am a Christian.
Let me give you some background. I grew up thinking that breastfeeding in public was awful. WHO DOES THAT??? Save that for your home. You know why I thought that? Because that is the attitude I was taught everywhere I went in a small town in a rural county in conservative Alabama in the heart of the Bible Belt. Then one day, I grew up and learned that I could think for myself, and I began to question why breastfeeding in public was so bad.
Then came the day that I had children and I breastfed them. I breastfed Audrey privately in my own home for eight weeks. I excused myself if we were somewhere else. I can remember thinking, why do I have to hide? Why do I have to sit all alone and bored? Is breastfeeding shameful? And the answer is no. I quit breastfeeding after 8 weeks only because I felt like I couldn't do it in public and it was too much of a hassle.
Then, I had another child and I am still breastfeeding her (10 months strong--woohoo!). Having two children is a whole new ballgame. I cannot simply excuse myself when I have another child to take care of. Breastfeeding an active baby is also a whole new ballgame. She wants to see EVERYTHING. Which is normal. She is learning about the world around her.
So let me address the popular excuses or the lovely alternatives that are offered by the "BUTS". (I support breastfeeding, BUT).
1). Can't you cover up? Puh-lease. When you can get a blanket over my active, curious ten month old, I'll cover up. Good luck by the way as she flails and screams (which draws much more attention to my breast than a quietly nursing babe). Did I mention I live in Alabama? IT'S HOT. Please put a blanket over your head either inside or outside for 10-20 minutes and let me know what you think. Don't forget how heavy your chest will get as you are deprived of fresh air.
2). Can't you go the car? Again it's hot. Oh, I can crank my car? Have you seen how much gas costs? It's also not fair to my older daughter to have to completely abandon our activity to drag her back to the car.
3). Go the bathroom. My husband can tell you that I will avoid public restrooms for their designated purpose and will scope out all of my options when it is necessary. No way am I going in one for something completely unnecessary. You, however, are welcome to enjoy your dinner in there. I won't stop you.
4). That should be done at home. My bad. I'll never leave my house since my baby only drinks breastmilk. I'll let you break my five year old's heart when you tell her she can't go anywhere with Mommy until her sister is weaned.
5). Can't you pump? Actually, I am blessed and I can pump. But a lot of women physically cannot pump. While I can pump, if I will be gone more than 3-4 hours then it's useless. Because then I would have to pump in public which would draw a LOT more attention than nursing ;). And I'll be honest. I hate pumping and I do it as little as possible.
Now, I am pretty conservative. I prefer to nurse Cate in the corner or in a wrap. I use the two shirt method and often receive compliments on my sweet sleeping babe (Hint: she's nursing, not sleeping).
But here comes my argument less the snark. I often hear that people don't want their husband or kids to see breastfeeding. I don't care if you breastfeed in front of my husband. That's is not the same thing as a woman just throwing her shirt off in front of my husband. Intentions mean a lot. And I trust my husband and know him well enough to know that he views breastfeeding as feeding a child and not in a sexual way.
Let me jump over the edge here. I WANT my kids to see breastfeeding. Not just because they are girls. I would feel the same if they were boys (maybe even more so actually). I want them to be exposed to it. I'll use Audrey for an example. Recently she saw a mother on a bench breastfeeding a baby. Now, the way I was raised, I would have been in shock that I could see the top of this woman's breast. Audrey, however, turned to me and said "Look Mommy! She is feeding her baby. Isn't that baby so cute?". I was so proud I seriously could have cried.
Breastfeeding is not nudity. If you think that, we will have to disagree. Walking down the street without your shirt on just because you feel like it is nudity. Breastfeeding a child is feeding a child. Again, intentions.
I also find it ironic, that while breastfeeding is taboo, cleavage is acceptable. Oh, you're a conservative who doesn't think cleavage is acceptable? Do you wear a bathing suit? Strapless dresses? I don't know about yours, but my conservative one piece swim suit shows more than I show when breastfeeding.
What kind of message do we send women and our children if they see that society accepts flaunting your skin with ill intentions but shames a quick flash of skin for providing nourishment for a baby? Exactly what role do we want our girls to think they have?
I want my girls to have Christian values. I want them to know that dressing immodestly attracts the wrong kind of attention. THAT's what I want them to see me taking a stand against. Not an innocent mother feeding her baby.
When my girls see a mother feeding her baby, I want them to be the ones that smile and say "Good Job Momma!", and give her some encouragement. Not give her a disgusted look while not batting an eye at the hundreds of people they pass in mini skirts and cleavage (I'm not advocating disgusting looks to anyone, just point out the discrepancies).
I don't want to compare breastfeeding to sex because it's not anywhere near the same. BUT I do want to point out our apathy towards one and our firm stand against another. What gives?
And it seems to be only Americans that have this problem. I have found countless images and mission trip blogs that feature women comfortably breastfeeding in the church with no one batting an eye. (image search "breastfeeding in church").
"and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Isaiah 66:12
There are several instances in the Bible where breastfeeding is used as a beautiful metaphor. They portray breastfeeding as a joyous and celebrated thing, not a shameful one. I found 24 instances where the Bible references breasts for breastfeeding or nursing. I only found 7 (4 in Song of Solomon) where breasts were referenced as sexual. The Bible uses the breastfeeding relationship as a metaphor of how He cares for us. I can't find one verse where it says it should be shameful or hidden. I find it to be celebrated.
I'm sure someone will argue, but MODESTY. Yes, modesty. Dress modestly. I 100% support dressing modestly. I dress modestly and I nurse in public. They can go hand in hand.
I did find a lot of verses about sexual immorality that I am sure many people try to use in this argument. But ladies and gents. There is nothing sexual about my breasts when Cate is eating. Ew. That's like thinking of a vagina as sexual during childbirth. HUH? I know, right? There is nothing sexual about it when a child is involved. So, sorry, you won't change my mind with that argument.
As a Christian, I am determined to love and support breastfeeding mothers. As a Christian, I want to be one leading the way for our society to QUIT SEXUALIZING BREASTFEEDING. I think Audrey's view on it is the perfect example. Sexualizing breastfeeding is a thought process that is taught. Normalizing breastfeeding is a process that is taught (but can be learned as I am living proof of). It's up to you to decide.
{Christianity Today article on Breastfeeding in Public}
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  1. First of all, amazing post and perspective on bfing in public. Well said and very honest. I wish more mothers taught their children that breastfeeding is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Secondly, we are best friends now. Anytime someone references Gilmore Girls, it's done. So find me at my blog over at http://wordpress.com/midwife101 :)


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