Jesus Freak: I am a Christian mom who was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I have questioned my beliefs and have come to love myself and God on my own terms. I’m raising my kids the same way.
I think we have all come to the consensus that public breastfeeding is totally fine. It should be accepted and even embraced because it is a healthy, natural, and normal way to feed a child.
I will fully disclose the fact that I never publicly breastfed my kids, not even once. Part of that had to do with the fact that I did not feel comfortable enough with my own body, and part of it was because I preferred the convenience of pumping milk so that I could drink at a restaurant and avoid shuffling my baby under a nursing cover at the table. Just my two cents. I still support every woman’s right to breastfeed in any situation, in any location.
Based on the Christian community I was raised in, I would assume that something natural and God-given like breastfeeding would be fully embraced. I remember that my very religious dad was gung-ho about all kinds of “traditional” lifestyle choices, including homeschooling, bed-sharing at times, and definitely extended breastfeeding.
This is why I was shocked to find an aversion to public breastfeeding in some Christian communities. According to one forum poster:
One of the biggest frustrations that I’ve had about the issue of breastfeeding in public is with where many of my fellow conservative Christians have come down on the issue. In both news articles and discussion forums I’ve seen comment after comment from family values touting “conservatives” that want to use family values as their political crutch but shout “go home and cover up” whenever the issue of breastfeeding in public arises.
Wait! There’s more! Here is a response from a Christian man on the subject of public breastfeeding:
If we could all run around naked and no one would lust, then no problem. Thats how it would have been in the garden. But thats not the case, when man fell, we knew good and evil and do either one. As being naked is not a sin, the effects of that is. Just like certain clothes, the clothing is not the sin, it is the intent behind them, and the reaction to them.
Yes, in breastfeeding in public the intent is good, but the reaction may not be so. Just as you can sit in your own place without any clothes all you want alone and not sin, once you step out the door, whatever your intentions, it is a sin.
But it’s not just the menfolk. Some Christian women shame other women who expose their breasts while publicly breastfeeding:
I personally don’t want to see anyone breastfeed nor do I want my young teenager son to see it. Some things like private parts should remain covered and not for open display.
I would just like to point out that I am not attacking the Christian culture, but it appears that this “modesty issue” comes up often in Christian circles. It needs to be addressed. I grew up in a Christian community where abstinence, modesty, and temptation were MAJOR concerns. I think that I have developed sexually just fine on my own, but it wasn’t thanks to any of the guilt I was fed regarding God’s “hatred” for pornography, masturbation, and sex outside of marriage.
As I’ve grown to question many of the staunchly religious teachings passed down to me in church, I started to realize that the concept of Christian modesty is grossly overblown. To me, it all comes back to the core religious value that I disagree with (in any religion, not just Christianity), clinging to the paradox that you are either “good” or “bad.”
I firmly believe that we are all created good and that God sees us that way. (Want evidence? Just think of the unconditional love you have for your own kids.) If you spend your life trying to avoid bad choices in the hopes of being good, you’re only going to end up repressed and frustrated. Chasing this concept of “becoming good” leads to self-hatred. It’s no wonder that Christians in the examples above are quick to shame breastfeeding women who don’t live up to their high standards; it has nothing to do with modesty and everything to do with legalism.
The thought that public breastfeeding could be a temptation to Christian men is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. I’d also like to point out that even though breastfeeding is not inappropriate, enforced modesty doesn’t help deal with underlying sexual issues that another man or woman may be struggling with. It’s simply an excuse and an easy way out—to blame the actions of another person for your own problems.
The OP puts it best in her response to any religious group that shames breastfeeding mothers: “I would challenge anyone to produce a verse from the Bible that says anything negative about breastfeeding, whether in public or not. Verses that talk about modesty don’t come into play here, because you can’t simply assume that a nursing mom is not going to be modest.”
(Image: Dmytro Vietrov/Shutterstock)