Can We Talk Breastfeeding in Church?

by | Feb 2, 2021 | Uncategorized | 30 comments

Breastfeeding in Church: Making it less awkward
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I opened up a huge can of worms when I posted recently about breastfeeding in church. 

Originally on Facebook, we were just talking about weird atmospheres in some evangelical churches where some guys refuse to even look at women because they may be dangerous and the men want to stay pure. So the women are ignored and feel like they’re dangerous, which is a terrible feeling.

In the comments, several women told stories of the shame they felt when breastfeeding, which led to a rather amusing comment which I turned into a graphic:

Breastfeeding Quotation

Well, that led to a ton more comments!

This week we’re looking at how the message “all men struggle with lust; it’s every man’s battle” hurts both women and men.

We stared off with the podcast, where we talked about how most men don’t actually lust, but we’ve taught them they do because we’ve conflated lust and sexual attraction. And as we’ve been having this discussion here, I’ve also been talking about this on Facebook, and breastfeeding came up. I’d like to share some of their comments today

One thing I want to say first is that many women said that they had never had any issues with breastfeeding in church at all.

That would also have been my experience back in the 90s. I was at a downtown Toronto church, and I usually breastfed in the nursery, but sometimes I’d take the baby into the last pew in the church if I wanted to hear the sermon, because the nursery area tended to be quite loud with lots of conversation going on. But I can’t remember a single negative reaction by anyone.

So problems in church are not universal; many churches are great. And I hope we can get all in that category! I had many, many stories like this one: 

 

Both churches I’ve attended have been WONDERFUL about my breastfeeding my babies. I’ve received nothing but praise for keeping them in church and taking care of their needs. I’m a 2 shirt method breastfeeder, so you can’t see anything anyway, unless you were reeeeally trying. It also helps to have a supportive husband that would knock someone’s block off if they had something to say. He thinks it’s ridiculous that men gawking at breastfeeding women is the woman’s fault. You have eyelids and a neck, LOOK AWAY.

And some awesome men chimed in, too:

Yeah, this is not a thing. Normal adult men can handle being around breastfeeding.

Then there were stories like this which weren’t about breastfeeding per se, but about the general feel of the church when it came to lust:

I don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in the sanctuary. I usually go to the church office or nursery. Some men in the congregation already look at me a little too closely.

Most stories, though, were of problems specifically with breastfeeding, in and of itself.

And as I talked about yesterday in my post on how churches can create a culture where lust is less common, normalizing something like breastfeeding I believe is a large part of that. Breasts are not just sexual. Normalizing that breasts could be used for feeding babies without causing men to lust I think is an important part in this journey.

So listen in to these stories, and share your own, and hopefully we can make these things less common!

“I was told breastfeeding in church would cause men to lust”

When my last child was born I intended to take her along to youth group, where I lead a small group study. I fully intended to feed her there, with no intention of using a cover as I believe that reinforces that this is an inappropriate act that will cause men/boys to lust. I go to a church that is unfortunately very conservative about these things. In anticipation of complaints either from leaders or parents, I talked to the youth minister about it. He said he understood where I was coming from but he has also known men that this is a big problem for in a bible study setting and we need to be loving towards those people. The conversation finished by him saying he trusted me to make wise choices and I said I would compromise by sitting off to the side of the group (in the same room) and not actually leading the study while breastfeeding.

It ended up not being an issue because my baby refused to eat in a place with all that noise!

Fast forward a couple of years and a friend disclosed that he had serious issues with women breastfeeding in his growth group so he stopped going. He talked to leader about this issue and the whole thing simultaneously saddened and maddened me. My friend felt uncomfortable not because in any way breastfeeding causes him to lust but because he is so afraid of the perception from the others in the group that he IS looking and lusting that he didn’t know what to do. When he spoke to that leader he was offered a lot of sympathy and they talked to the women and it was decided they would either cover or leave the room because they didn’t want to make him uncomfortable or have him not come. Other friends also reinforced this, saying it was entirely inappropriate for these mums to be feeding in front of men.

I said to the friend, “actually, no one thinks that you are being gross by simply being in the same room while someone feeds their baby. Those women clearly feel comfortable to feed in front of you and do not think you are checking them out or they wouldn’t do it. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act, you know that and they know that. Just continue to treat them like a person. Do not avoid them or avoid eye contact. Just be normal and before long, the whole situation will feel normal to you!”

He said, “Geez, why didn’t I speak to you 12 months ago about this, it would have saved me a lot of heartache.”

I still feed so sad about this. Someone who did not even grow up in the church has been seriously affected by this teaching and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

We went to a small church for a while where we had the only child. I would sit upstairs in the empty nursery with him and listen to the sermon on a speaker. He was 18mos and still nursing. So of course I would nurse him when he wanted it, uncovered bc we were alone in an empty nursery. He was wiggly and hated covers and I did away with them whenever I could.
The pastor pulled me aside and said I had to stop bc there was a camera in the nursery for safety, and it fed to the sound guy’s booth and he could see. I. Had to stop. Nursing my baby. In an empty nursery. Because the sound guy couldn’t look away. I have never been so simultaneously embarrassed, humiliated, and angry in my life.

Was told I would be a stumbling block to my brothers if I dared to nurse without a cover by several ladies. It’s funny, when I would nurse with a cover I had looks from others, nursing without a cover and no one has a clue what I’m doing.

I was nursing, with my skin completely covered, in the lobby area of the church. I was completely alone in there during the service. One of the men walked by, and I guess figured out what I was doing (even though a few of the older ladies in the church had also walked by at other times and came up and patted baby’s head thinking he was just sleeping until I TOLD them… so totally modest by any definition, right?) He COVERS HIS EYES WITH HIS HAND as he walks by. I asked his wife about it later, and she said that he does that to anyone that isn’t dressed modestly so that he’s not tempted. She said this like he was completely in the right, and I was doing something wrong! 
I’ve had worse said to me, but not at church… 4 babies and a combined total of 11+ years of breastfeeding and I’ve learned not to care one whit what others think of how I feed my children!

“I was relegated to a tiny/gross place while breastfeeding in church and was lonely and missed out.”

So many women expressed some form of this. Why am I showering and getting dressed to go to church, only to spend the whole time sitting alone in the nursery where I can’t even hear the service anyway?

I remember visiting a church and seeing signs up that breastfeeding was only allowed in the “designated area,” which was a cubby inside the women’s restroom. I was horrified. That’s enough to keep me from returning to that church.

I remember mother’s shutting themselves in a teeny tiny room in between the nurseries at church…. Apparently, even the nurseries weren’t safe for breast feeding. I still would never dare breastfeed in church despite attending a very welcoming church now. The horror still lingers.

We have a nursing mother’s room at our church where you can watch the service and nurse privately. I found myself feeling completely isolated, as I would usually have to be in there all throughout the service and then in bible study as well, since babies cry. I wish I had the courage just do it at least in bible study. It was a very lonely time.

I’m a pastor, married to a pastor in Canada. We were at a ministers conference in Atlanta, Georgia. My daughter was only a few months old and I put a blanket over me and started to nurse her. A moment later an usher came over and asked me if I’d be more comfortable in the nursing section. I went… it was a row of chairs in the back hall, all facing the wall. I went back to my seat and finished nursing there. At our home church, I’ve nursed in the front row!

I can’t say that at the time I felt shamed for feeding my baby, but I did feel like I was expected to leave the room or the service. I did leave (because that’s what the mothers before me had done or because I had been shown a “quiet room” upon entering someone’s home) and I hated it. I often would return home and wonder why I had even gone out in the first place. I know the friends and family whose homes I was in were trying to be kind and helpful and it was nice to know where I could go if I needed a quiet place. I also don’t think anyone in my church ever nursed their baby in the service before then. I only left the room with my first child. My next three were nursed anywhere I was and it was so freeing! And no one ever said a negative word to me. We’ve since moved away from that church, but I hope I did a little bit to help normalize discreet public breastfeeding there.

Several people from our church went to a local event. One male acquaintance got really awkward when I started trying to nurse, and my husband helped me get situated. I was standing and had a nursing scarf, so actually covered that time and not even my baby was visible. He asked if I’d go nurse in his car in June or July in Texas.

“I was told it was inappropriate/gross to breastfeed.”

I’ve been told to bring a bottle for my exclusively breastfed two week old when we start going to church again, because even if I get up to go to the nursery, it will be obvious what I’m going to do. Kind of makes me not eager to get back to church.

Not at church, but my Dad(not a believer) came to my home 4 weeks after my oldest was born. Out of respect, in july, I used a blanket to cover while I fed. My dad says to his wife(my stepmom), “I used to make fun of women at church for doing that.” I asked him to repeat, thinking I must have not understood. He repeated, aghast that I could be feeding my child in front of him. Under a blanket. My newborn. For crying out loud. That put some strain on our relationship.

I was told that I shouldn’t breastfeed in church because people knew what I was doing under there. I responded that I’d been doing it for months and no one had ever even noticed. I was also told I should go to the nursery to nurse and I refused. I rarely got out of the house and if I’d showered and gotten real clothes on me and my baby and got to church, I wasn’t about to go sit in the nursery and miss out on the service because it might make someone uncomfortable.

I was also told that I should cover up because it was more discreet. God created my body to breastfeed and there’s nothing indecent about it. Our youth pastor used to make jokes about it when my baby was first born because he was obviously uncomfortable. The more I nursed my baby around him and others in our friend group, the more everyone got used to it and it wasn’t a big deal anymore. This is why nursing in public is important!! The more we normalize it, the less people will think it’s gross or weird.

I did have a family member get noticeably worried when I was discreetly nursing with the two shirt method while visiting a different relative’s church. She kind of gasped and “helped” me pull my shirt down when she thought it was too high (it wasn’t). She is 100% pro breastfeeding but said to me I should probably use a cover since older people there wouldn’t like me not using one in church. I doubt anyone at all noticed and her “helping” probably drew more attention. But I knew if I didn’t nurse in a congregation, I might as well not even attend one at all. My babies had tummy issues that made them very fussy and they didn’t handle nurseries well so I just determined to nurse wherever I was or else I could get super isolated which would be terrible while also fighting postpartum depression in the first place.

I was asked to nurse my babe elsewhere as someone had complained – they “knew what was going on under there” and that was “upsetting”. It was also suggested to all of us young mothers that we should plan our nursing sessions better, to not interfere with attending services.

OH MY GOODNESS, yes, I do. I was feeding with a cover on in the lobby while listening to the sermon. Two ushers were standing about 30 feet away. Later, the pastor’s wife pulled me aside and said that she had been told I was nursing in public. She chided me for nursing in public and asked me to resort to the germ-filled nursery (this church didn’t believe in sanitizer), because sitting on a bench and feeding my baby was not appropriate and made some “certain men” uncomfortable. I was completely shocked and angry and embarrassed. And I “obeyed” because it was a patriarchal church. *eyeroll*

So on the whole–I think it’s getting better than it was. Most people who had had trouble had had it because people were uncomfortable. The more we make breastfeeding normal, the more that comfort level is likely to rise. And I think that’s a good thing!


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So if you haven’t pre-ordered yet, don’t miss the fun!

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Making Breastfeeding in Church Normal

What was your experience? How can we make this more positive for everyone? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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30 Comments

  1. Becky

    I’m glad you made the comment about many of the comments on Facebook being positive, because lately I’ve been wondering if I’m an anomaly for feeling positive about my church! I was one of the commenters there who gave a positive report, but I did want to add that even though I did take my babies to another room to feed, I was ok with that. The room was clean, I could still hear the sermon, and I’m honestly a more private person by nature anyway so I would have felt more awkward in the sanctuary. (Also, sometimes my kids were really loud while trying to get them to burp!) There were occasionally other people in the room with me and it was fine. I guess all that is to say that I personally don’t feel that the answer necessarily needs to be that women always stay in the sanctuary to nurse, just that a mom is allowed to be comfortable with whatever her personal preference is/ what works best for her baby. (And that a church has options that are actually sanitary, which is honestly not a church exclusive problem in the States. I often ended up feeding in the car when out at places like the mall, because my only other real option was a bathroom stall, and I’ve heard many firsthand accounts of working moms’ struggles to find places to pump at work.)

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      To be honest, when Katie was a baby I loved the excuse to to the nursery and feed her, because a bunch of moms were there, and I just got to talk to some friends for an hour! I preferred that than listening to the service. 🙂 (I think the service was on the speaker, but we were all talking anyway).
      But I also felt comfortable nursing in the sanctuary when there was something I really wanted to hear. I think that’s the main thing–that women feel comfortable. When we relegate women to another room, we’re also telling those women, “You don’t get to be part of the church service”, and that’s often for years, depending on how many kids she has. That’s just wrong.

      Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I chose to nurse in the nursery, too, mostly because my milk would shoot like 7 feet if he unlatched and in multiple directions! So if I was going to spray someone, I wanted it to be another mum who would just laugh it off 🙂 But I openly breastfed in the nursery, regardless of who was there, and it was totally and completely fine. And I was often not the only one nursing at a time, too. For me, I actually LOVED going to the nursery because it meant I could chat with the other moms and have some human interaction.
      (Also, many women with much less volatile milk breastfed in the sanctuary and had no problems!)

      Reply
    • Aussie grand dad

      Hi,
      I am am a man. a dad and a granddad.
      Whenever I see a mum breastfeeding (think coffees-shop etc) I will block my view of her breasts with my hand and say to her and him if he is there too , “congratulations.” “well done”.
      People seem to appreciate this older male showing such regard.

      Reply
      • Amber

        No that wouldn’t be appreciated.
        That would come off as very creepy in a perverted way.
        You should not stop or hold out your hand or speak. You should mind your own business and continue on your way. Turn your head away a bit if you do not wish to see.

        Reply
  2. Anon

    “I was told that I shouldn’t breastfeed in church because people knew what I was doing under there. ” Hmmm. Maybe we should just ban babies in church full stop – ‘because people know what you did to produce that baby and it might make them embarrassed.”
    Seriously, I do wonder how we got to this stage. I’m mid 40s, living in the UK and when I was a child, women would breastfeed wherever they happened to be when baby needed feeding. Some used a cloth cover (usually to help baby concentrate rather than for any modesty reasons), others just did it discreetly so that you’d only see something if you were right next to them. And no one thought twice about it. Ok, so you didn’t loom right over the mother, or stare pointedly or comment, but neither did you feel the need to be embarrassed and stare at the ceiling or walk out of the room.
    Now, I know loads of guys who feel really uncomfortable around breast-feeding mothers and loads of mothers who feel uncomfortable doing it in public. And then you’ve got the ‘look at what I’m doing everyone’ types, who deliberately overexpose to ‘help’ normalize it. And the guys who are determined to act like it’s normal and then get criticized for not leaving the room when a woman starts breastfeeding…so how did we get to this stage? It’s just a women feeding her baby – it really shouldn’t be this complicated!!!

    Reply
  3. Wifey

    I nurse both of my boys without a cover at home. I nurse with a cover everywhere else. I really don’t care if I get looks but I’ve never noticed getting any. The only times I’ve felt I needed to go to a nursing room is for the purpose of helping baby focus! Our current church has nursing Mommas all over the sanctuary, and I love it! It was something that impressed me about this church from the first visit. No one bats an eye. I’ve nursed in restaurants, parks, offices, at movie theatres, in the DMV, in the airport, the only time I felt out of place was when I nursed at the car repair center surrounded by big burly mechanics. But even then I didn’t feel uncomfortable, just out of place! I’m a young mom (my oldest is 2) but I think things are changing for the better!

    Reply
  4. Jane Eyre

    Stupid question: what is the alternative?
    Women are supposed to be in church. Children track their mothers’ churchhgoing habits. Babies eat every 2-3 hours and on their own schedule. Christians are supposed to “be fruitful and multiply.”
    So… what is the end game here? From my perspective, we are mandated to accept breastfeeding in church, as part of accepting families in church.

    Reply
    • Cynthia

      I personally want privacy when I breast fed, it’s awkward trying to unhook a nursing bra in dress clothes and in a small church even getting in you bag for gum is detected.
      I don’t feel it’s about lust, or making someone uncomfortable, but you should always have good manners with breastfeeding, as with anything, etiquette seems to be a lost art but they hold society together. I’m all for clean and comfortable nurseries, or if you prefer to stay in the sanctuary, go for it! Just don’t walk down the isle with your boob out, lol (yes it has happened! )

      Reply
  5. Phil

    I havent gotten through all the stories yet but it started out quite refreshing. Yesterday I was kinda bummed about the church and honestly just wanted to say. What does the church do right? Why are those stories seem to be less frequent and less emphasis? Then this morning in my devotional commentary the guy was talking about Paul and Galatians and how furious he was. Here is where my mind is on this topic that is blended in from yesterday. If you read the breastfeeding stories it is kind of a mixed bag of positive and negative. Here is what I see – its not the church – its the people. In some stories it seems the “church culture” is accepting of breastfeeding and in other “church cultures” you have a mixed bag of negative and weird environments. What is the church LEADERS – not just Pastor/Priest etc doing to help facilitate the “church culture”? I dont really know what the answer is short of the Pastor standing up in front of everyone and telling them they need to be accepting of breastfeeding or we will call you out. Maybe its a more subtle approach if messages blended through the church ministries….I dont know – just finding it fascinating that secular can get this right more than Christians. I see the hyper focus argument but I also kind of half wonder if its just societal norms that are pushed by money and lawsuits. Maybe thats too much of a tangent. Quite interesting topic for me I have been pondering with all of you…and thanks for the good comments folks…very helpful.

    Reply
  6. K

    I grew up in a church where no one nurses in the sanctuary, and few even in the common nursery. Instead it was in a special nursing room, and even in there women used covers! When I had my baby I was in a church where women did just breastfeed in the pews, but I was uncomfortable with that and there was no nursing room.
    My favorite thing was when visiting a church while travelling, I asked a female usher if it was ok if I could breastfeed in the sanctuary. She looked at me almost incredulous and said so kindly “I can’t imagine anyone having a problem with that”.

    Reply
  7. Jamie

    Sinners sure are good at mutating what is good to be evil and also mutating what is evil to be good.
    Unfortunately, we are all a part of the “sinner” category. I know I’ve done things in the past similarly. I look forward to being with God and none of this is a thing anymore.

    Reply
  8. Boone

    Comment I grew up in the Appalachian Mtns. Here breastfeeding is seen as just a part of life. It happens in church. It happens in restaurants. I’ve even seen it happen in the hardware store. It’s just no big deal.
    My wife actually had more of a problem with it than I ever did. Now, she is from the Deep South. At the time she was growing up they were at the tail end of the belief that well bred young ladies did not breastfeed at all. By the time our third one came along she was right there in the middle of it with the rest of the mountain folk.

    Reply
  9. Melissa

    I’m fortunate that my church both provided a comfortable space for nursing mothers and is pretty chill about nursing in public. With my first baby breastfeeding was practically an acrobatic feat, so the nursing room was where I spent usually half the service! It has a mirrored window into the sanctuary (we can see out but nobody can see in), the service is piped in but at a soft volume, rocking chairs, fully stocked changing tables, even a basket of granola bars and mini bottles of water and a full length mirror. I feel spoiled! It was such a pleasant experience, I continued utilizing it with my second baby who was much easier with nursing. It was a peaceful place where women could feel comfortable and relaxed, but not shamefully hidden away. I think that if a church is going to have a designated breastfeeding area, they ought to make it feel like that, not like you have to hide in a dark corner to feed your baby. And as I mentioned before, my church is also a place where women breastfeed publicly. I see it in the main service and the foyer all the time. So both options are there, and women feel safe and cared for. I like that.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I love that, too! Very much how my church back in Ottawa was, too. 🙂

      Reply
    • Aussie grand dad

      I feel spoiled! ….. so you should be. What an intelligent set up!
      (aussie grandad)

      Reply
  10. mark

    i am from ENGLAND .Cambridgeshire .i can understand what your saying .BUT VERY BIG BUT IS…. NOT ALL MEN ARE ..GAWCKERS …Stair .I AM A PARENT/FATHER I AM A SUPPORTER OF BREAST FEEDIND ..WARE EVER/WHEN EVER ..Doctors/nurses all say breast feeding is best …i feel upset SHOULD BEEN STATED .i am not at all like this . mark my blog.http;//mark-kent.webs.com twitter.supersnopper

    Reply
  11. Wynd

    My wife had no opposition from the church regarding breastfeeding; our church has a couple nursing rooms where the sounds of the service/sermon are piped in, but mothers are free to nurse in the sanctuary if they so choose.
    The opposition came from her own (not religious) mother, who was antagonistic to breastfeeding as a concept, ever (not even a public vs private or church vs not). She loudly proclaimed that the only reason anyone would ever breastfeed is “cause it feels good to have your titties sucked”. Basically, breastfeeding = using-an-infant-for-sexual-gratification (in her eyes), and even worse if it happened in public. Several of these comments have expressed something similar, e.g. “we *know* what you are doing under the blanket” and I have heard similar sentiments from both genders.
    I haven’t seen this mentality it younger people or the very old; most of the people with this view are in the 50-70 range. Any good idea what happened back then to derail this part of culture so badly?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think there was a big push around 1970 to bottlefeed; when formula came in, women were told that it was better than breastmilk. Maybe that’s a part of it?

      Reply
      • Boone

        In the Deep South it was a social class thing. Only poor people breast fed because they couldn’t afford any other method. Here in the mountains we were all poor so it was just part of life.
        Now, you go down South today and that attitude is pretty much extinct.

        Reply
      • Bethany A

        That’s my theory. But the sexualization of breastfeeding makes me so mad, period! You know, there are cultures around the world where breasts are literally not sexual at ALL – as in, everyone sees them as baby-feeders, and they hang out in the open and no one bats an eyelash…and in some of those same cultures, a women can’t show her ankle because that’s for her husband only! I think American culture has been oversexualizing breasts for a long time, and many churches have participated. Don’t get me started on how legalistic church culture teaches the objectification of women as much or worse than the world does…I’m hoping there’s starting to be a shift with the rise of breastfeeding popularity, that we can just be nourishing our babies the way God intended us to, AND enjoyed by our husbands privately in the bedroom context. I think to most folks, there’s a no-brainer distinction.
        For me,, I believe breastfeeding should be reasonably discreet – as in, not flashing a nipple at anybody, or having the whole breast exposed if you can help it, but that we should be able to do it anywhere in public without it being weird.
        My baby hates being under a cover most of the time, but I use the 2 shirt method, a light blanket, or nursing shirts and it’s perfectly modest.
        The comment about “enjoying your titties being sucked” made me laugh because clearly that person had never breastfed!!🤣 There is way more OUCH than pleasure involved in breastfeeding – and you’d have to be a really messed up and sick person to confuse sexuality and breastfeeding, because the feeling and emotions are totally different. Way to let Satan take something as beautiful as the nurturing, sacrificial love of a mother for her child and try to distort it. Read what the Bible says about breastfeeding! God even relates Himself to a breastfeeding mother nourishing His child, Israel! I think some of these people must have never opened their Bibles.🤦‍♀️

        Reply
      • Sarah

        I was born in 1968, contracted septicaemia as a newborn and stayed in hospital for 6 weeks. My mum was given some sort of drug to dry up her milk supply, no encouragement to express. My sister was born in 1971, came home for 3 weeks and was also then very ill and back in hospital for about 6 months and I don’t doubt the stress of it all would have dried up any milk supply even if mum had been encouraged to breast feed. So we were both bottle fed babies and mum didn’t have any experience and wisdom to share. When I had my firstborn, I was very keen to feed him myself and mum was really pleased for me and proud I think. My dad found it very awkward and embarrassing though and so I thought I had better go somewhere else in the house when we went to visit them. That way I missed out on conversation and company though, so my mum “had a word” and I was able to feed discreetly at family gatherings. I kept going until he was about 8 months old and went into hospital with meningitis (exactly 21 years ago today as it happens) – I was encouraged to express and we put small amounts of EBM down his n.g. tube in PICU…a very different world. I can relate to Rebecca’s experience of milk spraying – my let down reflex was very strong!! I have only positive memories of being accepted feeding in restaurants, or on a bench in the open air – you can do it so it’s really not that obvious and no one needs to stare. I think I even had an older gentleman/couple stop by my cafe table (in a Christian coffee shop) and say they were really pleased to see me feeding my baby. Breastfeeding rates are not good in the UK (stoping much earlier than WHO recommendations) and sexualising breasts and making younger mothers feel awkward about it won’t help the outcomes for their babies, which are in everyone’s best interests. I went on to feed my next 2 babies until about 4 months old but had to stop then as I have autoimmune arthritis which calmed down when I was preganant but came back with a vengeance afterwards and I needed to get back on my medication. I would have carried on longer if I could have. Sorry – long post!!

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  12. Bertha

    I breastfed three babies for a total of almost 6 years, in and out of the service in a very small church. I breastfed in restaurants, on airplanes, in doctor’s offices, in malls (even walking around the mall once), in my car (only when parked), in Bible studies, at parties, really anywhere my baby and I were, and only once had a slightly negative experience in a new church when my youngest was over 2 years old. I honestly do not believe this is a conservative vs. liberal thing. I was in a very conservative, leaning patriarchal church until my youngest was 2, and it was expected that I would breastfeed. This is much more a normalization thing as many other women (including my mom) had gone before me in normalizing breastfeeding in that church. The men did not miss a beat and maybe looked away during latching, but did not treat me differently when I was actively breastfeeding. I used my shirt and occasionally a small burp cloth as a cover. I’ve also heard plenty of anti-breastfeeding remarks from people who lean liberal and people who lean conservative. I have come to believe that breastfeeding is one of those things that transcends political leanings and comes down to the comfort level/exposure of individual people. I took it upon myself to be part of the normalization of breastfeeding for my younger siblings and the random people I interacted with throughout my time as a breastfeeding mom.

    Reply
  13. Jessica

    As a “flipside” to this conversation, I think it’s also important that we don’t talk about it in a way that shames those women who DO decide to breastfeed with covers or in quiet rooms alone. I understand wanting to normalize breastfeeding but just because a mom decides to nurse using a cover doesn’t mean she disagrees with that message. If that makes sense.
    I think too often people see it as one or the other. Like if I, as a nursing mother, use a cover then that means I feel everyone should use one. And that’s not true.
    I chose to nurse my daughter with a cover always. It was more comfortable for me and she was fine with it. Am I ok if other mothers choose not to use covers and nurse in public? Absolutely. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
    I helped our last chapel design a mother and baby room specifically so our mothers could have a comfortable place to nurse and care for their little ones. Rockers, snacks, swings, bouncers, a diaper bank, etc.
    When we opened it, a mother in the church got mad at my husband and I. She thought we were kicking moms out of service to nurse and demanded to know why. I had to explain that wasn’t the case at all, that it wasn’t either/or. We were completely comfortable with women breastfeeding in service, but if the WOMEN weren’t comfortable, we wanted to be welcoming to that as well.
    It’s not one or the other. It can be both and that’s ok.
    We just have to be careful that our message doesn’t swing the other way. “We need to normalize breastfeeding and women who use covers aren’t helping the cause and are perpetuating the problem…” If you are comfortable breastfeeding with no cover in the lobby or in the front pew at church, great! But if another mom isn’t, it’s ok too.

    Reply
    • Bertha

      I fully agree that making women comfortable is the first priority. I will admit that I didn’t breastfeed my youngest in the service until she was past one simply because she clicked. Loudly. (Undiagnosed lip tie; she also swallowed a LOT of air, so burps were also large and loud.) Even those of us who are comfortable with normalizing breastfeeding for as many people as possible still find ourselves in situations where we might need that comfy nursing room!

      Reply
  14. Jewel

    This post is good to read. I’ve breastfed 5 kids and only the only pushback I ever got was from Christians with ties to purity culture. My family grew up with theirs and we are close. We were on vacation together and my baby would absolutely not feed under a cover (seriously, he drew far more attention with his flapping and flailing when covered than not haha). I tried to do it as discreetly as possible under the circumstances – nothing I hadn’t seen many other moms do. My mother’s friend asked my mother to ask me to cover up more or feed the baby somewhere else because it was making their two teenage sons uncomfortable. I didn’t want to cause trouble, so I fed the baby in our room from then on, but it still bothered me. It felt lonely and I didn’t want to miss conversations with family and friends. It took years for one of those sons to be able to look me in the eye and talk to me again. The whole thing felt off, and sad.

    Reply
  15. L-Mo

    Thank you for posting this! I have so many stories…
    I nursed my daughter without ever using a cover. Everywhere.
    My husband does notice if someone is being creepy towards me. I never had an issue with feeding at church, but I do think most of my family needed to adjust to seeing me feed my babies.
    I tried using a cover once with my son but it wasn’t worth it. He was a loud eater as a newborn though, so I often left the sanctuary til he quiets.
    I have had people come up and look at/touch the baby, not knowing they were feeding!
    I was at a small family event recently and had my MIL throw a shirt at me to cover up but nothing was showing.
    I like the meme – hate the covers.
    I do hope the church culture continues to normalize breastfeeding – the old “dont be a stumbling block” still crosses my mind, especially when someone seems awkward because they arent used to it.

    Reply
  16. Jenni

    When my firstborn was born in 2009, I would take him to the nursery to breastfeed. But one day one of the volunteers, a pastor’s wife, asked me to leave because it wasn’t appropriate because there was a male volunteer in the room. This and other issues made us feel unwelcome with young children and we eventually stopped attending.
    Then I visited my sister’s church in 2016 when I was breastfeeding my youngest child. This was a conservative church in the South, and they had a designated nursing room. There was a sign on the door saying men were not allowed in the room. Inside, there was a row of hooks with nursing covers available and a sign saying t wear one because modesty matters. In the designated nursing room where men aren’t allowed to enter, they required mothers to wear a cover. My daughter won’t nurse with a cover, so I ignored the sign and breastfed without a cover. There were about 5 mothers in there, and I was the only one without a cover.

    Reply
  17. Melissa

    I breast fed four babies. Every time there was something to make me feel isolated or uncomfortable. The worst was with my third. I wanted to BF her in the church foyer, so I could still hear the sermon. The “nursing mom’s room” was way at the back of the church and didn’t have sermon audio. Amazingly, it was the older men/elders of the church who had no problem with it. They treated me just as though I were holding a sleeping baby. I felt so supported my them. It was the WOMEN in the church who gave the eye and made comments about how inappropriate it was for moms to “just whip it out anywhere”. By the time I got to my fourth, I felt so ashamed that I just resigned myself to the back room and missing out on just about everything that went on at church on a Sunday morning.

    Reply

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