Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My thoughts on Nursing In Public

Thanks everyone for the input, I really appreciate it, especially the different cultural perspective.

The reason I asked is because I plan on nursing this baby like the Canadian Government says to - anytime, anywhere. I also remember from Hana's newborn days that not every newborn baby will tolerate something being over their head. For her that just was not an option. I do plan on nursing in carriers however, which can be completely discreet. Look at this picture: (Ok, I have a couple great pictures I've been told I can use here, but I can't get them uploaded right now, so you'll have to come back to see my point)

I have to say I disagree with the sort of black/white mentality - that without a cover of some sort, the woman is exposing her breast and that's wrong. I've seen plenty of women nurse without covers without exposing their breast, and I actually find it much less distracting or obvious than when they have a big pink blanket thrown over their shoulder. I do agree that having more chest exposed than would be seen while wearing an appropriate top isn't a good idea, but the act of nursing itself is not obscene or offensive, and if someone thinks that it is, they are free to remove themselves from the situation.

I also am not sure if I agree with the "if it bothers someone, don't do it" idea, even in a worship setting. Are we saying that people who can't sing on key shouldn't sing, or that children shouldn't be present unless they are silent and don't move? There are lots of things that happen during any public gathering that can distract someone, but we learn to live with (and ignore) those distractions.

As another note, were I informed by someone that my nursing was bothering them, I would be offended that they were paying so much attention to my chest. So then who is in the wrong - the person using her breasts as God Himself designed, or the person looking at the breasts of someone who is not his wife?

I think the North American view of breasts (and women in general, but that's another post...) is very skewed and over sexualized. Yes, that's the way things are and we have to accept that, to a point. However, things will never change if we keep breastfeeding in a closet. If a woman feels comfortable nursing her child wherever she is, then she should be free to make that choice, and no one else has the right to take that away from her.


Dena said...

I think there is always a line between asking someone to get over a minor distraction, and being completely inappropriate. In my opinion, being distracted by someone's horrible singing is something you just need to get over. On the other hand if someone jumped into the isle and broke out into a solo during prayer, that may be a time when you need to end or remove that distraction, not ask others to deal with. In most churches if someone is slowing a little too much skin, the rest of us just have to deal and train your eyes not to look. If, however, someone torn their clothes completely off in "worship", we would probably remove them.

All this to say there is always a line between what we ask people to deal with and what we consider too much to handle. Where that line is depends on the church, the demographics of the area, the specific pastor, and many other things.

Steph, I think you should nurse this baby under circumstances that make you comfortable. Obviously, you should not go out of your way to nurse in front of someone that you know has real issues with it, just to make a point. BUt I know you wouldn't do that anyhow. As for covers-I don't nurse under tham, and I do find they draw more attention that not using them. I did use them in the begining with Micaiah because I was still learning and could not be discreet at all without them. But you can nurse without any cover and most people will have no idea you aren't just holding your baby (although that prob doe snot apply with an older child).

Lindy said...

Clarification to my last comment- I didn't think about all the ways that women could be discreet nursing without a blanket- they would all be fine. I didn't mean to sound black and white about the issue.

I guess my perspective as someone who is around a lot of nursing mothers without being one is that I appreciate an attempt to cover up and be subtle about the whole thing. However you manage to do that is fine by me.

Mommy of Three said...

My only thought is that, if I am already aware that my nursing (uncovered) during worship is causing a distraction, then I don't want to be the one causing disruption between worshippers and God by something that can easily be remedied with a blanket, however MORE "obvious" that may be. But at least I'm not showing my breasts and causing someone who struggles with this concept to stumble. I whole-heartedly believe that I should not have to make my baby eat with a blanket over her head, but sometimes, I have to do what would be considered the "right" thing to do.

The AJ Thomas said...

I've obviously never breast fed in public (or anywhere else for that matter) but I have never encountered (not saying they aren't out there) anyone who has a problem with the act itself. I'd say that's a "let them get over it" concept. I know lot's of people (myself included) who are uncomfortable with the "exposure" that sometimes accompanies it. I think it's inaccurate to assume that everyone who doesn't want to see a nursing mothers breast has some sort of sexual issue (as some folks seem to suggest) for many it's just a modesty thing. it's not that they are going to "stumble" morally it's just uncomfortable and they don"t know what to do. The same people that may get looked down on in this situation are the ones the same folks will praise when they modestly look away when the lady with the ill fitting swimsuit loses her top coming of the high dive at the pool party or when the lady in the white shirt becomes collateral damage in the nearby water fight.

While I agree that nursing is good and healthy and should be accepted I'm not sure "there are my rights, and you are a pervert so frig you" is the most Christ like response possible.

Steph said...

But if that person is able to look away from the ill-fitting swimsuit or wet t-shirt, why can't they look away from a nursing mother?

My thing is, aside from when the baby latches on and when the baby comes off the breast, there is NO flesh exposed. Those few seconds at the beginning and end of the breastfeeding session are easy to cover up either by the baby's head or a slight change in position. Or people could just not look.

I just don't understand how it could cause an issue (and why the mother is responsible for that issue) when nothing is exposed. It's not that I'm saying "frig you", I just don't get how an act between a mother and child that doesn't involve anyone else can be "offensive" if done in a modest way.

The AJ Thomas said...

I think we are more on the same page than you think probably my bad for not being clear. I don't personally, nor does any person I can name (but I'm sure they are out there) have an issue with women breast-feeding in public. For folks like me it's not the breast-feeding that is uncomfortable. I feel perfectly fine being around and chatting with a woman who is breast-feeding. Unless I can see her breast. Most women I know do a great job of keeping this from happening. Some just whip a tit out and go for it. These are the women who make me uncomfortable. "In a modest way" is the heart of the issue for most guys I know. Feed away in public just please don't put me in a position where I have to stare at the floor or ceiling for 25 min.

As for the "look away" guys they can and do look away from nursing mothers who are exposing their breasts and they do so out of modesty but it's the need to look away they find uncomfortable. Again - not the feeding but when it is followed by exposure during the whole process.

Ann Marie said...

My feeling is, if you have a problem with me feeding my baby in your presence, feel free to put a blanket over your head. Oh that's uncomfortable and hot? Funny, my baby and I think the same thing.

Angela said...

I completely agree, many women can nurse without a cover and be completely modest. Again, as AJ said, modesty is not always a sexual thing either. It's just a matter of thinking about other people, being considerate. AJ has said much of what I was thinking, so I won't repeat.
I just wanted to add, my perspective stems from Paul's letter to the Corinthians in ch. 10. There are many things in life that we have rights to do, that are beneficial for us and others (namely our families). There are many things in life that are innocent, that are permissible, that are pure and acceptable to the Lord.
insert here: I agree. God did make breasts for nursing. But I also fully believe God also made breasts for the husband's enjoyment. So you cannot disconnect one from the other. You cannot say, God only made breasts for breastfeeding, so men should just get over it. We should be thankful that God made us beautiful, so that we could give a gift of beauty to our husbands.
That being said, breastfeeding IS pleasing to the Lord. He loves to see us nurture and provide for our children. Women have been doing this for centuries in a discreet way, so as to consider others, and have provided just fine for their children though.
I am looking at this in the scope of our culture.
Would it be great to change the way our culture sees things? Absolutely!
Should we be advocates for change? Absolutely!
But we are also responsible for living out the heart of Jesus, and His Word is clear that we are to choose wisely when we act and behave, so that we do not cause any one to stumble.
It is easy to say, "Why should I be the one who 'gets over it'"? Those men (and women) should just get over it. Change needs to happen, so I'm going to make them HAVE to get comfortable with it. People are not that simple.
We are talking multiple generations, many many years of people feeling one way.
It would be much easier for a 25 year old to learn to be comfortable with a woman breastfeeding than it would be for a 60 year old. We need to respect where people have come from and how they feel about things.
Ultimately, it is your decision. And if you are ok with making people feel uncomfortable at times, than that's your choice to make. I'm not even saying you should not nurse in public. I think it is fine to nurse in public.
What I am addressing is that attitude that seems to be prevalent among many mom's our age that it does not matter how other people feel about it, especially when it comes to interfering with times of worship and focus.
If I knew that me singing off key was distracting someone from being able to focus on God, I would sing quieter, or worship in my heart. There are plenty of times I can sing off key at other times.
If I knew I was wearing something that was distracting, I would take note to not wear it again in that setting (and I have done this).
If I knew that I was causing anyone else to stumble or take their eyes off God IN ANY WAY- even if it was a completely wonderful, natural, innocent thing- I would modify or change my behavior so that it would not take people's eyes off God.

If I was you (which obviously I am not) and I felt the need to change our culture's perspective on breastfeeding, I might be discreet about it. Give people options. Sit toward the back of the sanctuary so that people are not watching me instead of focusing on the message, or singing. But yet, as people notice, it will gradually become an accepted thing. Hopefully.

My whole point is that it really IS at the heart of Jesus to consider your neighbor. If it is causing someone to stumble, it is not right to just say, "Get over it." If it is just a matter of making someone uncomfortable in a setting outside of church, no biggie. But how do you know when you are causing them to stumble vs. when you are just making them uncomfortable? If it is me, I would rather not be responsible for the guessing game and just try to nurture my baby in a safer way.

Please do not take this as criticism or anything likewise. I completely respect your ideas on this issue. I am continually being convicted, however, of our American nature to want to assert our rights about all sorts of things. And I'm not always sure that this is at the heart of how God wishes Christians to live. I'm not saying we should shut up and take a back seat. But all things in spread the message that breastfeeding is a wonderful, naturally, acceptable thing in a humble way. Not in an "in your face" sort of way.

Christian love. <3

Angela said...

***What I meant by "If I was you (and obviously I am not)..." was this:
what was to follow was a presumption that I was in your situation and how I would do it. I am not you, and so I'm not expecting that that would be the only right way for you to do it. Does that make sense? It was not meant to be offensive, but as I read it again, I thought perhaps it might be taken that way.
You are an awesome mother with a great heart! You will make the wisest and best decision, in that I am confident! :-)

Also...comments were made before such as, "Would you tell someone who is singing off key to leave?" etc. I think it would be very inappropriate to ask anyone such as that to leave...including a nursing woman. I think it would be inappropriate on anyone's part to ask a mother to leave a service b/c she was a distraction.
I am speaking only in the sense that we are responsible for ourselves, not for others.
So the answer is, "No I would not tell someone to leave because they were causing minor distractions." But, I would refrain from doing so myself.