A Christian Perspective on Breastfeeding in Public

A Short Preface

Now, before you dismiss this as some man’s unqualified opinion, I ask you to hear me out. The fact that I am a man means that I do not have a dog in this fight—so to speak—and that I can offer an ‘outsider’ opinion. However, the principles that I hope to outline here will have broader application than just the area of breastfeeding. Another note I’d like to make is that, because this is not a topic specifically addressed in Scripture, I will be heavy on logic and light on Scripture references. With that said, here are some helpful thoughts about Christian women breastfeeding in public.

Breastfeeding is natural.

First and foremost, I want to affirm breastfeeding. Without question, it is the healthiest nutritional decision that can be made for little baby. (If you would like more information on the nutritional value of breast milk, try looking at some of these La Leche League Breastfeeding
Abstracts
.) While modern culture seems to think breastfeeding is somehow weird, this view is absurd. Out of the 7 billion humans on Earth, 100% have either been breastfed or have parents or grandparents who have been breastfed. My point is simply that breastfeeding is as natural as being born!

To be honest, I think there is something inherently beautiful in the life giving act of a mother breastfeeding her child. While I’m no expert, I think most mothers who have breastfed will confirm that—while breastfeeding can be very challenging and downright painful—there is an intimacy forged between mother and baby during that special time. To treat a breastfeeding mother as though she is doing something shameful or unnatural is absurd. In fact…

Every mother should have the right to breastfeed in public.

I fully affirm that every mother should have the right to breastfeed her child in public. However, this is where the controversy emerges. Should a woman be required to use a cover? Should a woman be allowed to breastfeed fully uncovered? Should public areas—such as libraries, court houses, parks—be required to provide areas where mothers may breastfeed privately? These are some tricky questions and one of the problems is that…

Our hyper-erotic, lust-addicted culture has sexualized breasts.

The truth is, open public breastfeeding is completely normal in many cultures. Moreover, in some cultures it’s normal for women to walk around topless when it gets warm outside. However, as Christians we have an obligation to respect the sensitivities of our culture. The fact that our society has sexualized breasts is not a justification to expose your breasts; it’s actually a very compelling reason for Christian women to cover their breasts. Do moms have a legal right to breastfeed without a cover? In some states, yes (here’s a list of Federal and State Breastfeeding Laws). However, there are times when, for the sake of the Gospel, Christians should limit their rights.

Honor your maker.

About a year ago, I wrote a series of posts about alcohol and my ultimate conclusion was that the highest priority for Christians is that we honor our Maker. In a hyper-erotic, lust-addicted culture that has sexualized breasts, I do not think it is wise for Christian women to expose their breasts, even when they are breastfeeding. Yes, breastfeeding is completely natural. Yes, they have the right to do so in public. However, any man who is willing to be honest with you will tell you that once he has seen your breasts, he will never be able to forget that image. Note that I said he will never be able to forget. We men are visual creatures and, once we’ve seen something like that, it is locked in our heads pretty much forever. Yes, there are many women who wear very immodest clothing, but that is not justification to join them. Instead, it is all the more reason for Christian women to strive to be different—to be holy. Instead of being a potential stumbling-block, this is an opportunity for Christian women to protect their brothers in Christ by intentionally choosing modesty for the sake of love (Rom. 14:13-19).

Be different: be modest.

For Christian women, I think the course of action that is wisest, most loving toward other men, and most God-honoring is to pursue modesty. I do think women can breastfeed in public and I would urge Christian women to do so with a cover. Yes, this is inconvenient. Yes, this is a lot of extra work. My wife and her friends say breastfeeding in public is a huge challenge. They say their babies can’t stand being under a blanket. They say their babies flail around and end up accidentally pulling the cover aside anyway. They say it is a lot of extra work and can be a real pain. However, they believe that no matter the inconvenience, it is the Christian mother’s responsibility to find a way to be modest. I agree. I think using a cover is the wisest, most loving course of action. Although the Bible never directly addresses this topic, Paul says that Christian women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty, self-control, and the good works that are proper for women who profess godliness (1 Timothy 2:9-10). Even though it is becoming more culturally acceptable to breastfeed uncovered, Christians are commanded not to conform to the pattern of this world (Rom. 12:1-2) and I think modesty is one of the biggest areas where Christian women can be non-conformists. That’s right, be a rebel! Is modesty worth preserving in a culture gone immodest? If it is, then it will come at a price.

Ultimately, my aim here is to simultaneously affirm the beauty and normalcy of breastfeeding while encouraging Christian women to honor God and love their brothers by pursuing modesty. Breastfeeding is a good thing; so is modesty. Both are worth the sacrifice. I realize this is a controversial topic, and I encourage all Christian women everywhere to pray over this issue and conduct themselves in such a way as to be completely blameless.

  • Lisa

    The Bible also calls upon followers of Christ to be beacons of light in the darkness. I would challenge you that the hypersexualization of breasts is a darkness that has fallen upon the blessing of breastfeeding (as it is called in the Bible). Christian women can be beacons of light, by being models to help normalizing breastfeeding, the way a woman was intended to feed her child. I think of it as doing a small bit of the Lord’s work by being that beacon of light. How can we ever expect to come out of this darkness without that light to lead the way? Breastfeeding is in no way sexual, but covering implies that we don’t fervently disagree with that idea… that we acquiesce that it is OK for someone to see it as sexual.

    Other cultures compartmentalize the function of breasts. Yes, they are erogenous, but so are our mouths, ears, and necks. Yet we don’t feel the need to cover these up when we dress or eat. Our culture can never achieve this compartmentalization if people are only exposed to breasts as sexual playthings and never to breasts as serving their primary function, the nurturing of God’s children. Maybe every church needs to have a picture of Maria Lactans on display. :)

    • Josh

      Lisa,

      I think you’re correct when you say that “the hypersexualization of breasts is a darkness that has fallen upon the blessing of breastfeeding.” Is this something that ideally should be? No, of course not. The problem is that, whether it should or should not be, it is, which means we’re required to address it; or as Daniel mentioned in his post, “…as Christians we have an obligation to respect the sensitivities of our culture.”

      Paul discusses this clearly in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. He demonstrates the freedom we have in Christ to do various things such as eat meat, drink wine, and observe the Sabbath in different ways, making it clear that these things are between us and God. In other words, there’s no commandment for “thou shalt not” or “thou shalt” that requires one way or another. The guiding factor on how we act, at that point, becomes love – the first and greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-40). Paul commands us to respond to two things in these passages: the culture in which we live, no matter how ungodly it is, and brothers and sisters in Christ who may have weaker faith than we do.

      How do we respond to our culture? One path would be what you have stated: to exercise our rights and in so doing, attempt to be a light to the world. Another path would be what Daniel has stated: each woman should pray and ask God how she should conduct herself individually, keeping in mind the weakness of her brothers who are raised in this culture. Which aligns with Scripture? In Romans 14 Paul explicitly addresses this situation and we can see this if we simply replace “food” and “meat” with the appropriate breastfeeding terms:

      “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by (seeing your breasts when you breastfeed), you are no longer walking in love. By (how you breastfeed), do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of (covered or uncovered breasts) but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

      Paul goes even further in 1 Corinthians 8:

      “(Breastfeeding) will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not (cover ourselves when we breastfeed), and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge (openly displaying your breasts), will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to (continue to look at your breasts)? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if (breastfeeding in public) or (breastfeeding without a cover) makes my brother stumble, I will never (breastfeed uncovered), lest I make my brother stumble.”

      I’ll finish the same way Daniel finished: “Ultimately, my aim here is to simultaneously affirm the beauty and normalcy of breastfeeding while encouraging Christian women to honor God and love their brothers by pursuing modesty.”

    • daniel

      Lisa,
      Although I’m aware that you’re a Twitter ‘activist’ as well as an atheist (and I think you submitted this under a fake email address), I thought I should still respond so future readers can see.

      You are correct that the Bible teaches all Christians (both male and female) to be beacons of light: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Mt. 5:16)” However, we are supposed to show our good deeds, not our breasts and our goal is glorifying God, not normalizing whatever we think should be normal for a culture.

      Being a Christian means that we limit our freedoms out of love for those around us. If I had a friend that was a recovering alcoholic (whether Christian or not) I would not drink around him because that might cause him to fall of the wagon. Thus, out of love for him and respect for him as a human being, I would limit my freedom to enjoy a beer. Similarly, my proposal here is that, in a hypersexual culture, I encourage all Christian women everywhere to pray over this issue and conduct themselves in such a way as to be completely blameless.

      Also, let’s take a second to re-read the title of this post: “A Christian Perspective on Breastfeeding in Public.” My goal has been to propose a balance of two competing factors for Christian women: liberty and love. To do that I’ve drawn from Christian Scriptures and Christian values to propose a Christian ethic for Christian mothers. While I certainly don’t expect non-Christians to agree with me, if they are going to propose their “Christian Perspective on Breastfeeding in Public,” it needs to be rooted in Scripture or sound Scriptural principles. Frankly, the responses I read on Twitter from some of your associates were neither charitable, logical, nor Scriptural. You’re free to your opinions, but unless you can back them up with sound biblical principles, they amount to nothing more than just that: your opinions.

      Finally, the ultimate goal and concern of Christians is not our freedoms and liberties, but the eternal security and salvation of those around us. To that end, I would assert that breastfeeding in public is a secondary issue and not a hill upon which Christians should be willing to die.

  • Lisa

    I had another thought on something you mentioned in this post, and just wanted to touch on it.

    Three times you imply that women should be modest in deference to their “brothers in Christ”, by which I assume you are referring to only men. You say that modesty will protect their brothers, instead of choosing to not be modest which could be a stumbling block for them. You speak of the weakness in men to look, how they are visual creatures. Lastly, that women should make their choice in the matter such that they can be “blameless”.

    I’ve heard this general argument for modesty before, that a woman’s prudence is helpful to a man because it helps him from swaying from his righteous path. But for this model, I look to Jesus. How many were ‘enticed to sin’ because of the things Jesus said, and because of His behavior? Jesus did not edit Himself, hide Himself, to save those who would denounce Him, torture Him, and crucify Him from the sins they might be enticed to commit. Why should breastfeeding women be held to a different standard than this? If a sinner sins, it is his (or her) own fault. Men are not frail, weak creatures who need to be protected from themselves, no more than women are.

    Our culture is also faced today with a rising tide of what some are calling a “rape culture” – where the sexualization and objectification of women is condoned and encouraged, where there is a “boys will be boys” mentality, and a continual trial in the public eye of any female victim of a sex crime, and whether she did anything to encourage the behavior of her assailant(s). Your calls for modesty strongly hint at this continual onslaught of victim-blame that women endure. If a man becomes aroused or tempted (or worse) because he catches a glance of a woman’s breast while she is FEEDING A BABY, it is her fault because she wasn’t protective enough of him? Pardon me, but BALONEY. That is on him, not on her.

    • daniel

      Lisa,
      I’m not the one who said modesty is important for women; God is. This is why I included Scripture references in my post at that section, specifically 1 Timothy 2:9-10. I could have also included 1 Peter 3:3-4 (although that didn’t seem to fit quite as well with this specific post). My point is simply that, for 2 millennia now, modesty has been a value that Christian women have pursued.

      You said that you looked to Jesus as a model and claim that ” Jesus did not edit Himself, hide Himself, to save those who would denounce Him, torture Him, and crucify Him from the sins they might be enticed to commit.” I would disagree based on one of my favorite passages about Jesus:

      “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:3-8)”

      Jesus is the ultimate example of self-limiting. The God of the Universe putting on human flesh, frailty, and weakness is the ultimate form of self-editing and self-hiding. Jesus hid the fact that He was God. When I want to see an example of humility and servanthood, I look to Jesus. The God of the universe washed the feet of His human followers. Thus, I urge all Christians (including breastfeeding ones) to imitate Christ’s humility and servant attitude.

      Finally, your suggestion that my post contributes to “rape culture,” “victim blaming,” and a “boys will be boys” attitude is, to be completely honest, absurd. I have friends who have been raped and the thought of blaming them has never crossed my mind. You will find nothing in this post or on this blog that ever even hints that anyone deserves to be raped. To even suggest that seems to indicate that your position has no merit and you must therefore attempt to sling mud at the positions of others. No woman deserves to be raped; that is on him, not on her.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kirjarlane Kirsten Lane

        I have a question. Where in the bible does it connect the breast with a sexual object? Where does it say that breasts are immodest and need to be covered? Why is it okay in some cultures but not in our own? Our country have over sexualized everything! I will not be inconvenienced with covering up in public. I’m doing NOTHING wrong by nursing my child. If someone is uncomfortable with it then they can remove themselves. I shouldn’t be shunned to a private room or a special location because I choose to nourish my child. Those that choose the other option are not asked to step out or to cover up. Those children don’t have to eat under a blanket! Why does my child have to be taught from the very moment that breasts are something to hid? I do NOT think this is what God was talking about at all! There are modest way to nurse a baby without covering so that its not even noticeable. More skin is exposed in everyday clothing. My breast was never hanging out there for all men to see. If I was in a group of people and baby needed to eat I would simply nurse.

        • daniel

          Kirsten,
          That sounds like three questions, which I’ll try to answer briefly. 😉

          First, breasts are described sexually mostly within Song of Songs (Song 4:5, 7:3, 7:7, 7:8, and referred to euphemistically elsewhere) and briefly within Proverbs (Pr. 5:19). They are also described sexually in prophecies in Ezekiel (Eze. 16:7, 23:3, 23:21) and in Hosea (Ho.2:2). To be fair, breasts are also described quite often within the context of nursing, and within the context of comfort. Here’s a quote from the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery that summarizes it nicely:

          Like many other body parts, the breast has strong symbolic significance in Scripture. The breast is used as an image of female sexuality. The picture of the mother feeding her child at the breast is widely used as a symbol of both comfort and security. The concept of security is also picked up in the protection afforded to the exposed and vulnerable breast by the use of the breastplate as body armor. Almost all uses of the term in Scripture relate directly or indirectly to one of these three concepts.

          Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 118.

          For more information, you can read their entire article on breasts here and for even more information I’ve uploaded their article on sex (which includes a section on breasts) here.

          Second, where does the Bible say that breasts are immodest and need to be covered? While there isn’t a text that says “No woman shall expose her breasts in public” there are some texts that talk about the shame of married women allowing other men to touch them. Granted, there is a world of difference between exposing your breasts for sexual purposes and exposing them to nourish an infant. However, the point I was hoping to make wasn’t that breastfeeding is completely un-sexual, but that Christians should be willing to limit some of their rights for the sake of others. For example, Proverbs 5 is a warning against adultery and says this:

          15 Drink water from your own cistern,
          flowing water from your own well.
          16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
          streams of water in the streets?
          17 Let them be for yourself alone,
          and not for strangers with you.

          18 Let your fountain be blessed,
          and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
          19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
          Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
          be intoxicated always in her love.
          20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
          and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

          The point seems to be that it is shameful for a man to become “intoxicated” with a forbidden woman. However, there is also shame in having your springs scattered abroad and your streams of water flowing in the street. In the context of this warning against adultery, the author is not talking about literal water but about his wife’s body. Furthermore, there are commands for Christian women to be modest, which I think (and I think you’ll agree) will be a little different in every culture. In some cultures, breasts are sexual; in other cultures they are not. I would urge Christian women to pursue modesty in the context of their individual cultures. If our culture had sexualized collarbones, I would have written a post called “A Christian Perspective on Collarbones in Public.” Regardless of whether or not breastfeeding is sexual (it’s not and we all know it), the point is that breasts are sexual and exposing them makes some people uncomfortable.

          Third, why is it okay in some cultures but not in our own? Your guess is as good as mine. We live in a fallen world and as much as I wish women could breastfeed in public with no problems, I do not recommend it to Christian women for the sake of modesty.

          Finally, I’d like to ask you to re-read your comment and ask if you feel as though it lines up with this:

          3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:3-8)

          Christ limited His freedoms for our sake, is it too much to suggest that we limit some of our freedoms for the sake of spreading the Gospel?

  • Josh

    Lisa,

    I think I would disagree with the most fundamental basis of your second comment, found in this statement: “If a sinner sins, it is his (or her) own fault. Men are not frail, weak creatures who need to be protected from themselves, no more than women are.”

    Yes, if a sinner sins, it is his (or her) own fault. That does not, however, mean that no one else played a part. I’m in the Air Force and we regularly are required to go through all sorts of sexual assault prevention training. There are several roles people fill in situations where sexual assaults occur that are neither perpetrator or victim: the first is the friend who fails to act when (s)he could have done something to prevent the situation. The second is the facilitator who actively does something to create the situation in which the sexual assault occurs; no, they didn’t do the raping, but without their actions the situation in which the rape occurred may not have happened. These folks aren’t guilty of sexual assault; they’re not guilty of rape and they shouldn’t be put on trial. But their responsibility to act (in love) with regards to their brothers and sisters in arms should be emphasized: had they acted correctly, they could have prevented a wrong situation from occurring.

    I would also disagree with the latter part of your statement: men and women both are frail, weak creatures, and we each need the help of our brothers and sisters in Christ to do what we can’t do ourselves. I’ll take this back to 1 Corinthians 8: “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.”

    If you exercise your rights in a way that you know will tempt a Christian brother or sister, then you are not acting in love. Whenever you intentionally don’t act in love, you’re sinning; first against your brother/sister, second against Christ.

    Finally, you said this: “If a man becomes aroused or tempted (or worse) because he catches a glance of a woman’s breast while she is FEEDING A BABY, it is her fault because she wasn’t protective enough of him? Pardon me, but BALONEY. That is on him, not on her.” You’re right, it is on him. However, if she could have prevented it, wouldn’t it have been the more loving thing to do to not put him in the situation by sacrificing a right of hers for the sake of loving her brother? The point here is not what is technically right or wrong; the point is what is more loving.

  • Kate

    Isn’t it “more loving” for a man to let a woman and baby breastfeed without complication than to insist she shroud herself in a burqa-like drape? This is demeaning to the woman, unsympathetic to the child who will get too hot and not get enough oxygen under the covering. The health of the baby and the community’s interest in the baby nursing as long as possible (from a cost and health standpoint for both the mother and child) for me far outweigh the weaknesses of an individual man.

    • Josh

      Kate & Lisa,

      Are you Christians? Judging from what I saw on your Twitter feeds, I would guess that you aren’t (Lisa, it appears that you’re a self-proclaimed atheist). If you aren’t, then you need to realize that nothing Daniel has said applies to you. Everything to which you’ve taken offense comes from the paragraph which opens with the words “For Christian women…”

      The standard Daniel is proposing is a Christian one, for Christians, founded on Christian standards. If you are not a Christian, then why are you offended that Christians are proposing Christian standards?

      • Kate

        I cannot speak for Lisa, but I am a woman, and I will stand up for all women, whether they are Christian (like myself) or any other faith. The language used here us language of misogyny and oppression, thinly veiled under the auspices of religion. If you want to use Bible verses to prove your point, I can use Bible verses to very plainly defend the practices of genocide and slavery. The Bible was written by men, in a very different time. I can worship and love God and still understand the fallibility of those chosen to spread His word. Even Jesus and the apostles could not overcome this earthly imperfection.

        • Josh

          Kate,

          If you believe that there is an “earthly imperfection” that cannot be overcome by Jesus, then you believe in a Jesus that cannot save; the essence of the gospel is that the perfection of Jesus is sufficient to cover all sin, all imperfection. If you claim that you’re a Christian then you’re claiming that you believe you’re saved by someone you believe cannot save you.

          In other words, you believe that what you believe is false. At that point, what weight should I give your opinion?

      • Kate

        Also, I don’t use Twitter.

  • Anna

    Dear Kate and Lisa,

    Could you help me understand the source of your anger?

    I am a Christian mother, and I joyfully choose to use a cover while nursing in public. This decision was not imposed on me. I do consider modesty to be of greater value than convenience. My purpose in using a cover is to act in a loving way toward both men and women. I feel free to nurse my babies as needed in public and do not feel demeaned in any way by my choice to use a cover.

    Ultimately, I realize that my decisions directly affect those around me. Hence, it is good to consider the needs of others and then choose the most loving course of action. Thus, in consideration of others, I am very glad to use a cover. This does not upset or anger me at all.

    So can you explain why it outrages you?

  • Not a victim

    Generating conflict – “pitting men and women against one another” = modern feminism (http://suzannevenker.com/the-war-on-men/)

    Daniel, from the twitter feeds and hate speech being directed your way…it sounds like you are the victim. However….

    – what is most unfortunate is that those who are lashing out are victims themselves – victims of “their negative view of women”….

    For instance would they be interested to know that generating this type of conflict…is essential in living out the first tenet of feminism?

    — or would they be open to hearing that “Feminists are imprisoned by their negative view of women and their place in the world around them.” (http://suzannevenker.com/the-flip-side-of-feminism/)

    Now that you are on the “feminist” radar – know that you will be hated no matter what you say – it is simply part of the agenda unfortunately.

    I commend you for your bold courage in speaking truth in peace!

  • Julia

    Thanks for posting this, Daniel. As a woman I value your perspective and am encouraged by your balance of grace and truth. Since I’m not a mother your words aren’t applicable to me today but I will definitely remember them for the future.

    I want my actions to reflect my value of God, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and of myself. I don’t see you as imposing your standard on me, but as giving your perspective on an issue that you felt the need and conviction to address. Well done!

    Thanks again for taking the time to write this.

  • http://gravatar.com/spoodles927 Gwen

    In my experience with breastfeeding our two children, using a cover is more immodest and draws attention to the fact we are nursing. Most people do not realize I’m nursing and if they do they are generally not uncomfortable. The only person who has ever commented negatively on it also stated they would have had a problem even if I had used a cover and that I should go to another room in the future. I’m choosing not to associate with that couple while lactating. It was very hurtful though, the implication that I was sinning, and in my view quite legalistic of them.

    I wear a nursing tanktop under a shirt I can pull up – usually a t-shirt – so none of my stomach or back is showing and the overshirt comes down to my son’s mouth so nothing is showing there either. The only way you would see anything is if you were standing right over top of me and really staring trying to get a glimpse of something.

    I guess I’m just trying to point out that you can still nurse just as modestly and maybe even more so without using a cover. Also, I know everyone gets tired of hearing it but really, would you want to eat under a blanket or other nursing cover? Especially in 114 degree weather like a few summers ago when I was nursing my daughter.

    In my view trying to desensitize the culture is a valid point as well. At one time ankles were really a turn on and were to always be covered in public. I’m not advocating letting it all hang out while nursing but the more women who nurse modestly and without shame in public (“covered” or otherwise) the more comfortable the general public will be with nursing. It is also an encouragement to new bfers to see other mamas nursing in public and may make the difference between throwing the towel in early or sticking with it. Breastfeeding is not easy but it’s worth it and the less barriers we put in place the better. Does this all make sense? I am so tired and really should be in bed but I wanted to get this out there as a Christian nursing mother who really does care about modesty but also about normalizing breastfeeding.

    • daniel

      Gwen,
      Yes, you make total sense and I certainly appreciate your well-articulated comment. :-) I’m sorry that person made such a legalistic comment and hopefully I didn’t sound like that. Reading your comment, I had two questions that arose…

      First, what do you mean in your first sentence when you say that using a cover is more immodest? Upon reading that sentence, I realized that in my initial post I never actually define ‘modesty.’ This is certainly a failure on my part because one of the big points of my post is modesty… which I failed to define! Oops! I think the fact that you link immodesty and drawing attention together is good, so what do you mean by immodest?

      Second, while I certainly agree with your desire to normalize breast feeding, on what do you base this priority? In other words, why do you think Christian bfers should make breastfeeding in public a priority? I would love it if breastfeeding didn’t have the cultural stigma it does, but in light of the Great Commission and the redemptive sweep of the Bible, I can’t see why would should make it a priority, ya know? I think you make a great point about the fact that it might encourage new moms to keep at it, but my understanding is that the most common reason women give up breastfeeding is because it is incredibly difficult. My wife has tons of conversations with new moms about breastfeeding and none of it revolves around the need to do it uncovered in public. She listens, encourages, gives advice and I greatly admire her mentorship to these new moms; I’m sure you’re very similar.

      Once again, thanks for taking the time to hear me out and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your perspective and look forward to hearing more. :-)

      God bless,
      daniel

  • Robin

    I have always thought that breastfeeding to be not only a time to feed your baby but the ultimate bonding experience between a mother and child, a very intimate moment the doesn’t need to be seen by anyone. Regardless if you choose to be modest or to bare your naked breast to feed our baby, the public knows what you are doing. I’m all for taking the modesty route. Choosing to cover up or facing away from the public shouldn’t seem like a difficult action to take. Your child will get used to a cover and its not like you have to use a heavy blanket to cover yourself.

    I am a Christian women that believes modesty is important and I don’t feel oppressed or whatever you want to call it to cover myself when I breastfeed my child.

  • Shazia Ann Lackey

    I love that men feel the need to pray about and ask God how they should mandate their sisters in Christ act. As a Christian, who is ALSO A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER, I spent many months postpartum praying over my breastfeeding relationship and how I could discreetly nurse in public. I felt God wanted me to continue nursing my son and to do so in a way that was easiest and most comfortable for us both. God is not ashamed of how I feed my son and neither am I. I will not use a cover because it continues to stigmatize breastfeeding as being a sexual act to be ashamed of and it doesn’t help our formula fed culture learn to breastfeed by example and encouragement. Instead of praying about the sins of others, why don’t you instead pray for more moms to feel comfortable nursing in public so that we can work towards normalizing breastfeeding in our culture?

  • Emy Thomas Hellman

    Anna I am so grateful to see I am not the only mom who covered while breastfeeding in public :-) I just got under fire for suggesting that maybe as Christians we should just cover even if it is against our right because we don’t want to be a stumbling block for others. And that fire came from a fellow Christian, so I am now trying to figure if I am wrong and feeling a little alone. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Patricia Dickey

    You, Dear Sir, are wrong. Christian women do NOT need a cover to nurse in public. A GOOD CHRISTIAN man would politely avert his gaze. MOST women (regardless of Faith) do NOT whip out their breast(s) and make a huge production out of nursing their infants.MOST wear clothes designed to minimize the amount of breast exposed. You should pay closer attention to the nursing mom’s in your church group before you jump up on your pedestal and start preaching modesty! Shame on you for attempting to embarrass nursing mothers! It is a difficult enough journey without puritanical prudes harping on “modesty”. Instead… you or your pastor should thank them for providing an excellent beginning and close bond with their children. Which brings them closer to God.

  • Jordan

    Although I appreciate a lot about this article I must say that I disagree
    with a few things, though I admit my response may be more from my own
    experience than from a logical standpoint.

    I also am a man, who happens to be married to a breastfeeding mother. During
    my life I have fallen victim to the super-sexualized culture that we live in. I
    have struggled with an addiction to pornography from the time I was 10 years
    old until now. I have been “clean” from partaking in porn for some
    time now but the temptation is always there so just as a person who has been
    sober from alcohol for 10 years still confesses that they are a recovering
    alcoholic, I too will confess to being a recovering porn addict. All of this is
    to point out that even in my deepest darkest days of my addiction and my lust I
    never have found a breastfeeding mother to be sexually attractive. This is not
    to say that the woman who is breastfeeding is not attractive, but while their
    breast is slightly exposed in public the baby attached to it caused me to turn
    away out of respect of privacy for the woman and her child. There has never
    been a time that I can remember seeing a woman breastfeeding without a cover
    that caused me to stumble in my lust. In fact I think the scenario of the
    breast fulfilling its natural purpose in those moments helped me to hold the
    woman in higher esteem.

    The second thing I would like to point out is in response to the use of 1
    Timothy 2:9-10. When Jesus came he spent a great deal of time preaching to the
    masses in order to better educate them about God’s law. He didn’t redefine the
    law but made it more clear to the people who would listen. In Matt. 5:27 Jesus
    says that a man commits adultery in his heart if he lusts after a woman. This
    is just one example of Jesus teaching the people that it wasn’t their actions
    that were sinful but it was the condition of their heart that was sinful and
    their actions were merely a reflection of that. I believe this same principle
    can be applied to the verse in 1 Timothy. Women who dress immodestly with
    the intent to be sexy or to attract men by using their body as a tempting
    advertisement are intentionally acting as a stumbling block and are not only
    sinning themselves but are helping others to fall into sin as well. But I would
    assume that a mother who has a baby attached to her breast does not have a
    sinful heart condition, but instead is fulfilling a holy role in providing
    life-giving nurturing to their child.

    The combination of these two responses leads me to believe that women should
    be free to breastfeed in public but I very much agree with your final paragraph.

    Thanks for the well-written article and I would encourage you to continue to
    seek answers in scripture as you are already doing. God be with you!

  • Melissa Murray

    I had a friend in college who anonymously wrote a commentary in the university newspaper saying girls should not use messenger bags with the strap crossing their chest because it defined the breasts more & apparently it

  • Melissa Murray

    (cont)
    he was never able to remove the image either. I was shocked to find my roomates (girls, and it was a Christian college) went along with this and actually stopped using their messenger bags and got backpacks instead. So where does it stop? Shall I wear a shroud head to toe because some part of my female anatomy might get stuck in a man’s head?

  • Tanya A

    Being a Christian means that we limit our freedoms out of love for those around us. If I had a friend that was a
    recovering alcoholic (whether Christian or not) I would alert him to when beer would be present so that he can protect himself, because the presence of beer might cause him to fall of the wagon. I would also choose not to drink around him. Thus, out of love for him and respect for him as a human being, I would limit my freedom to enjoy a beer.
    Similarly, if I had a friend who has admitted his struggle with sexualizing images, I would alert him to when I would be nursing so that he could protect himself. I am not able to limit when I feed my baby like I can limit when I consume alcohol.

    Being a Christian also means that we put the needs of others ahead of our own. So, in a mutual fellowship of believers, a man can confess his need to not view a woman breastfeeding while understanding the need of the woman to feed her child in a way that is easiest for her (not trying to manipulate a cover that the child doesn’t want over him). They create a relationship in which she can signal him when she will be feeding her child so that he can take the appropriate measures to protect himself. This scenario is illustrating how they can both put the needs of the other ahead of their own so that neither is causing the other to stumble. It also allows women to not feel bad about what they are doing, if the man approaches the situation well. I believe that if a woman was wearing a cover, the man who struggles with this scenario would know she was using her breasts to the feed the child and he would experience the same lustful thoughts as if he saw a woman feeding without the cover – both are equally sinful. When Jesus warns that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he uses the same word found in the Ten Commandments to refer to a person who “covets” his neighbor’s property. Lust takes attraction and turns it into the coveting of a woman’s body as though it were property. The farm equipment and
    livestock of the neighbor in the Bible isn’t responsible for the neighbor’s coveting. And men are responsible for their own thoughts and actions when this happens; they don’t get to blame it on the woman.

    And, our ultimate mission is to bring glory to God among every tribe, tongue, and nation. Breastfeeding is expected in most of the world. Women using a cover would be looked down upon. God uses breastfeeding examples many times in scripture (like 24, and only 7 times are breast referred to sexually from my research). Many feminists are not Christians currently and Christians supporting breastfeeding in public is a way to reach out to non-Christians. Our intentions are not to cause Christian men to stumble in their walk. Even unintentionally causing another person to sin is very serious – but the way our culture has developed that means women cannot be in the presence of men ever. I cannot lick my fingers without a man thinking dirty about it. A smile can be misinterpreted and cause a man to lust. There has to be some line. We just have a difference of opinion about where that line is.

  • anniegathers84

    Thank you! I’m glad I found this post because I am tired of expressing my same views of being respectful to the public these grown women pit themselves in.

  • anniegathers84

    You don’t have the right to stand up for all women…I believe in being modest. I’ve breastfed and never in public because I gave that time to my child that they deserve rather than trekking off to Walmart or a restaurant and waiting for my child to scream and cry. I would come prepared as a good attentive mother if I ever had to do it in public because I personally do not want my moment to be shared with strangers. I do get out of the house.