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.