Breastfeeding and Following Jesus- uninviting “modesty” to the breastfeeding discussion

Maria lactans 17th century Antwerp

What is a woman to do?  You’re walking along, minding your own business with your husband and 2.5 kids at the mall when *BAM* female human breasts are thrust in your face.

Ok, not exactly thrust in your face.  But one breast is indeed thrust into a baby’s face.  Not your baby’s face, mind you.  Uh-uh.  This complete stranger has whipped her tit out and stuck it in her baby’s mouth.

She’s breastfeeding.  In public.  Ugh.

I’ve always wanted there to be a sound effect when I whip my breast out but alas, I can’t quite make my mammary glands whip really.  What would it sound like when a breast is whipped out?  Whoosh?  FFFt?  Whap?  SSSHHHHK?  Flub-a-lub-a-lub?  Just wondering.

Aren’t there covers for this?  Nobody wants to see that.  Can’t. She. Go. do. that. in. the. bathroom?

She could, yes, but just as tired as that suggestion is so is this reply: would you want to eat your dinner in the bathroom?

If you answer yes, go right on ahead.  However, until health departments regularly approve restaurants to set up customer dining with the toilets, I’m not feeding my babies there.

Doesn’t she have any decency?  Fine, feed your baby in public without being shamed into the bathroom but, for gosh sake, have some self respect and exercise some modesty!  Your body is for your husband alone and you don’t want to share it with the whole world.  I mean, good grief, there are other women’s husbands out, teenage boys, perverts… they can’t help themselves!  Hormones render their ability to not objectify women with the slightest sight of skin or shape and in a mere moment they will be overcome by their sexual urges!  The collective low view of the males of our species is that they are nothing more than animals that lose all control at the sight of a human female mammary gland.  The scary female feeding her baby will entice them like the harlot on the street corner in Proverbs.  Run, run away before all the men stumble, jealous of the child feeding at his mother’s breast.  And some women even do that IN CHURCH!

Remember when God said: “Thou Shalt Be Modest When Feeding Your Baby”?

And then proceeded to define “modest” as “having a light blanket, breastfeeding apron, or use the bathroom to feed child.”

Yeah, me neither.

maria lactans

And before you dare compare breastfeeding in public to urinating, defecating, copulating, masturbating, or really ANYTHING OTHER THAN EATING in public, go read this.  That argument is even more tired than the bathroom suggestion and not at all as clever as many seem to think.  It’s old, it’s done, it’s ridiculous, and it’s irrelevant.  Drop it.

“Fine, breastfeeding in public is fine but it must be done discreetly!” I hear this all the time.  Being discreet is to avoid offending someone and as much as we like to focus on the BREAST part of BREASTfeeding, this is an infant or small child’s meal we’re talking about.  Discreet hardly seems to apply.

I follow Jesus, I would identify myself as a Christian, and while my faith is a huge part of my life I don’t typically bring it up here.  This post, however, I’m writing because of my faith.

I grew up hearing a lot, and I really do mean A LOT about modesty.  In fact, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants, make-up, short skirts, bathing suits without a cover, shorts, etc.  All in “deference” to my “brothers in Christ” for fear of making them stumble.  So I get the modesty thing.  I was totally indoctrinated with the idea that as a female, it was my responsibility to make sure men never lusted over me.  Completely inundated with the message that there was something so vile and perverted about my body it would make these helpless male creatures fall into sin and it would be all my fault for reducing these otherwise intelligent beings into Pavlo’s salivating dog, modesty was my one safety net in combating the evilness of my own flesh.  Yet I don’t cover to breastfeed and I’m not going to ever again.  I haven’t since my 3rd daughter and now I have baby #6.

It’s not that I don’t care about my brothers, because I do.  I just care about my baby more.  And I don’t believe men are so helpless.  Just as I would never put the responsibility of me feeding or not feeding my baby the biologically normal way (AKA: as God designed) upon my brothers, so I will not take the responsibility for them seeing me and other women as human beings rather than sex objects on my shoulders.  Or chest.  Or my baby’s head.  Covering the natural, non-sexual function of the female breasts contributes to the dehumanization women.  Instead of her personhood being valid and feeding her baby acceptable, forcing a woman to cover or hide feeding her baby values her sexual appeal over the personhood of both her child and herself.  A man’s sexual desire (or possible sexual desire) then trumps a baby feeding and both the man and woman devalued as people, become nothing more than sex object and sexual desire.  Because I care about my brothers, my sisters, and my daughters, I’m not going to participate in the dehumanization of either sex.  Men aren’t dogs and they can be responsible for their own thoughts and actions.  As can I.

Sure, the Bible has a lot to say about modesty, things like not braiding hair, keeping a woman’s head covered, wearing gold… you know, all that stuff most Christians are following religiously.  Or not.  I won’t go into all that here but suffice it to say that in the context of when Scripture was written things were a little different.  Or a lot different.  But did you know that the Bible has a lot to say about breasts and breastfeeding?  Mamapsalmist breaks it down for us:

In my effort to double check my theories against the bible and God’s theories, I did some research.  The bible has a LOT of references to breasts.  A lot.  They’re all over the place.  Most often, the word breast is an anatomical reference.  The right breast for a sacrifice or the growth of breasts to symbolize puberty.  Then, there are the sexual references.  All seven of them.  Four in Song of Solomon, one in Proverbs, two in Ezekiel.  How many times does the bible reference breasts in the context of breastfeeding?  14.  Plus 10 other references to nursing and drinking mother’s milk.  Twenty-four times the bible references breastfeeding without shame.   Without hesitation.  Without hiding it under a blanket or in another room.

You should read her entire post because it is rather amazing.

In a recent thread on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page, in response to accusations that women that don’t cover while feeding their baby are immodest, Cindy MacDougall, Times Colonist writer, articulated how she, as a Christian finds such accusations to be offensive not only to her but indeed even to Mary, the Mother of Jesus:

Mary immodest cindy macdougal comment

maria lactanas cindy macdougal comments

christian bfing cindy macdougal copy

Side note, it looks like all the artists that depicted Mary as breastfeeding the Christ child had actually seen open breastfeed quite a bit and used actual breastfeeding dyads for their models, their depictions are very realistic.  Also worth noting, before you mention that breastfeeding in public is “ok” as long as the child is under a certain age, many of these depictions show a much older Jesus at the breast, well into toddlerhood and even early childhood.

go ahead, tell the Mother of God to be modest

Does modesty even have a place at the table in conversations about breastfeeding?

Modesty is a pesky business really.  Definitions of modesty appear to be fluid at best, cultures and subcultures, and even families can’t agree.  Is modesty a burqua?  Or a one piece bathing suit?  Perhaps it’s hiding the shape of the body?  The amount of skin?  Or just specific skin?  A head scarf?  Just cover cleavage?  Shoulders?  Elbows?  Collar bones?  Belly buttons?  Two fingers below the collar bone?  The knee?  Two inches above the knee?  Or to the fingertips?  Ankles?  Skirts and dresses only?  Some female body parts or all of them?  Is immodest a bikini?  Pants?  Or something sparkly?  Making eye contact with a man?  What makes something modest or immodest?  Is it what’s showing?  The intent?  And who determines that?  Cultural standards?  How someone else thinks of that article of clothing and what you have showing?

Who gets to decide?

Modesty according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online:

Modesty webster

 

Modest according to the Oxford Dictionary online:

Modesty oxford dictionary

According to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul describes modesty this way “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  Decency and propriety, not adorned with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.  Is it indecent or improper to feed a baby?  In her Q Ideas article “Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means”, Rahcel Held Evans points out that in Scripture, the emphasis on modesty is more related to materialism than sexual impulses:

“…nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty. (Ironically, I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitive trade practices—which would be much more in keeping with biblical teachings on modesty.)

Held Evans goes on:

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 what a woman is wearing.

And probably not on a baby eating either.

Is feeding a baby really a conversation that modesty needs to be invited to?  How is a woman feeding her baby, immodest?  If someone struggles to control their thoughts and actions, should their struggle supersede that of a small child’s need for food and comfort and should the burden of that individual’s possible struggle be the responsibility of that small child and that mother?  Where do we break the chain of shaming the mother feeding her child?  And could we be using “modesty” as a way to continue objectifying women in general and what responsibility do we have for how that impacts the infants in our community by communicating shame about the way their mothers feed them?

Perhaps modesty needs to be more about how we demonstrate our wealth, successes, opportunities, possessions, how we spend our money talents, and time than it does how women dress or feed their children.

Held Evans challenges us:

…biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.

Every Sunday I sit in church and often my youngest needs to nurse.  As part of my worship, I give her my breast exactly as I believe God created me to do, without leaving the worship space because I belong there and so does my daughter.  Why should we be ostracized for feeding the most vulnerable and dependent in our community?  There is nothing sexually provocative about feeding her, my daughter has a need and I meet it as I am able, as I am designed.  I am confident God is pleased by it and I believe that with exposure my brothers and sisters in this family can handle it as well.  Over time we can turn the tide that objectified women and instilled a fear that somehow breastfeeding would cause others to stumble and perpetuated the attitude of women as a lesser part of the community.  In time perhaps we will stop seeing “modesty” as being a discussion aimed at women to hold them responsible for how their male peers think and treat them and instead work towards being modest in all areas.

It’s time to “modesty” was uninvited to the conversation of breastfeeding, it just gets in the way and confuses things.  Moms just need to feed their babies, covered, uncovered, in private, or with a bottle without dealing with the responsibility that someone may objectify them and without having their decency, propriety, even their modesty questioned by how they are caring for their children.

Not sure how to handle yourself when you see a woman breastfeeding?  Try some modesty.  Remember she’s a person first, nurturing another person.  Try to cultivate humility, propriety, and deference within and look her in the eyes or if you can’t trust yourself with that, look away and remember that maybe, this isn’t about you.

And be grateful she’s not blessing you with a shower of her milk as a modest act of worship.

marialactans-miraculous2

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Well said!

  2. Stephanie says:

    I am very grateful for this article. Thank you for sharing. My 10 month hates to be covered while nursing but while I’ve never left the room to nurse her, I always kind of felt it was my ‘duty’ to cover up when in the presence of others. This is inspiring, and looks at modesty in a way I’d never considered. :)

  3. This is an AWESOME blog post. Thank you so much for sharing it. I hope many people spend t time to read it & ponder the information. I have often thought oof Mary in that stable in Bethlehem – I am certain she was not asked to cover while nursing Baby Jesus. : )

  4. Alayney Tressel says:

    http://paigetolle.blogspot.com/2013/07/modesty.html

    I think you have a lot to say about modesty being for the sake of the male sex. You’ll find in this blog post a slightly different view.

  5. Perfectly written!!! Thank you!

  6. Thanks for sharing this. You’re right… Giving of yourself to nourish and nurture your child at the breast– AS GOD DESIGNED– is absolutely an act of worship. And I agree, it must be pleasing to God!

    • When we think about the relationship God intends for us to have with our children, feeding them being immodest seems completely ridiculous. I can not believe it is in God’s character for it to be immodest. Thank you for your comment. ~Jessica

  7. Morgan M says:

    Amazing article! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Bernadette says:

    Beautifully written! Thank you Jessica for sharing this with your “leakies”. I usually miss at least 15 min. of mass a week because I’m nursing my little one in another room. I feel I’m immodest or immoral by nursing during mass. I don’t want to be a distraction or offend anyone. But after reading your piece, I’m feeling inspired and confident to feed my little one in the pew and not feel like I’m being immodest.

    It’s like you said, “It’s time to “modesty” was uninvited to the conversation of breastfeeding, it just gets in the way and confusing things. Moms just need to feed their babies, covered, uncovered, in private, or with a bottle without dealing with the responsibility that someone may objectify them and without having their decency, propriety, even their modesty questioned by how they are caring for their children.”

    • Bernadette, I hope you enjoy a whole mass this week, comfortably feeding your baby in worship as God intended. What a celebration of God’s design and the relationship you have with your little one. ~Jessica

  9. What a well written, thoughtful post! I love it. Thank you for sharing and speaking out the truth in love (and humor).

  10. Could not agree more! I live in Guatemala and have to admit the first time my husband’s Guatemalan family came over (teenage nephews, brother-in-laws, father, etc) I felt a little unsure about whipping out the boob to feed our 1 week old baby- but no one even batted an eye. It’s one of the most freeing feelings. The only times I feel pressure to “cover up” is when I’m around tourist or American volunteers. Go figure?!

    • It is amazing how much of our attitude concerning breastfeeding, modesty, and even faith are directly influenced by the cultural setting we are in. As you experienced, it’s not a part of many cultures and yet many Americans get so hung up on it. Thank you for sharing. ~Jessica

      • I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here for a moment. Let it be known that I love breastfeeding, and NIP wherever I go. Much to my mother’s chagrin. ;-)

        If this is influenced by culture, then why should we deny American puritanical culture to cover it up? Why is a request to be “modest” and cover called being hung up on it and not a part of our cultural heritage?

        • Great question, I’m glad you asked! In this particular post I was taking a look at the idea that it is “Biblical” modesty to cover up to feed babies, not addressing the cultural aspect of breastfeeding beyond exploring that perhaps it is not a part of Church history or even from Scripture to attach modesty to breastfeeding.

          Pretty much the rest of this site is about the cultural and social aspects impacting breastfeeding. There are many things that were a part of our cultural heritage that need to change, breastfeeding is just one of them. Oppressing people in the name of cultural heritage is something I could never accept. Personally, I have no qualms about facing cultural norms that are oppressive and being willing to challenge them. Heritage or not, something need to go out of style. ;) ~Jessica

        • It’s actually not traditional. It’s modern. Despite Puritanical views on modesty, early Americans knew the difference between breastfeeding and sex. Women used to breastfeed freely in conservative churches 50 or 100 years ago. Today we’ve forgotten that and we no longer can tell the difference, sadly. Anything involving breasts must be sexual, people think.

  11. I too was raised in a very modest home, and taught that my body was for my husband. Perhaps not quite as extreme as what you describe, and certainly not prudish when it comes to marital sexual relationships. That being said, my own mother freaks out every time she sees even a hint of boob. Not nipple, boob. Like upper boob, almost chest. And she nursed me until I was almost two… How she managed that without ever exposing a hint of boob is beyond me. Although, I am a very tidy eater. ;) My two boys HATE being covered and I do not blame them. I just try to dress in a discreet way so that I am able to nurse without having to pull the whole neckline of my shirt down. But, I have nursed in church, and no one said boo!

    Also, I think men have to bear at least a little responsibility with the whole temptation thing…. I won’t dress like a whore and you keep your own thoughts pure.

    • Sarah, sometimes I wonder if some women forget all we deal with as mothers even from their own journey. Good for you in doing what you need for your children even when your mom doesn’t completely understand. It’s not easy to not have the full support you need.

      I would challenge that men are responsible for their thoughts regardless. A prostitute may dress a certain way to entice but what the man does with his own thoughts and actions are his responsibility. God did not make men helpless to their sexual desires. We all need to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions, regardless of what others do that may make it challenging.

      Thank you for your comment! I appreciate hearing your thoughts. ~Jessica

  12. Such a wonderfully written article. Thank you! We have a “mothers lounge” at church where the sermon is piped in from the chapel. I’ve always nursed in their during church. I’m still working on the courage to feed uncovered around people I know, in laws, fellow church goers, etc. I never use a cover in public anymore. To me, covering seems to broadcast to the whole room exactly what is going on and draw more attention to my baby and me. It’s easier for us without and so we don’t. :)

    I’ve always wondered about the whole idea that when men see a woman breast feeding they just can’t control themselves. Is this really even an issue for men or is it something that women cast onto them? Since I’m a woman I don’t completely understand, but my husband isn’t sexually aroused by a baby at the breast, and this was the case even before our first baby. It would be interesting to find out if this is actually an issue for men. Which, of course, doesn’t remove their responsibility over their own thoughts.

  13. Thank you so much for writing this! I am a firm believer that breastfeeding its an act of worship and this so eloquently explains why.

  14. Jessica, this is amazing!! I am constantly feeling the need to defend myself against my Christian brothers and sisters for what I believe is my God-given purpose: to raise and care for my child in the best way I know how. I have struggled with the argument for modesty, not just when it comes to breastfeeding, but as a woman in general, and I have long refused to be shamed into covering myself for the sake of men, who are said to be weak. I know better, because my husband is strong and proudly supports public breastfeeding. I have learned through him that men can respect women’s bodies, and that the idea that they will be driven to lustful sin by the sight of a woman’s breast is unjustified. Thank you for not being afraid to align your faith with your convictions as a mother!

  15. This is a great post Jessica. There is just so much ignorance, poor education, and misogyny lies in the thinking of men and women both in and out of the church. The way of the world has infiltrated the way of the church and this is highly warned against in most of Jesus’ writings.
    So much of Scripture looks at the heart, and not the outward appearance of things. And so it is with this flesh, this tiny amount of flesh that is so angrily competed over – our hearts are to feed our children, not to flaunt what we have in an attempt to draw attention. I know I often need reminding on a Sunday morning, who are you wearing that for? Do you want people to think you are respectable, and coping, or an attractive woman? Or are you dressing so that glory might be brought to God – not in the value of your wardrobe, but in treasures invested in heaven. Nothing, at all, to do with the feeding of our children.

  16. This is another stupendous article of great import. My own brief reaction:

    1. “Modesty” is a perverse euphemism in this subject for manipulating, controlling, and suppressing women.
    2. Unfortunately, you can make the Bible say anything you wish, and most people use it irresponsibly. See point 1.
    3. The only matter involved is falsifying a context to make others responsible for one’s own errors or problems.
    4. If women were equal to men, would we even be having this discussion?

  17. *stands and claps*

    This was an amazing article. Thank you so much!

    As one of Jehovah’s Witnesess, modesty in dress and grooming is highly valued. However, since I was a child, I’ve heard many talks that mention nursing a baby in a way that praises mothers and equates it with beauty and a gift. In fact, just this weekend at our 3 day assembly, there was an entire talk devoted to being spiritually mature, and there was a long discussion, without shame, of babies nursing from their mothers’ breasts. I nursed my 6 month old several times at my seat uncovered, in a sea of over 7,000 people, and not once did I get a disapproving look. I also love that there are designated rooms with signs that say “Nursing Mothers”, not just “Mothers” or “Babies”. It is a subconscious encouragement to nurse our babies, and to other people that hey, mothers use their breasts to feed babies!

  18. Linda Mae says:

    My children are 24-40 years old. I nursed my first for a short time partly because I was 16, I knew nobody who breastfeed and my MIL thought it was disgusting. My 2nd – 5th I nursed when My baby was hungry with no cover wherever i wanted to feed my baby, Until the baby weaned at 2-4 yr. old. The difference was me and my attitude about my body and feeding my child. La Leche helped me get to this conclusion. Nobody ever said anything to me and I never covered. If my MIL didn’t like it I told her she could go in the bedroom until I told her I was done. We, as women, need to love our bodies and realize how wonderful God made us.

  19. Oh. My. Word.
    I am nearly in tears reading this. This issue is massively close to my heart. Three years ago when in the states visiting my parent’s, I visited their church on a Sunday morning, and this is what happened.http://www.timelineofgrace.co.uk/it-finally-happened-to-me

    I’m a Christian, a Women’s ministry leader, and a worship leader and I’m do passionate about this issue.
    Thank you for saying what I have also tried and attempted to articulate….

  20. Liana W. says:

    Just a “Thank You” for writing this! I have struggled with listening to men in my former church talk about feeling awkward when women don’t cover up while nursing. I always believed that it wasn’t MY duty to make them feel more comfortable, but could never find the words for an appropriate and respectful rebuttal.

  21. Thank you so much for writing this. Last week at my church nursing mothers were asked to leave the chapel to nurse their babies and breastfeeding was compared to pornography. This is so perfect that it brought tears to my eyes. I needed this.

  22. You DO know that Mary, the mother of Jesus, didn’t ACTUALLY squirt a saint with her breastmilk, don’t you? Much of this article is very, very good. But using art to prove your point and acting as if it’s Scripture is illogical and ruins much of what you have to say about the Bible. The parts about how often the Bible talks about breastfeeding and nursing are very good. Acting as if Mary walked around breastfeeding in public with bared breast and squirting people with breastmilk because you saw it in a painting is silly at best.

    • Thank you for your comment Susan. With a name like “The Leaky Boob” you should probably expect some element of silly and tongue in cheek. ;) I don’t believe, however, that I acted as if Scripture is illogical, though I did attempt to point out many within the church are. Mary did “walk around breastfeeding in public” because historically and anthropologically, we know that was common at the time. And art does have historical significance, it is a part of telling history and most scholars recognize it as an important tool in understanding different time periods. ~Jessica

    • Patti Sawyer says:

      Susan,

      If you think the artwork about St Bernard was meant to be proof, then you didn’t read the entire article. It was most certainly a tongue in cheek reference and not equated with Scripture at all. And yes, Mary and many others breastfed in public.

      Patti (going on my 8th cummulative year of leaking of the mammary glands)

  23. Becky Worthman says:

    thank you for sharing this perspective! I share it and am happy to see it out there. :)

  24. Terry J. Stroud says:

    FINALLY! Someone is willing to stand up and put breastfeeding in its proper place–something that’s beautiful, wonderful, and less about the breast and more about the FEEDING.

    It drives me absolutely insane, as a husband and father of two, how uncomfortable people get with it. To be blunt, a lot of these men (and women) who get so strange about it have all seen a nipple before. And it’s only sexualized because they choose it to be so. Were women bare-chested all day long, men would not see that as sexual attraction. It would be no different than a man being bare-chested.

    So thank you, for standing up and beautifying it as God has intended. Breastfeeding is a marvellous thing that God has given to women to feed their children. And really people, it’s a breast, not the end of the world.

  25. As a new father I’ve been trying to convince my wife of this idea since before she had our daughter. It’s awful that mothers tend to be so caught up in how society feels that they themselves somehow feel ashamed to feed their child in public. Until, of course, they’ve had to deal with the constant feedings and diaper changes and general parenting and they (hopefully) get over that unfounded shame in a hurry. People need to remember that just because they happen to be offended by something doesn’t mean that A) they’re right or B) whatever they find offensive will be changed.

  26. Jessie Rae says:

    YAY YAY freaking YAY!!! I love this! Leaky Boob you rock and rock and rock some more!

  27. Thank you for this :)

  28. I was one of the few breast feeding mothers from 1966 to 1969 and always was reminded of covering the child with a blanket even during deep summer. I too felt that feeding my baby should never be considered a sexual occasion that less enlightened humans (men and/or women) might consider tempting for anything but my child’s nourishment. I felt, “How base can humans get?” You have answered my thoughts quite succinctly employing the Bible’s definition of immodest or temptations in the correct connotations which don’t infer nursing or feeding one’s child at all. Well done!!

  29. Thank you so much for this, Jessica. I really appreciate it! Love all the thought and research you put into this.

  30. I love this post! I have heard all the usual criticisms for breast feeding in public. In a restaurant where I was obviously going to eat, an older lady was so offended and asked her friend “couldn’t she have waited to do that until she got home?” Um, excuse me, couldn’t she wait til she got home to eat. And to top it off, I was covered with not just 1 but 2 blankets to go over both shoulders to completely cover myself. I’ve actually had people come thank me for breast feeding in public as well. I started off covering with my 1st baby. I obviously had never been through it before and didn’t want people watching me. As my oldest grew, he hated having himself covered and I got more comfortable so I quit covering. My youngest has hated being covered since birth and the only time I attempt this in front of my grandparents on my stepdad’s side since we aren’t as close. I have literally in walmart walked around with my baggy thirst over my sons head as he sat in the front eating as I walked and he was only covered like that since I didn’t want to stop and sit to feed him. I don’t care what people think. I’m offended that people think I should have to feed my baby in a bathroom stall or in a hot or freezing car.

    And talking about modesty. I’m immodest for using my breasts in a way God designed for them to be used our society is ok and accepting of women wearing see through shirts or shirts that cut so low as to barely hide their nipples. They can wear shorts that have their butts literally hanging out the bottom as well. I don’t understand the reasoning I guess. My breast and nipples are being covered by my baby’s head and hands and usually my shirt covers most of my breast anyway but I’m the immodest 1? My hat is off to every breast feeding mommy out there especially to those who are not too embarrassed to do so in public. To those mommies who are too embarrassed, don’t be! If you’re afraid of offending someone, don’t be! You tell them to mind their business and go about your feeding!

  31. I think your readers would also enjoy this entire (very well written, wonderfully researched) series, and in fact the rest of the blog too. Great stuff!

    http://one-of-those-women.blogspot.co.uk/2008/06/dangers-of-d-word-part-1.html

  32. Thank you for this. I’m nursing my 3rd baby and finally getting brave enough to do it in public. I even fed him in church last week! Great article.

  33. *applause*

  34. Thank you so much. It’s good to hear that other people are thinking the same way.
    A friend who is about to give birth was just telling me that she asked mothers who had been at our church longer about breastfeeding in the service with a cover on, and was told that it’s never been done before, and that’s why there is a lounge. It really makes me angry when I hear that answer, because it cuts vulnerable mothers of small children off from the life of their community to be hidden away in a lonely glorified bathroom with couches!
    Let’s change this weird way of thinking about bodies in the Church!

  35. Rebecca Tuma says:

    Great article! Thanks so much for posting and sharing this information! :)

  36. Very well said, I think there needs to be more positive media on tv/radio about breastfeeding in public and perhaps more feeding groups to help people understand. There’s nothing sexual about breastfeeding your baby.

  37. I am seriously applauding and having a Hallelujah moment in my living room. I am so thankful to have a supportive family and church community (made up of many previously-breasfeeding moms) who have supported my decision not to use blankets or covers (thought I do dress in layers, but because of my own comfort level). My church is quite large and so it is easy to kinda blend in while feeding a small baby in the sanctuary, but I am also thankful for the nursing mother’s room that allows me to feed when I don’t dress in breastfeeding-friendly attire or my son decides to be a dragon and squawk while snacking. Thank said…

    Isn’t breastfeeding like the LEAST of our concern as far as modesty goes? I was indoctrinated too, to the point that if a man lusted after me while I was wearing a potato sack, it was my fault. But, do we really as a faith put so LITTLE responsibility and trust in our men that we allow others to tell us it’s OUR fault they can’t rejoice in the beautiful way God created our breasts to be dual-purpose?!

    It has been really wonderful for me to see my husband change from an “Oh my God she just whipped out her boob – that’s gross – I’m looking away now and going to complain about it later” kind of person to a “Good job Mama! Feed that baby!” kind of person. He totally would have been arguing for sending moms off to the bathroom before his son was born, and now he’s just waiting for the opportunity for someone to ask me to leave so he can verbally rip them apart ;)

    It is so nice to hear this “liberated” God-centric way of thinking from other Christians instead of the fear-centered and insecure rhetoric that is so very, very tired. Can’t we Christians just loosen up and follow Jesus already?!

  38. Anna Stallcup says:

    Wow. I long for your courage. My husband and I are in ministry, and have been since before we were married. As strongly as I feel women should be able to nurse (covered or uncovered, whichever is their preference,) in public, since our baby, (now 15 months) has been born, this has been a tender subject for me. I will fight and have as many difficult conversations as I need to with other women, with men, even with high school students if I need to. But when it comes to the actual act of nursing in the populated sanctuary, covered or not, I can never do it. My baby is the kind who hated the cover from about 4 months, (and so would I. It is positively stifling in the Central Texas humid heat.) And he was easily distracted, so would inevitably pop off as soon as he heard something interesting. (Like… um… I don’t know. A pin drop.) So I was completely confident that I would end up being exposed. I know many women feel that the isolation of a nursing room is just as bad as a bathroom, but I would even be grateful for that. As it is, I feel the pressure to be hidden, with no place provided to hide, save the bathroom. And I HATE that. Often we hidey hole away in my husband’s office and hope no one walks in. As much as I want every woman in our congregation to be able to nurse unashamedly, I do not feel that this is a battle that I am able to fight. To do so would literally be to put my husband’s job at risk, and also to bring up even more of the drama that ministers are weary of dealing with, due to “living in the glass bowl.” So cheers to you, Jessica. I love that you wrote this, and will certainly share it.

  39. Thanks for this great article! I shared it with blogger A Mother in Israel, who shared it too. She blogged about NIP & Orthodox Judaism here: http://www.amotherinisrael.com/public-breastfeeding-immodest-orthodox-jewish/

  40. I breastfed my daughter 28 months….and never in a toilet. Thank you for the wonderful post.

  41. I find it funny and sad that artwork drawn by another human, mutual in his place of sin with any other human, as well as any dictionary definition – a source not in use nor intended to be used for biblical purposes – to be used in argument in defense of one’s viewpoint on the Bible or God’s intention for our lives.

    I take more of the standpoint that if it’s controversial, use modesty in your response to it. Jesus doesn’t take up causes – political, social, or otherwise. The only cause He fights are for those to follow him wholeheartedly. We should stop allowing ourselves to be distracted by such spiritually immature topics which will fall away upon Jesus’ return, and instead run after the only One who should truly engage our interests. His opinions are the only ones that should ever matter.

    • It’s funny you should mention Jesus….His response to “controversy” was to make a whip and drive people out of the temple. Or break all the rules by healing on the Sabbath. And defy cultural norms by hanging out with low-class people and touching lepers and respecting women and telling off the religious leaders of His time. So I think that if anyone would cheer on the cause of breaking burdensome cultural norms, it would be Jesus. At least, the Jesus I read about in MY Bible.

  42. Alayney says:

    I loved your post but I must admit that I disagree with how you perceive modesty. It is not just about men and how they might react to us as women. I think this blog post has some very important biblical truths about what modesty should mean to a woman: http://paigetolle.blogspot.com/2013/07/modesty.html

  43. Heather says:

    LOVE THIS!

  44. Thanks for this. I use a cover, but I usually don’t leave the room unless my son is fussy due to overstimulation (sometimes it’s just too noisy, etc, for him to settle enough to eat). I’ve nursed at restaurants, in church, at the mall, without hesitation. I do use a cover because I haven’t figured out how to nurse in a way that doesn’t make me feel on display. When Motherhood Maternity says you’re so big that THEY don’t even carry a nursing bra large enough…yeah…it gets interesting.

  45. This needs to be written in pamphlet form so that all of us nursing mamas can just hand a pamphlet to the next person who expresses discomfort at our public breastfeeding. Seriously, can you add a “printer-friendly version” button?

  46. Paintings done by men are not God’s infallible Word and commands handed down by Him. They are paintings done by men. In fact, those paintings done by men are a sin against God… remember the second commandment? There shall be no likeness of God. Yes, even as a baby. No matter what time period we live in, people are capable of sinning. There is also a lot of feminist propaganda in your article. It is our responsibility to not make others stumble along the way. If exposing our breast may be a stumbling block into sin for a fellow brother or sister, and we are aware of this and do it anyway, God WILL hold us accountable. Whether or not you want to believe that is between you and God, but you cannot change His commands to make you feel better about your choices.

    • Norabella says:

      The author doesn’t say the paintings are representative of the word of God, she uses them to illustrate (literally) the point that current attitudes of modesty were not always so.

      She also addresses the scriptural issue by using actual scripture to back up her point, whereas you do not provide any scriptural backing for your statement that ” If exposing our breast may be a stumbling block into sin for a fellow brother or sister, and we are aware of this and do it anyway, God WILL hold us accountable.” I am unaware of any verse in the bible wherein He makes a command to this effect.

      I am however aware of many places in which we are commanded not to judge…

      • Melissa says:

        “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things[e] is acceptable to God and approved by men.
        Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” ~ Romans 14:14-23

        You can research the rest yourself. And current attitudes mean absolutely nothing. I don’t care about what man thinks, I care about what God thinks.

  47. The whole modesty thing in regards to breastfeeding never made sense to me. Know how many porn mags feature breastfeeding women? That’s a trick question. heck if I would know. But my guess is zero. From my experience, men who like to lust after women get rather turned off by breastfeeding. Which is why I once purposely breastfeed my infant when a creepy dude kept starting at me. It was my way of defending my dignity as a woman and DISCOURAGING his lust. Sure enough, rather than tale the opportunity to gawk at my breast, he looked away and never looked at me again. So my advice is to whip ‘em out! (whatever the sound effect is that they make.) :)

  48. Eve was naked.
    And modest.

    Thanks for this article!

    • Eve also covered her nakedness in shame after eating the forbidden fruit.

    • Melissa says:

      Yes, Eve was naked. But after the fall, she and Adam were ashamed of their sin and nakedness and covered themselves. God then cursed them for what they had done. Read all of Genesis 3. Since we all are sinners starting with Adam and Eve, we must follow all of God’s commands and that includes bearing the responsibility of not encouraging our brothers and sisters to stumble. God will hold us responsible and judge us.

  49. I genuinely cannot thank you enough for validating my inner thoughts as a Christian woman. Honestly I cannot say I haven’t yelled these thoughts to the world! I am a follower of your precious blog and find your posts so refreshing. I feel like an outcast among my fellow believers because I refuse to cover. Then, by refusing, am I somehow not submitting to the authority of the church if they ask me to cover and I refuse? Hmmm….I honestly believe I could not attend somewhere if they asked me to do this.

  50. I am a Catholic mother of 6 and was raised as the oldest in a family of 8. My dad’s brother is a Catholic priest and was/is beyond supportive of breast feeding and babies were/are always nursed whenever and wherever needed. My oldest son (18 at the time) is godfather to my youngest brother’s first daughter and after the baptism my sister in law was nursing baby Grace…now my SIL is a very well endowed woman and is only about 6 years older than my son…my son goes over to them both and leans down to rain kisses on baby Grace’s head saying, “there is my little Goddaughter all washed clean from original sin, you are so cute, etc”… All the while my SIL was pretty much naked from the shoulders to waist due to a poor choice in baptismal dress for herself ;-) I went up to my son not 3 minutes later and said, “that was so cute when you were kissing Grace but maybe you should have waited until her mom finished nursing her” and he said with complete innocence, “Oh she was nursing, I didn’t notice!” Ever read about the “original gaze” in JPII’s Theology of the body?? That was it. It can be regained by raising our children in a breast feeding culture/families….

  51. Wonderful article. What really touched me was your thoughts on modesty and how from a young age women in our society are made to feel responsible for the actions of men. We teach our young girls that their bodies are objects of lust and they must be very careful to not call attention to this. I hear this more and more in schools as they introduce dress codes, such as no yoga pants, so girls do not distract boys from their studies (but what about girls who may be distracted by boys? Or LGTB students? They are completely left out of this conversation! Quite frankly all teenagers are distracted by thoughts of sex – hormones! Wearing yoga pants are not will not change this). But it is men and boys (and women) who should be responsible for their actions and choices and I am quite frankly surprised that more men are not offended by the idea that they are all sex crazed maniacs and rapists that will pounce on any women they see with an inch of flesh showing. I would be offended by that. Putting all the responsibility on a woman is what fuels rape culture and victim blaming. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions, and we need to teach our children (both boys and girls!) about consent and respect. And that breastfeeding is about biology and feeding…not about sex.

    Thank you also for the looking at this from a faith perspective. When my daughter was born last year I was so happy that the priest at my church made sure myself and other mother’s knew that we should nurse where and how we felt comfortable (some cover, some go sit in the nursery, some like myself just nurse wherever we are sitting – to each their own!). He did not need to give me permission of course, but I was happy that he was working hard to create and open and loving community – just as God and Jesus intended. My friend and I would happily sit in the pews nursing and this recently encouraged the wife of our new assistant priest to do the same. She said she would not have felt comfortable if she hadn’t seen us doing so. Again – just as God made us to do. I am been so grateful for this online community since I began my nursing journey 17 months ago (what I am nursing a toddler? How did this happen?). Keep it up!

  52. I love your post and agree that the idea of modesty is very messed up in the church sometimes, but at the same time, modesty is not just to keep the man from sinning.
    I think this blog post explains it rather well: http://paigetolle.blogspot.com/2013/07/modesty.html

    Personally I prefer to use a cover, and don’t pull my shirt down to nurse; I wear a tank top and pull the top up. But during the summer I’ve found the heat can make using a cover unsafe.

    I also know that women back in the day nursed and all that, but they were also discreet about it, unless they were in the company of only women.
    The paintings you have are from an era in which the people were praising the human body and therefore decided to paint images like those, with breasts and penises in detail…
    That hardly means that Mary nursed in public or that she exposed herself that much.

  53. Well said! It is truly freeing to be in an environment where breastfeeding is normal. Why did we have to get to this place in our culture where it’s such a big deal? I lived in South America for most of my kid’s breastfeeding years and it was a relief to me to be in a culture where it’s acceptable. Thank God I didn’t have to hide out in the bathrooms there, yuck! I’m glad you have gone into detail here about all the different aspects of how “modesty in breastfeeding” is affecting us women as we JUST WANT TO FEED OUR BABIES! :)

  54. So much of the modesty teaching was about control, I know that now, but when growing up and for a long time after, it contributed to me hating not just my body, but myself. The wickedness that I couldn’t seem to overcome no matter how I hid it under baggy clothing was suffocating.

    I didn’t really start working through it until I had my own girls. My initial reaction once I was away from home was to just decide I was immodest because I couldn’t be rid of the evil even if I hid it. The burden was too much. So I embraced it. Then, later when I realized I didn’t want my daughters to see their bodies and thus themselves as evil, I began the process of redemption that led to understanding God has a totally different view of my body and thus, me.

    That’s part of this to me, embracing the view God has of our bodies and living the fully abundant life God has for us through Jesus which is not in bondage to sin. Not even the possible sin of others. ~Jessica

    • But we ARE evil. We are terribly evil and sinful – every single one of us. Until we embrace that fact and continuously turn to God in repentance asking for His forgiveness and grace, we are not in His favor. We are called to raise our children and teach them the Bible – not our personal, sinful opinions. God’s creation – our bodies are beautifully and wonderfully made! But they are bodies wrapped up in sin. There’s a big difference there. Men are lustful. Women are prideful. When prideful women are tempting lustful men to look at their breasts in public, there will be consequences to be had by God’s judgement. Wear a cover. Why is that so hard?

      • Women are lustful, men are prideful. We’re human, regardless of our gender. It isn’t pride that I don’t cover to feed my baby, it is a deep belief that I God has freed me from sin, shame, and bondage. Men are capable, as are women, of honoring others and themselves by controlling their thoughts. I’m comfortable uncovered, I’m also comfortable wearing shorts, sandals, and tank tops but some would tell me that I should cover my legs, my toes, and my shoulders. My point is that there is nowhere is Scripture implying shame to breastfeeding or the female breasts, in fact, it is celebrated and clearly done in public without shame therefor the fact that someone else may possibly lust (which is strange in and of itself, lusting when a child is clearly engaged and eating…) is not something I need to be in bondage to while feeding my child. If I covered to protect men, I would be dehumanizing both myself and them. God has not made us to live in such bondage. It is hard for me to cover because doing so wouldn’t be for my comfort but rather the legalism of others. Praise God I don’t have to serve my Lord according to the dictations and comforts of others! ~Jessica

        • Can you please back your comments with scriptural reference? This entire article is lacking in it and is based upon human emotion and preferences.

          • Of course, and you will do likewise of course?

            Actually, because I don’t think I need to redo something that has already been done well, I encourage you to check out this link: http://mamapsalmist.com/2011/10/30/lets-flesh-this-out-breastfeeding-and-the-bible/?year=2011&monthnum=10&day=30&like=1&_wpnonce=3432055b83&wpl_rand=94732d07d5

            The writer explores the number of times breasts are mentioned in Scripture including anatomical, breasts for feeding children, and breasts for “comforting” man.

            Other than that, what exactly would you like to see backed? That men are capable of controlling themselves? That breastfeeding is not immodest?

            Human emotion is actually a valid point of view. It may make this article easy to dismiss to you, that’s fine, but God gave us emotions for a reason. And there is Scripture referenced in this article (Ezekiel, 1 Timothy…) as well as church history. ~Jessica

          • I think it’s worth pointing out that there’s also logic and the belief of an overarching hermeneutic of ongoing redemption in this piece. I do not believe men are helpless and incapable of controlling themselves, my view of men is much, much higher than that. Scripture is regularly calling men and women to higher standards of self-control and holiness regardless of what is going on around them and calling all of us to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable which, in this case, would be the young child, not the adult man. ~Jessica

          • Melissa says:

            Thank you for your response. I have to care for my home and children, and am visiting family tonight so I don’t have time to find the verses today, but I will respond when my week opens up. In the meantime, I would just like to leave you with this thought. I agree with you on the fact that I absolutely love breastfeeding. It is the healthiest thing I can do for myself and my child. I praise God for allowing me to have this special time with my son, as by His providence that did not happen with my first son. There is a special bond I cannot explain, and I encourage all women to breastfeed if they are able to. However, I also must keep in mind that men (and some women), are attracted to breasts. Yes, even if there is a baby feeding. Whether it be a brother or sister in Christ, or a non-Christian, we are all sinners and all fall short of His glory. When we become Christians, we do not stop sinning – we are not perfect. Only God is. We are called to abide by His commands and not be a stumbling block for any other person. Since it is a fact that I would be bearing my breast in public, for anyone to see… including anyone who might struggle with lust, it IS my responsibility to cover up modestly and not encourage their sin. I don’t want to see others end up in hell. I am LOVING them because of this. I would hate my brother or sister if I were to pridefully concede that they could control their thoughts and sin, and encourage them on their way. Encouraging them to look, possibly have lustful thoughts and therefore to sin is hating them – NOT loving them. Without God – men are helpless and incapable of controlling themselves. To tell them otherwise, is to hate them and I do not want to bear that burden.

            “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things[e] is acceptable to God and approved by men.
            Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” ~ Romans 14:14-23

      • Bethany says:

        “When prideful women are tempting lustful men to look at their breasts in public, there will be consequences to be had by God’s judgement. Wear a cover. Why is that so hard?”

        Yes, because that’s the only reason women ever nurse without a cover. Because they want to “tempt lustful men to look at their breasts.”

        I nursed my son for 16 months, and I often wore a cover, but there were times that I didn’t. Several times I nursed without a cover because it was too hot, and my son wouldn’t eat because he was uncomfortable with a cover over his head. (And before you ask, there was literally nowhere else I could’ve nursed him in “private” other than hovering over a toilet.) Once I was on an airplane, my son needed to eat (and was crying loudly), and the strap on my cover broke and it wouldn’t stay up. So I nursed my child uncovered about two inches away from a 20-something male. He just kept his eyes averted. Life went on. All along, I thought that the only reason I nursed without a cover was because I love my son, I take my responsibility to care for him very seriously, and he needed to eat. But thanks to your comment, I now know that it was because I’m prideful. Thanks for the insight.

        • Melissa says:

          It’s not about you, or the author, or about any other woman who is nursing. It is about OTHER PEOPLE and loving them enough to not purposely tempt them to sin. Period. If there is an unavoidable situation, that is understandable. But most nursing situations can be done with a cover. If that angers you… then you are directing that anger right at God, because His word specifically tells you not to tempt other people or you will be accountable to HIM.
          And yes – you are prideful and lustful. There is not one sin that you are not guilty of, as sin starts in the heart. To deny that is to deny God.

          • Breastfeeding mothers are far from being selfish and making it about them-they are doing their job, nurturing their babies-it’s NOT about them-it’s about their child, who, at that time in their life, needs should be put first. I guess all breastfeeding moms whose babies refuse to nurse under a cover should jsut lock themselves at home and never go out for the good of public-because THAT is real healthy for her baby and society.

          • If you’re so concerned about your husband looking at me while I’m feeding my baby, maybe you should take that up with him.

          • April, I agree with Melissa. While some situations (like she has said), are unavoidable and have to be done without a cover (like extreme heat), the MAJORITY are not. You are not leading a baby to sin by making them nurse under a cover, but you could be leading a man or woman to sin by exposing your breast to them. If the baby refuses to nurse under a cover, God calls you to TRAIN your children, not coddle them. That’s what I had to do with mine, and he is a happy, healthy breastfed baby.

            Darcy, That is immature for you to respond to her that way. That’s like the mean girl in high school saying, “So you’re boyfriend cheated on you with me. Take that up with him.” You’re saying you are not responsible for your own actions, and placing the burden on others. That is not Christianity – that is your own, man-made religion.

            Melissa quoted an excellent Bible verse. You are all ignoring that. God’s Word is infallible, but the self serving opinions and religions of men are fallible. It’s up to you which you choose, but your arguments can not be biblically supported.

  55. Perfect! What an eloquent and excellent post. Thank you!

  56. I love nursing my child and have frequently done so without a cover…BUT. I find it rude that you would say it’s time to kick the idea of modesty out of breastfeeding. First of all, its offensive to many women who strive to live their lives in accordance with their deeply held beliefs, including modesty. Secondly, it’s predicated on a very narrow definition of what modesty is.

    For many of us who are deeply and proudly religious, modesty isn’t about what to show and what not to show. Modesty is an interior disposition. Some of us arrive at the conclusion that we should cover, and are okay with that; others do not wish to, and are okay with that. Modesty is about our responsibility to ourselves, others, and God. We cannot uninvite modesty to any part of our lives, because it is who we are.

    As a Catholic, I am always proud when I see a mother nursing her child -without or with a cover. I assume whatever decision she has made, she has made with thoughtfulness. I try to treat her with respect and make her feel comfortable. I do not assume, if she is covered, that she is ashamed, just as I do not assume, if she is not using a cover, that she is immodest or just seeking attention.

    The painting you included, of the Lactation of St. Bernard, is very beautiful. It depicts the legend that St. Bernard of Clairveaux was doubting the dual nature of Christ; he was doubting that Christ was truly a man. The Virgin appears to St. Bernard, nursing the Christ child, and as Jesus pops off, she squirts St. Bernard! (apparently, the milk travels a long way!) The milk hits him and convinces him that Christ truly was man and Mary truly was his mother (theotokos, mother of God).

  57. I LOVE this!
    When I was nursing my third baby, I happened to be feeding him in church. It was cold, so we had two adult size blankets wrapped around us. Even with this extra layer (you could not even SEE the baby we were so covered), a man pulled my husband aside. He told my husband that he needed to tell me that feeding my baby in church was immodest and irreverent and rude. My husband says he laughed, and told him that he could “be my guest” and tell me himself. Ha! Quite frankly, i hope that this man finds this article and learns a thing or two.

  58. Melissa says:

    I don’t think this is an honest debate. Twice already when I have refreshed the page a comment that has been waiting moderation, was deleted. They both had to do with the fact that the author has sinned. If you felt this wasn’t true, you would debate me, but you haven’t on those topics, so I will not be commenting any longer. I implore you to read your Bible. Anything I have to say is backed by God’s word. Out of love, I have to say, you are teaching and steering women the wrong way. How many souls will you be accountable for with this blog? God is not well-pleased.

    “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” ~ Mark 9:42

    • I am sorry you feel that way. In your opinion I am teaching and steering women in the wrong way. In my opinion, you are. But I know that God’s grace and love is enough for both of us. My joy is found in the Lord, not in acceptance from others, not even those that profess to follow Jesus as well. Throwing around the phrase “out of love” doesn’t communicate love, it simply excuses the speaker from not showing love and grace. Disagreement and conflict is how we challenge and grow, if we can let ourselves. Followers of Jesus have disagreed on a great many topics over time, divisions and splits have happened in the church over far greater matters of importance than how a woman feeds her child.

      But now you’ve attacked my character as being dishonest and unfair. No grace? Not possible that, given this is a technological platform, perhaps something went wrong? Or I was busy being a wife, mother, and ministry worker and didn’t have the chance to moderate and reply? I do not see any comments waiting to be moderated, if something is missing that you posted, I am very sorry, it was not intentional. Your comments are important to me and comments that are not demeaning are approved.

      While I have more thoughts on the topic and do want to respond, my life is full and busy and I’ve not had the chance. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, I pray that you have found yourself blessed and your relationship with Jesus deepened through the experience. ~Jessica

    • Melissa, it seems you are carrying a burden that was not yours to bear, and freaking out because the women you are trying to force this burden onto are not accepting it and you cannot control them. Are the men in your life so lacking in integrity that you feel such a frantic urge to control all the women they might come in contact with? Sister, it’s not your job to make sure no man ever lusts after a woman. It’s not your job to pay for the sins of the men in your life. It’s not your job to make sure all women dress in a way that would never tempt your husband. I’m so sorry you feel like it is. That is a never-ending, burdensome way to live and I truly hope you can find freedom from that someday. When you can finally be free of this, you’ll stop treating us all as threats and start seeing us as sisters on the same journey.

      • Darcy, I’m going to repost the Bible verse Melissa posted. There are many others that support this one, but I do not have the time to search for them. By God’s standard it is our responsibility to carry the burden. That should be reason enough for all of you.

        “I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things[e] is acceptable to God and approved by men.
        Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” ~ Romans 14:14-23

        • Given the context of the passage you share here, I hope you’re not calling breastfeeding unclean or related to cult worship practices. A more appropriately fitting passage to this topic and where the burden lies would be: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Mark 9:47 (also, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 18:9)

          “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

          And here’s a bunch of Scripture about breastfeeding, oddly enough, none of it mentions protecting our brothers from seeing it because it could cause them to sin: http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/articles/cyndi/bfbible.php In fact, this passage includes nursing infants in the gatherings:

          “Gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.” Joel 2.16

          From a purely Biblical perspective, breastfeeding is celebrated and included and women are NEVER admonished to be sure they don’t cause a brother to stumble because it’s not even a thought. In Scripture, the responsibility for lustful thoughts are squarely placed on the one having those thoughts. It is unbiblical to shame the breastfeeding mother and the passage you quote is very clearly about worship practices and I fail to see how it would apply here.

          ~Jessica

          • The breast and being able to do it in public becomes an idol when their rationale is to prove a point. The breast is also an idol to other men. In and of itself it is not unlcean (as the verse says), but when it becomes an idol it becomes unclean. So if the simple and manageable conclusion to cover up while feeding your baby is ignored, yes – it becomes an unclean idol. The practice of doing it becomes unclean because it stems from issues of the heart and pride, and not glorifying God.

            “Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” ~ 1 Cor. 8

          • Some cultures would argue the same for a woman’s arms, legs, face but that doesn’t make it Biblical. All Scripture that talks about lusting and turning something into an idol that isn’t puts the responsibility on the one doing the objectifying. The only reason the passages you have referred to don’t is because they are talking not about meat in general but meat that was specifically used in worship of idols, something that was actually a part of the pagan cult practices of the day. Eating it was a continuation of that worship in that religion. Paul’s admonishment isn’t because someone developed an issue, the issue was already there as part of their worship. And, again, this isn’t about worship, we’re talking feeding a baby, a function God designed the breast to do and regularly celebrates in Scripture. I don’t understand what you mean about the rational being to prove a point. The rational in this article is that we are free in Christ, that the Biblical definition of modesty is not what we have come to believe, that the child is the weaker brother, and that the burden of responsibility is on the viewer.

            All of these Christian men are really not able to understand this? Really not able to control themselves when a baby is at the breast? I don’t think so, I don’t believe that for a moment. I work for a Christian organization and have breastfed my child openly in meetings, worship and otherwise, and the men involved have been able to consistently treat me, my daughter, and themselves with respect. Never covered. Concerned that maybe some have had issues with it, I’ve asked them and none have. If they were momentarily distracted it was because they just aren’t used to seeing it because so many women have hidden it from them, their own words, not mine. They were able accept that, check themselves and be responsible for their own thoughts, and carried on as though I was doing nothing more than feeding my baby. Men are not pathetic creatures without any control, they are able to rationalize and accept their own responsibility. They are more than capable to distinguish between a child feeding and sexual enticement. They are able to resist what culture may tell them about breasts being an idol and remember that women are people. And we can hold them accountable to that according to God’s Word. ~Jessica

          • Jessica, do you go to a magical church where people don’t sin? ;-)

          • Wouldn’t that be nice? Unfortunately, as soon as I showed up that status would change. But I do trust that the men I have spoken with about this are not liars, they are men of integrity whom I respect greatly. They have been honest and admitted that seeing a woman breastfeed made them uncomfortable not because they had impure thoughts but because they hadn’t been exposed to breastfeeding and were afraid they would have such thoughts or that the woman would be uncomfortable. All of them acknowledged it was a cultural issue that had no Biblical precedence. ~Jessica

          • Oh, but I do go to a church that believes Romans 6 is true!

            “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

            For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

            We are set free from sin! We have new life in Christ! We are no longer enslaved to sin and we have the resurrecting power of Jesus to help us deal with our struggles with sin. Praise God! ~Jessica

          • Well, you make good points above regarding not being at odds with fellow Christian brethren and focusing on what is pure, so I think I will leave my discussion at let’s agree to disagree. I hope that we have profited each other. Best Regards. :-)

    • Melissa, since when are we called to be the judge over one another. In fact, I know very well that the Bible instructs us to not judge. Leave that up to God.

      I thoroughly enjoyed this article. I think that many many issues Christians hold so tightly to are much more cultural than biblical. A lot of Christians in the US are extremely ethnocentric and are not willing to look at any other view point as a possibility. The idea that men are such helpless lustful creatures is for sure one of these views. If this is the case, there would be NO hope for any Christian man in our society. But in regards to nursing especially, are men really standing around just waiting for a mom to whip out her breast?! Christian nursing moms should feel comfortable wherever and however they choose to nurse. I have friends who hide away and those that openly nurse. The fact that this article addresses the less common Christian view point is important… I don’t think we have trouble finding anyone who would complain that we cover up, but finding a supporter for when we can’t cover up is difficult. Thank you!

      • Sarah, Ask yourself why it is the less common viewpoint. Your second paragraph cannot be supported with scripture. Most men are not waiting around for women to expose their breast, but some men also do not wait for pornographic ads to pop up in a commercial but still get enticed when it happens. What a sad state we are in as Christian women, when we regard the views of this author higher than the Word and commands of God.

        • “What a sad state we are in as Christian women, when we regard the views of this author higher than the Word and commands of God.”

          Ouch.

          First, I’m a follower of Jesus, a Christian woman and I don’t see anyone here putting my words about the Word of God. Actually, in my own post I put the Word of God higher than my own words, Scripture was the basis for the entire article in the first place.

          Second, more Scripture: “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Mark 9:47 (also, Matthew 5:29, Matthew 18:9)

          “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

          There is, by far, more Scripture that discusses the heart of one that would objectify another person and the burden, the responsibility, is on the one lusting to “pluck out your eye.” This is just a small sample. In Scripture, passages addressing causing others to sin is most often regarding falling back into cult worship practices (i.e. Romans 14, eating meat sacrificed to idols) and not about personal discipline and self-control and certainly not lust or sexual sin. The responsibility of how we treat other PEOPLE is placed on the person doing the action. In the case of breastfeeding the mother is responsible to her child for how she treats them, everyone around her is responsible for how they treat her. Inverting the responsibility is enabling others to continue to objectify and abuse others as though they are the “weaker vessel.”

          “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:22

          “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

          “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

          At the risk of sounding cliche, our brothers in Christ are big boys, they can handle a baby feeding. If they find themselves lusting after a woman who is feeding a child, there is a Scriptural basis for them to deal with that in themselves. Hopefully they won’t have to pluck out their eye but we would do well to encourage them to accept that the responsibility for controlling their mind is on them and stop burdening our sisters with a responsibility that God has not given them.

          I’m not talking about a man-made religion, I’m talking about Biblical Christ-following, loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

          ~Jessica

  59. Excellent article! If someone is upset with women breastfeeding in public it is because they are sexualizing our breasts. They are making it sexual, not us. Therefor it is their problem, not ours :)

  60. Fantastic article! I hate it that Christian, breastfeeding women seem to be the first ones to attack Christian Breastfeeding women. It’s a shame, but I’m so glad you have stood your ground and made absolutely valid point after valid point. You are encouraging mothers to care, nurture, and nourish their children and babies…is there a more honorable and respectful ministry than that? Thank you!

  61. Katie P says:

    I want to memorize this entire post word for word so that I can be as eloquent as you when this issue comes up (which it will). I’m not in as conservative an environment as I grew up in, but there are still sideways looks, huffing, and giggles. They’re just boobs, ya’ll. God made them for a functional, non-sexual purpose, and I’m gonna use them that way. Still though, I really hate feeling uncomfortable because other people are, which is another reason I want to memorize this. I just want to soak it in, bask in it, and learn how to really be unashamed.

  62. Chelsea says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this article! Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I completely agree with you. And it has always AMAZED me that men can take off their shirts at the park, the beach, even down town when it’s hot and are NEVER questioned with virtues of ‘modesty’ (I guess women are above lust) yet when women want to nourish their babes in the best possible, completely natural way it is brought into the discussion. It’s all Ridiculous. Just another way to shame women and objectify them. I am confident that if men breastfed – and not women – this would be a non issue. Thanks again for a great read!

  63. My children are now well beyond the nursing stage–my youngest is 13–but this still really bugs me. Our pastor visited me IN THE HOSPITAL right after giving birth to my youngest, and asked me to cover up if I was going to “put that nasty thing in the baby’s mouth.” I told him that I was pretty sure that Enfamil wasn’t around in biblical times, and if breasts were good enough for Jesus then they were good enough for my son. If the pastor had a problem, well, thanks for dropping by but he could go elsewhere. I nursed my youngest exclusively for 18 months (he had problems with solids) and for a total of 25 months. I had nursing shirts, dresses, a sling, and cover-ups. I could even walk through a grocery store while nursing and no one would know unless they came up and peeked into my baby sling. I don’t see how feeding a baby is immodest when 16 year old girls are walking around with shirts cut so low their aureoles are exposed and pants that show their butt crack, or leggings that leave NOTHING to the imagination. SHEEESH!!!

  64. What a lovely, interesting way to describe it all. Bookmarking this so I can share it as necessary!

  65. I have to be honest, I think women need to be modest in breat-feeding. What does that mean? Well, speaking from the perspective of someone who tries to take the Bible as a whole instead of prooftexting, I’d say it means:
    1) Don’t whip it out[1] and stick your nipple in my face. Oddly enough, no breast feeding mom has ever done that to me, to anyone I know, or to anyone I have even heard about. Their nipples usually go straight into their babies’ mouths. Strange how that works.
    2) Don’t pop ‘em out and then dance around while breastfeeding, gyrating them like some (deranged) exotic dancer.[2]
    3) Keep the rest of your clothes on; don’t strip down and do a bump and grind show while you breastfeed.[3]

    If you can pass these three basic tests, I’d say you are well within Biblical grounds for modesty, and frankly I don’t see why anyone would get offended. I realize they do, but it sounds to me like that’s their problem.

    [1] I have never in my life seen a woman whip a breast out. It seems they’d have to be pretty big to do that, that means it would likely be painful. That’s probably why it’s less prevalent than some people seem to think.
    [2] Again, that has never happened to me or anyone I know, etc.
    [3[ See previous notes.

  66. Emily Rainer says:

    As far as whether men are turned on by a woman breastfeeding, my husband is turned on when he sees a woman breastfeeding and I am that woman. He is turned on because it is HIS wife and child.other than that I don’t know why a man would be and if he is, why that is the mother and child’s problem, I have no idea. I love this post…your whole blog really but especially this post after reading the piece of garbage a blogger posted on weed ‘em and reap.
    http://Www.weedemandreap.com/2013/08/breastfeeding-in-public-why-this-mama-believes-in-covering-up.html
    She did exactly what you are talking about and the whole post was completely ridiculous. I think this goes along with other restrictions/responsibilities we have placed on women. For example, I have heard people tell teenage girls to not tempt teenage boys, to make sure they say “no” if pressured, etc. What happened to the way it used to be when men had most of the responsibility? I don’t know about others but I am teaching my 3 gorgeous boys to respect women enough to know that skimpy clothing is NOT an implied invitation and he should respect a girl enough not to put the decision of sex on her shoulders. He should be man enough to protect and care for her and that includes making the difficult decision that waiting is best for both of them. Anyway, it just ticks me off when we as women act like men have no self control and it isn’t their fault. Sure Eve offered Adam the apple, but it was still on his shoulders that he took it. God tells us there won’t be temptation without the ability to overcome it.

    • Emily, I’m so grateful there are parents like you out there teaching their boys that they aren’t helpless to their sexual urges but understand developing self control and respect. Thank you! We only have daughters but we are teaching them the same. ~Jessica

  67. THANK YOU!! So. Much. This article helped me address a friend’s thoughtless posts and remarks about women nursing in public with out covering.

  68. Modesty is a zero-sum game for women, because there is no such thing is absolute modesty. It is only meaningful in a relative sense. Take a woman who’s quite “modest” by 20th century Western standards, and plop her into the 1850s, or modern Saudi Arabia, and she’s suddenly “immodest”. No matter where we draw the line between modest and immodest, that line will be sexualized. This is why in the early 1900s, you get men writing as rapturously about the “well-turned ankle” glimpsed beneath shoetop-length skirt. This is why cleavage is so fascinating to many today.

    If you want to keep being modest, you’re going to have to keep shying away from that line. In the late 1400s, it became fashionable for men who could afford to do so to restrict their wives’ and daughters’ freedom more and more in the name of modesty, until the women became prisoners in their own homes, allowed to leave only when veiled, escorted by a chaperone, and going to church. So poets wrote about those sexy, sexy windows where you could glimpse upper class women. And moralists advised parents to keep their pubertal and post-pubertal daughters away from windows for fear that they would tempt and be tempted by young men.

    But if you’re willing to be counter-cultural, you can win the game by playing harder than other women. We live in a society that, fortunately, doesn’t ask much of us for “modesty” relative to earlier times. You don’t have to wear 6 starched petticoats to hide the shape of your legs. You don’t have to swelter in wrist-length sleeves and throat-covering collars. You certainly don’t have to be imprisoned in your own home. All you have to do is just wear a couple of inches MORE cloth than someone else. It helps if you then point, repeatedly at the someone else. Look, you’re not like that whore over THERE. You’re modest! But you’re only modest because you are MORE modest than she is. You need her to lose in order for you to win at the modesty game. If she decides to wear more, then you have to wear more, to continue to win the arms race.

    Let’s opt out of this zero-sum game altogether. Let’s disinvite modesty from the entire concept of morality.

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