Artist: Reni, Guido, A.D. 1575-1642

Is Breastfeeding Modest?

First of all, I am not a lactation consultant or anything like that.  I have breastfed five babies and teach childbirth classes in which I cover breastfeeding basics.  But I’m not claiming any special knowledge on the topic.  Breastfeeding does carry a special importance to me.  It was a hot topic last week on our Facebook page due to the LDS Living breastfeeding in public poll.  There were a lot of different opinions on their website.  What I was struck with as I read comments was the need to support a woman no matter where she is in her breastfeeding experiences.

Did you know the LDS church is pro-breastfeeding?

The lds.org website includes information on the importance of breastfeeding which also stresses the need to nurse for at least 12 months.  The Latter-Day Woman Manual, Part B states, “Breast milk, especially during the days immediately following birth, is the best food for a baby. Rarely is a child unable to tolerate a mother’s milk.”

The Latter-Day Woman Manual, Part A offers even more information,

“Our Heavenly Father made the mother’s body so it could produce milk. This milk is made especially for human babies to drink. It is better for babies than milk from animals. The first fluid that comes from the mother’s breasts after a new baby is born is also important. It contains substances that help protect the baby from diseases for the first few months.

Sometimes for health reasons a mother cannot breast-feed her baby. Milk from cows or goats or prepared formulas can also be used, but the mother must take greater care to keep the milk sanitary. A mother should breast-feed her baby if she can. The mother’s diet influences how much milk she produces for the baby. A mother who eats enough good foods and drinks enough water can usually produce enough milk for her baby.

• Why do some mothers not breast-feed their babies? Why is the fluid that comes before milk good for babies? Besides nutrition and disease prevention for the baby, what are some other advantages of breast-feeding?” (167)

Given that breastfeeding is best for our babies we should not put any restrictions on the mother to provide this nourishment. Asking a nursing mother to leave or embarrassing her, might be the deal breaker for her to stop nursing.  In a religion where family is so highly valued and emphasized it would seem that breastfeeding should also be just as supported.

Becoming comfortable with breastfeeding, especially in public, has been a process for me.  I have been the mom who searched for the quiet corner, the mom who stayed where she was with a nursing cover and the mom who just nursed discreetly, no cover at all, standing in line at Disney World.  I feel like I have done it all.

Nursing discreetly in Disney World on a ride.

Looking back I asked myself why I felt so uncomfortable giving nourishment to my baby in public and I realized I was merely a product of the breastfeeding culture I grew up in.  Why do I blame culture?  I have lived in and visited other countries where breastfeeding did not carry a sexual stigma.  As a missionary in the Dominican Republic it was common for a mother to openly nurse her baby or toddler in front of us or the elders.  There was no such thing as discreet nursing.  It was open and no shame was attached to the act.

As I read through the scriptures I am struck by the fact that male prophets commonly chose images of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and mothering to teach gospel principles.  Why did they use these images and symbols?  They were commonly witnessed and easily relatable.

Mary 1520 AD, Artist: Conti

If you are to look at art from past centuries, there are many images of mothers breastfeeding their babies without a special cover or without even being discreet.  In fact, Mary is often depicted openly nursing the baby Jesus not only as an infant but as a little boy.  Breasts were recognized for the physiological function of nourishing babies and were not considered dirty or immodest when used this way.  See this facebook page for some great examples:  https://www.facebook.com/HistoricBreastfeedingPhotos?ref=ts

Mary 15th Century

References to nursing in scriptures:

http://lds.org/scriptures/tg/nurse?lang=eng&query=nursing

http://lds.org/scriptures/triple-index/nurse?lang=eng&query=nursing

In fact, there are some wonderful pieces of art from Mormon history depicting women openly breastfeeding their babies in Sacrament meeting (without a cover) or sitting among mixed company.

LDS Sacrament Meeting 1871

 

Close up of one of the breastfeeding mothers in the art piece.

Read more about these this painting here:   http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2010/08/breastfeeding-history-moment-lds.html

Danish artist CCA Christensen 1900 “Mormon Handcart Company”

Read more about this painting here:  http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2011/02/breastfeeding-history-moment-mormon.html

So when and how did this change?  My thoughts are that during WWII when mothers were asked to go back to work that meant putting their babies on formula.  I have talked with many elderly women who although they were not working were told their milk was too thin and they had to put their baby on formula.  Formula companies pushed their products on doctors who in turn pushed them on mothers. A lot of money is involved in formula feeding.  As a result, millions of mothers did not breastfeed and that meant millions of daughters and sons not seeing it as natural and normal.  What happens when the physiologic function of the breast is lost?  It is only seen as sexual. Do we owe in part the rampant nature of pornography to the absence of the physiology of the breast?  We are also reminded that,

“The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts… It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. For example, it makes the female breasts primarily into sexual enticements, while the truth is that they were intended to nourish and comfort children… Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they use them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ” (37, A Parent’s Guide, 1985).

Rixa Freeze, PhD, also posted some food for thought on the need for breastfeeding to be witnessed instead of hidden: http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2011/11/problem-with-nursing-covers.html. And A Bee In Your Bonnet shared her thoughts in this post, “Modesty and Breastfeeding.”

 

Is breastfeeding in public (especially church) immodest?

I’m not going to try to determine that for you.  I have come to a place where I feel it is a personal decision.  We make a big deal out of modesty in the church.  I’m not saying modesty and discretion are not important.  I like what Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about modesty, “I am not asking you to be prudish. I am asking you to be virtuous, and I think there is a vast difference between the two” (New Era, November 2011).

What does it mean to be prudish?  From the Merriam –Webster online dictionary:

Prude – a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum; especially : a woman who shows or affects extreme modesty

And I had fun learning a new word:

Prig –  one who offends or irritates by observance of proprieties (as of speech or manners) in a pointed manner or to an obnoxious degree

I am not trying to point fingers about who is and is not a prude or a prig (those names make me giggle) but in my opinion a woman who is breastfeeding is every bit virtuous.

By Anne Marie Oborn 2002, LDS artist

The best guide for modesty I try to follow is this question, “Ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?’” (For Strength of Youth).    Would I breastfeed in front of the Savior?  Absolutely.  No question. I can only imagine his heart breaking if I turned away my little one especially if it were time to partake of the Lord’s Sacrament.  Jesus did say “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Breastfeeding itself is symbolic of the Savior and His Living Water.  He would not want me to miss that sacred ordinance.  I need the bread and water each week just as my little one needs the “living water” I can provide to her.  With that in mind, I also do not like to miss out on the testimonies, talks, or lessons.  Why should the mother feeding with a bottle be accepted in class and not the breastfeeding mother?

With that in mind I recognize that because of our current culture it might distract someone if they knew I was breastfeeding in church meetings.  I don’t think they would even know unless they sat right next to me and really looked closely.  I also like to keep in mind that our sons and daughters need to see breastfeeding to accept it as normal and natural.  I would much rather my son saw me or other moms breastfeeding than be submitted to the sexual manner in which breasts are represented in the media.  But how many people would be offended by the breastfeeding mother but not by the scantily clad woman on the screen?  How many of our children commonly see plenty of cleavage but not the breastfeeding mother?

Sadly, I have felt more comfortable in the general public nursing than inside the church building because of comments I have heard from women, not men, about “that woman” nursing openly at a Relief Society Activity (no men were in attendance). I’m thankful that mother did not hear the comment but I did and I was new to nursing and it affected how I felt about nursing at a church meeting.

I have also searched the LDS handbook 2 online and have found no reference to breastfeeding at all.  There is nothing that says it should not happen within church meetings.  I do recognize that with some babies they have to get latched on in a quiet space or that the mother just feels more comfortable excusing herself (sometimes I am that woman).  Thank goodness for the mother’s lounge, if you prefer it, especially when breastfeeding is new to you or you have a baby that is easily distracted.  I do have to admit that the mother’s lounge can be very distracting too.  A mother needs to be where she feels safe and comfortable for let-down to occur.  I just support the breastfeeding mama, you go girl!

Just remember that if someone, with or without intent, says something to degrade you for breastfeeding your baby, they are only a product of their culture.  They “know not what they do.” It is our responsibility to speak up.  Whenever a moment like that arises, I say a quiet prayer in my heart that I will just the right things that they need to hear so they walk away with a better understanding of how the Lord values breastfeeding.

Looking back over my adventures through breastfeeding I am filled with a sense of gratitude for the people who helped me along the way.  Many times it was small and simple things that they did or did not do.  I appreciate not being criticized for nursing in a quiet corner, with a cover, or without a cover in the midst of crowds of people.  I’m sure along the way there were people who refrained from criticizing (or at least said it outside my earshot).  Nonetheless, I was not belittled for putting the needs of my baby first and for that I am grateful.

With all that said, please remember to not judge the bottle feeding mother.  She is a product of our breastfeeding culture and may have lacked the support needed or be the rare case that is unable to breastfeed.  Maybe she didn’t see enough moms breastfeeding to know it mattered.  Maybe she tried her heart out to make it work but it was not to be.

Please remember to leave comments that are in a spirit of love.  Support your sistas’!

Author

93 Comments

  1. Excellant! The comic at the end reminds me of the conference talk be Neil Anderson; “Growing up in this culture, it is very hard to get a biblical perspective on motherhood…Children rank way below college; below world travel; below the ab…lility to go out at night at leisure, below honing your body at the gym, below any job you may have or hope to get. Motherhood is a calling”. We live in a paradox world where we should take care of our babies, but then we are bombarded by opinionated advice or looks of disapproval. Thank you for this beautiful post!

  2. Wanted to share this quotation: “The scriptures often refer respectfully but plainly to the body and its parts… It is the world that makes the divinely created body an object of carnal lust. For example, it makes the female breasts primarily into sexual enticements, while the truth is that they were intended to nourish and comfort children… Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they sue them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ” (37, A Parent’s Guide, 1985).

  3. I love your article! I feel as though I have had a similar journey nursing six kids…several until they were 18 months. I hated excusing myself from sacrament meeting but felt like I should. I.did breastfeed several times in Relief Society but always felt a little odd. I however seemed to feel fine bf at resturaunts and just about anywhere else I would find myself. Too bad, huh? But the older and more mature I became the less I cared what other people thought about me bonding and nourishing my child.

  4. This might be the best article I have read on breastfeeding in public! I have been bothered recently by the things I have heard young mothers say about breastfeeding at church- thank you for saying “a woman who is breastfeeding is every bit virtuous”- I agree. I will be sharing this article!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts! In general I think it’s strange, and really a false dichotomy, when people talk about either “letting it all hang out”/showing your whole breast essentially versus using a nursing cover. I usually do neither. I nurse discreetly, showing very little or no skin, and I rarely use a cover–all you have to do is cover most of your breast with your shirt or wear a light jacket that you can use as extra folds of fabric. To me, this is the easiest and most reasonable way to go. It requires no extra equipment (and, let’s be honest, not having bottles and other equipment, is definitely a perk of breastfeeding), and it’s generally less noticeable too. I do sometimes go in a different room, use a blanket, or other options as well. But I think we shouldn’t think only in terms of using nursing covers or showing it all. There are other ways to do it (please note, this is coming from someone with a rather large chest, so I know it’s possible to do it even if you’re bigger than an A cup). 🙂

    • Robyn Reply

      Jeanna, I agree. The notion that there has to be a blanket or a cover to be modest is just not true. And in fact, sometimes with a cover, I have a harder time and so does my baby. They tend to pull it away leaving me more exposed than when I just learned to nurse discreetly.

  6. Part of the concept of “modesty”, and the part that makes it so difficult, is that cultural expectations are inherently drawn in. Thus a “modest bathing suit” will never be modest in Sacrament Meeting, just as a “modest tuxedo” will never be modest (in the broader sense of the term)passing the sacrament. I have no intention of trying to defend our Western culture’s illogical and contradictory standards of modesty, but nevertheless it has to be given consideration. When we lived in Puerto Rico, nursing discretely in Sacrament Meeting fully met the local (American) standards of modesty). Here in Eastern Idaho, there are still significant pockets of resistance (which I believe, with time, will be broken down). Until that time, although I am a strong proponent of breastfeeding, including in public, discretion is advised, especially where the common public perceptions of modesty don’t comport with the more rational and, ultimately, truthful position that I think you are putting forth.
    The more important gospel principle, in this case, is the “thou shalt not judge” standard, or the “judge righteous judgment” standard. Just as we should love, not criticize, the man who comes to church smelling of tobacco and the young woman who does not have a strong gospel foundation whose dress may be a little too revealing, we should love not judge the breastfeeding mother — even in Sacrament Meeting or at any public venue where having infants is appropriate.

    • Modest mom who nurses anywhere Reply

      Steve,
      I really appreciated the first paragraph of your comment. Thank you for that. But I was surprised at the second paragraph where you seem to be drawing a parallel between, “the man who comes to church smelling of tobacco and the young woman who does not have a strong gospel foundation whose dress may be a little too revealing” and a “breastfeeding mother — even in Sacrament Meeting or at any public venue where having infants is appropriate,” As though, when she learns more or becomes stronger in the gospel, she will refrain from nursing her child in sacrament meeting or another public venue!

  7. Love this, Robyn! I love the simplified Primary explanation of modesty – would I be comfortable wearing/doing this in front of the Savior? ABSOLUTELY! I am “that lady” who nurses in Relief Society. Our Stake President has been on a big “attend Sunday School!” kick, so I’ve started nursing there also. I have noticed such a change in my attitude toward church from how I felt with my last baby. I used to come to church, drop off my son to Primary, and then spend the rest of SS/RS back and forth between the mother’s lounge and class. Sooo much better this way!

  8. I sat by a mom at the Pinewood Derby tonight and she BF! Covered, but she did! I was so proud of her! 🙂

  9. Thank you for this beautiful post. As a new mother with a child who was difficult to feed I enjoyed my time in the mother’s room. Our building at the time had a very nice comfortable set-up and as I spent 1 1/2 hours feeding my child it was nice to have a soft chair. But I felt I missed out on a lot of the meetings. When my son was about 4 months old we moved. After a couple of weeks my husband asked me why I always went to the mother’s room. He said I was fine feeding our son at a restaurant so why not church. Since then I have only left meetings for convenience or if I was trying to get my child to sleep. I use a cover because I need to use my free hand for support and I feel more discreet under the cover. But in my ward and stake meetings in Montana, even when sitting in the front row and having an apostle visiting, I have never felt uncomfortable or like the people on the stand or around me were uncomfortable. In fact another mother in our ward started staying in the meetings more often with her nursing child after seeing me. I hope that all women who desire to feed their children, by breast or otherwise, will be welcomed and supported in any setting.

  10. Meleah Ekstrand Reply

    This was so beautifully written. I am honestly tempted to print out copies and leave them around our church building and in the RS room. I have one son and have never had a problem nursing him anywhere and everywhere including Sacrament meeting but I always felt like I needed to have a cover to be modest. He is 2 and still BF but not in public anymore, but for the past 6 months to a year, I have done intensive research and prayer to really decide if I needed to cover to be modest. When I was able to tell myself that I would be perfectly fine if the Savior walked in, then I knew I didn’t need to cover. I am pregnant with my second child and while I plan to be discreet I know there is nothing wrong with nursing my child anywhere I go, but like previous posters nursing in church, makes me the most nervous but since I am already outspoken I don’t think it will take long to get over that.
    Thank you thank you for such a beautiful article about something that definetly needs to be talked about in the LDS church.

  11. wonderfully written article!!! Love it!! I especially love that you pulled from official church manuals. Thank you. i will be printing and passing along to friends. =]

  12. Nicola Bridgwater Reply

    Thank you for you article which was fascinating and beautiful. I have four children, all breastfed. I am interested in your comments about culture. When I was growing up my mother was training to be a midwife. She decided to attend La Leche (a breast feeding support group) so that she could learn all she could in order to support new mothers and as she was training during the day she took me along to the classes in the evening. Consequently I grew up (from the age of 10) being surrounded by women breast feeding babies and children of all ages, discussing feeding, nipples, problems etc etc. When I had my first child it never crossed my mind to do anything but breastfed and never felt embarrassed about it. Some people at church did make comments but due to my upbringing I felt confident enough to carry on and usually replied that if they felt embarrassed I would not be offended if they left the room! They never did! People very quickly accepted that I loved breast feeding and was not ashamed and when I taught the second half of my RS lesson whilst breast feeding my son, nobody batted an eyelid! Be confident. Be not ashamed. Politely suggest they can leave. They soon get the message!

  13. Nicola Bridgwater Reply

    With reference to the history of breastfeeding, formula feeding started to be available before WW1. Many wealthy women had previously used a wet-nurse and formula feeding became an alternative. Powerful and aggressive advertising led women to believe that if wealthy women chose bottles it must be the best option and they aspired to be like them. An interesting read is “The politics of breastfeeding”. Once the first generation of formula fed babies had grown up, women began to loose the skills to pass onto the next generation. I was born in London in 1962 and my mother says that she was the only woman breastfeeding in a major London teaching hospital and the staff thought she was a crank and bottle feeding was the future. Sadly, the latter comment was fairly accurate! For information about breastfeeding check out the UNICEF baby friendly website! Any mother who wants to breastfeeding or who is having problems should check out the La Leche website.

    • Robyn Reply

      Thank you for that information. I will have to put that book in my cart on Amazon. It looks like an an interesting read.

  14. Thanks for your thoughts! With baby #1 it took me a long time to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. With baby #2 (who is 6 weeks old) I’ve decided that other people’s problems with breastfeeding are their own–if my baby is hungry, I feed her. But I still haven’t resolved the breastfeeding in church thing. It’s hard to miss so much of the meetings by being in the mother’s lounge. But I also don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable to be in the meeting either. There are very few young children in the ward, and only one other baby, so me and my baby draw a lot of attention no matter what we’re doing. I’m definitely going to give it more thought after reading this because it’s hard to remember why I’m even going to church when I don’t get to attend most of it. Thanks also for reminding others not to judge the bottle feeding mother either. My sister struggled to breastfeed her first baby and it broke her heart every time someone criticized her for giving him a bottle–which was all too often.

  15. Our bishop keeps a copy of both handbooks in the clerk’s office and anyone is free to look up any topic they are curious about. It should be that way in all wards. I was able to look in Handbook 1 and there isn’t anything about breastfeeding there either. I was one who was able (and did) breastfeed in all church meetings and other public settings. It is very true that culture plays a big role. Great post.

    • Robyn Reply

      Ann, that is good to know about Handbook 1. I love that the handbook is more accessible. I’m sure it saves the bishop time when people can answer their own questions.

  16. Thanks for this post. I liked this: “Just remember that if someone, with or without intent, says something to degrade you for breastfeeding your baby, they are only a product of their culture. They “know not what they do.” It is our responsibility to speak up. ”

    What a great perspective–whether or not we agree with why they feel that way, the fact is they do and they should receive respect just like we expect, but hopefully we can help them open their mind a little bit. I’m nursing my third baby now and I nurse in public with a cover all the time, but at church I use the mothers lounge if baby needs to eat. However, I give my baby a bottle of formula in Sacrament meeting. This is the one bottle she gets each week–makes me feel better to know that if anything happened to me, she will be able to go on eating. Interesting that I choose this time to give her the bottle because I don’t want to miss being in Sacrament Meeting, whereas if I felt comfortable nursing in there, I might choose to give the bottle at another time during the week.

  17. This is an beautiful article, on a topic very near to my heart. I feel that nursing my children as I go about living my life is my own kind of quiet activism.

  18. Wonderful post. I have 5 children ages 7 and under, and I have nursed all of them for a year or more. I have spent many hours over the years in the mothers room. I never nurse with a cover, no matter where I am. I always go to the mothers room during church, though. I am terrified that somebody would make a big deal about it or be unkind if I nursed in a meeting. Even in the mothers room I have received some shock and suprised comments from other sisters because I do not cover. I have missed the sacrament, talks, and many lessons in the mothers room. I can’t imagine the Savior wishes the mothers in this church, who are probably in desperate need of spiritual nourishment, to be banished to a small room that smells of dirty diapers just so they can feed their dear babies. I don’t think this is right.
    You have inspired me to nurse in a church meeting when I feel like doing so, in spite of my fears. Thank you.

  19. I loved this post! I think with my next baby I’m gonna be brave and nurse the baby right during sacrament meeting unless he is way too distractible. Maybe we can all start a new trend and change our culture! I think it is so sad that breastfeeding is looked down upon by some people who are sorely misinformed.

  20. LOVE this. I usually nurse, covered, in RS and sacrament, but Sunday School seems like too small a setting, I am still a little nervous that people will be bothered. I should stop caring! I love the part that The Savior wouldn’t want us to turn away our little ones or not partake of the sacrament just to nurse. 🙂

  21. Thanks for linking me to your post. There sure were a lot of “fun” breastfeeding discussions on facebook! I love the pictures you posted. They just show how common it was — nothing to hide — just normal life. Women didn’t have a choice in the past, so it was so NORMAL! I’m one to cover, and I do have to try and not stare when a woman doesn’t cover (kind of how you try to avert your eyes when someone changes a baby’s diaper — there’s nothing wrong with it, but you try and be courteous and not stare) but I really have nothing wrong with people not covering. I do wish more women would nurse in sacrament mtg & esp. RS. I don’t mind going to the mother’s room during sacrament mtg, because I can still hear the talks; but I do mind leaving RS because I miss out! You’d think of all places, you’d have mothers nursing there! That was also interesting reading the quotes from the old RS books. I have the books (my first 4 years of RS), but clearly don’t remember those parts!

  22. I really respect the calm, respectful tone of your writing. Way too many of us bloggers get a little excited and offensive when we speak about the things we are passionate about. Your blog is very refreshing!

    I used our mother’s room often because the sound was piped in and I never missed any talks. I also enjoyed getting away from the rest of my kids and spending time alone with my baby. It was also much easier to get them to sleep in there. After six months or so they get so distracted it would have been impossible to breastfeed in sacrament meeting. In the past I’ve been a little nervous about breastfeeding in RS even though I’ve seen women in my ward do it. If I ever have another baby I think I’ll get brave and try it.

  23. What an encouraging article. I think every woman should read this. We are pretty much the only culture that seems to have a problem with public breastfeeding. LDS women in the Netherlands openly feed their babies during sacrament meeting and Relief Society. Many countries are the same way. I have often thought why can bottle-fed babies be fed openly in public but not breastfed babies? Why do we have such a problem with that?

  24. I too breastfed in public, but covered myself. I personally felt it was modest to do. I wouldn’t bare my breasts in any other setting, why would I do it while breastfeeding? If I had bared my breast to feed, I know my husband and children would have been embarrassed as well. I know that it isn’t the issue here as to weither breast feeding should be public or not, or embarrassing or not, but rather, should feel we can bear our breast when doing so. I personally feel there is no need to. It may not be the popular thing to say, but although we feel it shouldn’t be sexual thing, breasts are sexual. Having a man starring at my mostly exposed breast just doesn’t work for me.

    • Robyn Reply

      I think it is fine to cover when breastfeeding. I feel it is a personal choice. I go back to asking myself if my behavior would be acceptable if the Savior were beside me. That is my standard not the world’s standard. I have to admit that at a certain point I felt less modest when using a cover because my baby would throw it off leaving me more exposed than when I discreetly nurse, no breast exposed. It was as if my baby was waving a flag, “Hey, my mommy is breastfeeding over here!” Trust me I’m not wanting to attract attention or expose myself to anyone. I just want to feed my baby and with a larger family it gets harder and harder to do it in a way that everyone feels acceptable. I think covers have helped some women feel comfortable with breastfeeding in public and for that I am grateful. Depending on the nursing stage me and my baby are in we may still use one. I actually think your opinion is popular. More people in our LDS culture feel that way and I understand it. Again, my hope here is that we reserve judgement and support our sisters in their journey through nurturing their babies whether they use a bottle, a cover, or no cover. Thank you for your comment. I realize it is hard to write something that fully expresses what is in my heart.

      • Robyn Reply

        Also, when I nurse without a cover, I am able to do it without anyone but me and my baby seeing any part of my breast. I recognize that not everyone can be that discreet but it is possible to be modest without a blanket or cover.

        • I always struggle with this topic, I normally offend people when I share my feelings. But I think discreet is the key, with or without a cover. In our ward in SE Idaho, many women breastfeed in all areas of the church, including sacrament meeting,most with a cover of some sort, or so discreetly that no one notices. Sometimes with some flesh sowing across the top – we see worse when someone leans over, or wears even a modest swimsuit. But when I was eleven, at a church activity, my Merrie Miss leader flopped out her breast, left it out while she got the baby ready, and got comfortable, then nursed, and then when the baby was done she pick him up, wiped his mouth, cooed at him, and NEVER covered her breast at ALL. Just left it hanging out, in front of all of us, for probably 10 minutes AFTER she finished nursing. Should moms be able to nurse anywhere, any time? Absolutely, and a “cover” isn’t necessarily the best option, as you have pointed out, but I also don’t think there is a reason to flaunt it. I know a group of girls that are trying to promote public/sacrament breast feeding, and the way they are doing it is by being VERY obvious about it, revealing way more than necessary, way longer than is necessary, pushing past reasonable comfort zones to PROVE that they can do it. It seems like they are using their children, and their breasts, to promote their agendas, and that somehow seems wrong.
          As a mom who was never able to breastfeed, and was unable to have more than 2 children, I am very aware of the ease of judging people, especially within the church, and also aware of the pain cause by such judgements. But if you intentionally leave your nipple uncovered in a room full of people, just because YOU aren’t embarrassed by it, there is likely to be some discomfort…Not because our nipples are embarassing, but because they are sacred, we don’t throw other sacred things around, like our temple clothes…leave them laying out, or show people who don’t need to see them, we hold them close, because they are special. That’s what modesty is about – respecting the sacredness of the bodies that Heavenly Father made for us.

          • I think it can basically be summed up like this:
            If a woman is walking down the hall at church, we won’t judge here, that’s what it’s for!
            If while walking, her skirt hem flips up a little bit, and we see some leg, or underclothing, we don’t judge her!
            Or if a toddler grabs her skirt and flips it up, and we see too much, we feel bad, but don’t judge her!
            But if while walking down the hall she grabs her hem, and tucks it into her waistband so we can all see her tookus, before continuing down the hall, that’s weird, and awkward, and she’s probably going to get judged!!! 🙂

            And for the record, we were once asked by our bishop (in a married student ward at BYU-Idaho) to take our botttle-fed baby out, because it was too distracting and loud in class. For real?

          • Maren, i love your response. I don’t want to be viewed as prude for not thinking it’s okay to nurse openly in church. Thank you. 🙂

          • Thank you! I feel the same way! I have three children, two breastfed and one whom I had to pump for 12 months with because being my first, I didn’t have the knowledge to know that something was wrong and gave up. Yes our breasts are sacred and yes it makes me uncomfortable when someone leaves their breast out in the open without even trying to be discrete. I breastfeed in public without a cover because for me it’s more modest, my baby isn’t flailing the flag and exposing me. I have sat next to people who had no idea I was feeding my baby and I’m not a small chested woman (I’m a K cup) so I know it’s possible. Church is the one place I have gone to the mothers lounge to feed my baby but I have always hated that I miss out on the lessons. This article has inspired me to nurse in church. (Our mothers lounge is a glorified closet with two chairs and a changing table, and nothing else will fit it’s so small). I guess I was turned off on breastfeeding in church because someone asked me just after my second was born if I could just give him a bottle so I could teach a class! He wouldn’t have taken a bottle even if I had said yes though!

  25. Thank you for taking the time to put this together! Very insightful & uplifting. BF is a subject near & dear to my heart; having raised 4 children (ages 21 to 1). There was a HUGE difference in how & where I nursed my first child to my last. With the first, I was basically inactive for the first year of his life; now I am comfortable feeding whenever & wherever my daughter needs to. It’s a shame that in the LDS culture women often feel the need to hide, when in fact, I’m certain the Savior would be honored to see his children given the VERY BEST in His presence.

    I also wanted to share an embarrassing situation in a boutique. I asked a brand new mom who was messing with mixing up a bottle why she chose not to try nursing… ‘Did your milk not come in? Were you on medication? Did he just not latch on?’ I asked. She sadly informed me that she used to work as an EMT & was diagnosed during pregnancy as being HIV positive. Talk about inserting foot in mouth! Needless to say, I’m much more sensitive now.

    • Robyn Reply

      Thank you for sharing that Kori. I admit to having judged others without knowing their situation and it seems the Lord quickly humbles me when I do, foot in mouth style.

  26. Thank you so much for the time you put into this post. It is beautiful and full of love and understanding. I feel like printing this out and handing it to anyone who should question me when I start nursing my baby after birth. I have always been a very shy nurser and have come to realize that yes, it is because of our culture that this is the case. I am going to try to be brave and nurse when and where I feel like it. I need to do this more, because my husband won’t be able to help me in Sacrament meeting anymore due to a new calling. And I am unable (do to physical limitations) to carry the car seat, diaper bag, and take my 2 year old with me to the mothers lounge. I was going to be more brave this time around, but now I feel this need even more so. It is like the Lord giving me a gentle push to be not just OK with, but comfortable with the gift of nursing. I love the artwork that you have posted. It just is very touching. Thank you again for all of your thoughts!

  27. I just came across your blog and this article. I love it. I hope I can be more brave too this next time around! Breastfeeding is virtuous. Thank you President Hinckley for reminding us of correct principles.

  28. I was much more confident about nursing in public with my first than I was with my subsequent children. I don’t know why, I have thought about it much. But one Sacrament meeting (with the first baby) I knew I would be sustained for a calling. I tried to keep baby content until after I was sustained, but he wouldn’t wait. So I started nursing him to keep him quiet. A few minutes later, my name was announced for whatever calling it was. I stood up to be sustained while nursing my first born.

    Today, I can’t believe I did that. Where did that confidence come from? And (maybe the better question) where has it gone?

    At the time I wasn’t concerned about it but hoped no one would notice. However my VT companion later complimented me on my multitasking skills.

    I have never used a ‘cover.’ Sometimes a baby blanket is used to cover my potentially showing back and stomach because my shirt doesn’t have a second layer. But really, I just don’t care. I have received surprised looks. I am ‘that lady’ that nurses in all meetings of church because I find it completely ridiculous that I’m “culturally expected” to leave a meeting that I’ve been commanded to attend just to feed a child.

    • Amanda, I love that you stood up while you were nursing. That is awesome.

  29. thank you for this! my sister in law emailed me earlier this week, basically saying that i contribute to pornography addictions and am immodest when i nurse uncovered. it upset me so that i haven’t been able to fully form my thoughts. this is exactly how i feel, and so well said. i certainly would not feel ashamed to nurse uncovered in front of the savior. thank you again, and for reminding me what standard i should use.

  30. I couldn’t read the full article due to overwhelming emotions.
    I was asked by my Bishop to stop nursing in the chapel.
    that was two and a half years ago.
    I have been in a church building 3 times since then.
    It makes me so sad.
    I love where you say –
    The best guide for modesty I try to follow is this question, “Ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable with my appearance if I were in the Lord’s presence?’” (For Strength of Youth). Would I breastfeed in front of the Savior? Absolutely. No question. I can only imagine his heart breaking if I turned away my little one especially if it were time to partake of the Lord’s Sacrament.

    thank you for this.
    Mo xxx

    • Robyn Reply

      Maureen, I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. All I can say is, you are absolutely virtuous as you nurse your baby. Don’t let someone’s lack of understanding keep you from going more frequently, “they know not what they do.”

  31. Thank you so much Robyn! What a wonderful post! My third baby is 6 months old and just recently at my husbands graduation from chiropractic school, I went to the back of the auditorium before it started to nurse my baby–mainly because she gets so distracted if I nurse her around big crowds of people. I didn’t have a nursing cover but was discrete. Another woman noticed and came up to me to applaud me for not being ashamed to nurse in public without a cover. I so appreciated her comment.

    I have often wanted to nurse in sacrament meeting but have not felt “brave” enough to and I have missed the sacrament more than I have been able to take it since my baby was born. Reading you comment about how it is just as important for me to partake as it is for my baby really touched me. Thank you so much for your encouragement!

  32. Robyn, thank you for this article. I loved it. You expressed everything so beautifully. Thank you so much for pulling all of that information together, plus the beautiful pictures. This is perfect. I’m saving it and referring it out to others!

  33. Rikki-Leigh Reply

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you for mentioning not to judge the bottle-feeding mother. I have 5 children and only nursed the first 2. I struggled with hyper-lactation and jaundiced babies and it was just too much for me. The hyper-lactation makes it nearly impossible to breastfeed discreetly at all. I kept trying because I felt like I had to, not because it was what was best for us. I hope we can get to a place where both the bottle feeding mother and the breastfeeding mother have the support they deserve. I want to make sure to teach my children the functionality and sexuality of breasts and that if they do see a mother breastfeeding that that is natural, beautiful, and functional. At the same time, there are times when bottle feeding is the best route for mother and baby and that decision needs to be respected and supported as well.

  34. I love your post. Beautifully written and the pictures are wonderful. I grew up in Latin America where breastfeeding is a normal part of life. I have 5 children and have nursed them all until they were two. I have breastfed them in all church meetings and activities and all types of public settings. Sometimes I feel nervous while doing it, but I push past that feeling and do it anyway, in hopes to normalize breastfeeding. I never feel nervous while breastfeeding in Latin America. I don’t use a cover, because I find them cumbersome and I also feel like it announces to everyone what I am doing. However, I breastfeed discreetly and most people think I am just holding a sleeping baby. I support all ways of breastfeeding–with a cover, without a cover, or showing it all. Whatever mama and baby prefer is fine with me.

  35. I re-read my post and I realize me saying “it announces to everyone what I am doing” is not what I intended to say, because I don’t mind anyone knowing that I am breastfeeding. What I meant is that it is ironic that those that are trying to hide it, make what they are doing more obvious. I mostly don’t like covers because it promotes the belief that there is something immodest about breastfeeding. However, I understand that some women need them for their personal comfort and I support all women in their breastfeeding goals.

  36. What a wonderful article. With my third baby out of the newborn stage, I just recently started nursing in the occasional church meeting (not Sacrament meeting). I don’t recall doing this with my first two, but I am tired of missing out on Relief Society! You’ve given me more confidence.

    I would nurse in front of the Savior. I nurse standing in line at Disneyland almost every week. So why not at church?

  37. Thank you for that last paragraph! A lot of mom’s who have the blessing of a good supple of milk and have support at home and women who are pro-breastfeeding have no idea what it is like to have the lack of milk supply and with little support at home and have the gull to tell me that I need to breastfeed no matter what! I know that I try my hardest every time that i have a baby to breastfeed and I break down every time because of my lack of milk and all my hard effort that I put forth for what? 1-8ounces a day if I am lucky! I even had the help and guidance of my midwife the last time and I freaked her out because it took 2 weeks for my milk to even come in! In the mean time I was trying to feed and pump and still had to use others milk for my baby’s food. Needless to say it was disheartening to say the least! I just hate it when I get looked down upon for not continuing the breastfeeding from these other women! So thanks again for that last paragraph! I really appreciate it!

    • Tracy, that is so so hard. I used to be more judgmental when I had my first son about bottle feeders. Since then, I have been humbled by seeing friends/family struggle. My sister tried everything. She does not make enough milk no matter what herbs she uses. All her children have been heavily supplemented with formula and that’s OK! I’ve had the opportunity to provide breastmilk for her last baby which has been a neat experience. It has taught me to be less judgmental and more loving in supporting mamas who cannot breastfeed, whether it be milk donation, or kind words.

  38. Robyn Reply

    Tracy, I thought of this paragraph in our breastfeeding essay from the book after reading your comment, “Along with losing a bit of independence, sometimes breastfeeding is a trial for mom and baby. Just ask the mother who has had to deal with thrush, breast infections, cracked nipples, or other difficulties. She has had challenges to overcome that require sacrifice. Some women sacrifice greatly to pump and then feed their baby making the process twice as long. And for some mothers there is a sacrifice of the ideal of what they so desired to give their baby when breastfeeding, for whatever reason, is unable to continue or be established. We are all called upon to “sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God” (D&C 138:13-15).” (This is from the section “sacrifice” in the essay. It would be hard to sacrifice such as you have been required but you have done it in the similitude of our Savior.

  39. This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about too. After my first child was born, I did feel uncomfortable feeding him in public, but I also felt like it shouldn’t have to be hidden. I eventually came to the conclusion that modesty really doesn’t have anything to do with breastfeeding. To me, immodesty is about seeking attention or praise for worldly attributes like beauty (by wearing revealing clothing) or wealth (by flaunting extravagant purchases), as a substitute for self esteem, or testimony of our individual worth. I feed my baby to take care of him, and myself, not for anyone else’s approval. I nurse without a cover, in all church meetings, even recently during tithing settlement (my bishop didn’t blink an eye). I support whatever way other mothers want to nurse, but I do feel like nursing in public without shame helps to undo some of the cultural stigma around breasts, which is a good thing.

    This view of modesty has also challenged me to think more about my clothing. I always wore clothes that were generally accepted as modest in the church, but I realized how often I was hoping to receive compliments on my clothing or hair. I don’t think it’s wrong or immodest to look attractive, but focusing on what other people think of my appearance so often probably is a form of immodesty that I need to work on.

    • Robyn Reply

      Angela, I love your thoughts on what modesty really is. I think we all could do better with true modesty. That could be another blog post entirely.

  40. I thought I would add my own thoughts on this topic, coming from a man’s point of view. I grew up being taught that breasts were a sexual thing. If you even thought about them, you were breaking the law of chastity. They were so sexualized that young men were often drawn to them so much more.

    Our culture in America has taught that breasts are for the man, not the baby. It was quite shocking to me when I served my mission in the Philippines and women were not shy at all in lifting their shirt and feeding their children. The first time I saw it was in the middle of a lesson and a child came up to his mother, lifted her shirt, and began nursing. Both myself and my companion quickly turned our heads and had a hard time teaching the rest of the lesson. Over the two years, I became used to it and by the end of my mission, it bothered me very little.

    I am so grateful to my wife for teaching me things I wish I had been taught earlier in life. I know this may sound silly, but she taught me that breasts were not for the man but for the child. When our first child was born, I had a hard time with how open she was when feeding our him. She was always modest, but it was quite different from what I was used to. She has a dozen nursing bras and probably three times as many nursing shirts. They are designed so well that even without a blanket, she was totally covered. I am now perfectly comfortable with her breastfeeding our children anywhere. It does not bother me at all. I am also perfectly comfortable holding a conversation with a nursing mother and there is no sexual effect at all.

    I am so grateful for this understanding, and I am grateful that my children are being taught what breasts were truly meant for. There is nothing that bothers me more now than a person that tells a woman she cannot breastfeed in public. I love attending Le Leche League events with my wife and kids. It is so important that we teach our sons and daughters that breastfeeding is how god designed a woman’s body to feed her child. Breasts are for feeding children, not sexual pleasure. If more women would breastfeed in public, and more men would support their wife’s in this, I know we can change our society. I will forever be thankful to my wife for teaching me and my children this important lesson.

    • Modest mom who nurses anywhere Reply

      Dear Rick,

      I read your comment a few days ago and was interested in your thoughts. I can appreciate your transformation from seeing breasts in solely a sexual way, to coming to a greater understanding and appreciation for the feeding and nurturing function and capacity they have.
      I have 5 children who are now 16-26 years old and I nursed all of them and felt strongly to support nursing mothers in a culture that often impedes nursing. I believe without the help from my mother, who nursed her children, I would not have had the knowledge, support, or skill to succeed in nursing, despite having a doctor who supposedly supported nursing. I think it is imperative that our daughters and sons are taught the value, purposes, and beauty of nursing.
      And yet, I could not stop reflecting all weekend on your comments. I was so bothered by the sentence, “Breasts are for feeding children, not sexual pleasure.” I desperately want to put an “only” after that “not”! Lips function in eating and talking, yet kissing can be a sexual pleasure that husbands and wives enjoy. Hands have many functions, yet can be a source of sexual pleasure. Many of our body parts have multiple purposes. I find that by nursing babies breasts serve a feeding, nurturing, and comforting purpose, but husbands and wives can also experience wonderful sexual pleasure from breasts as well.

  41. Thank you for the last paragraph. I do breastfeed my son, but I only make about five oz. a day and therefore do quite a bit of supplementation. I constantly feel judged when I am mixing formula in church, and I just want to shout to those people that they have no idea how lucky they are to be able to breastfeed! I have spent hundreds of dollars on lactation consultants, supplemental nursing systems to keep my baby at the breast, and herbal supplements. It wasn’t laziness or lack of trying on my part, and I still DO breastfeed — it just isn’t my baby’s primary form of nutrition.

  42. not a bad mom Reply

    I’ve typed 3 different novel length responses to this. But I guess I just need to say. Thank you for the last paragraph. Being forced to give up breast feeding because of a sever case of postpartum depression I’ve always felt like the breastfeeding mom’s condemned me for feeding my baby with a bottle. I would actually leave relief society and go feed my son in an empty classroom so no one would see I wasn’t breast feeding him. I couldn’t even go in the mother’s room because that’s where they all congregated. Thanks for reminding everyone that if you don’t want people to judge don’t judge them. We all are doing the best we can to be good mom’s and we all need the love and support of those around us, no matter the feeding choices we may make. So nurse with a cover, in another room, or without one I don’t really care but please allow me to do the same.

    • Robyn Reply

      Thank you for your comments Lorren and not a bad mom. I never thought that a bottle feeding mother would feel that way and it really opened my eyes. It definitely goes both ways to just support one another nurturing our babies and children. I would hope that you feel empowered to feed your baby in any church class whether bottle or breast.

  43. I absolutely loved this! Thank you! There was a big discussion on an LDS Doctor wives facebook group about this. A woman asked what our thoughts on breastfeeding during sacrament meeting. MOST of the women said it was inappropriate. Some even said that it was inappropriate because it is a sacred room…REALLY? I find breastfeeding sacred. If I were in the temple with my babe, I would not be uncomfortable one bit. Anyway, I just posted this on that facebook thread. I breastfeed during sacrament meeting covered up. Baby girl gets hungry right when they are about to pass the sacrament, and I don’t want to miss out on that ordinance.

  44. As a physician, and a mother of 3 who breast fed, during church meetings as well as many medical meetings, I often am seeing new moms struggling with nursing from day one. Although we have excellent lactation consultants in our area, I am often aghast at the attitudes shown to moms that don’t breast feed. As per many of the comments above, some women can’t breast feed. Having people offer ridiculous comments about how they are harming their babies – or my pet peeve from Public Health, the poster that informs all that breast fed babies are smarter than formula fed babies – or how they obviously didn’t “try”hard enough, are devastating. When will we, as women, and as mothers, just be supportive of each other. Especially when there are new borns around? These moms are exhausted. Even the ones who have managed to nurse successfully are likely exhausted and just need a bit of support, not judgement.

    As for the “cultural” experience at church, stop feeding in to it. Live the teachings and listen to the Spirit, not the rumblings around you. As I was applying to medical school, I was told by my Bishop that if I chose medicine as a pathway that I would never marry ‘in the church.’ My response was to say, then I guess I won’t marry. I was then told by another Bishop in a University Ward that it was “my duty” to give up my spot in medical school for one of the men in my ward because they were supposed to be the ones working and supporting their families, not me. That was the culture speaking. I walked out of church that day as my anger impeded the Spirit too much for me to get anything out of the meeting. The very next week I was back in church doing what I was supposed to do because I am the one to be judged for my actions. That same Bishop told me that I would never succeed in my residency program. Maybe I worked extra hard to prove him wrong. Maybe I worked extra hard though so someone following me wouldn’t have to deal with the same attitudes. I had numerous women in RS ask me why I had chosen a career over a family (this was when I was in residency and chose to attend a family ward as the meat market in the singles ward for an RM, MD, age 29 was enough to drive me around a bend) and I responded that I hadn’t. I had chosen to get an education as I was instructed to by the leaders of the church. It is hard to get married when you can’t get a date! I reminded them that not everyone receives all the same blessing at the same time, and I added that there were probably some pretty notable people in the next life that might be waiting for the awesomeness that was me. It was at that point in my life that I was called to a position in the Stake YW Presidency. I asked the SP if he had thought about this calling, and he responded “The culture needs to be changed!” YAY!

    My point of all of this? Stop making excuses for “the culture” at church. Stop making excuses for your own actions. If you want to breast feed in public do it! If you want to cover, cover. If you don’t, don’t. Don’t let other people dictate your actions for you, or your baby. For the poor sister whose Bishop told her to stop nursing at church, tell him that’s how you feed your baby, period. Be the change. Be the Daughter of God that you know deep down you are, and be the change. Feel His love, and do what you need to do.

    I am now the mother of all boys. My boys know that were breast fed and that some mommies breast feed and some bottle feed. They know that sometimes the milk in the bottle comes from the mommy and sometimes it comes from a can. They understand that babies need to be fed when they are hungry and not 10 minutes later when it is more convenient. My husband got over his concerns with me nursing in public and just like Rick, from the comments above, he no longer cares who nurses in public. I encourage all my patients, who are able, to nurse their babies. When they can’t, I remind them that their ‘jobs’ as mothers are to feed their babies and love them. In the end, the method of feeding is secondary to the love, and I help them choose the best formula. (and yes, don’t worry, I know all the herbs and various treatments and am the first one to write prescriptions for any and all things that might help!)

    Stop judging. Support each other. Support the differences. Different isn’t wrong, it is just different. I still get asked stupid questions about whether I regret having babies late in life (like I had a choice!) rather than my 20’s, and I just smile and walk away. I love delivering babies. I love watching patients come back to have more babies with me. I love most when the moms ask for a hug from me because I made them feel like they were the best mom for their baby, whether they nursed or not.

  45. What a nice article you have written. I had not read any of the manual and other quotes you mentioned, they are all wonderful. I am currently nursing baby #4, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do so. I nurse right during Sacrament meeting, with a cover. I appreciate mothers who can figure out how to stay covered without one, but that’s not me!
    I think that those of us who nurse our babies need to be able to do it in public in order for it to be seen as a regular part of life (as it is). However, we also need to remember that exposed breasts are, in fact very distracting to others, especially members of the opposite sex. I would never nurse in a way that left anyone around me uncomfortable or able to see my bare skin. I figure, if they are still upset by it, they just need to get over it! 🙂

  46. Thank for this beautiful post. I wish I had read something like this when I was a new mother. I was always self-conscious when breast feeding. So I rarely went out or I retreated to “appropriate” places. I was also one of those rare few who was unable to continue my breast feeding. I tried with all my heart for 3 months, but I just was not producing enough milk. I cried when I was finally forced to switch to the bottle. My thoughts and opinions about motherhood, in general, have matured over the years. This well written post validates my current views. Thank you.

  47. Robin White-Underwood Reply

    Hello. My daughter is LDS, and I was for the 20 years I was having and rearing children. The Church was so supportive for moms in many ways, including breastfeeding. I loved the mother’s lounge, especially for my last child, who was so easily distracted (he is ADD, no surprise). This is a lovely article and supports many of my values. I feel blessed that I was so convinced that breastfeeding was the right choice for me and my children that I did it anywhere they needed to be fed. Sometimes, for Last Baby, it did have to be a bathroom, because he was so distractible. But I nursed in supermarkets, at meetings, at a funeral, in restaurants. I could not use covers because my babies pushed them away. I did not let my breasts just hang out, however, because they are MY breasts, and not there for public viewing. We should all feel comfortable feeding our babies as God/Nature intended. If people have problems with that, then THEY are the ones with problems. GO MOMS!!

  48. I completely agree with you about the value and importance of nursing and helping others feel comfortable and capable to do so. However, this issue is about modesty and our culture. I hate to be the dissenter here but I do not agree with nursing in church at all. A quiet room is provided where you may hear a gospel message, it may not be your ward, but it is a message.

    Having nursed my twins for over a year, I KNOW how much time at church you spend in the mother’s room. I decided it was a blessed time when I could hear a message from some ward, or just sit there in silence, and enjoy the sacred private time with my babies. Something I didn’t always get at home. I would also nurse in public when I could do so very discretely…I never felt like I wanted to use that time to make a statement.

    Our culture is our culture. It has nothing to do with “judging” someone. My mother nursed all of my younger siblings and yet, I was still shocked on my mission when a mother pulled out her breast and started nursing her 2 year old in front of us. Yes, I am a woman who was positively exposed to breastfeeding and I was shocked. And, I will continue to be shocked no matter how pro-nursing I am. I saw a woman in a ward we were visiting a couple of weeks ago nurse her child in sacrament meeting, her older child kept pulling on her shirt exposing her side and breast behind her arm. I was dismayed. And, I was offended that I had to worry about my teenage sons seeing her. It doesn’t matter how accustomed a boy is with seeing his mother nurse. It is different seeing some other woman…that is how men are wired and not much you can say about it. The thoughts will start automatically and then will need to be controlled. That should NOT happen in church. As I said, I am VERY pro breastfeeding, even in public, but I hope I don’t see women openly feeding their children in church, it distracts me from my worship and always will. I would hope no one would want to be a distraction to those of us wishing to worship our Savior on the Sabbath day; and that they would respectfully retire to the women’s nursing lounge.

    I truly don’t wish to offend so I hope you are open to my opinion and post this. I must also say I don’t agree with your use of the scripture “they know not what they do”…quite different circumstances in that situation. It really has very little to do with someone’s “knowledge and learning” but about our culture and respect for others.

    • Robyn Reply

      That is fantastic that you have nursed twins! It takes a lot of dedication. I do have to add that our mother’s lounge is often full, even with adding folding chairs and is not always available. This is common in many LDS church buildings. In addition, there are many church buildings that do not have them at all. And sometimes because of the women chatting,or a baby crying it can be a very distracting space from the spirit. Sometimes that room stinks like dirty diapers. Finding an empty classroom is a challenge as well. My building is truly filled with lots of people, three very full wards. I think your son will see more flesh if he walked through a shopping mall, a swimming pool, or billboards on the street than when a mother is discreetly latching a baby on. If he serves in almost any country outside the US, nursing openly will be much more common. I hope he finds the act unremarkable and normal. It is sad that it is hard for many people in our country to see nursing as a nonsexual act, because it is not sexual, it is about nurturing as you pointed out. And believe me when I say, I believe that most women don’t wish to offend when they nurse their little ones in public either.

      • I am sorry but I disagree, it is not seen as a sexual act, it is seen as immodest and distracting. We go to church to worship and focus on the Savior. Because of our culture, nursing in the chapel is distracting and potentially immodest. The fact that my sons are subjected to immodesty in the world doesn’t make exposure of a breast in a nursing situation acceptable or something that should be okay because the world exposes them to “sexual immodesty” or “more” images. There should not be ANY opportunity to be distracted in the chapel. (If your child is loud, take them out, even if their sounds are happy or eating sounds, it doesn’t matter.) At times, I did have to sit in a chair in a quiet foyer when there was no room in the mother’s room, we got our bishop to buy a diaper genie because of the smell (or you could provide zip lock bags with a sign to put dirty diapers in them). And yes, at times there were women who wanted to chat with me when I would have preferred otherwise but I strove to enjoy the conversation. Don’t use those things as excuses to promote your opinions when the majority are bothered by it and it is against our cultural norms…respect the feelings of others and don’t nurse in the chapel.

        In some cultures they pass gas freely and think nothing of it…would that make it acceptable and seen as merely a bodily function here if one were to adopt that behavior?

        I repeat. I don’t think that nursing is a sexual act but, if it affects men that way because of how they are “wired” you can’t change that with exposure. It will always excite and will also always been seen as a third-world behavior in our culture.

        RESPECT Others and just don’t do it in the chapel or in mixed company at church. At least in a public place if folks are uncomfortable with your nursing they can leave…one cannot leave at church and I don’t think any of the women reading this site would want to feel their actions caused someone to be uncomfortable or to leave church.

        I admire your desires to help breast feeding moms feel more comfortable with the natural and beautiful thing that it is. More mom’s should breast feed! I just disagree with your methods in trying to get others to accept it at church. There are many customs of the past I wish were still practiced today but society changes and acceptable practices do to.

        I wish the woman who hasn’t returned to church since she was asked not to nurse in the chapel would read my post…I believe it would help her feel better and more clearly understand the facets of this issue.

        • Robyn Reply

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We encourage open dialogue about these important issues. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. I feel good about how I’ve fed my babies, and I’m glad you feel good about how you’ve fed yours. I support all mothers in their spirit-guided decisions of where and how to feed their babies.

        • You are perfecting the stigma of the “modesty” in our church. Breast are used for many things one of them is nurturing a child. The Savior commanded us to attend our meetings. He also commands us to rear our children in love and righteousness. By not supporting the breastfeeding mother you are shaming her for her choices. This is unrighteous dominion on your part. If she were doing anything else with her breast that could be deemed immodest i could understand your side,but to give baby life is not a modesty issue. It is your culture that has taught you to be uncomfortable with bare breasts. I for one have told my son boobs are for baby. and I will teach him not to oogle when he gets older- but he has the foundation and everything after that is his choice. My husbands mom nursed all 5 of her sons and was a leader in her community for supporting breastfeeding. Guess what, my husband is at the forefront of my support to nurse when, where and how I may, with no thought to any sex what so ever. He understand the function and purpose for them.So your opinion is just that, opinion. don’t force it on others and don’t expect them to leave so you can have your comfort. What about her comfort and what she needs?

  49. I love what Paul teaches in the scriptures: 1 Corinthians chapter 8.

    To summarize, the new branch of Christian converts in Corinth have many struggles and questions regarding the gospel to which Paul shares his wisdom. Is eating meat that has been offered to idols wrong? Plain straight up doctrine, Paul says NO! Idols are just a creation of culture and misguided individuals. There is only one god, and food is just food. Simple. But not the end of discussion. Is drinking caffeinated beverages wrong? Is getting a drink while fasting wrong? What about watching TV on Sunday? There are simple black and white answers as far as the letter of the law goes. However, we must also consider the spirit of the law and the impact of our choices. Good, Better and Best are excellent guides. Paul recommends we err on the side of caution. Breastfeeding is natural and virtuous but also carries with it sexual thoughts, at least for men, in our culture. As with anything virtuous Satan finds a way to corrupt it or turn it to evil purposes. Yes, feed your baby naturally. Are there good, better, and best options for doing it, yes.

    Love, support, encourage, and uplift using the spirit as our guide and realize that others are imperfect just like us.

  50. One of the nicest comments anyone ever made to me was in Relief Society in about 1986. I was struggling with a baby who was squeaking and gurgling and was about to leave the room, when a sister turned around and said, “please don’t leave, we love babies here”. Now, as our ward Relief Society president, I make a special visit to each new mom and let her know that she is welcome to nurse her baby in our Relief Society meetings. If we are going to support families as we claim, we have to welcome nursing moms. By the way, we have several moms who also nurse in Sacrament meeting. I have heard no negative comments.

  51. Well, I just got told that me starting to feed our daughter while my husband was getting ready to give my school-age daughter a blessing was inappropriate. I just about came unglued, but for the sake of my daughter who was getting the blessing, I did not. Apparently my spouse prefers the wiggly whining of our baby to her quiet suckling. Society has taught him that breasts are for ogling at, a distraction from doing what he is doing I guess.

  52. These beautiful words have me in tears after the day that I have had. It’s been miserable for me today. I’ve had an extremely difficult journey breastfeeding, and when someone makes you feel like you’re dirty or criminal, it can almost make you backtrack away from the point where you gained confidence. As a first time mumma, thank you SO much for understanding exactly how I feel. Breastfeeding is beautiful and natural and ought to be CELEBRATED!

    • Robyn Reply

      Carolyn, I’m so glad you found this encouraging. I want you to know I’m cheering you on!

      • Robyn, I would love to share with you a blog entry I did about my journey. Is there a way I could privately share it with you?

  53. Pingback: Sunday Surf: Jan 22-28 | Old New Legacy

  54. Great post! We had this debate today in a lds homeschool forum and I stumbled upon your post when trying to find if there was any written rules in the church. Love it!! Covering is a choice…not a requirement! I was told by a woman today that breastfeeding uncovered was a sin! I could not believe it. I told her I had a lot of sins (don’t we all) but breastfeeding my child was NOT one of them! Why in the US is this such an issue?? It’s a worldwide church and most countries think nothing of it!! Thanks for all the great links and insights! Keep on breastfeeding ladies, it’s what they are made for!!

  55. Breasts have more than one function. To deny that is stupid, at best. Because YOU may see an uncovered breast as functional does not mean that the man 15′ from you does not have other thoughts. Breast is definitely best, but there’s no reason for a woman to be immodest while doing so. Plopping out a boob in front of a teenaged boy because your child is hungry is inconsiderate. Have a little class.

    • It is easy to be discreet while nursing, even without a cover. I have nursed many times without a cover and never have plopped my boob out.

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