CCA Christensen

Seagull Monument at Temple Square

I have always wanted to expand on my previous post “Breastfeeding and Modesty” so this post has been forming in my head for quite a while.  If you have not yet read that post, this one will make a lot more sense if you read it first. To be honest, I don’t consider myself a “lactivist.”  I’m just a mommy who wants to quietly nurse her baby when needed without attracting a lot of attention.  Please keep in mind that by expanding on the importance of breastfeeding I am not trying to degrade anyone for bottle-feeding.  This is not a post about bottle vs. breastfeeding.

In the Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo Gaskill, there is a chapter on “Body Parts as Symbols” in which it includes the symbolism of the bosom/breasts, “In antiquity the bosom, or breast, was a standard symbol for an intimate, nonsexual relationship” (31).  In fact the people of Enoch are an example of this.  We read, “And thou has taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all creations” (Moses 7:31). Gaskill points out, “Through their consistent obedience and love for things of God, they attained to that favored status and intimacy with the divine that all people on earth have been sent to seek” (32).  So to be held near the breast is reflective of being near God.  What a beautiful symbol it is to hold our babies at the breast and nourish them, a reminder that we are to bring them back to God by teaching them the gospel.

The breast was also considered a place of security and protection (Gaskill, 32).  This is pointed out in the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, “For the child there is safety (“safe on my mother’s breast”) [Psalm 22:9], security (“Can a woman forget her sucking child?”) [Isaiah 49:15]) and consolation at the mother’s breast.  It may be for an adult, the hug provides similar comfort.  Perhaps it is not stretching the imagination too much to see John’s reclining on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper in those terms (John 13:25, 21:20)”  (Ryken, Wilhoit, Longman, 119).  In one way or another we each yearn for the security and comfort that the Savior provides.  Our babies yearn for this safety in Christ too.  As mothers we can provide this security and protection that symbolizes our Savior as we snuggle or nurse our little ones.

Cardsten Alberta temple

Cardsten, Alberta Temple artwork (three nursing mothers)

Sexuality

So with this in mind why have we allowed breasts to have taken on a singular sexual identity in our culture when God intended that their primary purpose be that of providing comfort, nourishment and safety and symbolizing a nearness to God?

“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” (A Parent’s Guide, 37, 1985).

Our culture teaches us that breasts are only sexual. On the other hand, God intended that their primary purpose be to nourish and comfort children.  Notice that I did not say that breasts are not sexual at all, but their intended primary purpose is that of nurturing.  Unfortunately, the most common way we see breasts represented is in a sexual manner.

“Though any part of a woman’s body can be a focus of eroticism, our era is the first in recorded history where the breast has become a public fetish for male sexual stimulation, while its primary function has diminished on a vast scale.”  (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 2)

Only rarely do we see breasts used virtuously for nurturing and comforting.  And even when breastfeeding is portrayed in the media it is often done in a sexual manner, the brunt of a sarcastic sexual joke, “I’ll have some of what that baby is having, ha ha.”  This kind of representation perpetuates breastfeeding as a sexual act instead of a nurturing act.  I have also been disappointed by some of the pro-breastfeeding campaigns showing women nursing in lingerie in an effort to make the act sexy and savvy with the new generation.  So it does make sense that there would be a disconnect concerning breastfeeding and what it represents.

“In the 20th century, women were presented with an illusion of liberation through the artificial feeding of their babies, only to find their breasts appropriated by men and popular culture.  This continues in the 21st century.  This has been expressed both privately, when men pressure their sexual partners not to breastfeed, and publicly through pornography and the mass marketing of products and information. .  . Just a few hundred years ago, most human societies found breast exposure in everyday life unremarkable.  What has happened to us? ” (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 3)

And I must apologize for the next image.  It does make an important point.

cartoon BF in mall

In contrast,

20th century

At the crux of the debate over public breastfeeding is the argument that breasts are sexual and therefore, breastfeeding is sexual and should not be a public act or at least it should be “covered.”  But is that true?  Are breasts only sexual?  Well, it depends on who you ask (many cultures scoff at the idea of breasts having a sexual function).  Unfortunately because public breastfeeding became a fairly lost art form for a time, we lost the physiologic purpose of breasts in favor of the more worldly attitude for them.

I am very grateful for how the Church is organized.  The purpose behind the organization and programs of the church are set up to strengthen the family.   In order to have families we get pregnant (therefore displaying our sexuality with the rounding of our abdomens), give birth to our babies (another expression of our sexuality when our abdomens become flatter once again), and nurse our babies (again, displaying sexuality by using our breasts to nourish and comfort).  In using the word sexuality it is different from being “sexual.” Sexuality is defined as, “sexual character; possession of the structural and functional traits of sex.”  It also refers to the “possession of sexual potency.” When we carry our babies, birth them, and nurse them we display the functionality of our traits of sex as women.  For men, this sexuality is not as visual.  This type of sexuality is expressed through their female mates.

I have a great love for the Proclamation to the Family.  We are reminded, “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . .  All human beings are created in the image of God . . . each has a divine nature and destiny.  Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

The characteristics that define women are divinely ordained, meaning, use our bodies to give life through pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, nurturing, and other activities. Because the strengthening of families requires the blessings of church attendance, it is inevitable that the expression of female sexuality be witnessed.  Mothers are left confused about how to function when asked to serve faithfully but not put on display their sexuality (that is divine characteristics of their sex like breastfeeding).  It would be impractical to require a mother to never display her sexuality (pregnancy, breastfeeding) when striving to serve faithfully in the gospel. It is my hope that the breastfeeding mother be welcomed into meetings as she is fulfilling the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.

Modesty

About a year ago I attended a lecture titled, “Infant Feeding as Transgressive Behavior.”  In it the speaker pointed out how regardless of how we feed our babies, it has become almost a no-win situation for mothers:

If I do Breastfeed:

  • I follow medical advice
  • I am immodest and indecent
  • I am doing something that needs to be shielded from public view

 

If I do not Breastfeed:

  • I follow norms about modesty, independence and purchasing
  • I am harming my baby
  • I value my independence and work more than my children.

 

No mother should be left feeling like this no matter how she feeds her baby.

 CCA Christensen Father Lehi blesses his children

Father Lehi blesses his children by C.C.A Christensen, breastfeeding mother in the center of painting

Of course there are times and places when discretion is required. It is important to use the Spirit as our guide.  We can always access the Spirit to determine how we will proceed.  Breastfeeding should not be blatantly distracting.  That is not modesty. We do have a responsibility to normalize breastfeeding. One woman commented on my previous breastfeeding post,

“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.”

Can breastfeeding be immodest?  Yes, if that woman is trying to attract attention to herself and present it in a way to flaunt herself.  This is not usually the case. I know that for me I simply want to feed my baby without being noticed.  The last thing I want is to attract attention. At the same time I want to participate in the gospel as much as I can.  I love the gospel.  It is my heart and soul and I hope that shows when I use my body “after the manner Christ has taught.”  It should be done virtuously. Many women are able to do this without a cover and without flashing their breasts at people.  Many others are grateful for a blanket or cover or simply want to remove themselves.  All of these women are virtuous in their approach.

Breastfeeding is an art form and took me years to perfect to where I was comfortable enough to do it in public.  But many mothers master the art much quicker.  I still remember my brother leaning over to me after a Sacrament meeting while my baby rested cradled in my arms after having been nursed. He leaned over to say, “she seems so content like she could have been nursing.”  I smiled knowing she already had and nobody around me even knew it but me and my baby.  I recently attended a day at girls camp with my infant. A member of the Stake Presidency stopped to tell me something.  He either didn’t notice I was nursing ( I was not using a nursing cover) or he was completely unaffected.  I smiled to myself as he left, just grateful it was not big deal to nurse my little one in the midst of the young women I serve.

Pornography

465169257492189_a-3ea12d09_1lcNUg_pmI have heard commented that we should be mindful of the men in our midst at church who are addicted to pornography.  Because of their addiction, we should cover or go somewhere else to nurse our babies. Some women have been told that nursing our babies in front of them contributes to their addiction.

So what is pornography?  One definition is “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, especially those having little or no artistic merit.” The origin of this word being from the Greek word for harlot. A further definition offers, “writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement.”  So is breastfeeding pornography?  Our culture may have tried to twist breastfeeding into something pornographic but we should not be so fooled.  To equate breastfeeding with harlotry is not a fair comparison.  Breastfeeding is not obscene nor is it designed to stimulate sexual excitement.  It is interesting that the Utah code recognizes this, “(2) (a) a woman’s breast feeding, including breast feeding in any place where the woman otherwise may rightfully be, does not under any circumstance constitute an obscene or lewd act, irrespective of whether or not the breast is covered during or incidental to feeding.” (H. B. 262 (2) (a) State of Utah Jan,. 30, 1995) But in practice we struggle with this.  Somehow the bottle, with its protruding nipple in representation of the breast, is okay but the breast is not.  Maybe we should put a blanket over the bottle?

The reality is that rather than being intended to sexually stimulate, nursing actually stimulates prolactin, the mothering hormone that causes mothers to relax and take on the role of a nurturer. Breastfeeding was designed by God to perfectly nourish our babies and make us better mothers.  It is divinely ordained. It is motherly. It is using our bodies “after the manner Christ taught.”

BOM scripture reader chapter about Enos

From the Book of Mormon scripture reader chapter on Enos (babywearing while nursing).

This is a touchy subject.  Pornography is rampant.  And I have seen firsthand how it destroys families, some near and dear to me. But the burden should not be on the breastfeeding mother’s shoulders to control the interpretation of what she is doing.  Somehow society is asking that she be responsible for the dirty thoughts in someone else’s head.  Somehow removing from view the divinely ordained use of breasts will help in the fight against pornography? All the while we will continue to be bombarded by images of breasts in a sexual manner.  I feel that this perpetuates Satan’s plan to objectify the female body and weaken the God given role of women to nurture their little ones.

I have heard people say, what is the big deal?  Just use a cover.  I think breastfeeding covers are great.  However, I have often felt like I was drawing attention to myself.  Putting a cover over us seems to announce  to everyone around me that I am about to nurse my baby when usually I can do that more discreetly without.  And really, everyone knows what is going on under there and can choose to have dirty thoughts about that too.  Just because a blanket or cover is being used does not mean someone is being more modest than someone who is not.  Some babies just don’t like their head covered when they eat.  Would you like to wear a drape over your head while you eat?

A recent study revealed that 79% of moms know that breastfeeding is best for mom and baby.  40 percent of moms list their greatest concern as breastfeeding in public. 28 percent were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to breastfeed long enough. The more uncomfortable a woman is with the breastfeeding the less likely she is to continue.  We have made righteous women uncomfortable with the virtuous use of their breasts because of our culture’s hyper-sexualization and objectification of them.  I think breastfeeding rates (and the duration of breastfeeding) would rise if women felt more comfortable to nurse in public.

Let us not forget that there are many body parts that have dual functions.  In addition to doing very useful tasks, hands and lips perform very sexual functions but they are not required to be constantly unused in public.  We are not expected to not use them or cover them when they are used to consume a meal.  Sadly, if someone wants to interpret something in a lewd manner, they can.  It does not take much and is out of our control.

Is breastfeeding sexual?  It is an extension of our sexual traits if that is how you define sexual.  Is it about sex?  No.  Is it pornography?  No.  It is the antithesis of such filth.  It is because breastfeeding became so hidden that it became so taboo and misunderstood.  “Teach your children that they will find joy in their bodies when they use them virtuously after the manner taught by Christ.” Breastfeeding is using our bodies virtuously, after the manner taught by Christ.  What we need more of is breastfeeding mothers.

So, thank you mamas and babies for standing for truth and righteousness and nursing while you are doing it.

Author

49 Comments

  1. Perfect! Absolutely brilliant! I agree with everything you said. I wish this would spread like wildfire throughout the church.

  2. thank you so so so SO much for this. you perfectly articulated my chaotic and defensive thoughts. i’ll need to memorize a few parts to repeat to myself when i nurse in sacrament meeting from now on. thanks again, this was beautiful.

  3. The Title of Liberty comes to mind. 🙂 Maybe we need to write this on a flag?

  4. This was very well written! I wish I could have written it myself. There were so many of my thoughts and feelings that you captured so beautifully. I often feel that being able to conceive, birth, and nurture children has been such an amazing gift, a gift that shows us what we can become and where we came from, and yet it has so much shame associated with it. I am also saddened by the loss so many mothers feel when breastfeeding is unsuccessful for whatever reason because it truly is a loss. It is one reason I feel so passionate about helping moms succeed at breastfeeding. Breastfeeding for me has strengthened my confidence in who I am and helped me to recognize my divinity. It reminds me of the Young Women’s Value Divine Nature. I hope that this way of thinking can spread to our youth, both the women and men. There is so much power in understanding our divine nature as children of God and how great would it be for the Young Men to cherish this gift to the women and how great for the women to embrace it. (And I don’t mean that if a person doesn’t breastfeed then they don’t have divine nature. I mean that if we could all embrace our divinity then we all might love a little more.)

  5. Nicole Cunningham Reply

    Wonderful! Robyn, you made such great points that are so humble, sweet, and just plain common sense. Thank you so much–I too, hope this spreads like wildfire. 🙂

  6. Ashlie Davenport Reply

    While I completely agree with absolutely everything you said, I can also see the other sides of the argument. Is verdigrising immodest? Absolutely not. Is it sexual? heck No! Is it designed to stimulate? No, merely to feed. But verdigrising is never and will never be the issue. Sadly it’s that BOOBS are serialized. Not breastfeeding. And unfortunately the breasts are a major part of breastfeeding. It’s very true that boobs hold No sexual purpose in a literal sense, but because the world has sexualized them, they are going to be an issue. It isn’t because that’s what they’re designed to be; sexual. It’s because the world made them appear sexual.

    If you show boobs to a man addicted (not just who has seen) pornography: and I’m talking a legitimate addict, it won’t matter what picture…his mind has been trained to see PARTS not purposes. So I can understand how breastfeeding in front of an addict can be a potential problem. It shouldn’t even be, but let’s thank the over sexualization of the female body by advertisements. There are even fetishes where men desire to be with a woman who will breastfeed them. Nasty? Uh…yeah. But again, the arguments that say breastfeeding is immodest or need to be discreet have nothing to do with the act and everything to do with how people see the body part. If we weren’t offended by bare boobs we would’ve been walking around without shirts as they do in Africa. It has a lot to do with culture. And ours is perverse. It’s a shame, but It’s the reality of where we live. To claim that breastfeeding doesn’t stimulate isn’t the same as saying it isn’t designed or intended to stimulate. it depends on who’s around.

  7. Ashlie Davenport Reply

    Breastfeeding * sorry…

    P.s. this is merely an observation and I fully support breastfeeding. I just can understand the other argument.

    • I agree with you Ashlie. I personally breastfeed my babies, but to me it is special and my body is special, and to me this world is too sexual and messed up for me to feel comfortable whipping out my boob in public to feed my baby. Now, that isn’t to say that I haven’t nursed without a cover in semi-public places (like in my car in a parking lot), but I (try) do so where no man can see. A lot of people are saying that women are the ones making a bigger deal out of public nursing, that’s because either men quickly look away and are polite and good men, or they are perverts and they stare.. I am not saying everyone should cover. I am just giving my opinion on it. I do think that it is a God given gift and that our breasts should be thought of a nurturing first and foremost, but unfortunately in this crazy world that isn’t the case. I think breastfeeding is like praying, the Lord says we shouldn’t shout our prayers, or make our personal prayers known to everyone. (I am not saying to not pray in public, you can pray anywhere and everywhere, but —>) He says it should be done quietly, reverently, with respect and love. I think breastfeeding should be the same. And if you can breastfeed without a cover, and without exposing your nipple to everyone then perfect!! I just agree that it should be done politely, with respect to men and their wives wherever you are. So I can see both sides. 🙂 I know I wouldn’t like a woman flashing my husband to bring her breast out or to put it away after breastfeeding, all I am saying is to be polite and if you don’t have a cover, turn towards a wall or have your shirt cover your nipple in the process of latching/unlatching. 🙂 Just my opinion. Times change, and unfortunately the culture and views are very different then they were a few hundred years ago. Porn is rampant and sex is much more part of life then it was then. It stinks, but it is truth. I wish it weren’t. Also, those of us who do cover, don’t do it necessarily because we are afraid or ashamed to feed our baby, it could be that we are doing it out of respect for those around us, or respect for ourselves because we don’t want a grossy guy to pull out his phone and take pics of us nursing or straightening ourselves.. Anyways my 2 cents, thank you for the article, I really do agree with much that was said. 🙂

  8. Ashlie-I’ve actually talked with a couple counselors who deal with sexual addictions. Neither have ever heard a person say that breastfeeding was a trigger. One of the psychologists has a breastfeeding wife whom he encourages to nurse without a cover. I really think if it was a trigger for many people, he would discourage it. It still stands to reason though that MANY body parts can be stimulating-necks, arms, lips, tongues, feet. We don’t live our lives in burkas with bags over our heads *just in case* someone gets turned on. In Mexico, where my husband served his mission, women openly nursed infants and toddlers. Men didn’t bat an eye, stare, ogle, or make everyone uncomfortable (women didn’t either, who in my experience make a much bigger stink than any man) because it was normal. I believe we can bring that back here.

  9. I love this!

    My current nursling is 4 months old and it took me until her (she is baby#4) to put that nursing cover away for good. I made the conscious choice this time to nurse her without it in hopes that it gives another woman the courage to nurse in public without anxiety or fear and to help normalize breastfeeding in our society as a whole.

    It makes me sad that I have had other breastfeeding mothers apologize to me (as they covered up with a nursing cover) for nursing their babies near me IN THE MOTHER’S NURSING ROOM where I was doing the exact same thing. No woman should feel shame in such a God given act. I want my daughters (and sons) to understand that it is apart of our divine nature as woman to nurture and nurse our little ones. So thank you for articulating this so well!

  10. I love the article. And I hadn’t realized there was so much breastfeeding in LDS art. (Also, I am nursing as I read this, so appropriate.)

  11. As a father and husband in the LDS church, I just wanted to chime in and say that I really appreciate what you’ve written. Your remarks on the associations between breastfeeding and pornography are just absolutely spot on. It truly is unfair for members of the church to put nursing mothers on the spot and suggest that it is their responsibility to “not feed the addiction” of those who struggle with pornography. My issue with the porn addict argument that it somehow suggests that a nursing mom needs to value someone else’s needs/struggles over that of her own child’s. What the breast symbolizes, could symbolize, triggers, implies, whatever… all of that is secondary to the needs of an infant who simply wants to be nourished, comforted, and be protected.

    Again, thanks so much for this phenomenal post.

  12. I am a retired La Leche League Leader and wife and mother of eight children, plus a grand mother of seven, and counting. I heartily agree with this wonderful article! I nursed all of my children discretely, wherever I went. I would often do so in my baby sling. I found it far less disruptive to nurse in church rather than bring about the commotion of taking the baby out, along with the isolation. I doubt many even knew that was what I was doing. Nursing, to me, was almost a non activity. There were a few times, in fact, that I called out “where’s the baby?!!” just to have my other kids giggle and inform me I was holding and nursing the baby. That does not mean I always mindlessly breastfed. On the contrary, I enjoyed my nursing babies, the eye contact, the smiles, the closeness, the intense bond that would bring me to happy tears sometimes and the portability as well as the easy lifestyle. I have long believed that the best place for nursing is wherever life is lived. I believe it is very important for us to be willing to go out of our comfort zones and be a little daring to discretely nurse in public, if society is ever going to change. If we want our young women to have it easier when they grow up and become wives and mothers, we will pioneer the way for it to be more commonplace to meet the needs of our babies no matter where we are! Thanks for saying so eloquently the things that have long been in my heart. Society will change one courageous, daring mother and baby at a time, many times over!

    • Robyn Reply

      Sadly, as stated in the post here, many men and women only see breasts and breastfeeding as sexual. That was not the question. It was more about what breasts really are for, etc. And, I think it is great that you don’t want to show your breasts in public. I don’t either.

    • My boobs definitely don’t show while I nurse. Those aren’t the same things at all.

      • Ashlie Davenport Reply

        I’m aware most women don’t show their boobs in public. I have absolutely No issues with breastfeeding mother’s who are able to conceal nipples during feeding. It’s the exhibitionist breastfeeders who have no concern for how they are exposing children and men to their boobs that I have issues with. That is all.

        • Exhibitionist breastfeeding? WHO ARE YOU KIDDING?
          It is people who are trying too hard to catch any glimpse that are the problem with “public breastfeeding” not the mothers feeding their babies. So lets be clear about who has no concern for others…..hint its those who take issue with “breastfeeding” as anything other than what it is- feeding a child.

          Telling women to “go into another room” is unacceptable, if someone can’t tolerate being in a room with a baby who is being fed, they should leave, or go sit on a toilet and eat their snack, or cover their face, or think about their behavior that is so isolating of fmailies, as THEY are the menace to peace keeping.

          • Ashlie Davenport

            Most women can public breastfeed… even without a cover…without exposing their boobs. It’s the ones who rip off their whole shirt in my presence I have an issue with. Aka:exhibitionist breastfeeding.

            Boobs are now sexual. You can’t argue that people don’t see them that way. Sure, you can argue they were never intended to be, but here we are. If your boobs are showing No matter what your doing I’m going to go “ick”. You didn’t show them before breastfeeding. There’s No need to during either. Keep them covered with something: a special tank top, a cover, a baby, a shirt that works. Keeping boobs covered vs using a cover is different. I’m not asking anyone to not breadtfeed in public. I’m asking you to Keep your girls to yourself, your baby and your husband.

  13. Beautiful. Thank you so much! I wish this was around 7 yrs ago when I had my first. I’ve come a long way with my third unfortunately I still cover myself because I am so uncoordinated that I probably draw more attention to myself when I’m getting “set up”. Again Thank you 🙂

  14. I am always discreet and respectful when I nurse in public. But I have wondered for some time if one reason pornography is such a pervasive problem in our culture is that public breastfeeding is SO rare, boys grow up never seeing breasts performing their proper function. They only encounter breasts in their over-sexualized context, on billboards, in movies. I am not suggesting women nurse completely uncovered in public, but I do wonder what it would do for growing boys and potential pornography addicts to be raised VIEWing breasts as nurturers and nourishers. At least it will not be curiosity that drives them to their first pornographic search. Though not appropriate for the current American public, perhaps “indiscreet” nursing at home in the presence of all our children will hurt the future of the pornography epidemic.

    But in summary, it seems plausible to me that uncovered public nursing is more likely to heal than hurt the next generation of pornography addicts.

    • Robyn Reply

      I feel the same way Meredith. I’m very discreet too but I also ponder the same things you mention here about more openly witnessed breastfeeding. I respect that in many other cultures they have not allowed the breast to become solely a sexual object and it is in those cultures that breastfeeding is open and commonly witnessed.

      • Ashlie Davenport Reply

        I really wish it had stayed that way here. It may have made such a big difference in pornography addiction. But sadly now there’s mixed messages and many men are predispositioned by the media to see breasts as sexual. Seeing breasts during feeding would only be beneficial to men not exposed time porn or media’s idea of sexualizing the breasts. The men already addicted won’t be able to differentiate.

    • My mom was a rare one who nursed as needed wherever through the 70s and 80s. Years later, my older brothers didn’t have the same issues with porn as many of their friends did, which my dad attributed to their being comfortable with the female body in a non-sexual way. I really think there’s something to that. Modesty is important, but I think it’s also good for children to see babies being fed and to understand that a breast’s first function is that of nurturing. My boys see me nurse when I need to whereever I am, yet they also see that when those outside the family are around, I am very careful about how I manage the process. On airplanes or crowded areas, I usually first ask the person next to me if they are comfortable with the idea or if they’d prefer I go elsewhere.

  15. I agree that nursing is a beautiful thing, but I also have someone very close to me who has a pornography addiction and is struggling to overcome that. It’s amazing how “little” things can trigger those bad thoughts. I can see it both ways, but I also don’t think it’s much to ask to use a cover. You don’t have to not cover up to prove a point. Everyone knows what you’re doing. I absolutely plan on breast feeding but I also would NEVER want to make someone’s struggle harder for them. I would hope that women would have enough respect for others who are really trying to avoid having those thoughts to not make it harder for them. Yes, it’s not our fault that they have that struggle, but I also feel like we are all here to help one another and if that means covering up so be it. I am willing to do whatever it takes to help those around me. I will however verbally promote breast feeding, I just don’t need to show it.

    • Not all babies tolerate a cover. Mine is one of them. He screamed and screamed and thrashed around and drew far more attention to us than simply nursing without one. As I stated above, I’ve talked with a couple psychologists who counsel people dealing with sexual and pornography addictions and neither has ever heard one say breastfeeding is a trigger.

      It’s been around 100 degrees for the last 6+ weeks and I have a nursing 18 month old. It is impractical to use a cover in this kind of heat and actually can endanger infants (I realize my son is not an infant but I’m not about to cover a toddler or myself) who overhear easily. I also agree with those who wonder if covering up breastfeeding actually perpetuates the disgust/fascination/etc of breastfeeding. I don’t intend to cover any of my children as it implies it needs to be hidden and I 100% disagree with that.

      • Ashlie Davenport Reply

        You’ve talked to one therapist. I’ve spoken to many. Men can’t be around ANY nudity when a pornography addict. If you don’t believe me, check out the link I posted where men actually admit to sexual thoughts whilst seeing a nursing mother without a cover.

        No ones going to make you use a cover. But there is a reason we turn children and husbands away. Boobs are sexual in the USA. there is No getting around that fact. That means when observed in any situation, that men have the tendency to think sexual thoughts. One nursing mother can’t undo years of media.

        • I guess I don’t understand why we would surrender to the falsity that breasts are purely sexual and cover or remove ourselves when breastfeeding instead of fighting quietly to change that. I will never turn my children away from a nursing mother and I know of many other women who feel the same. It’s not hard to say “that is how babies eat!” And move along. If the child struggles to understand why it’s okay to have the breast out while nursing, we can point them to many other areas if exceptions to rules: bathing suits, exercise clothes, locker rooms. While it’s not acceptable to go around topless, it is perfectly acceptable to have the breast out to feed a child. I do believe that we can slowly change the culture but that means we can’t be satisfied with how it is now.

          Breastfeeding is feeding a child. We don’t cover our heads while eating, and we eat socially. Breastfeeding isn’t procreating or eliminating waste, it is feeding a child. It can’t be compared to those things because it completely different. Many, many other cultures understand this (even within the lds community-there are accounts of women nursing wile conducting RS) so why shouldn’t we try to change ours?

          • This truly is such a new development in our culture. For thousands of years women nursed openly without issue, and continue to do so in many parts of the world. It’s because of the mass marketing of formula that we are where we are. Two generations ago, everyone “knew” how much better formula was than breastmilk and almost no one nursed. This de-normalized nursing and now women who want to breastfeed are discriminated against by being told to cover or leave the room while women who bottle feed are told no such things. That is simply wrong.

            When my mind was slowly changing to my current opinion (because before I had a baby I too believed nursing openly was inappropriate. It’s interesting how actually breastfeeding [and fighting to breastfeed through 6 months of problems] and having a child who won’t cover, and staying home without a car [making you feel isolated and even more so when you actually get to do something with people but then some expect you to leave your very rare social interactions to feed your baby-but not those who bottle feed, no, they can stay] and researching the history of breastfeeding changes your thought process) I came across this fantastic page. Maybe someone else will find it interesting too.

            https://m.facebook.com/HistoricBreastfeedingPhotos?id=363020882508&_rdr

          • Ashlie Davenport

            There are women who nurse in relief society of course. It’s meant for women. And every mother I’ve seen nurse has always used a cover or kept their selves covered with other methods. But I highly doubt that same woman would go into priesthood session without a cover or with half of her chest out. That’s the difference. I have absolutely No issue with public breastfeeding. None. I only have an issue with public breastfeeding in front of children and men with all of a boob showing during latching/unlatching/baby being curious moments or all but the nipple showing. If boobs aren’t sexual, why don’t we let children see advertising with topless women? 99.9% of women have No problem breastfeeding without a peep show whether they use a cover or not. It’s the .1% I have big issues with. My friends little brother is a recovering pornography addict. And let’s just shove boobs his face because someone wants to prove a point? Uh, boobs are boobs. They may have never meant to be sexual but they are now.

      • All I’m saying is my opinion, and if the argument is that the baby doesn’t like it, then go into another room. And I’m pretty sure that knowing first hand someone who HAS had a problem with that means that the therapists have not spoken to every person who has that addiction. I know for a fact it can and is worse if they can see it vs. not so I don’t care what any therapist says.

      • We don’t “let children see advertising with topless women” because it is probably inappropriate sexualized advertising, however, breastfeeding is normal and not inappropriate, so there isn’t really corollary of the two (advertising & breastfeeding) unless of course you are referring to advertisements of breastfeeding, which are suitable for children.

        When in the history of breastfeeding, did feeding children involve shoving boobs in some else’s face to prove a point about breastfeeding? Breastfeeding and shoving things in people’s faces aren’t corollary either, unless you are referring to the breast is being shoved in the hungry baby’s mouth.

        I am terrible confused by this though, “I have absolutely No issue with public breastfeeding. None. I only have an issue with public breastfeeding…” so do you or don’t you, or do you even know? And do you really know why to either scenario?

        Once again then, the “problem” with breastfeeding in public uncovered is not about the baby being fed from a female breast, the problem is related the person viewing it, and we need to stop vilifying mothers & their babies for the problems of others. Culturally this means being educated about breastfeeding. Normalizing breastfeeding doesn’t remove any sexual connection we will have to the breast in sexual (and social) context, as the millions of breastfeeding women (and their husbands) can attest, they still gain pleasure from them when not breastfeeding.

        And I am a little disturbed at this notion that in the men are incapable of self control or their sexual impulses. “That means when observed in any situation, that men have the tendency to think sexual thoughts. One nursing mother can’t undo years of media.” I worry for a world that is accommodating this type of male over and over again at the expense and well being of women and children.

        • Robyn Reply

          I believe we have to teach our children and each other we are responsible for our own thoughts and impulses too. We are not helpless to what someone else is doing or wearing. I really liked this post about how this father plans to talk to his son (and obviously a mother can have this conversation with her son or daughter, etc).

          http://www.beautyredefined.net/guys-guide-to-seeing-women-not-objects/

          “A lot of people will try and tell you that a woman should watch how she dresses so she doesn’t tempt you to look at her wrongly. Here is what I will tell you. It is a woman’s responsibility to dress herself in the morning. It is your responsibility to look at her like a human being regardless of what she is wearing. You will feel the temptation to blame her for your wandering eyes because of what she is wearing – or not wearing. But don’t. Don’t play the victim. You are not a helpless victim when it comes to your eyes. You have full control over them. Exercise that control. Train them to look her in the eyes. Discipline yourself to see her, not her clothes or her body. The moment you play the victim you fall into the lie that you are simply an embodied reaction to external stimuli unable to determine right from wrong, human from flesh.”

        • Ashlie Davenport Reply

          Well if you would’ve read the whole comment and not taken the one part you would’ve understood that breastfeeding doesn’t need to involve showing your boobs. If you rip off your entire shirt then I’m going to assume you have No respect for the fact that others don’t want to be around topless women. However if you have a tank top or layers or something covering you whilst feeding, I’m going to be very happy for you.

          Most pornography addicts saw pornography at the age of 6 nd were hooked by 10. Is it really THEIR fault they can’t undo what it taught them? No. But it’s about respect.

        • Ashlie Davenport Reply

          P.s. what was actually written was.somewhere along the lines of, “I have No issue with public breastfeeding. None. The only issue I have with public breastfeeding is doing it with No intent to cover up anything or trying to cover what you’re able.” Covering up doesn’t need to be the same as using a cover. But I’m a woman and was EXTROARDINARILY uncomfortable with seeing a woman remove her entire top and expose both breasts in front of me and try to hold a conversation. I would’ve been really upset had she done it in front of someone I love with an addiction and expect them to have No problem. Pornography addicts cannot be exposed to any nudity. Breasts are nudity. Breastfeeding doesn’t need to have nudity. See the difference?

          Also, I know men are perfectly capable of controlling their thoughts. But do you realize that porn is abundant in 30% of the men you see at church? They literally have been conditioned since they were 6 to be stimulated by the sight of flesh on a woman. Porn has corrupted their ability to see the beauty in nursing. More men in the LDS church than you know have been exposed to or have had issued with it.

          I realize that breastfeeding is a necessity and that babies don’t tolerate covers. I’m not asking that. I’m asking if mother’s would at least attempt to cover their selves to the best of their ability and as much as baby will tolerate so that men addicted to porn don’t have to be scared to walk out of their home. It’s a respect issue. I’m not addicted to porn. I don’t care if you breastfeed in front of me, but u also don’t wanna see your nipples.

          The picture of the woman sitting and feeding her baby in the mall with a jacket on: perfectly acceptable.

          The picture of the woman on time magazine: that’d be a problem.

  16. Robyn Reply

    Just a reminder to keep comments positive. We encourage open dialogue about these important issues. Let’s agree to disagree. I support all mothers in their spirit-guided decisions of where and how to feed their babies.

  17. I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree. I hope my children see women openly nursing, as it is a perfect teaching moment. If you look through some of the pictures from the fb page I posted, you’ll see women openly nursing around men. It used to be normal and it can be again. I hesitate to define what “nursing modestly” or “being discreet” is, or passing my opinions on what nursing “appropriately” looks like as it’s cultural and not in the least doctrinal. What I may be comfortable with others may not be. There’s a spectrum with no exact line of propriety, and no child will be harmed seeing a breast breastfeeding. They didn’t used to be so why would they be now?

    • I agree.

      I wholly support any woman who chooses because of her own volition to nurse however she pleases, covered, uncovered, in public, in a quiet room, laying down, standing up, grocery shopping, in park, at church, yadda yadda yadda, whatever, breastfeeding is about feeding babies. I hope her decision is based upon what she actually desires as a faith based or positive well-informed decision, rather than one of shame or fear, and whether or not she chooses to breastfeed in a way that we would breastfeed, we need to respect her decision as a mother.

  18. Also I’ve never, not once, seen this “exhibitionist breastfeeder” you dislike so much. Have you?

  19. I loved this and the previous post about breastfeeding, thanks for the thoughtful and well-researched post!!

    maybe somebody has already talked about this, I haven’t been able to read through all the comments, so sorry if this has already been addressed…

    I’m currently nursing my one-month old baby, she is my third, and I feel blessed that I’ve been able to breastfeed all three of them. However, it’s the navigating of all of the clothing that keeps me from breastfeeding in public…how have you been able to nurse in sacrament meeting or girls camp with no one noticing, with all the clothing to go through to get the baby to the breast? I have garments, a nursing bra, nursing pads, a layered shirt (you know the type for modesty, to keep the regular shirt modest) and then my regular outer shirt. Pulling everything up and everything down, it exposes my back and belly, so even if I’m not exposing my breast, half my midsection is showing, with all of its doughy stretchmarked glory 🙂 and I’m more uncomfortable about drawing attention to myself with all the clothing adjustments and exposed midsection than the breastfeeding itself, you know? that’s why i find it more comfortable to just go somewhere to be alone. So if you have any clothing “tips” to help me out, I’d LOVE it. do you use special nursing garments (temple or otherwise). please email me if you can, I’d love to know how others have been able to overcome the clothing challenge. 🙂

    thanks!

    • I have small breasts so this may or may not work for you. I do regular garments, nursing bra OR tank, shirt. I just recently at about 14-15 months don’t have to wear nursing pads anymore! When I wear a nursing bra I wear a belly band to cover my stomach. So I go under my shirt, unhook my bra or tank, pull it and my garment top down, then grab my shirt bunched up over my breast in one hand and with the other get baby’s head in position. Then a quick lift and latch and I’m set. I practiced at home in front of my husband and sister and mirror to get good at it. Good luck!!

    • With layers I find it easy to lift the top layer up above the breast and the under layer pull down below the breast.

    • I haven’t had to mess with nursing pads. And I don’t love having lots of layers either. I do use the belly bands to cover my tummy when I lift my shirt. But I personally do not care if I see someone’s back or some belly when they need to feed their baby. And I prefer a quiet space too. It’s often just more comfortable but sometimes there isn’t one so you just do your best.

  20. Interesting post and great references, too. I always breastfed my children in public but wore a top long enough to pull over whatever part of my breast was showing, while keeping the baby’s head uncovered. This was not done out of shame, peer pressure, or concern for others’ discomfort, but simply to please myself. I didn’t want to cast my “pearls” (as it were ) before any potential swine…and I suspect there were and are more than a few out there. I think my process was pretty subtle and never seemed to attract undue attention. Worked for me, anyway… (Having said that, I hold no judgment for women who do things differently. This was just my personal preference.)

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