Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nursing in Church

This post from Rixa got me thinking the other day. The post brings up the topic of breastfeeding in church. Rixa is also LDS so our frames of references are the same/similar. I was going to just comment, but before I knew it, my comment was turning into an essay. So I decided it was something worthy of a post.

Most mothers I know, go in to the Mothers Lounge to nurse and change their babies. I have only seen a mother nurse outside the Mothers Room a couple times. In our ward, we typically have several babies at any given time and there has been more than one occasion where I have been one of four or five women in the room, where there are only two chairs. Even though there is a speaker that enables us to hear the talks from Sacrament Meeting, it doesn't mean we will hear, either because we are chatting or there is a crying baby or whatever.

I always nursed Jilly in the Mothers Room. Always. Toward the end of our nursing relationship, I thought about nursing her in Relief Society, but never did because I felt a little uncomfortable with it myself and didn't want to offend any one else. But I have learned and grown a lot since then. Toward the end with Jilly, I started getting lazy and it was easier to hand her a bottle that she could feed herself, than to sit down and nurse her. She accepted either one just fine, so it didn't matter too much. When I was pregnant with Jason, I knew I wanted to be more dedicated to the nursing relationship. I want to nurse him longer (ideally 15-18 months, maybe more) and give him less formula overall. Because I already know how to nurse and am comfortable with doing it around others, I knew I didn't want to sequester myself while nursing the same way. Plus, let's face it. With your second child, you learn to multi-task while taking care of the baby, rather than stopping and taking time out to nurse or soothe your first baby.

I serve in the Primary organization. So for almost 2 hours, I am helping with the kids, conducting, leading music, teaching, and quieting wiggly ones. I often keep Jason with me, unless I am teaching. He usually nurses during Sacrament Meeting and again during the third hour of Church. If he wants to be fed during Primary, I usually just nurse him right there, with my nursing cover. It makes it so much easier for me. I can still be present in what is going on, answer questions, even give stern looks and instructions to settle down. ;-) I don't conduct or lead the music while I am nursing, not because any worry about exposure, but more out of comfort, because my arms get sore holding him without support! If I was in Sunday School or Relief Society, or serving in Young Women, I think I would do the same. Sacrament Meeting is the one place I don't regularly nurse in.

I have nursed once or twice in the chapel, during Sacrament Meeting. But I usually go to the Mothers Room. My husband and I have differing opinions on nursing during Sacrament Meeting. I want to do it, he thinks I shouldn't. He is in total agreement that it is quite appropriate to nourish my baby, the way Heavenly Father designed. His argument is that other people may be offended by me doing so, and even though I may be 'right', if I do something deliberately knowing that it may cause offense or distract them from their worship, then that is wrong and that sin is on me. I feel that I am magnifying the divine body that Heavenly Father gave me. He designed my body this way and intended for babies to nurse. I feel like that is glorifying my spirit, rather than doing something wrong or dirty. If I am doing what He intended, then I feel it is completely appropriate to do so during Sacrament Meeting, in the chapel. There are probably people in our ward (I'm assuming older folks) who would be shocked and possibly offended, but I don't care too much. That sounds awful and quite callous of me. I feel like I am justified spiritually in doing so, and if someone is appalled or offended then it is their problem to sort out and I would be happy to have a constructive conversation with them about it.

Another of the reasons I would prefer to nurse in the chapel is that I tend to lose out on the spiritual 'meat' of the meeting when I am in the Mothers Room. Just the disruption of getting up, gathering the diaper bag, walking out of the chapel, then coming back and doing it all again, takes away from my focus, as well as those around me. By nursing right there in the pew, there is minimal distraction and upheaval for myself, my baby (he often nurses to sleep, so the less movement, the more likely he is to sleep better), my family (Jilly won't freak out when I walk away, Steve doesn't have to be climbed over), and everyone else in the chapel. Since I am in Primary, and we are teaching young kids, I don't always get spiritually fed with more grown-up doctrine. Sacrament Meeting is my place for that nourishment.

I have a feeling that if someone was to notice and have a problem with that it would mostly come from a place of ignorance- it's just something they haven't seen much of. And just because someone hasn't seen something before, is not a good reason for me to not do it. In fact, it's a good opportunity for education; an example to children and youth about how to feed a baby, the way God intended. I am quite careful to be discreet and not flashing my breast for everyone to see. With the way the pews are set up in the chapel, most people wouldn't be able to see what exactly I was doing anyway. I think I will just do it from now on. If someone has a problem with it, they can speak with me, and I would love to talk about it. I feel the same way about this, that I do about being asked to nurse in a restroom at a restaurant. I believe it is not only okay, but should be encouraged. After all, I nurse at home with no problems, and we have been told that our homes are second only to temples in sacredness.


Ausmerican Housewife said...

To people that are offended by the sight of a mother feeding her child the way God and nature intended, GET. OVER. IT.

How do you think your mother fed you and your grandmother fed your mother? A la boob.

Its one thing if a mother has her breasts hanging out with child latched on for all to see. Its another if she's covered herself up with a blanket or wrap. Just look away or leave the room if it bugs you.

Here in Australia, I have noticed signs or decals on windows that proudly announce that the shop/cafe/restaurant is a safe place to breastfeed. I say good job on the shop owners to make this beautiful expression of care and devotion from a mother to her child recognized and applauded in their space!

Mothers that nurse during church services? I applaud you for doing so discreetly. Not only are you getting more out of the service but so is your baby. You hear the message and although baby may not understand it, he or she is hearing it as well. I'm pretty sure mothers in ancient times used to go see Jesus preach and nurse their little ones when needed. Did Jesus turn them away? I'm pretty sure he didn't. Take His lead.

(If your child is screaming and making an unholy racket, then obviously it is only courteous and polite for the mother to excuse herself from her current group or surroundings, take the child to the nearest ladies room and to calm him/her there before returning.)

If baby is hungry and isn't making such a loud fuss by all means, throw on the wrap and whip out that nipple!

If you're offended, get your head checked.

My $0.02.

Jenna said...

I have such a hard time with this attitude that it's not appropriate for women to be breastfeeding in Sacrament Meeting, and I'm still not sure how my husband and I are going to deal with the issue in the next few months. I agree with Ausmerican Housewife, that I doubt when Jesus fed the five thousand or stayed at the home of Mary and Martha, did he tell the women to leave his presence while nursing because what they were doing was inappropriate.

I think the best argument I've heard is that we are a worldwide church, and thus if it isn't "wrong" for women to be nursing in Sacrament Meeting in South America or Africa (where missionaries talk frequently about their encounters with nursing women) then there shouldn't be a problem in the states either. I do agree that there are many men who are uncomfortable with the idea, but this is a problem that can only be fixed by exposing them to breastfeeding, not shying away from it. Mother's lounges were provided as a comfort to women who wanted a chance to escape from the public from their children, not a requirement, but somehow over the years, men in particular have come to see it that way.

Bri said...

Aimee I love this blog. Why have I not been reading it. I will nurse in sacrament if it isnt a distraction to others (loud fuzzy babe), because I find it more a distraction to get up and leave with all my stuff like you said. People who have a problem need to go to church in Brazil or Portugal where ladies dont use covers and let it all out. Be grateful you are in the states where we cover up a little more. OR get over it, I am not sorry I am the bottle.