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A Great Christian Perspective on Nursing in Public

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Long-time readers know that I'm a conservative Christian mother. (New readers are often surprised since they assume lactivist = liberal.) That's why I'm often interested in hearing the perspective of other Christians that are supportive of both breastfeeding and of nursing in public. After all, despite the very vocal cries of outrage against nursing in public from some Christians, the fact remains that Jesus was not only breastfed, but was mostly likely breastfed in public.

That's why I was glad to spot a great article on the topic while I was over at Damien's Breastfeeding for Dad's blog.

Christopher West writes on the subject of breastfeeding in public from the Catholic perspective and has some good insight to share.

I remember attending the Second World Meeting of John Paul II with Families in Brazil in 1997. Nursing mothers were a common sight at this international gathering. What I found intriguing, however, was that women from "first-world" nations tended to drape themselves and sit off in a corner, while women from other nations seemed to have no qualms whatsoever about feeding their babies in full view of others. I remember one woman unabashedly roaming the crowd passing all manner of bishops and cardinals with her breast fully exposed while her child held on to it with both hands happily feeding. The only people flinching seemed to be those from the northern hemisphere.

Isn't it interesting that the part of the world producing the most pornography and exporting it to the rest of the globe has seemed to lose all sense of the true meaning of the human breast? What a commentary on the sad state of our sexually wounded culture! Breasts have been so pornified" that we can fall into thinking that even their proper use is shameful. In other words, we have been so conditioned to see a woman's body through the prism of lust that we find it very difficult to recognize the purity and innocence of breast-feeding.

Couldn't have said it better myself!


  1. Anonymous Anonymous | 2:34 PM |  

    I was raised catholic in the US, it was however when I was Europe, Belgium specifically, looking through the catherdrals and art musuems that I saw so many images of the Blessed Mother nursing baby Jesus.(She was not using a blanket to cover BTW:-) The images were beautiful for many reasons, but what i remeber most of all is how one particular artist caputured perfectly the look between a nursing mom and her baby, such love and awe. I feel sad that American Christians never seen that here. Imagine what it would be like for mothers, fathers and children if those were the images that we saw in church of Mary and Jesus - How could anyone tell a mom to stop nursing or that what she was doing was shameful?

  2. Blogger Mamaebeth | 2:49 PM |  

    have you read this? it is kind of old, so you may have seen it already. "Milk of Kindness"

  3. Blogger Amy | 3:02 PM |  

    Wow. That's awesome. I'm a conservative Christian lactavist as well. It's nice to see this written, especially from a man, since their opinions seem to really matter the most...

  4. Anonymous rachel | 4:14 PM |  

    Here is a great link I found of art depicting the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus. Some of them Mary is waving her boob out for all the see! Some of them even depict Jesus nursing as a toddler! (gasp, shock!!!:-)) Mary is NOT being discreet about feeding her child, and the people around her don't seem to care! Imagine that!


    In the Middle Ages there was a lot focus on Mary's motherhood and very interesting connections on Her Milk and Christ's Blood. As politics changed and the reformation took hold in Europe these images were replaced with more 'modest' pictures of the Virgin and Child...

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 4:24 PM |  


    What a great link! Thanks!

  6. Blogger Cagey | 6:41 PM |  

    Great link! I was just discussing the "nursing in public" topic earlier today on my own breastfeeding blog (www.nursingyourkids.com) - however, we were not discussing it from a Christian perspective, so it's refreshing to read this. Will definitely link back to this!

  7. Blogger Analisa | 6:53 PM |  

    I love Christopher West! As a "hard-core" Catholic :) I see Catholic teaching as perfectly in-sync with natural mothering in general and unrestricted (by age or location or whatever else) breastfeeding specifically. In fact, some of the most common places to see open breastfeeding of babies *and* toddlers are Catholic university campuses like the University of Dallas. Catholic homeschooling groups are some of the best places to find mothers practicing child-led weaning, cloth diapering, etc. Thanks for writing about this from another Christian lactivist!

  8. Blogger Sarah | 12:25 AM |  

    I live in Japan and I get weird looks here when I nurse my babies in public. I always cover up with a blanket but many people still try to direct me to a more "discreet" area. My problem is that there isn't always an opportunity to go away out of the public eye so that I don't offend people. I have four kids and I'm nursing the youngest. If she's hungry and I'm out with the kids by myself, what am I supposed to do at that point. Usually, when I find myself in this situation, I just pretend I don't speak Japanese. It works really well.

    Recently, I read online about a breastfeeding demonstration at PDX airport where I'm from originally. That type of thing would never, ever happen in Japan. We have very delicate sensibilities here!!

  9. Blogger a suburban housewife | 1:31 PM |  

    The links to those pictures were great! I especially love the Van Eyck painting- it made me remember when my boobs were closer to my collarbone too! The only one I didn't like so much was the DaVinci one. Baby Jesus looked a little freakish. (I don't mean that disrespectfully)

  10. Blogger AzĂșcar | 12:23 AM |  

    Hi, thanks for this great perspective. I'm a Christian, Mormon specifically, and I have always loved the images of nursing and breastfeeding that we read in the scriptures. The bible is FULL of allusions and analogies to nursing. I'm not sure if it's Mormonism, or living in the Western US, but it seems that most mothers I know nurse their babies. It is celebrated and accepted in those rather conservative circles. I nurse in church, and notice many other moms with their slings and nursing babies and toddlers.

    I think my grandmother summed up the experience best. She was confronted by doctors in the 40s about nursing her children. She asked, "God made me with breasts that fill with milk. Did He make a mistake? Are you calling God a liar?" I love that...

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:23 PM |  

    Hi Jennifer!
    Did you see the news that the Vatican is unveiling some great paintings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Geotto, and others, that have been hidden away since the 1700's! Isn't that great news! I did nurse in church, school, and anywhere I went. I did get some "looks" but nobpdy ever tried to stop me, thank goodness! Now I am assured I am in good company!

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