Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Breastfeeding Mentor, Continued

Continuing from my last entry, "A Breastfeeding Mentor" (read that first)....

This is on the subject of how public breastfeeding is or is not compatible with the concept of female modesty as dictated by the Bible. I believe that the two go together, while others disagree. (This post, therefore, is religious in nature and would apply only to those who hold biblical beliefs, or other religious beliefs about modesty.)

One commenter wrote:

{This is my quote}"'Breastfeeding is not sexual. Breastfeeding is not an effort to draw men into lust. Therefore, the Biblical call to modesty does not apply.'"

"You are correct- breastfeeding is absolutely not sexual. God, however, didn't make men to enjoy the feminine form of woman for her nursing skills.

"Although it may not be an effort to draw men into lust- it still may- or it may be very uncomfortable b/c a man has had a past issue with porn, adultery, or just not wanting to see anyone else's body but his own wife's.

"The Biblical call to modesty does apply. The Bible was written in a time that the culture was very strict about dress codes, etc- but the Bible is timeless. God knew in His sovereignty that we would be reading it today- in 2011 and it would still apply. I would encourage you to put His Word above social reformation. If what we desire to do goes against the Bible- than it is not's just cultural competition.

"For the record, I nursed my children way past infancy and enjoyed every minute! Thanks for your post. :)"

Here is my response:

Hi!! Thank you for your comments on my blog, and for reading! I wanted to get back with you as soon as I could. However, I would like to say that my response probably won’t be too intelligent, because (1) my beliefs on public breastfeeding are still “under construction,” so I don’t have a well-thought-out system of breastfeeding apologetics, (2) I’m a rotten debater under any circumstances, and (3) I’m in a huge rush at the moment. But here are some random thoughts.

First of all, I am in complete agreement that the Bible is (for Christians) our 100% complete authority. No argument. Agreed.

- Regarding modesty – a bit of a tangent that may or may not have anything to do with what we’re talking about. Yes, the Bible mandates female modesty. However, the Bible is not prescriptive with regards to the details, i.e. it does not say “skirts shall reach to within two inches of the woman’s ankle.” It just says “modesty,” and I believe that this is because God knows that the definition of modesty will always differ by time and place and culture and climate. For example, in Victorian times, it was immodest for a woman to show her ankles. Period. In modern times, a woman can show her ankles quite modestly – because modesty will always be, in part, culturally constructed. By that token, I don’t think we can say that the exact clothing of Biblical times is what is demanded today. Our men don’t wear robes, and our women don’t wear veils. But I think I’m wandering. My more important point was that….

- I do believe that context and purpose are extremely important in determining modesty. For example: I’m completely okay with my children watching birth videos with full nudity. In fact, I encourage it. I am NOT okay with my children watching porn videos with the same full nudity. Why not? It’s the same body parts, after all! But it’s because the purpose and context are different. For the same reason, I am overjoyed to have my children see a woman breastfeeding publicly, but I am not overjoyed to see a woman dressed with really revealing cleavage or sexually suggestive clothing around my kids. Why not? The cleavage is showing less breast than the breastfeeding, after all – but it’s because of the purpose and the context. Similarly, a picture of a breast prepped for surgery in a textbook is not pornography; the same breast in a porn magazine with the exact same amount of nudity is. I go back to my original points, that being that (1) the primary purpose of the breast, by physiological definition, is infant nourishment, not sexual pleasure, and if a woman is using her breasts to nourish her infant, it is completely proper to do it in public, and (2) for any situation, context matters.

- Also, here in America, we have unnatural standards created by the prevalence of bottle-feeding. In many “old world” countries, which also have a strong Christian heritage, it is extremely common and standard for women to breastfeed publicly, and no one thinks anything of it. Italy, Africa, South America – public breastfeeding is considered 100% normal. Here in the West, however, where formula feeding has taken over, we have extended the cover of modesty to include breastfeeding. Most (or many) other places just don’t have a problem with it. If you subscribe to the “Historic Images of Breastfeeding” group on Facebook, you will see a ton of breastfeeding artwork from hundreds of years ago that celebrated both breastfeeding and public breastfeeding. We’re just not used to it any more.

Again, it also depends on the individual woman. When I first started nursing, I wouldn’t do it with anything less than a locked door in between me and the world. Now, I’m a lot more casual about it. I think most women also go through transitions about their comfort levels. I fully support any woman’s decision to nurse at home, to nurse with a cover, or to nurse without a cover, and I think that a woman can fully maintain her modesty and do so. I do think that it’s mostly a matter of cultural discomfort than biblical standards, and I don’t think that our rates of breastfeeding will improve until public breastfeeding becomes the cultural norm that children and young women can learn from. I could be wrong! That’s just my opinion.

And, as K. says, sometimes we are called to give up our freedoms in consideration of the comfort of others. It can be a case-by-case thing.

If any other women would like to chime in here, feel free!

And if that made no sense or was self-contradicting, my apologies! As I said, this is a new subject for me, and I’m still feeling my way through it.

Here’s an article that I thought was very nicely done:

Mistaken Attitudes About Breastfeeding

One last note: We’re debating here about modesty. But most of the negative remarks I’ve heard about breastfeeding have nothing to do with modesty – it’s a matter of sheer disgust. As in “yes, breastfeeding is great and all that, but for crying out loud don’t do it in front of me or I’ll puke because it’s so disgusting”. That’s really the reaction that I see most commonly…. And that is a completely different animal (which would also benefit from public breastfeeding, I think! LOL!).

(I'm guessing that this disgust stems from our obsession about breasts as sexual objects. For example, the Facebook debacle, where Facebook is currently deleting any and all groups that post photos of public breastfeeding, while leaving unscathed groups that have photos of scantily-clad women or breasts in other sexual contexts, regardless of how lewd. Our culture can stand any amount of breast sexuality, but breast functionality (i.e. infant feeding) is seen as obscene. In demonstration of this - We just don't hear news reports saying "Woman dressed in immodestly-low blouse asked to cover up or leave restaurant! Restaurant owner claims, 'I run a family-friendly place! There's no place for this kind of thing!'" etc. etc. etc. LOL! No, women are permitted to dress as immodestly as they like and use their breasts as sexually as they like.... as long as they aren't feeding a baby with them! Our disgust is with breastfeeding, not breasts.)

Thoughts, everyone? (As always, comments must be kind, civil and non-hurtful. All others will be deleted without response.)

A., thanks again for visiting! I’m now off to get the kidlets up…. Have a wonderful day!

Oh, and I’ve made this comment so long that I may just turn it into its own post…. I”ll have to see if blogger will even let me post it! (It wasn't happy, thus this post.)


  1. Wow, I checked back on your blog today to see what you were up to and found an entire post around my comment. Shucks, I feel special. LOL :)

    Okay- now I'm going to read it and I'll be back.

    p.s. I love dialogue, so I hope you don't mind the discussion. Have a great Friday!

  2. Hey, that sounds great! I love discussions. Don't worry if I take forever to respond, though - life is crazy around here! :)

  3. As Godly women we must be discreet and modest with our bodies. Yes, I still see this as a Biblical modesty issue. Women in other countries may breastfeed in public or wear hardly any clothing- but these are unregenerate and pagan people. We get ourselves into trouble when we look to the relevance and acceptance of any culture rather than the Word of God.

    Let's think about functionality for a moment... using the restroom is God's design to eliminate waste and toxins from our bodies daily. It is much more important than breastfeeding and not an option- it MUST be done or we die. Personally, I will never be an advocate to urinate in public as a human 'right'. Our laws protect people from being violated, video-taped or recorded to protect our modesty.

    When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they ran to cover themselves because they 'knew' they were naked. There was a shame and a guilt for their sin and they were hiding from their Creator in this new fallen state of depravity. God provided clothing for them...this was the first blood sacrifice recorded in the history of the world. God covered them; who are we to fight to uncover? If we are believers, we have been bought with a great price and are not our own.

    I Cor 16:19-20 "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

    I absolutely agree with modest nursing in public places (babies gotta eat!) and am saddened that so many people are disgusted by this. A daily reminder (for nursing mommies) that this earth is not our home and we weren't meant to be comfortable here. Waiting for the joys of Heaven!

  4. Muslim women who are fully covered from head to foot are still able to publically breastfeed.
    Women in Victorian England could freely nurse their babies during a church service and still be considered upright and modest.
    Feeding a baby is a separate issue from modesty. Why did God put the baby's food in our breasts? Why didn't he put it in our fingers? It would be much more easy and modest to feed our babies with our fingers than with our breasts.
    Our breasts are close to our hearts. God tells us that he holds us close to Him. We are carried next to His breast. I think the mother-child relationship is similar.
    Men may be turned on by hair, by a neck, by feet or ankles. We can only be responsible to a point for preventing lustful thoughts. To carry the entire burden of man's sin on our shoulders is beyond what we should be held accountable for.
    When you feed your child in public, is it out of means to entice other men? Not me! It is a matter of feeding my child! My husband and many other men have said that when a woman is nursing her child, her breasts hold no sexual meaning to them. We have an incredible ability to see things in different perspectives. Lips are sensual when they're used for kissing. When they're slurping soup, not so much.
    God gives extra grace to those with young. I think this is one of those areas where we are covered with His grace.

  5. Hi, Angelena! I'm glad you got back - I was excited to see your post! (And Amy, thanks for joining in!)

    I'm not going to post a response, because (1) I think it would just get into reiteration of the points we've already made, and (2) I'm still working out my own "theology of breastfeeding," so I'm not really prepared to argue/discuss on a subject where I don't have my own foundation laid.

    However, THANK YOU so much for your loving comments and openness to discussion. I am glad that this discussion exists in the comments so that people reading this post at a later time can examine the various arguments for themselves.

    By the way, I took the time last week to go through your blog and loved it! :) And I am so excited to hear about your church. I read Voddie Bacham's (sp?) book this summer, and it really changed how I thought about family and church. Since we were in the church-hunt ourselves, we tried out a family-integrated church in our area! It didn't end up working out, unfortunately, but we loved it and love the concept. Best of luck with yours!

    Thanks again for visiting - I hope you'll leave comments on more of my entries in the future!

  6. Hi Diana,

    I totally forgot to check back, but thank you for your response as well. :) Glad that you enjoyed the blog and the Voddie book!

    I forgot to tell you that the way I came upon this blog was through your HG blog and am enjoying reading through that. I had severe HG with both my pregnancies (PICC line, IV's, zofran pump, numerous hospital stays, daily in-home nurse care, etc.) for 6 months. I couldn't eat or drink for most of that time and it was very rough for our family.

    I felt so blessed though, b/c my nursing experience was SO easy and a joy. It is an area close to my heart. I will continue to think of you and pray that you will continue to seek the Lord on this theology and look forward to the opportunity to visit with you again in dialogue.

    Soli Deo gloria!

  7. Hi, Angelena!

    Wow, an HG mama too!! I'm glad we can connect on so many levels!

    I'll definitely look forward to talking in the future! And in the present, as occasion arises on other subjects! I hope you'll leave lots of comments.

    Indeed, Soli Deo Gloria!! Venite Adoremus Dominum! :)


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