Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public
This post was written for inclusion in the NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information.
There has been alot of coverage within the natural parenting circuit of recent incidents where mothers have been harassed for breastfeeding in public. On occasion, I have seen it suggested that the issue behind much of the public breastfeeding debate is a kind of Christian prudishness that’s ingrained within North American and to a lesser extent European society. While I admire many of these talented writers for their views on attachment parenting and other topics, I’m not convinced that we’ve arrived at the answer here.
While it might seem that the church is a likely target, when you really examine what the church says you’ll see that it’s actually extremely supportive of breastfeeding and mothers who breastfeed (and I’m talking about the Catholic church as I can’t speak about the other Christian denominations).
First, a Catholic Perspective on Breastfeeding: Christopher West, who has spent years of study and contemplation ˝unpacking˝ the late Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body describes a nursing mother as ˝one of the most precious, most beautiful, and most holy of all possible images of woman˝ because our bodies are designed for feeding and for comforting our children at the breast. While JPII was a Pope in this modern age, the uplifting of the act of breastfeeding and the breastfeeding mother are firmly entrenched in church history. The oldest known image of the Virgin Mary is of her breastfeeding the infant Jesus.
And, if you Google the words ˝Virgin Mary˝ and ˝Breastfeeding˝ you get over 69,000 hits. There are even paintings from the 15th and 16th century that depict Mary squirting milk into the mouth of St. Bernard. A rather odd story, called the Miracle of Lactation, in which we learn that St. Bernard of Clairvaux was praying before a statue of the Virgin Mary nursing the baby Jesus. Apparently Bernard begged Mary to ˝Show that you are a mother.˝ The statue came to life and …well, you already know the punchline.
There is also a story of the Virgin squirting milk into the mouths of people in purgatory. Upon receiving the milk, they are cleansed and ascend into heaven. JPII himself said this about breastfeeding: ˝So human and natural is this bond that the Psalms use the image of the infant at its mother’s breast as a picture of God’s care for man (cf. Ps 22:9).˝
Catholic Perspectives on Breastfeeding in Public:
˝Our Lady, over the centuries, has been shown ‘breastfeeding in public’ in ecclesiastical art.˝
There’s a sense that breastfeeding is natural and part of ˝the plan˝ and as such, doing so in public not only provides good witness but also brings people back to reality.
A poll from Catholic.com showed that 94% of Catholics who participated in the survey thought that public nursing was perfectly fine, and 52% felt that mothers should NOT have to cover themselves while doing so. From a different thread discussing breastfeeding in public, commenters were quite unified in their opinion that breastfeeding in public is an everyday, normal thing that shouldn’t be scorned and definately shouldn’t be shunted off to a public restroom. Here is one such comment from a breastfeeding-supportive dad:
˝I can’t comprehend the line of thinking that would lead one to say that, since they aren’t comfortable with a woman feeding her baby in the healthiest, most natural way possible, exactly the way God designed her to do, she should take her baby into an unhygienic toilet stall or uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous based on the temperature) car just so they don’t have to be offended by possibly seeing a partially exposed breast. Breastfeeding not only gives the baby the exact food it was designed to eat straight from the source, but also helps form a bond between the mother & child. I don’t see a mother breastfeeding her child as immodest (and certainly not appalling); instead, I view it as one of the most wonderful, beautiful experiences a mother can share with her baby. I think it’s horrendous that anyone would try to portray it as anything else, whether shameful, immodest, disgusting or appalling. What sort of message does that send to kids, particularly daughters, that taking care of your baby in the best possible way is something they should be offended and shamed by? And as far as being worried about a boy seeing something so terrifyingly depraved as a naked breast, maybe if our sons weren’t taught to be so hung up on them as these ultra-sexualized taboos, they wouldn’t grow up to have such issues with objectification and pornography.
You know, I don’t like when people chew with their mouths open, but I’m not going to tell someone who’s doing that to go finish their dinner on a toilet because I don’t want to see what they’re chewing.˝ – Gordan Simms, Aug 8 2009
Whereas breastfeeding in public received more general support, opinion about breastfeeding during the Mass is more split.
While several people cited ˝distraction˝ as their chief gripe, proponents argued that failing to breastfeed at those times when a child is hungry (as inconvenient as it may be sometimes) shows a lack of charity for the needs of the child and that done discreetly doesn’t bother anyone. In the end, whether or not a mother nurses during the Mass is based on personal comfort with the prospect rather than prohibition from the Church.
Finally, I am Catholic and I breastfeed in public. I am not embarassed by it but I am discreet. I’ve never received dirty looks, negative comments or been made to feel like I was doing something inappropriate. I guess I am one of the lucky ones.
Do you breastfeed in public? Do you place limits on where you breastfeed? Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable for breastfeeding in public?
Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public
Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.
Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.
This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 – Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It