Of Breasts and Breastfeeding

Photo credit: Matteo Bagnoli via compfight

This morning at church I cried.  Not the good kind of cry, where you’re just so overwhelmed with emotion at the presence of God.  And not the bad kind of cry that comes with the emotion of conviction.  A different kind of cry.  Of frustration.  Of loneliness.  And probably born (slightly) of exhaustion and hormones.

I cried because I had to leave the service to breastfeed my baby.  No one made me leave.  Or maybe everyone did.  Everyone in society.  Everyone in our backwards country that sees breastfeeding as weird and unnatural.  That sees a woman exposing her breast to feed her baby and thinks it is for any other purpose.  I brought a light blanket and told myself that today would be the day I would be brave enough to quietly place it over us and feed my baby without having to remove myself from the presence of others as we joined in worship and communion.

Alas, I lost my nerve.  So, I walked out of the building and to another, where there is a room tucked away with a door that locks.  This is where the mothers go to nurse their babies.  Only I’ve never seen another mother in there.  “Where are all the nursing mothers?” I wonder as I sit alone and feed my baby in the quiet, secluded room.  And it makes me cry.

Why is it that I can’t bring myself to breastfeed in a church?  Surely a place of worship is a welcoming place.  And it probably isn’t as big of a deal as I fear.  But I fear the unknown.  I fear that I will make a spectacle of myself.  I am already the “crazy” one, the “weird” one, the “hippie.”  I eat weird food; wear weird clothes.  I don’t want to be the “one” who breastfeeds at church.

So, I will continue making the trek to a different building to sit in the quiet and nurse my baby when he needs it.  Because he is worth it and he is small and he needs me.  And maybe one day another momma will feed her baby in church and I will see her and I will know I am not alone.  And then, I will pull out my blanket and I will feed my baby as I enjoy the worship music and the preacher’s words of wisdom, and no one will care because, after all, feeding a baby is not that big of a deal.  Is it?

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6 thoughts on “Of Breasts and Breastfeeding

  1. I totally understand, and have been alone in that room many,times. You are being considerate of others and protecting their worship time from potential distraction, though, and that is noble. I hope the Lord will meet you in that room in a special way, for this phase. I agree that church is often lonely for young mothers who don’t get to go to class because a child refuses to go to theirs, or has a nursing baby; and can’t make it past communion to the sermon because of fidgetty little ones. Stay the course!! This, too, shall pass; and envisioning our little boys becoming godly leaders in the future church because of our sacrifices might soften the loneliness!! Love you!! You’re a great, great momma!!!

    • Oh, Sarah, thank you for the kind and encouraging words! I kept praying that the Lord would tell me what to do… and I honestly never felt a clear answer. But I didn’t feel like it was totally ok to just go for it, so maybe that was my answer. Church can definitely be lonely for mommas with young kiddos of all ages… But you are right, it is worth it to minister to THEIR hearts. Sometimes I think the bible studies I attend during the week are the place I really receive what I need! And I’m okay with that 🙂

  2. I know that feeling. At our first church there was a rocking chair in the back, so when she was still quiet, that’s where I nursed her.
    The next church we went to I just stayed in my seat and covered up – this was the exception. There was a room off the side but pleasantly, or not so, it was always packed with breastfeeding mamas. A room full of hippie mamas.
    Alas, I am now again in the minority. And while we feel quite at home at this church, the sanctuary where worship is doesn’t feel as homey, perhaps it is just that it is a large room. But again there is a room. I can still see and hear, but I am separated.
    It is appalling that you have to go to a different building! I wonder if you set up shop in the back of the room?
    I am all for nourishing your baby-wherever you are, though I do think some women forget their modesty. There is a balance to be had.
    Next time I’m in SA I’ll come nurse with you!!!

    • Thanks Sara, for your encouragement also. I honestly don’t know what the perfect solution is, but I think part of the problem is that our church is so big and I’m surrounded by lots of people I don’t know. I love the church, but could see how a smaller, homey church would make breastfeeding more comfortable, especially if you knew those around you well. I would never nurse in church without a cover, and only nurse uncovered in particular situations, but never in view of men besides my husband. I think a lot of it has to do with what your husband is comfortable with as well, and even though he told me to go ahead if I wanted to, I sensed his hesitation. I know that was part of it, and I certainly don’t want to make him uncomfortable. It just frustrates me that he or I either one should feel so uncomfortable about something so natural!

  3. There are so many variables: your mood, your baby’s mood, how loud he/she nurses, how bright the lights are, how quickly the baby latches on, if the baby likes noise or quiet, etc. etc. I found that practicing breastfeeding discreetly in other, more supportive situations, such as La Leche League meetings, helped me relax and breastfeed discreetly during church services. Sometimes I stay in the sanctuary, sometimes I go to the nursing room. It all depends on my gut instinct in the moment. As long as your motive is to honor God and feed your baby, you don’t need to worry about the rest. Some people are going to be offended no matter what; most won’t have a clue what you’re doing.

  4. Before my daughter’s christening ceremony, I left the church to nurse her. My grandmother told the priest why I had left. He told my grandmother people do a lot of things in church they shouldn’t be doing, and I should feel free to feed my baby in church. This made all of the difference to me. Of course my very conservative mother-in-law sat in the pew behind me holding the corner of the blanket over my shoulder-just in case! hehe. You Go Girl!

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