Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On Nursing in Public (& the lack of consensus)

   I've "liked" all these pages on facebook that have applauded my desire to nurse my baby. Because A) who doesn't like to be applauded? and B) nursing is a difficult, full-time job and those of us that choose it definitely need support. And sometimes an ear to listen to us. And sometimes just the reminder that we aren't the only ones fighting this battle.
   The problem is, a lot of the groups I listen to that are uber-supportive of breastfeeding are also uber-angry about the people that uber-aren't supportive of breastfeeding, and they are constantly reading and re-posting links to articles about moms who have won the battle to breastfeed wherever the heck they want! (In most states--if not all--it is legal to nurse in public anywhere, anytime, and you better not try to tell a nursing mom to go away because she will get really mad and write an article about it that will circulate on facebook and twitter!)
   Now look, I get it, I've nursed in public. As a mom, when your baby is hungry, you feel this pull stronger than the earth's magneticism to feed your baby, and it definitely overpowers any sense of "modesty" or "timing." But I find it ironic that the people who are so upset about the groups that are offended by seeing a mom nurse in public are so offended by the offense of these people....and the pro-nursing-in-public-moms are so angry at perceived judgement on the behalf of the offended that they can't help but publicly judge the judgers and.....all the judgment and offense flying around is so exhausting and I can hardly keep it straight (did I even keep it straight? I don't know).
   As a Christian nursing mother, I think the answer is quite simple and straightforward and should remain devoid of judgment, offense or pride: "let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in a brother's way." (Rom 14:13). No fuss. If what I am doing is going to cause another to stumble--whether it be into judgment, offense, or impure thoughts--I shouldn't do it.
  I am not ashamed of breastfeeding. I don't think I'm doing anything worth being offended by. And let me be clear--neither does God. Breastfeeding is natural, it's great, it's a gift from God, something he built into my very design. (Al Mohler discussed a few reasons why it shouldn't be surprising that breastfeeding is so good for mom and baby here). But something being natural and God-given is not a justification for doing it in public. That's why there are stalls on bathroom doors. That's why husbands and wives sleep in their own rooms.
   The question is, do we as Christian mother's have the "right" to breastfeed in public if we know it may cause a brother to stumble? Does doing something that's so great and God given mean it should be done in public?
   Obviously the answer is a resounding No. I wouldn't breastfeed uncovered at church, in front of my brother's in Christ, so why would I do it uncovered, in public at Target or wherever else? It's not because I am ashamed, it's because I love my brothers.

  I'll take it even a step further....I'll cover up in the designated nursing room in front of other nursing women at my church just because they do. When I first discovered that my new church has a room just for nursing moms to nurse in, I was ecstatic! When I discovered that I was the only mom in there not covering herself up while nursing, I thought--I should remedy that. Not because I have any reason to be ashamed but because I am not prideful enough to think "I'm right, they're wrong. Just cause they cover up doesn't mean I have to." Sure, I don't have to but if there's a possibility that I am going to cause one of them to stumble--cause one of them to think, "does she think she's special?" I am not going to do it. I know how easy it is to be a judgey-mommy so whenever I can and am conscious of it, I am responsible for protecting my sisters from it.

   There is a sickness in the world--it's called pride, and envy, and selfishness. And it's super entangled in this "I can breastfeed wherever I want to" issue. Let me be clear: I am super supportive of nursing moms (I AM ONE!). God designed us for it and I think, barring physical issues, we should do it. I do not agree with the world's idea of "this is MY body, it's FOR ME, my own use, my own pleasure." We were bought with us a price, and our bodies are NO LONGER OUR OWN. Breastfeed your babies, ladies, if you can! But please--let's not model our feelings of our rights after the world's. If you can cover up--cover up. If you can be discreet--be discreet. If you don't have to offend your neighbor--don't offend your neighbor. If you can be modest--be modest. This is not to promote a feeling that you should be ashamed (shame on those who ask mom's to cover up in order to shame them!) but to show love to your brother's and sister's in Christ. Let's not make anyone stumble for the sake of our own pride.


Tina Mitchell said...

This expresses how I've always felt, but I've never said anything because I wasn't a mother. Now that I'm pregnant, and foreseeing being face head-on with this issue, It's definitely been on my mind lately. Thank you for posting, it's definitely been an encouragement. Do you mind if I post it on my facebook?

Summer Pinch said...

Tina: I don't mind. :) I am glad for any encouragement I can give!