Try as you might you won’t find a verse in the Bible that says “Thou shalt Nurse in Public.” As a result it continues to be an issue even amongst (or, especially amongst) Christians.
In our society where breasts are visible on every billboard, magazine, and waitress it is no wonder that the breast has become taboo in Christian homes that favor modesty. In this post I’d like to look at what the Bible does say that gives us a view into God’s view of breasts, breastfeeding, and breastfeeding in public.
What does the Bible say about Breastfeeding?
The Bible is far from silent about breastfeeding. Nursing is used as an analogy to describe great blessings,
Luke 11:27 (NIV)
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
Genesis 49:25 (NIV)
because of your father’s God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb.
Breastfeeding is also associated with comforting love,
Isaiah 66:10-13 (NIV)
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
12 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?
The naturalness of breastfeeding – and the craving of the baby for mother’s milk – is used as an analogy for craving spiritual maturity,
I Peter 2:2
2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
1. The act of breastfeeding is seen by God as the intended purpose for breasts and a God-given blessing to mankind.
What About Modesty?
In 1st century Palestine everyone was breastfeeding so it was as common as seeing a donkey being ridden down the street. So, the story goes that times have changed. Just as the definition of “modesty” has changed since biblical times the view of female breasts has changed and therefore a woman breastfeeding in public is being immodest. Let’s look at what the Bible says about modesty in the context of society.
The biblical discussions of modesty show a focus on the intentions of the heart related to appearance,
1 Timothy 2:9-10 – 9I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
1 Peter 3:3-4 – “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Proverbs 31:25 – Strength and honour [are] her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Note the focus on deeds. It is less what you wear than what you do.
But, is it possible that breasts are so sexualized in our society that the very act of breastfeeding would now be ungodly? Or is our bowing to the culture that displays breasts for profits to be shunned?
God tells us that he judges our actions differently than the world,
1 Peter 2:12 – “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.”
1 Samuel 16:7 – “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
He once again brings it back to a matter of the heart,
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
1John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
2. Modesty is about my intent which is judged by the Lord.
God’s picture of Woman
I want to live a life that reflects God’s intent for me. I want to honor his creation and his word. That means my first thought is to how an action will be viewed by God not by men.
1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Colossians 3:17 & 23 “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”
3. I need to give glory to God in my actions and words.
I need to give glory to God (3) while being modest in my heart (2). His view of breastfeeding is as a blessing of love and comfort. Therefore, in my mind, breastfeeding, with the intent of nurturing my baby, could not possibly be contrary to God’s word.
I will admit I have a hard time nursing in church. I grew up wearing different clothes to church out of respect (for example, I would wear sleeveless shirts outside church but not at church[1. This isn’t some dogma of my church just a way of dressing up out of respect. The church I attend now is not as formal. Either way, I’m not saying that God cares how nice your shoes are – once again its all about the heart]) so it is a little uncomfortable for me. However, I want to reclaim the blessing of nursing that God gave us. I won’t let the sexualization of the breast take that blessing from me or my culture. It is important to me to reclaim breastfeeding for Christianity.
So, I do it. Without a cover. It gets easier and easier to where it hardly bothers me now. No one has ever said anything but I’m not sure what they think. My hope is that if it was a shock to them the first time it is getting easier and easier for them now too. One day it won’t hardly bother them.
The pornography that is breasts in our culture has convinced us of the sexualization of breasts through pure repetition. It shocked at first and now we just shrug at cleavage. I hope I can reverse the trend through my own repetition one nursing session at a time.
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.
<center><a href=”http://www.nursingfreedom.org/p/carnival-of-nursing-in-public.html” title=”Carnival of Nursing in Public”><img src=”http://babydustdiaries.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/salvation0327081.jpgwp-content/uploads/2010/06/inip1.png” alt=”Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/” border=”0″></a></center>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: