Modesty & Breastfeeding

[ 35 ] Comments

by Brenda

The Devil Wears PradaLike many Mormons I grew up in a very modesty-minded family. We were taught from an early age to keep our bodies covered at all times. This was drilled into me by my sweet mother and progressed over the years to numerous discussions about the appropriate length of shorts and skirts (to the knee without exception), whether sleeveless was appropriate (never), and how tight clothing should be (consistent with a potato sack).

These teachings were reinforced by Young Women leaders, General Conference talks, seminary lessons, the New Era, and For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, which told me, “When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval.”

I absorbed the message. My body was a temple and as such “women who love God would never abuse or deface a temple with graffiti. Nor would they throw open the doors of that holy, dedicated edifice and invite the world to look on.”

This translated into an awareness of modesty in all circumstances. When I would come face-to-face with someone breastfeeding in public, I would react with a red face and toe scraping. It wasn’t that I had a problem with a mother providing nourishment to her baby. I had great respect for the closeness of motherhood in the early months of a baby’s life. What was happening in my mind was a direct conflict between that respect and gospel teaching about exposing one’s body.

When I became a mother I breastfed my babies. I enjoyed that time but found it was sometimes painful, messy, and complicated to do outside of my home. I am not a terribly coordinated person and so trying to keep a squirming baby and myself covered was tricky. I was also highly aware that my actions made others uncomfortable and so eventually I choose to pump and use bottles while out and about. I knew that no one wanted me to accidentally come popping out from behind that baby blanket, least of all myself.

Over the years some dear friendships helped me diminish the disagreement in my mind between the teachings of modesty and women choosing to nurse in public. These friends nurse anywhere and everywhere and are skilled at doing so in a way that doesn’t distract or embarrass anyone. I appreciate and love them for their openness but must confess that even with this greater acceptance, I still find it a little uncomfortable to witness nursing out of the home. I suspect that there are many members out there like me who have this inner culture conflict running in their heads.

So I find myself asking:

  • In the context of modern teachings from church leaders on modesty, is this sensitivity to breastfeeding in public justified?
  • Could more education help relieve the tension between women who feel persecuted and forced out of public areas simply because they are doing something natural and those who are concerned about modesty?
  • What do we need to teach our youth about modesty and nursing?

Read the next essay: Humility and Forgiveness

photo by: Apoca_Lipstick

About Brenda

Brenda (Truth, Beauty, & BLT’s) is the mother of four tremendous children and wife to a very patient and witty man she lovingly calls “Buns”. She enjoys flying kites, thinking about things that make her brain hurt, and is pretty good with a slingshot. She spends her time searching for truth, beauty, and humor wherever she can find them.

35 Responses to Modesty & Breastfeeding

  1. Cheryl says:

    The second question: Yes.

    I’m one of those women who was mortified to nurse in public. I would hide out in public restrooms and the mother’s lounges at church; I felt if anyone saw even an inkling of my breast I was somehow immodest.

    It’s been many years now, and I nurse everywhere publicly. I nurse in Sacrament Meeting. In front of home teachers. I never nurse in a bathroom anymore –EVER. What happened was exactly what you asked: education. I was educated to the realization that our aversion to public nursing didn’t just come from church teachings on modesty, but from the American culture.

    People don’t have these problems with public nursing in many other countries. I truly believe it is because our country is so entrenched in the p*rnography lifestyle that breasts have become so sexualized. Are they sexual? Yes, they certainly can be. But for the most part, we need to be teaching our children that breasts’ first and most important function is simply to nourish a human child. Nursing is a beautiful thing and is not shameful. But that is what has happened in our culture: breasts = shame.

    I do think we need to be more supportive of public nursing. Absolutely. But I also believe in respect for a learning populace. I may be nursing in Sacrament Meeting (and SS and RS and in front of primary kids and on airplanes and in restaurants and in parks and at the grocery store and, and, and…), but I am discreet. I use either a cover (no big blankets for me!) or my shirt (and my hand).

    Because here’s the thing. I’m not trying to flaunt what I’m doing, nor am I trying to get a rile out of people who might be opposed to public nursing. I’m simply feeding my child. Once the psyche of this in our Mormon culture (the American part) is entrenched (feeding the child), I really don’t think it’ll be a problem. And like you said, we need to do this by teaching our YW from the get-go about what it all means.

  2. Julia says:

    For me, I have never understood how “modesty” ever got equated with breast feeding. I grew up in Oregon, which has always had one of the highest rates of nursing, and it was something that I saw at church, when I was playing at the park, and especially in my own home. My mom was a part of La Leche League and a LLL leader for over 10 years. Sometimes women used a blanket to cover their babies while nursing, but most moms just wore clothes that allowed breast feeding without a cover.

    I understand why some boys, especially if they hadn’t seem their mothers breast feeding them, or a younger sibling, might get a little twittery about it, but other than talking about the nutritional and other health benefits of breast feeding versus bottle feeding, I had never heard anyone talking much about it. Maybe my memory is off, but I can’t remember it being talked about as an issue of modesty in young women’s or Relief Society.

    I had been married for five years before we were able to have our first child. We had a rough start with breast feeding, and I was so relieved when I was finally able to get a breast feeding routine that was fairly consistent. The big drawback for me was that the routine he settled in to was one that meant right about the time the sacrament started, I was headed to the Mother’s Room. After five Sundays of not taking the sacrament, I went to the bishop and told him that I was frustrated that I was missing out on the chance to renew my covenants. He told me that within a few months, he was sure my son and I would have our routine figured out so I could just stay in sacrament meeting, but in the meantime, one of the young women was called to sit on the couch outside the Mother’s Room, and bring the sacrament in to any mothers that were there.

    My son never was able to nurse with a blanket, or anything else, over his face while breast feeding. But, by the time he was three months old I had figured out several nursing tops that covered almost everything. So, unless he was crying and needed to comfort nurse, we usually stayed in the chapel. I fed him while leading scout committee meetings, during stake humanitarian projects and the meetings needed to plan them. When the twins were born they were in the NICU for 3 weeks, and then we were told to keep them home from church until they were almost three months old. By then we had tandem nursing down pat, but there really is no way to come close to being able to “cover up.” By then the ward simply had the young men knock of the door to the Mother’s room. If someone said there were mother’s who wanted to take the sacrament, they simply handed it to whichever mother was closest to the door and would wait with the door slightly open so they could take the tray.

    While the twins usually didn’t want to eat during sacrament meeting I was in the chapel mat of the time. I was almost never in Relief Society. My visiting teachers and the RS president came to visit me, and to invite me, and the twins, to breast feed in RS, in whatever way the twins were most comfortable. Which meant I wore my garments and a very loose top, and the top was pretty much up around my neck while they nursed one on each side. I had four comments the first Sunday of this arrangement, all of them loving and supportive. Several women who were part of the “widows club” came to sit next to me each Sunday, and often they would talk about which of their children would just unbutton shirts when they were nursing, or hoe much they wished scoop necked garments had been available when they were nursing babies.

    I honestly have never quite understood the “nursing covers” that have been popular over the last 10 years or so. Some people had started using them when the twins were born, but since my kids never allowed themselves to be covered, or at least not their faces, it may just be something that some kids do easier than others. I do worry though when I hear moms say that they use the cover every time they breast feed so their babies know that they only get to eat if they are modestly covered. If covers are being used at home, then both baby and mother are missing out on bonding time. That you felt you had to pump and then use a bottle to “be modest,” honestly breaks my heart for you and your baby.

    To directly answer your questions;

    1) I am not aware of any teachings by church leaders that say breast feeding is immodest, and I think in any other country, the questions would be seen as silly. Breast feeding is the norm in most cultures. I think we have all heard stories of missionaries who are appalled and then figure out that no one but the missionary thinks breast feeding is weird.

    2) I am pretty sure that in the United States, Right to Breastfeed” laws, in some form, exist in all states. I know Utah was a late adopter. If we are talking about what “should happen” then I think the rule of thumb, that if it is okay to give a baby a bottle, then it is okay to nurse that baby, is a pretty common standard for deciding whether anyone should even *think* about approaching whether breast feeding is appropriate.

    3) What should we be teaching our youth? Well, we have all these overblown modesty standards and rhetoric. Why not cut the amount of time given to those discussions by 75%, and use that new time to talk about parenting, marriage and child rearing?

    YM and YW could be learning about healthy ways for them to live now, how to create strong, loving marriages, and how parenting works. I think breast feeding would fit pretty naturally into several weeks talking about infants and toddlers and what they need physically, nutritionally and emotionally. Discussing everything from the cost of raising a child to the importance of skin-to-skin time for both parents in bonding with their babies. I would think that since all YM and YW are invited to go on missions, almost as soon as they graduate from high school. If we are going to be sending them off to teach the gospel and to help create healthy branches, wards are stakes wherever they go, knowing a little more about what challenges their investigators might be facing might be helpful. Maybe I’m wrong, but I can’t think of any part of the missionary discussions, or any scriptures that regulate the length on shorts. So, one lesson a year about modesty of dress, and 15 on human and family development, and that leaves 36 lessons on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • Brenda says:

      I have never found anything from leadership saying breastfeeding is immodest. Right or wrong, it is a conclusion that I think a great deal of people draw from the emphasis on modesty.

      I really like the idea of having some activities or lessons in YM/YW on the topics of child rearing, parenting, and creating a loving marriage. Certainly, these are messages that should be modeled and discussed in the home primarily but could be supplemented at church.

      As for bottle feeding my brood out in public, please do not be heartbroken. Personally I found it to be much less of a hassle, as I said I’m not coordinated. I happily nursed at home in front of the other kids but choose an alternate route in public. I don’t feel my babies or I suffered in anyway because of that. It brings up a whole other topic on bottle moms who sometimes feel that they are looked down upon for not breastfeeding. In all I think acceptance for however we choose to feed our precious little ones is in order. :)

      • Julia says:

        I am sorry if it sounded like I was being judgmental about bottle feeding, either breast milk or formula. In my younger years I might have been more likely to, but my youngest had issues from birth that made it so that she was never able to Breastfeed. After exclusively pumping for 5 months, I started losing my milk supply, and then we found out that she needed a very specific kind of formula.

        I don’t think every parent carefully considers all the options before deciding how to feed their children, but since the overwhelming majority of people do, I try to not make judgments unless I am very close to a situation, and I feel like the person is at least opening the door for a discussion. While my default prejudice is breast milk, in some form (go breast milk banks!) I have also given advice that ended up meaning switching from breast milk to formula.

        I wish that personal coordination didn’t need to be a factor in public breast feeding, but if it worked for your family, then you have my support and love.

        (Not that you need my support, honor or love, but I am always trying to be more Christlike/charitable, to remind MYSELF, that everyone already has the support and love of The Savior, and that if we was to be His disciples, we definitely meed to act as, and like, Christ would. For me, not being able to Breastfeed my youngest was a heartache. It the time it was sad, but there was too much to do, and i was caught up in survival mode. when we found out that any breast milk, not just mine, was a problem, it was almost too much to bear. It was something that I needed the Savior to help heal.

        Most of that healing he sent came in the form of gentle contact from long-time friends, but one person He sent I barely knew, and she didn’t seem to understand my devastation. She called less than 15 minutes before she came over to visit, and after two or three minutes of listening to me, she told me how relieved I must feel, know that I no longer had to be tied to a breast pump and that anyone could now feed my daughter. She even offered to hold her during Relief Society so I had one meeting to completely relax at church.

        I was so emotionally and physically tired that I yelled out all my frustrations and just how devastating the entire situation was. She let me yell out all my loneliness, hurt and betrayal. At the end of my tirade and our mutual tears, all she said was, that when she was reading scriptures that day about *mourning with those that mourn*, she immediately thought of me and that she should come and *help me count my blessings.* At the time, she thought that she must have gotten some part of the prompting *wrong* since she had only been in the ward two months and she often got people confused. It also didn’t sound like a very supportive. During the drive over she still felt prompted to only focus on *good things* and to be excited about them. I apologized for all the yelling and crying, that I wasn’t usually like this, (at least not with people who and could she forgive me. She told me that maybe I needed to let all of it out more often, and that when you mourn with someone, you are there on the Lord’s errand, so apologies aren’t needed. That Sunday she asked to be my Visiting Teacher, and is definitely in the top 3 VTs I have ever had!

        ;-) Sorry about the thread-sidetrack.)

        I do hope that as a religion that strongly encourages (mandates?) marriage and children, that focusing our support on giving women as many choices as possible, whether they are coordinated or not. There are mothers with many different needs and make sure they have the education and support they need!

        (Of course, that does mean we will have to find ways to talk openly about infant nutrition long before pregnancy, but that is a topic for another day/post/blog/etc.)

    • templegoer says:

      I, too love the idea of family life being discussed in our youth programs and less time spent on teaching modesty-it really is overkill. A more realistic view of family life might be as useful a prophylactic as hours spent focusing on what our youth shouldn’t be doing. Our choices around feeding our babies need to be part of that conversation. If our focus needs to be on what we can do with our bodies rather than on how they look, nursing our little ones becomes part of what a miracle our body is.

    • Liz C says:

      I’m from Oregon, too… similar experience! And YES PLEASE on your ideas. :)

      • Julia says:

        Here’s some ideas of what I think might be good ways to add in lessons and/or activities. I realize some people think that ideas about families, parenting, etc should only be taught in the home. I personally think that there are some families that do a great job with this, but they are not anywhere close to most. And these things used to be taught as part of church curriculum all the time. If nothing else, Keepapitchinin.com (it is an LDS history blog ) has made me see just how much practical stuff we don’t teach, that used to be part of the church magazines and lessons.

        I have been think about the lessons and skills my son (13) will really need, both at church and at home. I asked myself, what lessons and activities could he be learning at church, that could make a positive and lasting impact on his life?

        I would propose that we embrace the needs of future generations, by making sure that there are more lessons being taught, and activities being planned, that address each of the following areas: conflict resolution/mediation, fatherhood and motherhood, child development, and building healthy relationships.

        I also propose that most of these lessons be taught in combined classes of and YW during third hour. In larger wards I envision that some lessons will have age group splits, for example Deacons and Beehives may need to first learn the basic thoughts and language of conflict mediation, while Mia Maids and Teachers are role playing situations at school, between family members, etc. the Priests and Laurels might be discussing how to deal with conflict in dating situations, what to do to support families, or individuals, they will visit teach or home teach, who are having problems that go beyond their personal ability to mediate.

        Other lessons, especially if the teacher is a guest with special expertise, may be best held with all the youth in the ward, so that everyone is getting the same information. If it is as topic that raises a lot of questions, it may be appropriate to have the YM/ YW write down any questions they wanted to ask, but didn’t. Leaders can use that information to decide what the best format (Ages together or separate? Break into small groups with a range of ages? Separate the boys from the girls from the next discussion?) to make sure that the youth are engaged in the topic and are learning about them in a variety of ways. :-)

        So, I am proposing that the lessons for third hour classes, for YM and YW, yearly, have no more than:

        4 lessons on modesty (Lessons should be multicultural, focusing on the scriptures and a modest attitude. There should be little or no focus on clothing. Modesty lessons should be taught without discussions about sex, or the sexual appeal of particular types of clothing.

        4 lessons on the priesthood (limit for YW only. Where possible, a YM who have completed his Duty to God Award should be teaching the lessons to the Young Women.)

        8 lessons on the YW Values (Where possible, a YW who has completed her Young Womanhood Award should be teaching these lessons to the Young Men)

        YM and YW will have a MINIMUM of:

        5 (at least) activities and/or classes on conflict resolution and mediation (with appropriate combined actives or lessons)

        5 combined YW/YM classes and/ or activities on fatherhood (YM and YW may have additional non-combined lessons and activities)

        ***These lessons should NOT be about priesthood! It should be about being good fathers, and what traits a YW should be looking for in a good Father when she starts looking for a husband!

        5 combined YW/YM classes and/ or activities on motherhood (YM and YW may have additional non-combined lessons and activities)

        5 combined YW/YM classes and/ or activities on child development (YM and YW may have additional non-combined lessons and activities)

        10 combined YW/YM classes and/ or activities on building healthy relationship and recognizing unhealthy relationship dynamics, and what your choice may be to keep yourself and others safe. (YM and YW may have additional non-combined lessons and activities)

        Possible ideas on this category, suggested by a few friends include:
        *what passive/aggressive is and why it is less than optimal for communication
        *what physically and emotionally abusive relationships are,
        *trust your instincts
        *childhood sexual abuse and virginity/sexual morality
        *how to form strong friendships with both genders, etc.
        *date rape
        *suicide prevention/what to do if you think a friend might commit suicide
        *being a good friend
        * the Atonement is for Victims, not just sinners
        *missionary companions, loving them doesn’t mean you like them
        * how to be effective in a calling when you don’t like the people in your presidency/quorum and how to learn to love at least one thing about them.
        * you really are marrying his/her family. Can you live with that?
        * no matter how bad you screwed up, lying about it only makes it worse
        * if you don’t love spending hours talking to each other before you are married, it won’t get any easier

        • Liz C says:

          I like these ideas. :) I can see how they could be worked into the Mutual Night activities, rather than on Sunday (because Sunday is pretty jammed with the current new curriculum, and it’s such a great change that it needs to be used); and how easy for local people to seek inspiration and apply the Practical Life Application stuff in the activity rotations, youth mini-conferences, etc! There are so many situations where that’s the key: local inspiration in magnifying callings.

          Julia, I think we’d have fun brainstorming activity ideas. :)

    • Emily says:

      “For me, I have never understood how “modesty” ever got equated with breast feeding. ” A-stinkin-men!

  3. SilverRain says:

    The answer to the question is in the OP. You were taught that body modesty is not using our bodies to get attention and approval. (Which throws female attractiveness into the realm of debate, but it’s another debate.) If someone is publicly breastfeeding in order to attract attention or dis/approval, it is immodest. If they are just trying to feed their baby and accomplish other tasks as well (listening in Church, running a meeting, travelling from one place to another,) it is modest. It has nothing to do with what the reactions of OTHERS are.

    That is the fine line between body obsession and modesty.

  4. Dimples says:

    Growing up my parents probably didn’t realize how much their behavior towards one another would impact my marital relationship and my awareness of my body and how I should treat it (and allow others to treat it).
    My parents had a truly amazing relationship. They were best friends and lovers and all of us children knew they had a healthy, active, enjoyable sexual relationship. By example they let us know that our bodies are gifts and should be cherished, but also to take full advantage of all the blessings of marriage and how our bodies were created.
    My husbands parents were quite the opposite. This left the two of us with some really fascinating conversations BEFORE we married because we wanted to have clear channels of communication and a sense of trust to build on. And I’m so glad we had those conversations.
    How does this all go into breastfeeding and modesty? Well in all those years of my youth, even knowing my mother had nursed each of her 4 children, I STILL viewed my breasts as more in a sexual light than as something God created to help me feed my children. (A very positive/enjoyable aspect of my body, to be sure!)
    It wasn’t until I was nursing my first that I came to realize just how precious my body was. My whole view on modesty changed. I was much more open with nursing my second where ever and when ever the need arose.
    It occurred to me later on that if more mothers breastfed their children openly, in front of their sons–regardless of age–that those men would grow up with a healthier and more natural understanding of the female body. And perhaps, just perhaps, the pull of pornography (the forbidden: *gasp*) wouldn’t be as strong. These young men don’t have a chance of respecting the female body if they aren’t taught when they are very young.

    • Liz C says:

      I agree. I have always loved to see a mom nursing, and a toddler BOY sitting next to her, “nursing” a dolly. :) Normalizing the care and feeding of tiny people does go a long way to overall healthy thinking about bodies.

      • Julia says:

        My son used to tandem feed dollies, while I tandem fed the twins.

        My youngest had health issues that meant everything, including breast milk had to be thickened. She is 6 years younger than the twins. My pumping schedule meant I had to pump at some point during homework time, (which was also nap time) unless homework went really fast. My son had a friend over one day, and they got their homework completed very quickly. The twins were doing pretty well, so I figured I would go pump before anyone needed anything.

        I heard the boys as I went into the closet that was one way into our bedroom. I was glad I stopped to listen, because I got to hear my 9 year-old explain how a breast pump works, why breast milk is important, and how to put the parts together after they were washed. (He was old enough that one of his chores was to wash the parts at night, and put them together in the morning before school.)

        I walked in at that point and told them I needed to pump. The friend asked if he could watch, since he was curious about how they worked. After 15 minutes of calls to track his dad down, to get permission for his son to watch a breast pump being used on me (his mom was not answering her cell phone, and he was determined to get permission) I was hooked up, and the milk was pumping away.

        We had a 2 minute discussion on how suction worked, and an 18 minute discussion about dads, and how much they do to help with babies. Most of my part of the conversation was agreeing with things they already knew. They had a few things about how babies were created that they asked me about, but not the important stuff. I did know how to pronounce zygote, (no goats involved) and contributed to the discussion about triplets. Other than that, these boys knew all the basics, including infertility issues like sperm count, timing ovulation, in-vitro and adoption.

        When I was done pumping, and each boy took a bottle of milk and the pump parts, which they took into the kitchen. I could hear my son explaining first how to be careful not to spill the milk, and then how to take the parts apart to rinse, so it would be easy to wash all the parts after dinner. Wanting to know how it all worked, my son came to get permission to wash them early, so his friend could do it with him.

        When his mom came to pick him up, she apologized for having her phone turned off, and told me if he wanted to in the future, it was fine with her. I told her that he had gotten ahold of his dad for permission, and that he seemed very interested, but had been very respectful. She got a funny look on her face and asked me if I had actually talked to her husband. I told her I was pretty sure it was him. She started giggling and asked me how many calls her son had to make. I told her I thought probably 5 or 6. She just giggles some more.

        I had her tiptoe in front of my to the closet leading into our room, so she could hear the boys explaining to each other the different ways that a breast pump works. My son was explaining that you could get the plastic part that the nipple is “pulled out” by in different sizes, depending on how big your breasts are. His friend then said, “Well I guess if you don’t want to use a smaller size my dad could just do a surgery to make them bigger.” My son replied that he thought a different size plastic piece was probably cheaper.”

        At this point, both of us mothers were completely cracked up. As we went into the room giggling, we found each boy had a whole assembly for each breast, and with their shirts off, were “trying them out.” I wish one of us had thought to take a picture. My son said, “Momma, I am washing every pump part after dinner, promise.” His friend said, “Mom, this is so cool. Do you think dad knows about them? Her nipples got lots longer when she was using the pump to get milk. Maybe it could work like that for other people do they don’t need surgery.”

        I just sent the link to this to the “other mother,” to see if she remembers anything I have forgotten. Her husband is done with his residency and mostly focuses his practices on post mastectomy reconstruction. The day his son got permission to watch me pumping, he was literally in the middle of surgery, an OR full of nurses, anesthesiologist and other medical students and residents, all got a huge laugh at the question, but even more as his son explained how many places he had to call, so he (the dad) had better say yes.

        Apparently the phone call is actually part of the permanent record of that surgery, and that the patient was delighted when it was played for her. I’ll never know anything more about her, other than she hopes her grandsons have friends who have mothers like me. A true compliment, and a lot to live up to.

        When my surgery is done, I will look through the CD pictures from Christmas and see if I can find any pictures of the ornaments made out of breast pump parts.

        • NotMolly says:

          LOVE this story! What a great example of being able to normalize it with good humor, accurate information, and no guilt. Being able to answer the honest questions of young people is an amazing thing.

        • emesbe says:

          That is one of the awesomest stories I have ever heard. Thanks for the smile.

  5. Wendy says:

    I like Silver Rain’s reply, and I’d just like to add that we need to remember that nursing in public, covered or uncovered, is still a choice for each individual woman to make. I nursed three of my four babies, and you would think by the third one, I would have nursing down to an art form. That was not the case. For me, nursing was a lot like your experience, Brenda-painful, messy, and complicated. And even though I knew I had every right to do it out in public, I chose to go to the mother’s room or the bathroom so I could avoid having to try and figure it out at the table in a restaurant or in a pew at church. I got it together enough to do it in a dark movie theater, or on a bench in the park, but that was the best I could do. It wasn’t so much the public scrutiny of my breasts that kept me from doing it, but my own embarrassment of the whole situation. You see, I hated breastfeeding-every minute of it-so I was never a serene, calm mother, lovingly nourishing her child. I was, at best, tolerant, and at the worst, a weeping and shuddering mess who counted the minutes until the baby was finished and I could be done until the next round. It was probably all due to hormones, but I still didn’t want people to see me in this state. Add to all that my breasts hanging out for all the world to see, and the sum equalled me feeling much more comfortable in a private setting. My embarrassment stemmed greatly from my lack of desire to breastfeed in public, and I felt guilty for not being the strong type of mother who could brazenly do something that was supposed to be so simple in front of everyone else. Modesty had very little to do with it at that stage. I don’t have any problem with other women breastfeeding in public-whether I happen to see a breast or not, I think they are doing something great for their child. Breastfeeding in public, for me, boils down to this: if someone has a problem with it, it’s just that: THEIR problem. The more people do it, the less uncomfortable others will feel because it’s more commonplace. And if your kid sees it in church or at the mall or at the park and asks questions, answer them honestly and don’t act like it’s such a big deal, because it’s not. And teaching modesty in Young Women (and Young Men, in my opinion) can consist of “disclaimers”, such as “breastfeeding in public is not on par with a striptease, so don’t stare or feel uncomfortable or guilty”. (I’m sure there’s a better way of saying that, but you get the point.) But aside from all that, breastfeeding in public is not something moms are “required” to do in order to be good moms. If they feel uncomfortable doing it, then by all means, it’s ok to go somewhere else or have a contingency plan (bottles). Those of us who prefer privacy don’t need the pity or judgment or approval of others-we don’t need anything at all from them because it’s none of their business. The only thing we need is to feel comfortable with our own decisions. That in and of itself would solve a myriad of problems in our lives, not just the whole breastfeeding in public debate.

    • Brenda says:

      It is a great point. As we all bump up against each other in the church and out of it, culture and family background differences are going to create situations of misunderstanding and differing opinions. If we allow these situations to divide us into groups such as those who breastfeed in public vs. private vs. bottle feeders it is defeating the unity that is called for in a Zion-like society.

      We can learn about others’ choices with and open mind and become accepting of the differences between us.

  6. Lisa says:

    As a youth leader, NOTHING is taught about modesty in relation to breastfeeding. It just isn’t done, it’s not covered, but would certainly be something beneficial.

    There is that good girl, bad girl mentality when it comes to our modesty. That is definitely something to overcome at least in the area of breastfeeding in public.

  7. Heather says:

    I agree with Wendy. I had similar experiances with breastfeeding. I nursed all 5 of my children. I had different experiences with each of them. I could nurse most of them anywhere. However, my 5th one, (I should have been expert by now right?) was the most difficult to nurse. I was in tears constantly for the first 4 months because it was so painful. I was determined to not quite, but I was not about to nurse in public either. Furthermore, I reaized that a different positiong of my baby helped to ease the discomfort, so I was holding like a football, and supporting my arm and his body with multiple pillows. I coud not nurse him any other way. So, that make nursing in public a bit tricky! I could not just carry pillows around with me everywhere I went! I did keep a set of pillows in the back seat of the car, and if I was at church, or the store, I would simply relax in the back seat and happily nurse. (I loved my smart phone in those days when I had to miss sacrament meeting, I could at least read the scriptures or listen to the Mormon Channel.) I do not mind mothers nursing there children. I fully beleive that it is a choice for each of us, and we should not judge them whethere they nurse, or not, in public or not. We do not know their full stories. It just really is none of our buisness.

    As for teaching our youth, I think that is the responsabiity of the parents, not the church. It is not a doctorine that needs to be taught. I understand the idea is to help them feel more comfortable with it, but church classes, activies, is not the forum for such discussions. Those types of discussions should remain firmly in the homes. Otherwise it will seem as if the church is taking an official position, which it wont, because it is entirely a matter of opinion, not what is right or wrong.

  8. NotMolly says:

    Hitting the questions:

    1: When I’m listening and taking notes to do with modesty topics, my notes reflect a focus on the principles of humility and consideration more than checklists or do/don’t lists. There’ve been some analogies given in past years that carry the potential for harm in zealous hands, but going back to the gospel principles that *lead* to tasteful, appropriate clothing choices, and looking at Christ’s example for how we ought to treat others seems to rectify flaws in analogies. Right now, honestly? I really struggle with the increasingly-legalistic girls-clothing-only focus of Mormon Corridor culture, because I see it the Antipodes to actual gospel teachings on agency, worth, and love.

    2: Yes, education is needed… and healing! We could benefit from taking cues from other cultures where breastfeeding and shoulders and knees are non-sexualized and normal. It pays to be open to teaching from people in other cultures; US-LDS people do not have any kind of corner on the market of righteous and healthy living ideas.

    We could also benefit from being able to look someone in the eye and let them know they’re over-stepping. Being firm about the boundaries of stewardship (ours and theirs) is *not* the same thing as being disobedient, unkind, or rude.

    3: We can teach our youth to respect others, regardless of what others are doing or not doing. Helping them learn to view others with charity, compassion, kindness, and respect makes a big difference. I don’t think we can wait until they’re teens, though (as most define “youth”). We need to start training with unashamed, common-sense information about bodies and processes in the toddler years, and keep on through their growing up years, seeking inspiration and developmentally-appropriate resources.

  9. sdh says:

    I grew up as the oldest of 7 breast-fed children. I have one very clear memory of sitting in the front seat of our large brown van, the middle children romping in the back, my mother nursing while she steered with her knee. (For all tender sensibilities out there- Idaho did not require seat-belts at the time, a restriction of our liberties, I’m sure. I doubt that bus of a van was even equipped with them.) My point being that mother nursed as necessary, period. That was how the world worked.

    Because the world worked that way, I enthusiastically nursed my first son. It was magical and easy and wonderful. Nursing became one of my favorite parts of motherhood. I loved the feeling of satisfaction and the look of adoration on my babies faces. I championed nursing for all, always. I did cover up (I wish the newer cover-ups had been invented before my last baby…) and slipped out to the mother’s lounge during church meetings. Who doesn’t want to escape the brawl on the bench for the mother’s lounge once in a while?!?

    Anyway, over the secession of 5 children, nursing didn’t always work magically and easily and wonderfully. In the end, my last child only had a couple of months before I had to turn to a bottle exclusively. While I hated giving up nursing, there were perks. My husband, who always loved that I nursed, loved that he could share in that bonding time with our babies. I also learned to be a little more tolerant and accepting of other mothers and their methods of doing things. Every child and situation is different and iron clad approaches to parenthood (including breastfeeding) are hard to come by.

    I would still choose to take my nursing to the mother’s lounge (if available). I don’t mind offering the courtesy to those that it makes uncomfortable, and as I have said, there are perks to the mother’ lounge. I love that Julia’s Bishop was willing to have the mother’s lounge be part of the sacrament service and I am willing to bet that there are other Bishops who would make that accommodation if they knew it was wanted.

    Outside of church, I still nursed everywhere. I covered up if I felt like the situation or my clothes required it. From reading the previous posts, it sounds like most of us can safely feed our babies how we choose, when we choose, no matter what state we are in. :) A credit to our sisterhood!

  10. Brittany says:

    I want to share this post on the topic because I love it: http://thegiftofgivinglife.com/breastfeeding-and-modesty/

    My suggestion for the youth is to shift the conversation about modesty. Less focus on avoiding being “walking pornography” (because some young women take away the message that they are responsible for keeping other people from having impure thoughts, which is false), and more focus on respecting and honoring in whose image we are created through our clothing choices (as well as how we think and behave.). I tell my five year old, when we see inappropriate clothing in advertisements, something like, “I wouldn’t choose to wear that because I don’t think I would feel like a daughter of God in it.”

  11. Ray says:

    “Modesty” means “moderation”. It doesn’t mean “extreme fundamentalism regarding anything remotely sexual”.

    Correct the meaning, and this issue disappears completely. As a collective people, we aren’t modest, and debates like this only highlight that fact.

    That is my wish – that we reject the apostate obsession with conservative extremism when dealing with any and all things remotely sexual and embrace modesty for what it is.

  12. Tami says:

    I agree with Ray that modesty means moderation… Also an attitude of humility. This applies in all directions. Those who insist on pushing other people beyond their comfort levels to take a stance on something because they “know” they are more right than those around them who disagree… Not modest. This easily applies to some on either side of the debate, no?
    There are times and places where pushing back is needed and appropriate. At church? Not it. And patient education is going to be the most effective, true-change route. Pushing back often leads to getting our way. Education more often leads to changing people’s view on something.

  13. Brittany says:

    Tami brings up a good point, that the way we go about talking about the issue matters. I think the points in the post about Public Dissent and Private Responsibility apply. While I may agree with the opinion that nursing a baby is not immodest, I can’t get behind anyone who is doing things I feel constitute publicly criticizing the Church. I think it will be more effective for people to teach those they know personally how they feel and why, rather than trying to push for the people at the top to tell them.

  14. Heather says:

    I agree that there are many things that need to be taught to our youth about family matters and such. I love all the ideas posted by Julia. I disagree that they should be taught at youth activites or in church. They should be taught at home. Yes, some families are great at teaching them and some are not. That is true for everything. Some famlies teach the gospel really well, some dont. Some teach manners, some dont. Some teach homeschooling really well, some dont. We cant police that. I would rather see an effort to educate the parents more and support them in teaching their children. I would not like these subject being taught to my son or daughter by anyone but myself.

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