Breastfeeding in Public – A Christian Mom’s Opinion

Christian view on breastfeeding in public

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Kate’s seat was undeniably the best in the stadium. From here, she could see everything happening on the field, watch the cheerleaders, see the concession stand, and count four different reactions to the fact that she was breastfeeding in public. Why does anyone even care? Surely the baby taking his lunch from her mostly-covered breast was less shocking than the three shirtless men with painted chests shouting a few rows ahead of her?

Even though the crowd laughed and cheered at the antics of the men, they were far from being as supportive toward her. Most people didn’t notice her. Several kept on curiouusly glancing her way. One person was watching her and smiling. Weird.

But what bothered Kate most was the disapproving looks she was getting. Well, those and the not-so-subtle lady from church who sat a few seats away. Although the bare-chested men didn’t bother this lady, she kept scowling and offering Kate a jacket. Surely it’s not wrong to feed her baby in sight of other people. Is it?

Christian view on breastfeeding in public

Should a Christian breastfeed in public? And how should a Christian respond to someone publicly breastfeeding? Is it immoral? Indecent? Outright sinful? And if so, should they be corrected? Christians have been asking these questions. It’s time they got answers.

Christianity

Let’s start by defining exactly what a Christian is. There are “Christians” in the world – and then, there are real Christians. There’s a difference.

The “Christians” may be indistinguishable from anyone else. That’s not good. We’re supposed to be different. It’s kind of our calling.

Or maybe you know “Christians” who can be easily identified by their sour expression, disapproving stare, or the ceiling burn on their nose. Also not good. True followers of Christ have no business being holier-than-thou.

Being a real Christian has nothing to do with how long you’ve been going to church or how holy you act. It’s admitting to God that you’re sinful. Rotten. Ashamed of things you’ve done. And you realize that you’re not good enough to save yourself.

Because the truth is, nobody is. We need Christ because it’s only through Him that we get our forgiveness.

So what should a Christian be like? They should brighten every room and bring a wonderful flavor of life to everything they’re involved in. Jesus said it best when he said we are “salt and light.”

The perfect Christian…

  • goes out of their way to see that others are taken care of
  • is quick with a gracious response
  • is the most patient person you’ve ever met
  • has an unshakable peace that just doesn’t make sense
  • is the first to forgive
  • wears kindness like an overcoat, always offering it to others
  • works harder than anyone
  • is honest yet tactful
  • is the first to admit their own shortcomings
  • acts quickly to help you fix your mistakes – without telling anyone about it

Then there ‘s reality…

No one alive is a perfect Christian. But that’s a great list of attributes to strive for in our lives. We all fall short of that impossible mark every single day. And that’s okay because God is waiting to forgive us. The Bible says,

For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:14 (ESV)

To me, that means that even though our heavenly Father is perfect, He understands our limitations. He’s gracious enough to forgive us.

So if we’re not perfect, and we’re not supposed to act like we’re perfect, then WHAT are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to put our lives in God’s hands and ask Him for help. We’re supposed to be humble enough to readily admit that we’re a hot mess on our own. One of the ways He helps us is with His Word in the Bible.

the Bible provides answers to questions about breastfeeding in public

Getting answers from the Bible

As followers of Christ, we must look to the Bible for answers to all of our questions. Remember, believeers are NOT supposed to be divided over minor things. We’re told to be gracious when we disagree. And each of us has to follow the Bible as we understand it. Looking for answers in the Bible isn’t the time to try to prove someone wrong or prove yourself right.

Think about it, if we could walk right up to the throne of God and ask Him about something, would we say “Tell me why You don’t have a problem with it.” Of course not! We’d very humbly ask Him what He thinks about it. We should approach finding answers in the Bible the same way: with humility and open-hearted search for His truth (notice I didn’t say your truth).

In order to figure out the proper Christian stance on nursing in public, we have to look to Scripture – and we need to look at it from all angles. We need to examine breastfeeding, modesty, baby’s needs, how it affects people around you, and how you respond to someone breastfeeding in public.

Related Post: Breastmilk storage simplified-How to store breastmilk safely

Already overwhelmed? Let’s make this kinda quick.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most basic, natural acts we can do. It’s beautiful and should be celebrated. God created breastfeeding! It is not inherently dirty or indecent. The same could be said for sex, for that matter. But I think most people (and God) would agree that sex in public is indecent.

For that reason, saying “it’s natural” is not a valid argument for doing it in public. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not against public breastfeeding. But the “it’s natural” argument doesn’t hold water. I can think of a few more natural things that need to be kept private. (Pooping, anyone? You with me here?)

Breastfeeding in the Bible

The Bible never addresses whether or not to breastfeed. When breastfeeding or weaning is mentioned, it’s in a no-nonsense way because the Bible assumes that babies will be fed at the breast – either their mother’s breast or a wet nurse’s (see the story of Moses in Exodus 2). Remember, baby formula simply wasn’t an option in Bible times.

The Bible tells us to take care of our children and love them. So where you feed, how long you feed, when you wean, what you do with stored milk, and any other decision you make about breastfeeding is between you, your baby, and God.

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING in the Bible to indicate that a woman who chooses not to breastfeed is a bad mother or a bad Christian. If you’re providing love and nourishment for your baby, you’re doing a great job!


Related Post: How formula feeding improved the way I breastfeed

Modesty

Modesty is such a tricky word. Because I mean, what is it? It depends on who you ask! What some people consider modest makes me uncomfortable. And what I consider modest is shocking to others.

Oh, and let’s not forget that it changes over time and in different cultures. There were times when women were considered immodest if their head wasn’t covered. Or if they showed a hint of ankle.

And when you delve into modesty for Christians, there’s a whole new realm of confusion.

  • There are well-meaning people holding to antiquated standards because they feel safer.
  • There are genuinely nice folks who dogmatically stick to man-made principles because – well, I really don’t understand why some people put the rules of control freaks over the rules given by God.
  • A few misguided souls have bought into an idea that they can do just anything they want and that God “has to” forgive them.
  • Still, others take Bible verses out of context and pay attention to the action of it instead of the intention. Which isn’t surprising. We tend to do that. God says (paraphrasing here) that people pay attention to deeds, and He pays attention to the heart. He cares less about what we did than He does about WHY we did it.

Modesty while breastfeeding

Let’s be real here. Breastfeeding involves breasts! And like it or not, breasts are also very sexual for most people. That’s especially true in Western culture.

Even if you don’t consider breasts to be anything more than milk bottles, there are people who think they’re incredibly sexy. There’s a whole section of the porn industry that revolves around breastfeeding. (Yeah, that’s gross and disturbing to me too.)

I could say “use a cover” or “don’t show more skin than necessary” or “don’t flash nipples.” But the truth is, no matter what you do, someone will think you’re not modest. Remember, it means something different to everybody. I know a woman who actually thinks it’s indecent to breastfeed under a cover because people can still tell what you’re doing. Oh my…

So what’s a nursing mama to do? Pray first, then follow your conscience to do what you believe is best for you and your baby.

Taking care of your baby’s needs

No breastfeeding conversation would be complete without talking about a baby’s needs. Babies have to be fed. Frequently! And fed in a way that’s as healthy for them as possible, because they’re the most vulnerable.

Related Post: 4 Things all newborns want

Sanitation

Babies get sick easily. For that reason, I hate to think of some poor baby nursing in a bathroom. Would you take your lunch to the bathroom to eat? Kinda icky, right? Then why would we ask the most vulnerable among us to have their lunch in a bathroom stall?

Babies should be able to nurse in a clean environment. There are all kinds of airborne viruses, bacteria, and toxins out there. I’m sure it’s ultra concentrated it is in a public bathroom. So that’s no place for a meal!

Latching

Now about nursing covers. They’re helpful, useful even. But some moms (ahem, me!) are barely coordinated enough to get a baby latched on correctly while they can see them.

Using a nursing cover essentially blindfolds the mother and asks her to perform that tricky task without seeing!

Breathing

I don’t think people realize how difficult it can get for a baby to breathe with a nursing cover. While a baby is breastfeeding, they don’t have a great flow of oxygen because of the close proximity to mom’s chest. When you throw a cover over them, that makes it a little worse.

Test the theory. Press your mouth and the tip of your nose against someone’s bare skin (please choose someone you know). How easy is it to breathe? Now throw a cover over your head and stay that way for 20 minutes. Feel a little suffocated? You won’t actually die of suffocation, but removing the cover would make breathing easier. Right?!

Freedom

There are babies who like to snuggle deep inside a nursing cover and enjoy the coziness of breastfeeding under wraps. And some babies nurse happily while pulling that cover away every chance they get.

Then there are the babies who laugh hysterically while they yank the cover aside and flash mommy’s nipples at the unsuspecting public. My second baby did that. When I tried to use a cover, the world saw more of me than they did when I skipped it altogether. With that particular child, the more “modest” choice was to nix the cover altogether.

Some moms love their nursing covers and some are completely against using them. And you know what? That’s their own choice. It’s wrong to insist someone wear a cover. Because:

  1. They’re the best judge of how well their baby can breathe.
  2. They know if their baby will stay under a cover or just use it as an opportunity to play peek-a-boo.
  3. It’s not our business what another person wears.
  4. We don’t want anyone insisting we wear something that we don’t want to wear.
  5. As Christians, we’re supposed to be safeguarding the wellbeing of others, not forcing our wishes on them.

How public breastfeeding affects those around you

Moms have a right to breastfeed in public. Standing on a platform for all to see. We can demand that right. But how much better would it be for everyone if we considered how our actions affect people around us?

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (ESV)

I’m not saying that we should allow someone to bully us out of our rights. Never. But what if we simply thought of others before ourselves? Just because we have the freedom to do something, that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do in every situation.

We may have the right to do anything, but we should also be looking to build up the people around us. Make things better, not worse.

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

Romans 14:13 (ESV)

Did you catch that? It’s important as Christians to decide never to put a stumbling block in the way of a fellow believer. To me, that doesn’t mean that I don’t breastfeed in public. Or that I always use a nursing cover. What it means is that I try to breastfeed without drawing unnecessary attention to myself.

I guess what I’m saying is, I can breastfeed my baby without being a jerk.

Stumbling blocks

So we should be breastfeeding in a way that doesn’t cause others to stumble. You probably think I’m talking about somebody getting lustful seeing breasts, and that is one way to cause somebody to stumble – but not the only way.

Let’s be honest, some people are going to be lustful no matter what. What they think and feel is not your responsibility, it’s theirs. Your responsibility is to not make it extra difficult for a person who is trying to keep their mind right.

But we can also cause someone to stumble in ways other than lust. I can be a hindrance to someone’s faith because I’m being self-centered or obnoxious. I can spark anger, resentment, division, and hatred by the way I react to someone.

That will cause more damage than somebody harboring lust.

is breastfeeding in public okay for Christians?

How to respond to someone breastfeeding in public

With everything considered, the most Christ-like response to someone nursing in public is to simply let them be.

  • If you want to high-five her, she probably isn’t interested. And she needs her hands.
  • If you find it offensive, ask yourself why. Is it the action or the amount of skin shown? If it’s the skin, would that same skin showing on a beach or in a movie make you uncomfortable?
  • If you want to help her, don’t be creepy. Really.
  • If you think she should be covered, remember that coverings are essentially clothing. Ask yourself if the woman’s lack of clothing and the skin she’s showing would bother you this much if you saw it on a beach. Probably not.

I guarantee this mother isn’t trying to be a spectacle. She’s not trying to be indecent or stir up lustful thoughts. She’s taking care of her baby.

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t be a jerk. Let her feed her baby in peace. Remember, we’re supposed to build up others and put their needs before our own.

On the other hand, if you see someone harassing a mom about breastfeeding in public, PLEASE come to her defense. It’s her right. It’s her privilege. Defend her.

In a nutshell…

Breastfeeding is an amazing opportunity and a right we’re free to enjoy. As Christians, we should try to be as (realistically) modest as possible. But we need to be willing to set aside our rights in order to benefit those around us.

That doesn’t mean we don’t breastfeed or that we take it to a bathroom. It means that we’re considerate and make a reasonable attempt to accommodate others.

Because if someone is offended, then yelling and publicly shaming them for that helps nobody – but turning away so they don’t have to see is thoughtful and kind. Remember, don’t seek your own good, but the good of your neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:24)

Above all, taking care of our babies comes first. Always! But if we make a genuine effort to be considerate of those around us while we do, we have an opportunity to show love, to be salt and light, and to heal divisiveness.

 Where do you stand on breastfeeding in public? What are your thoughts on this article? Please share in the comments below!

12 thoughts on “Breastfeeding in Public – A Christian Mom’s Opinion”

  1. Nicole's signature
  2. I think the preference on how to bf depends on the person. I always used a cover in public, that’s what I was comfortable with. Other moms at my church exclusively pump but then bottle feed so they don’t have to worry about public feedings. There are different ways to bf is public.

  3. Thank you for your article. As I read this I am currently in a church nursery with tears flowing down my face. Because a woman made me feel like trash for nursing my baby at the back of the auditirium. I always nurse discretely. I even shop for clothing that will make nursing easy and discrete. I dont use a cover at home but I do in public and did today. I had absolutely zero skin showing. And I was told to go to the nursery because I was making people uncomfortable. I hate that I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself when I did nothing wrong. I cant even wrap my head around what just happened. Has this lady never been to say walmart where half the people are in short shorts and crop tops. I just hope I can calm down quickly and no one will know I was crying but that ship may have already sailed 🙁 I really wanted to come back to this church. It’s not my home church but i liked it her but im not sure if I want to come back now.. i dont understand why people can’t handle the thought of a woman nursing her child.

    1. I’m so sorry that happened to you! Sometimes it’s hard to find your courage (or even the right thing to say) when you’re taken off guard like that. But the only person who was out of line was the rude lady who asked you to leave the service because she was uncomfortable with the idea of what you were doing. I don’t understand why people can’t handle that thought either. But big hugs to you for nursing your baby and for having the restraint not to get rude right back! I hope you find a church you love, it’s not easy to find (my family is looking for one too!)

  4. Women love to show off their bodies. Whether they admit that to themselves or not. Christ wants modesty for a christian woman. That means don’t whip your tits out in public and call yourself a christian at the same time. Problem solved. 😉

    1. Nursing your baby and showing off your body are two different things. Keep your inconsideration to yourself. It’s very narrow-minded of you to say that.

  5. I kept noticing the word “baby”, but I wonder if you have the same opinion about someone insisting on breastfeeding a 3 year old (who eats solids, and was definitely not starving) in public without covering up. Seems a bit immodest or inappropriate to me.
    . As for me personally, my first baby wouldn’t tolerate a cover so we stayed home for the most part until she was weaned. A couple times I did feed in a single occupancy public restroom. With my second I just feed in the car before we go wherever it is we’re going.
    And the latching issue – I just put the blanket up all the way over my head to latch. Yes people can tell possibly but at least no nipple is seen.

    1. I use the word “baby” loosely, because…well, don’t we always consider our children to be our “baby?” I know I do! That being said, I don’t have an issue with someone breastfeeding their child in public for any reason. As to whether it’s inappropriate or immodest, like almost anything, their reason for doing it would determine that. We have a bad habit of looking at actions, but God looks at our hearts and the intention behind the action. Even a “good” act can be inappropriate and immoral if done for selfish reasons. Thank God, judging actions isn’t my responsibility!!
      Something to consider if you or someone else does choose to nurse an older baby/child in public is that you’re likely to attract more unwelcome comments from strangers. That would be enough of a hassle to make me hesitate.

  6. I’ve learned that it’s sexist for women to have to keep their breasts and nipples hidden where men can have our chests and nipples uncovered. There’s nothing pornographic about breasts. Their purpose is to make milk. I used to think that female nipples and breasts being sexually sensitive was enough justify thinking of them as something sexual. Then I learned male nipples and chests can have the same sensitivity as females, but we’re allowed to be shirtless outside and don’t have ours censored in the media. The only reason breasts were ever considered sexual was because they started to be covered a lot more often. The rarity of seeing breasts in public made it feel like a more stimulating thing to see for men. Middle Eastern men get as sexually aroused from seeing women’s hair, face, ankles and feet because women have to keep more of themselves covered there than U S women. Most people here think forcing women to cover so much more of themselves because of men’s feelings about some of their parts is sexist. It’s treating one gender as responsible for what the other does just by seeing them. That’s the same mentality for why the U S requires women to keep their breasts covered in more places than where chests are. In most ancient cultures breasts weren’t covered any more than chests were required to be and men weren’t sexually attracted to breasts. They were only thought of for nourishment. It wasn’t until indigenous people were conquered by European cultures that countries that descended from those people started covering breasts more and men became attracted to them. Tribal people who are told that there’s people sexually attracted to breasts either think it’s funny or horrifying. In most European countries ever since the 80’s women have been allowed to be topless wherever men can be. During the 70’s and 80’s people were putting up billboards of topless uncensored women and people became desensitized to breasts. Because breasts haven’t been sensationalized there, there’s been so few instances of sexual harassment compared to the U S. Europe is now the safest place for women to live. Europeans are also allowed to be nude in more beaches, saunas and places for bathing than the U S. They’re so used to nudity that there’s much fewer percentages of teen pregnancies per country than in the U S. They better understand the difference of sexual and non sexual nudity and don’t try to have sex just because they see an attractive naked person. U S censorship has caused people to be too sensitive to the female body and nudity in general. That’s why there’s so much more porn and rape here. They’ve made people think of a part of a woman made to give nourishment to children as something inherently more erotic than chests on males. I remember since I was a kid thinking how unfair it felt that there were scenes of nudity in some media showing breasts, but if there were males nude in the same media, they only showed the upper body. I thought the erotic equivalent on men would be something like the butt or our genitalia. What wasn’t fair was for me to think of a part on women in the same area as a male as more sexual by nature. It was a lie hidden in plain sight. We’ve been manipulated by the U S to think of the female body as having more sexually enticing parts than the male. It’s made women so insecure that breast implants are the most common reason for surgery here. HOW DARE the U S treat one gender as more sexual than the other. Men might be concerned about how we could still be as attracted to the female body if one part of it isn’t sexually arousing anymore. Breasts are a combination of fat and different organs, not so much a part of a woman’s body structure as bone and muscle. There’s so much variation in breast size and shape it can’t be as much a part of what makes a female body shape distinct from a males. U S censorship has distorted our perception of beauty and has made men feel like we’ll lose a part of our sexuality by desensitizing a part of the female body. I have been having such a problem. We aren’t the land of the free and the home of the brave, we’re the land of ignorant fools and master manipulators. I wish it didn’t take me so long to realize how unfair women are treated here. I encourage whoever reads this to research why women’s breasts have been sexualized and to share this with at least 8 people. Tell others in real life about this too. The more people are made aware of this the quicker women will stop being harassed and abused so much.

  7. There’s always a way to go about things. Breastfeeding itself is not sexual or wrong but the way you display it is. The whole argument with men an women’s nipples being on the same page a modesty is a valid discussion in western society but in Hebrew context the man must remain as modest as well. I’m this custom which the Bible is built of of, it was a disgrace to see a man nude just as it is a women. And though having a child is natural I don’t want to have my vagina on display every time I give birth. Though I know the child has to come out, doesn’t mean I make a display of it. If there’s somewhere private then I’m going there. But to just openly display your breast is immodest just simply put. Plus I don’t see many nipples on the beach and nor do I want to.

  8. I’m christian and currently studying to become a pediatric dietitian but I havw a debate in me. Bible says that we don’t have to show our intimate parts of our body, but what about educational videos on social media. I’m creating content of these topics and I don’t know if it’s correct to share real videos, educational though, about how to breastfeed, examples ans thosw things.
    I also have another questions, since the Bible says that in marriage the body belongs to each spouse, does the husband some kind of opinion or right to decide in the breastfeeding on his wife?
    Please, I want to know an advice or answer according to the Bible

    1. I wouldn’t dare say I speak for God on this topic, so take my comment here with a grain of salt. As for educational videos, they provide a real and valuable service that is needed. I personally see nothing wrong with real videos in that context. (I have images and graphics throughout this site for that very purpose.) For your other question – yes, the Bible says that a married person’s body belongs to their spouse. With that in mind, a husband absolutely has the right to express his opinion on how his wife breastfeeds. Granted, not every person’s views are the same, so there may be an argument over it. And since not everyone is rational in their decisions & opinions, the argument might get heated. So if there’s a real disagreement it should be thoroughly discussed and researched together. Ideally, before the baby is born. If a couple just can’t come to an agreement, they should talk it over with a pastor and/or lactation consultant. We live in a time when a lot of people have the attitude “I’ll do what I want and nobody is going to dictate how I should act.” But there’s no place in a Christian marriage for either spouse to take that attitude. A husband shouldn’t be demanding and domineering, but loving. And a wife shouldn’t be hateful and willful, but respectful. That’s the prescription for a Biblical marriage, and it’s honestly a good one. Because while we all want to be loved and respected, men tend to value respect more and women tend to value love more. When a man feels respected, he tends to treat his wife in a more loving way. When a woman feels loved, she tends to treat her husband with more respect. It makes a beautiful circle. Also, spouses are accountable to each other. So when my husband had an issue with me breastfeeding in public without a cover, I respected his wishes. When he realized that I could nurse modestly without a cover and was comfortable with it, then I stopped using a cover. I didn’t obey because of a misguided notion that I have to be quietly subservient to his every whim, but because I respect him and don’t want to cause a rift in our relationship because I insist on my own way. Did I argue my case? Of course. Did I convince him? Yes. Would I have done things his way if I hadn’t convinced him? I’d like to think so. If a couple can treat each other with love and respect, and keep the needs of the baby and mom as a top priority, they should be able to overcome any difference of opinion on breastfeeding with a little research and open dialogue.

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