Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Should Children Be Exposed to Breastfeeding? Even at Church???!!!

Because breastfeeding can be such a fundamental part of lifelong good health, I don't know a single soul that disagrees that it should be promoted.

UNTIL..... the topic of nursing in public comes up.

Then all of the sudden the conversation turns to one of sex, pornography and young boys.

The author of this post I think puts it all into perspective, but I want to take it one step further.

When I went to church for the first time after the birth of my oldest daughter, she needed to nurse in the middle of Sunday School. Without covering up, but in a discreet tactful way I latched her on, looked at my husband, and I thought his eyes were going to detach from his sockets.

I looked at him, hurt. Right then I could tell he did not support me. Ouch. I mouthed to him, "What do you want me to do?!", with a bit of body language that said 'You better respond the 'right way' or else you might not sleep well tonight'.

He gave me a sheepish look and mouthed back, "Go to the mother's lounge?"
To which I replied, "I will go to the mother's lounge every time to nurse, if you come with me. I did not come to church to get stuck in a small room with dirty diapers half the time."

That was the last time he ever said anything to me about nursing in church, and in fact he quickly became a huge advocate of public church nursing. I nursed in sacrament meeting, sunday school, relief society, primary when we taught the CTR class (8 year old's), when I led the primary music (yes, I nursed in the sling while leading the music), young womens when I taught the beehives, the 14 year old sunday school class when my husband and I team taught them, ward dinners, one time I even said the closing prayer in sacrament meeting while nursing my baby in the sling. If my baby was hungry, I would nurse where I was, albeit - like I said - discreetly, most of the time in my baby sling because MY BABY COMES FIRST.

Fast forward 9 years and 3 more babies later, and we were moving out of that ward that I nursed in so frequently. Our old bishop (who was vocally supportive of my parenting practices) stopped us our last Sunday there to let us know that we would be missed. Then he casually said (as if I knew this information), "And to think we spent so many months in bishop's meeting with all the leaders discussing what to do about you nursing all the time, and now they are sad to see you leave!"

I played it off, pretending to know what he was talking about, because I didn't know how to react to that. I turned to my husband in amazement. 'What?! There were discussions about my boobs in the bishop's office?! My parenting choices were called in question?!' All these years, and I had no clue. At first I was hurt. After thinking about who had been in positions of leadership who would have a problem with my public nursing, I knew exactly who the people were that he was talking about. But then I was grateful. Grateful I had no clue about what was being said about me behind my back. Those people, who were primarily women, had since become my friends after that bishop had been released. I knew they loved and even liked me, and I them.

Knowing that they were so constipated about my choice to nurse unhindered would have set a very defensive tone from me towards them during my vulnerable, formative mothering years. And should I been asked to stop like so many other women on birth email groups I'm on? I am grateful to that bishop for doing the right thing, and standing up for me. Forgiveness wouldn't have come quickly during my 20's, I fear. He will forever have a special place in my heart.

One of them even gave me a very high compliment a year before we left,

"Amy, if I believed in reincarnation, I would want to come back as one of your babies."

To this day, this has been the most meaningful compliment anyone has ever given me, and healed any stare or negative look I ever received as a result of my public breastfeeding.

What started off as probably disgust and intolerance of me and my beliefs and practices, had turned into love and acceptance, for most. In that 9 years we were there, I was able to follow many of the kids in the ward from the primary class we taught, to being their activity days leader, then on to beehives, and eventually I even attended one of their births when they moved on into motherhood.

I can't help but think that for many of them, I might have been the only source that normalized what might have otherwise become a very embarrassing thing for them. Nourishing my babies through my breast. I pray that my example may have helped give some of them the courage to do the same.

Here is a very interesting dipiction of public breastfeeding, in sacrament meeting, in the early days of the church. I encourage you to read the post. I think we are doing our brothers and sisters a huge disservice when we run to the mother's lounge every time our babies need to nurse.

Ladies, it's okay to nurse in front of others - in church even. Come to think of it, ESPECIALLY in church!

You are not promoting any kind of sexual sin. You are fulfilling the divine duties the Lord has given you. You are encouraging other mothers around you, as well as the educating the young people for the future, to nurse and promote the physical and emotional health of their children!

My 5th baby, my 2 year old is still nursing, and now if he wants to nurse during church, I do go to the mother's lounge, because nursing a two year old is like nursing a monkey sometimes. He can unpredicatbly pull my shirt up, want to stand on my lap or sit to nurse...let's just say, it's no longer discreet to nurse him in public, it can become a side show pretty quickly. So, when I go in and there are other mothers in their nursing their babies, they are always shocked that a child "so old" is still nursing. Just to break the ice of awkawd judgment towards me, I reply that I nurse until my kids are in college. Most of the time it turns into a conversation about how I miss the days when I could just nurse through my meetings with a calm baby. I hope that then I've gotten those mothers thinking that not only is it great to nurse past 3, 6, 9, or 12 months, but there is no reason why they can't do it in the meetings.

I pray we can go back to the days of when it was common to nurse in church meetings, like the painting depicts. Imagine how much better off the world would be! Nurse!