So, breastfeeding in church. Okay for the Virgin Mary, but not okay for Mary Smith? My Mormon friends are all a-buzz over a mom who got in trouble for breastfeeding her baby in church services. The mom wants to remain anonymous, but her friend wrote about her story for the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives.
Reportedly, the breastfeeding mom was removed from her volunteer position as a youth leader. And if she does it again? She could lose certain privileges she's worked hard to earn. Harsh! Correct me if I'm wrong here, but we're talking about a church, aren't we?
Okay, a little context. Most Mormon churches, like other churches all over, usually have a special room set aside for nursing moms. Sound for services is usually piped in. Or, you can nurse in the lobby outside the chapel, where there are usually sofas. But I always assumed that was for moms who wanted more privacy -- not to protect everyone else from the "disturbing" horrors of witnessing a mother feed her baby.
Here's LDS spokesman Scott Trotter with a statement: "Countless thousands of mothers have been accommodated in church for generations, simply by everyone observing common sense, discretion, and respect. We have received no information about this incident." Wow, condescending much, Scott? Guess you didn't consider your tone before you sent that one out. Hello, PR 101 -- you did know news outlets would be reading this, right?
Look, I'm sure this mystery breastfeeding mom was being reasonably discreet. She was probably appropriately dressed. And she just wanted to feed her baby without having to go hide herself as if nursing is something to be ashamed of. Like breastfeeding is "unclean," somehow -- and not a shining example of a mother nurturing her child!
When I was growing up Mormon many years ago, it was boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, boob, everywhere, all the time, because every single mom we knew was always breastfeeding a baby. (Or so it seemed.) The sight of breastfeeding mothers normalized breastfeeding for me. I grew up assuming I would make the same choice as a mother. And since I witnessed breastfeeding from a young age, it's always seemed like a very innocent, non-sexual thing to me. I think it's actually helpful for kids to be exposed to the sight of breastfeeding moms! Especially at church, where we learn about caring for others.
So who are church leaders protecting, really, when they punish women for breastfeeding in church? Gross, leering men who find even a nursing mom covered in spit-up and sporting sister wife hair and an ankle-length A-line khaki skirt distracting? I think we've got things turned around, here. I think if you have a problem with breastfeeding moms, you're the one who needs to go into a special room and, I don't know, play with yourself or pray until you get it out of your system.
We're living in an age where it's actually HARD to get people to show up to church. Shouldn't churches be more open-minded and go out of their way to make people feel more welcome? Shouldn't churches make it easier for families to participate as much as possible? And finally, God is not offended by the sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby. So the rest of us shouldn't be, either.
Do you think it's all right to breastfeed in church?
Image via Daquella manera/Flickr