Monday, October 25, 2010

Breastfeeding, Church, and Teenage Boys - WWYD?

Laura, a reader, had the following incident happen to her and her son (Cole) recently. She would appreciate your gentle, constructive advice about how to approach the director of the program, and how to handle breastfeeding during future classes. Please, no negative or disrespectful comments about the religion, the church, etc. What happened to Laura is not a reflection of her church or of Catholics/Christians in general, rather it is the result of a very few people who have succumbed to some negative cultural pressures.
Thank you Laura, for this wonderful post and question.

I've breastfed all my babies and, with every child, have done some sort of volunteer work while they were nursing. I always brought my babies with me and nursed them as if we were at home: on demand, without a shawl or blanket. (I have nothing against shawls or blankets, I just don't use them.)

As a new mother, I often asked if it was okay if I brought my nursing baby with me. Obviously, if someone said no, then I would have had to back out of my commitment; but I was always told yes. To my surprise and pleasure, I found many, many mothers at my old parish who nursed babies AND toddlers openly. Some women used blankets, but most did not. Children of all ages were accepted and welcome at the functions. As another mother told me, "Laura, if you are going to be pro-life and accept the Church's teachings on birth control, you have to be welcoming to children of all ages!" As time went on, I stopped asking and simply brought my children with me. Once they became a distraction, they stayed home with my husband, but young, nursing infants simply joined me in my endeavors.

The Class

Last year, we moved and began attending New Parish ("NP"). We love NP and it completely fills our needs as parents of young children. We are all enjoying the opportunities to grow in our faith. I am also volunteering to teach Confirmation with a co-teacher and working in the Atrium at another parish.

Right before the CCD year began (CCD = religious education), the Director of Religious Education ("DRE") contacted all the teachers and asked if we would like to take an additional training. I said yes, of course, but I would need to bring my  nursing infant. She said that bringing Cole would not be a problem and, "we love babies at NP!" I brought Cole to all the trainings and nursed him on demand.

At the end of the training, I discussed bringing Cole to classes with the DRE. We did not specifically talk about breastfeeding, but she knew I was nursing him.

During our first class, we had the teens do a "get to know you" activity. Cole needed to eat, so I stepped out of the circle and fed him. Some of the students could see me; others had their backs to me. I participated in the activity by making comments and asking questions, but I still sat apart from the group until he finished eating.

I was unable to attend the next session. At the third class, I remembered a blanket and toys for Cole. I made it a point to feed him in the classroom before class began, with only my co-teacher and her daughter present. During class, one girl asked me why I brought Cole. I said, "I am nursing him, and so I need to bring him in case he needs to eat. He won't take a bottle."

The Call

Soon after that third class, I got a call from the DRE about feeding Cole during class. She told me some of the mothers had complained to her and her assistant. She was nice about it, but she said some of the boys were uncomfortable. I understand: young teenage boys are young teenage boys, and I can see how knowing there is a breast out (even if it is covered) could be uncomfortable for them.

She said she had no problem with me bringing Cole to class, but I would need to take him somewhere else to nurse. I agreed and suggested just stepping outside. She said no, as the other students in other classes might see me.

She then suggested the adults-only restroom down the hall, adding that she would put a chair for me in there. The only reason I did not freak out? The bathrooms are large, very clean and brand-new. We have CCD in the school building; in the actual church, the bathrooms have lounges attached to them with couches and chairs.

I suggested a different room that is large, with tables and soft chairs. She agreed, as long as "no one is using it and you close the blinds."

"Close the blinds?" I asked. "But if I shut the door and sit in the chair, no one is going to know what I am doing unless they try to look in!"

"We need to be as discreet as possible. We have to be respectful of everyone and their different beliefs."

Ah, here's the rub. I agree with her.

Yes, I think I should have covered up at that first class. I knew some teenage boys might not be down with the boob out. However, we are trained to have two adults with the students as much as possible. Cole needed to eat; he was sucking on his fingers, drooling, and arching towards my breast with his mouth wide open. It was my fault for not bringing a blanket or warning my co-teacher that I might need to leave.

I agree we should be mindful that everyone has different beliefs.

BUT! BUT! I was teaching at a Catholic Church! We all have the same beliefs, the same faith in God, the same religion. It was a religious class aimed at children of the same faith!

Madonna and Child
Gerard David, 1490
Photo credit:
That faith has a long history of art depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. For many centuries, churches were adorned with statues and icons of Mary and a baby (or toddler or young child) Jesus receiving nourishment from Her breast. Why? Because, yes, Jesus was breastfed. All babies were breastfed, unless the mother could not nurse. In that case, a wet nurse would be employed or the baby would receive milk from another animal or, yes, die.

In many of those pictures Mary was anything but "discreet." She used no blanket, no towel, no Hooter-Hider. Jesus is nursing out in the open, looking around. Why? Because this is how babies nurse! Most nursing mamas have a story or ten about how their baby likes to play "latch-on, latch-off" and smile at people while enjoying a snack. It's funny and frustrating and, until about the Victorian period, very normal.

Then came the wars, mothers going back to work, formula and bottles and prudish Puritan beliefs. People became appalled at the thought of -gasp!- baby Jesus sucking at a breast for nourishment! Mary lactating! How. . . un-divine! (Although apparently there once was a devotion to Our Lady of La Leche. Go figure.)

I also agree that we need to be respectful of different cultural beliefs. However, in my culture, babies are breastfed as long as the mother desires. In my culture, babies stay with their mothers as long as the mother wants them with her. In my culture, babies don't "need" bottles unless the mother wants her baby to take one. Babies are worn on the  mother's body, sleep in the mother's bed. That is how I was parented and raised; that is my culture.

In asking me to respect their culture, a culture that views breasts as only sexual objects and not as a container for feeding babies, they are disrespecting my culture. By asking me to hide in a room with the blinds drawn in case someone might chance to look in while I was feeding my son, they are saying that part of my culture needs to be hidden. They are saying my culture is wrong.

I have formula fed a child and supplemented with formula for another. I respect a woman's right to make a different choice than I have. I know firsthand how hard nursing can be, and I understand why a woman would stop trying to nurse and use formula. I would never, ever ask her to bottle-fed her baby in a closet, bathroom or with the blinds drawn. She is feeding her baby. How is that a problem?

I suggested using a blanket and, if I forgot it, leaving the room. This is not an option, nor is nursing in the empty classroom before class. She does not want to me nurse in front of my co-leader and her daughter, as it might make the daughter uncomfortable.

Class is during bedtime, when Cole likes to cluster feed, and it simply isn't possible to leave him with my husband since Cole doesn't take a bottle can't. But part of me thinks I should keep the peace and leave him at home anyway.
The other part of me, the militant lactivist part that would happily stage a nurse-in, wants to bring him. To just park it in the back of the room and nurse like no one said nuttin. I want to show them that they can't win, won't win, and that my baby belongs with me. It is normal, natural and, yes, what women have been doing for ages.

I want to keep teaching; I love teaching Confirmation. I have a baby who needs me (but who could possibly be left with his father for a short period of time). I need to decide how much of an issue I am going to make this and how much I am going to let slide.

In the end, though, I am going to do what is in Cole's best interests and his alone. I just wish I could help open some minds in the process.

So, readers, what advice would you give Laura? Would you approach the director? If so, what would you say? Would you keep bringing the baby? Where would you nurse? Or would you leave him at home or stop volunteering?


I had a similar issue with a local YMCA director, who stated that "This is a christian facility, and you simply can not breastfeed in front of the other children (toddlers and infants). It is indecent! You'll have to sit in the closet or go to the bathroom to do *that*".

In response, I informed her of my rights as a nursing mother, and provided her with biblical references to breastfeeding, images as well... I politely made a case against bottle feeding in public, as it is a completely exposed nipple and that if human nipples were only sexual in nature, than bottle nipples must be as well... she argued that a bottle was for feeding a baby, and then became quiet as she began to understand my point.
I continued to nurse him in the nursery, with the other children. As mothers came in and berated me, I handed them a copy of a "nursing card" I had printed off. I don't remember the scriptures I used, but I am sure you can google, and I added a similar picture to the one above posted, as a reminder that it is not against their faith to nourish a child as our bodies are intended, and that their savior was in fact fed the same way.
Luck to you, just remember to be calm, rational, and not to allow man made commandments to stand in the path of your gods. Our bodies work this way for a reason, and the more that people are exposed to it, the more they will begin to accept- I plead with you not to bow to defeat.

I think I might start by speaking to the co-teacher and finding out firsthand from her if it was a problem for her and/or her daughter. If not, you might have a great ally in approaching the director about nursing beforehand in the classroom. How does the director feel about your co-teacher being alone with the kids if you are supposed to have 2 adults present? How is she planning to get around that requirement? What if someone complained about that? I think that would concern me more than breastfeeding (but obviously I have no problems with nursing. :)

Have you thought about nursing in a carrier? I realize women are all shapes and sizes and this may not work for everyone, but I have a Beco Butterfly II and have successfully figured out how to nurse in it so that no one can see any part of my breast exposed, though you might hear some loud suckling noises at times (noisy eater, lol).

I think you do need to stand up for nursing. This is a teachable moment, as they say. Can you have a meeting with the DRE and your co_teacher and perhaps someone over their head? Bring in pictures of baby Jesus nursing (especially if there are any where the babe is tweaking the other side, lol). I think you're right to approach this from a pro-life angle. Maybe there could be a meeting with the teens and their parents. You could apologize for failing to cover in this situation, if you choose, and then what a great forum for education! What is the Church's official position on the importance of breastfeeding?

Can you ask for a meeting with the parents of the kids in your class? People might have more of a problem expressing their "discomfort" directly to your face and when no one comes to complain outright, I think you can keep on, keeping-on right there in the classroom.

I was worried about this same situation as I volunteer with high school students through semi-religious organization. So far, I haven't needed to nurse her during our evening meetings, but that time will come. And it will definitely be a situation I'll have to face during our several-days conferences.

Do you have a ring sling, moby, (or SSC, depending on your anatomy) that you can nurse in? I can't tell when many mamas are nursing in carriers and I bet no one else could either.

(I nurse in my ergo, but I think it's less private than it might be in a wrap-style carrier just because of my height and size. Then again, if I'm wearing a sweater that covers the sides and if she's very hungry and will tolerate the sleeping hood being up - I don't think anyone knows what's going on in there either.)

I want to first say how wonderful I think it is that you always volunteer and are so active in your community and faith. You also appear to be very respectful of others and of your own baby's needs.

Now to get to the topic at hand. I really don't think you should just leave your baby at home because you seem to have the strength to face this issue. If you leave your baby at home then others are going to have to deal with this in the future. Poor moms!! Poor nurslings!! It isn't the feeding in the bathroom that makes it a situation where I say poor moms or poor nurslings. It's the emotional weight put on mother's (and thus extended to their babies) when people are asked these questions.

See my question to you is how self-conscious are you of breastfeeding now that they have talked to you like this? Has it changed any? If so then I say you should talk with them. Unless, of course, you feel it will be detrimental to your family to do so.

I think with how active you've been they are going to take your view seriously. I would simply have a sit down meeting with the co-teacher, the DRE, the pastor, and at least one other person who supports your point of view. Tell them what you told us about how the Church supports breastfeeding 'in theory' but say it nicely or as if you are confused. You deserve a space to speak , without them interrupting before they respond to you. And then don't leave the room until you feel comfortable with the conclusion. It is a human right's issue. Of course you don't have to go this route, this is *my* route, what sounds right to *me*. But you just seem educated and strong, as if you can make change.

My thought is that the director is already in a tough position. Rather than make her life any harder, I'd agree to nurse in the room that she had requested, blinds shut if that's what it takes. I had to do something similar at my church, nurse in an empty office to avoid offending anyone. It's ridiculous, but at least you are getting the point across that you are nursing. If kids ask where you are going, you can say, "I'm going to nurse the baby." That way, at least they are being exposed to a nursing mama, even if they aren't seeing it first hand. Then when they get old enough to have babies, they will remember that is how this woman fed her baby. Maybe they'll choose to nurse too. Maybe then they won't have to go to another room to do so. Attitudes on this won't change overnight, but the important thing is that she gets to nurse her baby - and the kids know that's what is going on. :)

I think your suggestions of how to feed your son were excellent. It is my IDEAL that any woman could feed her baby (via breast or bottle) anytime, anywhere, without using any sort of special coverup or blanket if she didn't feel the need (since there is nothing private or sexual or inappropriate going on).
However, it seems that in this situation your priority is to get your son's needs met while continuing to teach the class if possible, and I think that is good. You are willing to make small adjustments to make others comfortable and for the big goals to continue getting accomplished. I think that your idea of feeding him before class when possible, using a blanket to cover up, etc. are workable ideas and I think it is ridiculous that the director does not accept these. Also, is it true that your co-teacher's daughter would be uncomfortable with you nursing, or is that just hypothetical? I would not go out of my way to accommodate a hypothetical uncomfortableness.

I am a Christian (not Catholic), and I think that the moms who had a problem with your behavior should have come to you first. I bet that the moms would have been perfectly happy with your proposed solutions. Perhaps they heard an exaggerated version of what happened from their squeamish teenage sons. Maybe the director is going overboard so that she doesn't get any more complaints.

Here is an article i liked on resolving disputes in the church:

I took a year off from teaching Sunday School at my church during my child's first year of life. I wish I had said "sure, but of course if my child gets hungry I will feed him".

What I would do: talk to your co-teacher. What is she comfortable with? Would she prefer you to stay in the room and help teach the class rather than leaving often for indefinite amounts of time? Is she fine with you nursing before class? Then go to the director with a neutral mediator and state your case again. Emphasize the things you said here and show how the solutions you suggested are adequate. If she has not nursed a child before, make sure she understands some of the reasons you cannot leave him home. If she doesn't budge, I would respectfully ask for a meeting with whoever is above her in authority (is there a board or committee who supervises the church education? A pastor/priest?) or with the moms who had the problem in the first place. If a workable solution cannot be found, I would notify the director that I would need a substitute for the next 6+ months until the child is not nursing as frequently or can more easily take a sippy cup of breastmilk.

"Mary had no bottles."
It was sayed by my cousin, a catholic priest, during the mess. My son was crying, he interruped the sermon and sayed: "Come on, feed the baby..."
"Here? In the church?" I sayed
"Yes, here! Mary had no bottles!"
Venice, Italy, june 2002

...sorry for my terrible english

You are very thoughtful for considering others. I am in a similar situation as my husband is a youth minister and there have been several opportunities that I have missed to teach the next generation about something so natural and wholesome. I was worried that no matter how discreetly I nursed, a teenage boy would go home and tell his mom, "Dude! She whipped out a boob right there in front of everyone!" And that that would then cause my husband trouble. I usually go to another room but have done it a couple of times in front of them. Now that I'm a pro (14 months and counting), it has gotten easier and I am more confident. :)
I SO want to influence the next generation but sometimes I fall flat. I think that if breastfeeding were more normalized, I would have had less trouble in the beginning. I want the young women in my care to have been exposed to different nursing positions etc so that they have an easier time than I did. I want the young men in my care to know how to support their wives. It is hard because I think that breastfeeding being out of the public eye for so long has made it so that we are sort of the ones breaking through the glass ceiling again. For a season, the only mothers that BF were the "hippie" moms. Sadly, I think the church may be the last frontier in this. And it makes no sense to me since I see very little in the fight against the sexualization of breasts.
I would do what other posts have said about having a meeting and defining exactly what is making exactly whom uncomfortable. And then, I would state the things you said about them stepping on your culture and how you/your culture have a right to be validated also. (BTW, you are very lucky to have come from a baby wearing, breastfeeding, co sleeping culture. I am trying to break through those ceilings also.)
Blessings and hugs to you Mama!

How about writing a letter directed to the students' parents and read and approved first by the director? State your concerns about how breastfeeding has become viewed as something sexual or embarrassing and how you all have an opportunity to educate our next generation of parents, not by words but example. It's
God's intent. State your religious beliefs on the matter and how treating one of the greatest gifts God has given us as shameful is offensive to you and your beliefs and culture. I fear these teenagers will leave with a negative view on breastfeeding unless this situation is addressed openly and honestly with both them and their parents.

I really believe that it is VITAL for those teenage boys to see "boobs" used for their intended purpose (God made them, not for sex objects, but to nourish babies). The problem is not breastfeeding in public, but the over-sexualization of the female breast, and the only cure is going to be LOTS of uncovered breastfeeding...what better place for young men to see God's intent for the female breast, than at church? What you experienced was the influence of our over-sexed culture in your church, and that is exactly what the church must fight (I have had similar experiences in my protestant church).

I truly feel that that the only way we will change our culture (and our faith communities) is peaceful resistance by all breast-feeding moms (e.g. feeding, uncovered, on-demand), so that it is so common to see a mother feeding her baby, that our first thought (as a people) when we see a bare breast is not, "Wow, that lady is naked," but "Aw, someone must be hungry!"

It is a difficult situation and I will be praying for you!

I think that it is very important for nursing mothers who are comfortable with NIP w/out a cover to do so. This is the only way to normalize breastfeeding and desexualize breasts. Do you live in one of the 48 states that protects your right to breastfeed without a cover in any location you are otherwise allowed to be? If so I see no reason for you to leave the room or cover up. If it were me, I would ask the DRE if I could speak with the parents who complained. It may be helpful to explain to them the benefits of breastfeeding and of their children seeing a normal nursing relationship. Seeing you nurse, though it may make the teens a bit uncomfortable, may also be the reason one of those girls decides to nurse her own child or may be the reason that one of those boys becomes an excellent support system for his nursing wife in 10 or 15 years' time. I realize that the DRE may ask you not to teach the CCD class if you push the issue, but that is a risk I'd be willing to take. You are volunteering your time to help educate these young people and I can think of nothing more Christian than modeling excellent parenting.

First off, you are completely in the right to nurse your baby, if you are allowed to bring him. Second, it sounds like you are nursing discreetly, i.e. no breast showing (or rarely). I was always able to to do so without a blanket, just pulling up the shirt, but I know for some women this is more difficult. I do think you have an obligation to nurse discreetly, (to minimize the distraction) but not to hide the fact that you are indeed nursing.

So, provided that you are nursing discreetly, I would politely say, "No, I'm not leaving, I'm taking care of my son in the room." Also, offer to meet with any parties that are uncomfortable to see if there is anything that can be done or said to ease their discomfort. If you are dismissed from teaching over this, make sure you send a letter protesting and cc both your pastor and your bishop.

OR, you could make a large "nursing" screen to nurse behind with a lifesize picture of Our Lady nursing Our Lord with an exposed breast! LOL

I wish more people thought like you on this issue. Nursing in public is bound to make some people uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. I can remember being uncomfortable around a bfing mother when I was in my early 20s--but I knew that it was my problem, I didn't think *she* should stop. Pretty soon I got over it and after nursing my two children (often in public) for about 3 years each, I don't blink an eye when I see a mother nursing.
I'm pretty sure my father-in-law was initially uncomfortable with being around while I nursed (I think it was because he didn't want *me* to be embarrassed), but once he realized that I was comfortable, he got over it pretty quickly too!
If some teenage boys thought it was awkward and mentioned it to their parents, that's pretty normal. The parents then had a choice to either normalize breastfeeding or complain about it and suggest that you breastfeed in hiding.
My feeling is that you are already being discreet and sensitive to others needs. You don't need any help seeing their side of things. Now you need to encourage them to reach a little. Talk about it a little more with your co-teacher. Find out what exactly the complaints were. What is the fear? I know that you don't want to be confrontational, but you should make sure that you are respectfully standing up for your own principles. I think that caving to a fear-based argument would be a missed opportunity and would leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

perhaps takes cole with you to class and explain to your clas the in this envelope is your resignation. explain you have been critisized for breast feeding in front of the students, apolagize for the uncomforability you have been told you have caused so many of them (because im sure that far less felt uncomfortable then you are being led to beleive) explain to your students that your baby is unable to suckle from a bottle as so breast feeing is your only option, tell the students you honestly didnt beleive they or the church would have a problem with you nursing as so much artwork and statues depict the mother mary nursing her son openly in public- you were simply following her guide. (by doing this suddenly even the teenage boys will switch to ultra mature mode- they will know you breast feeding is right and normal and will feel annoyed at you feeling forced to leave). exlein all the reasons you thought it was fine that you have in you above article and explain how you feel you've been asked to go to bizarre (closing the blinds etc) lengths and even feed you baby in a toilet, which would make you feel uncomfortable. exlian how you really have enjoyed all your previous teaching positions and you have enjoyed all your time with the students and how you hope to return once cole and you no longer need breastfeeding. and most importantly EXPLAIN ALL OF THIS IN YOUR RESIGNATION. by doing this you are settling the lactivist withn you and soothing the need to protest their victorian views- you are teaching the children an imporant lesson. and making the directors etc realise how foolish they really have been. if they call you and ask you to come back- thats their call, but either way it sounds like right now you cant continue to work there AND feed cole. as much as you have said this new parish is a perfect fit, i question how well they really fit with you if they are making you feel this uncomfortable- perhaps there is no harm in looking at other parishes who will understand the experience you are having with your current parish and allow you to celebrate following in the foot steps of the virgin mary and doing the best for your son. im sure there are many parishes crying out for parishners who want to volunteer, teach and be a valueable active, devoted member that you sound like.

I'm not sure what I think of what I would do in your situation. Is it possible to get together with the people who complained and discuss the issue with them? I think that it should be said to the DRE and anyone else in charge exactly what you say here: that your rights are just as valid as those of anyone else, and you shouldn't be forced to hide it.

I remember sitting in the cry room before my son's baptism, and I ended up having to nurse him -- I wasn't really comfortable with NIP at that point (my son was only 6 months, and I was still learning), and there were three other young children in this small room. I apologized to the other mother. She looked at me and said, "Oh, hon, no worries; I have three kids, I know how it is!"

I hope you're able to resolve the issue without having to give up your nursing rights while at the same time not having to quit teaching; good CCD teachers make all the different.

I would just insist on nursing him, but I would use a cover or blanket. That is a nice compromise for both parties. I would insist on doing this, and if they still had a problem, I would sadly back our of my committment.

I just want to say that, although you and I could probably not be more different - I'm not any stripe of Christian, and I'll never have a baby - I support you 100% in continuing to nurse your baby just about anywhere you please.

The whole 'breast are only for teh SEX o noes BABY ON A BOOBY MY EYES' prudery is... Well, anything but Catholic. That kind of attitude goes back to, as you observed, Victorian times, an era dominated by largely Protestant values, as has the culture-at-large in many of the former colonies and territories of Great Britain.

I'll stop now, before this turns into an essay, and I'll just leave you with these words: GO! FIGHT! WIN!

I would say that breastfeeding isn't just YOUR culture, it's also CATHOLIC culture. As a fellow Catholic, I would appeal to JP2's Theology of the Body. As a Catholic, you have great support from the Church for your decision to nurse your son.

John Paul II encouraged breastfeeding:

Also, ecological breastfeeding is encouraged in NFP literature as a Church-sanctioned way to help space children. By breastfeeding, you are demonstrating to theses CCD children, the gospel of life. You could try presenting this information to the director, and perhaps send home some information sheets for the parents.

More Resources for you:

I am a Catholic too. Although I've never nursed and taught Confirmation at the same time, I do nurse at Mass. Lately as the baby has gotten older, I've had to give up the cover. He tends to pull it off anyway. And we don't have a cry room, so I nurse in front of everyone.

I've been lucky never to have a comment from anyone: teenagers, older people, children, etc. Most of the time people don't know what I'm doing. One mother asked me if the baby had fallen asleep. I had to tell her that he was eating.

I figured that Roberta is right. Mary didn't have a bottle. So if Jesus didn't find it offensive to breast feed than it's not offensive to breast feed in front of Jesus. If Jesus is not offended, than why is someone else?

Perhaps having a class devoted to modesty or dressing nice for Mass would be a good way to discuss breastfeeding as being something that is not immodest in anyway.

I would talk to the DRE and the priest of your church. I'm sure that they would come to your class and discuss what modesty is and what breastfeeding is too. I think that is what the issue boils down too.

I'm sure that Jesus was breastfed in the Temple. In Jewish life, breastfeeding and weaning were celebrated.

I would avoid breastfeeding in front of the DRE or the teenage boys, since they're the ones who are offended. But if you breastfeed before class or in the hall, and the DRE isn't there, does it really matter? What she doesn't see can't offend her.

I breastfeed at work, at my Catholic school. I don't in front of the kids, as I feel it would distract them and maybe undermine my authority a little bit (I have to stay one step ahead of them!), but I nurse in the teacher's lounge, the photocopy room, the office, etc. I have never asked them what would be okay, I simply chose what was unlikely to offend anyone and did that. Male teachers are always coming in and out and chatting with me, so I'm guessing it's not an issue for them!

If the DRE still gives you grief after that, it's time to bring it to the priest. Bring resources, like those a previous poster mentioned, and try to win the priest over to your way of thinking. If he says it's okay, the DRE can't stop you. If he backs the DRE, I'd say it's time to step down as confirmation teacher. Yes, it's a shame that they're making you choose, but your responsibility to your own child comes first. You *thought* they would welcome the gifts of a nursing mom just like anyone else's, but if they don't, that's not your fault. Just a shame that you're not being welcomed as you should be.

I commend you for having the courage and strength to confront this issue for future generations. My personal feeling is that teenage boys, like everyone else, should not be allowed to be "offended" in this situation. I know that's not very sensitive of me, but I think that they need to get over it in order to be supportive of their sisters, wives, daughters, or whoever else they care about in the future who will breastfeed. I hope you can find some kind of back up at your church so that you are not having to deal with this alone. The needs of your child and of all the other breastfed children should be the concern of the whole church family, in my opinion. Other mothers and/or church leaders should step forward, gently address the folks with the problem and make an example of your natural, healthy mothering. Good luck!

I want to commend you for not getting combative about your struggles here. I understand how hard it can be to do what God is calling you to on both levels. Jesus instructs us to be peacemakers, to not offend others. But we are also instructed to do good and teach others about doing good. We were created to do good, and nursing your baby is doing good. I'm not Catholic, but I did attend the NFP classes at our local Catholic church and you are taught that from fertility, sex, breastfeeding, all of it is created by God! It seems to me that your DRE is not willing to compromise at all about this, to the point that is ridiculous (not being able to feed in an empty classroom!) I agree covering up as best as possible is the way to go. I am a youth leaders wife with a 6 month old nursing babe, I nurse both in and out of the classroom. I don't necessarily want the teenage boys to see my breast as much as they don't want to. But I think the presence of a normal nursing mother is important, it is discreet and natural! I think you should sit down with the DRE and whoever is possibly above her. Bring scripture and a peaceful heart. Pray like the wind for God to open both your hearts. Tell her your desire to minister both in the class and to your child and for you NOT to be a hinderance to her or anyone. But also be honest in kindness. If she will not budge and demand you feed in the restroom (I totally agree about not feeding my baby in a restroom) then perhaps it's God's will for you to not be a part of the class for a time. Maybe you should start breastfeeding support groups at the church ;)

Well, that's not very Catholic of your DRE, honestly. Someone needs to reread JPII's Theology of the Body. I am Catholic as well, and I would be very offended if someone told me I couldn't nurse at church. What do they think the Blessed Mother did for our Savior? It's not like she could bust open a can of Enfamil.

The Catholic Church supports a pro-life, no contraception lifestyle. They expect us to bring babies into this world, and as a Catholic mother you have the obligation to do what is best for your baby, even at the expense of yourself. I believe Catholic moms have a moral responsibility on several levels (best for child, taking care of the mom's body (aka temple), being a good steward of our planet (no waste), following the example given to use by Our Mother, etc) to breastfeed, or at least make an honest attempt at it. I know a small percentage cannot, but really trying is a moral obligation for Catholics. And the Church, at the global, diocecsan and parish levels, have a moral obligation to support mothers in following the example of Our Lady. The men and husbands in the Church have this obligation as well.

Breastfeeding is an extension of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth... just as a mother must care for her baby when pregnant, and do what is best for the baby even if it's hard for her, that extends into nursing. In addition, the Catholic culture demands of its members to be pro-life. There ARE risks in formula feeding, and it would not be very pro-life to take risks with your child's health unless it was necessary (i.e., breastfeeding didn't work out), it which case the benefit outweighs the risk. Exclusive breastfeeding is a natural way to space children, and couples who accept the Church's teaching on contraception and natural family planning NEED to know about breastfeeding. Every Catholic mother who reads the Bible, the Catechism, and the writings of the Doctors of the Church and other influential Catholic writers will come to the conclusion that this is what God intended for babies and mothers.

Women and mothers have a very special role in the Church as nurtures. You have an obligation to live the Gospel as God intended, ESPECIALLY if you are a CCD teacher.

Also, I will go so far as to say that I sincerely doubt these teenage boys were offended. IME, it is generally girls that are more offended in that age bracket. More likely what happened was that either the girls complained to their parents, or the boys mentioned it (not offended) to their parents, and the parents are the ones who started pushing the oversexualized agenda.

There is a book by Sheila Kippley (I think that's how you spell it), called "Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood." Buy it, read it, then give it to your DRE to read. I would also suggest JPII's TOTB (I would HOPE she has read that as a DRE, but I'm beginning to doubt it if she is acting this way about nursing an infant). Other writings by JPII, as well as Pious X11, and Father William Virtue can also be of use in this discussion. There IS a maternal obligation for breastfeeding, and leaders of religious education need to know that and support that. Good luck, I wish all the best for you.

I was in a similar situation last year, when my younger child was just a few months old. I had stopped by the camp where I often volunteer (a Christian camp, but Lutheran, not Catholic), and while I was chatting with some old friends my little one needed to eat. So I fed him. The camp director handed me the blanket that was on top of my bag, to throw over my shoulder "if any campers come in." Everyone else left the room except my husband and my older child. I was really shaken up by the whole situation. Was it really that offensive? I mean, I get that my stretch marks are scary, but how is my nursing my child going to damage a camper? Also, I have never seen a camper come into the office except for registration. I was wary of nursing in public for a while after that. As I recall, my husband then suggested that I get over it.

I have been faced with his situation a few times. My current church banishes mothers to a cry room to nurse where as other churches I went into the nursery. For me I don't want anyone to stumble. I have many times nursed in a room at church to have a man come and chit chat completely oblivious to my nursing. All of a sudden hey realize what I am doing and act all weird and uncomfortable so I tend to just stay away from people when I nurse unless I know theres other nursing moms around. I just prefer not to cause anyone to feel uncomfortable to stumble or feel awkward just because they are uneducated or inmature. It doesnt hurt to be alone anyways and gives me quiet one on one time with the Lo's without distractions.

I'm a full-time volunteer with an interdenominational Christian org - I was nervous about nursing in public around our base as we have people from different nations/backgrounds and I was not sure how it would go over - especially with lots of North American guys in the their late teens, early 20's. But it's actually been great, and the guys seem to barely notice when I'm nursing (I don't use a cover, just wear nursing tops or double layer tops to pull one up and the other down) and I often carry on conversations with guys while nursing my son. (who, like jesus, now likes to latch on and latch off. :) I've found it to open up some good conversations about breastfeeding with people of both genders as well. My hope is to make it more normal, more talked about and to empower the young women and men to give breastmilk to their own babies someday.

But I loved the article's comments about Jesus as a baby, and I had to ask myself, WDJW? When did Jesus wean? And would I want anything less for my baby? Bracelets, anyone?


Post a Comment

Please read the comment policy before posting. In short, "We encourage thoughtful, mature debate on everything we post. It is our desire to host a thoughtful, encouraging community for breastfeeding parents and those who support us. If you find yourself disagreeing with most of the content here, there are many other websites/communities where you might feel more comfortable."
If your comment does not conform to the policy, it will be deleted without notice.
All comments will be held for moderation, we apologize for the delay.