Someone recently asked me about the appropriateness of breastfeeding in church.
My response is simple: would we worry about handing a sandwich to a hungry child in church? Even in the sanctuary if the kid was really hungry?
I would hope not. Children need to be fed. Babies need to be fed when they’re hungry; not according to our worship or program schedule.
In my imperious and not at all humble opinion on this mater [sic], pastors should treat any discomfort or pushback around breastfeeding in the church as a pastoral issue, not as a policy issue. Just because we live in a body-phobic society at the end of thousands of years of misogyny and superstitious fear and dominance over women’s bodies doesn’t mean we shouldn’t name that nonsense for what it is. Choose your language, but do name it. It’s nonsense.
Nursing mothers should be provided a comfortable place to feed their children and they should be made to feel that the church wants to accommodate them and their babies, not hide them away. A woman who is breastfeeding shouldn’t be made to feel any less welcome or comfortable than someone feeding a baby a bottle is made to feel. Just because the food delivery system in one case is a female breast isn’t the mother’s problem — it’s the problem of anyone for whom an accidental glimpse of a breast is a cause for complaint.
If the breastfeeding mom is the pastor, the same thing applies. I think we all understand the issues of boundaries, professional image, intimacy and privacy present in the situation, but I don’t think the world needs more centuries of telling women that our reproductive faculties are an unfit sight or subject for polite society.
Breasts are one means by which adult women feed hungry children. Certainly the church is committed to feeding hungry children.
The only inappropriate boobs in this argument are not those of nursing mothers, if you know what I mean.