Monday, January 25, 2010

Dilemma

I believe that everyone has a right to eat the food that is best for them.
I believe that everyone has a right to eat without having to hide the fact that they are doing so.
Therefore, I breastfeed my baby and I don't put a blanket over his head. Blankets are hot and stuffy, and frankly Eagle is still young enough that I frequently need to see him so that I can adjust his latch on my breast (he likes to slide off halfway which leaves him improperly latched and can cause problems for both of us if I leave him that way).
I do make an effort to be discreet when I nurse in public--I typically dress in layers so that I can get out what I need without exposing anything extra. The baby's head and body usually cover most of my exposed parts from any perspective except mine. It's true that I may show a little more skin than I mean to while adjusting the baby or something, but it's not intentional. I really don't want to flash anybody, and as I said, I am trying to be as discreet as I can.

In addition, for those who do see a bit of something, well, I think it is healthy for people (especially young people) to see that a breast's primary purpose is to nourish children. The media is full of breasts, but rarely in as appropriate a context as breastfeeding. A relative once expressed to us that she was uncomfortable about my breastfeeding when her teenage son was in the room, and Hubby looked her in the eye and said "you let him go to PG-13 movies with his friends, trust me he's seen a lot more breast than this, and in less appropriate contexts."
It reminds me of this (double-click to see it larger):
(From Sunstone Magazine, Oct 2007 issue)


Well, a couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from a woman in my ward. She is a friend of mine, and someone whom I respect very much. Apparently some men and/or young men had expressed discomfort about my nursing in Sacrament Meeting. I don't know quite what channels the discussion had gone through (although I suspect that half the ward knows), but the Bishop had made a request (which was assigned to my friend to deliver) that I be given this message from him: "Breastfeeding is a great thing, my wife did it with all our kids, and we certainly don't mind your nursing in church. But some people are uncomfortable with it so could you please use a blanket." My friend went on to state that she was just the messenger, and that she wasn't going to tell me what I should or shouldn't do (she's quite pro-breastfeeding herself), but that she'd been asked to deliver the message and so was doing so.
My first thought was when is anyone seeing enough to be uncomfortable about?! But then it occurred to me that I typically sit on the outside edge of the pew (so that I can step out easily to change diapers etc). If I'm nursing during the administration of the sacrament (which I often have been, because it keeps the baby quiet) then the man/young man who brings the tray to our pew would be standing next to/over me and be privvy to my perspective of the nursing babe...ok, yes, I can see that that could make someone uncomfortable.
So now I have this dilemma.
On the one hand, I firmly believe in nursing in public, and I prefer to do it without a blanket or cover, for all the reasons explained above. I know that Alaskan law excludes nursing mothers from public indecency statutes. On the other hand, my leader has asked me to do something, and I have covenanted to sustain my leaders. He is not being obnoxioius either, he is trying to find a gentle way to resolve everyones concerns in the matter.

So Hubby and I discussed my options.
There is a room where mothers can go to change diapers and nurse their babies, however there is no speaker hooked up to that room, and I want to be able to hear the meeting. Bear nursed frequently but briefly, but Eagle likes to tank up for 30-40 minutes, so if I were to go out with him I would miss half the meeting. There is a classroom that has a speaker hooked up, but it is on the far side of the building (ie--one has to walk through the chapel to get from one room to the other), and there is nowhere to change a baby over there. If they would provide both a speaker and a changing space on the same side of the building I would be much more inclined to utilize them. (I shared this with the woman who initially called me, and she said that was a very good point and she passed the information back up to the leadership, so hopefully they will install a fold-away changing table on the other side or something, but thus far all they've done is make an announcement in church that the room over there has a speaker and that young mothers are welcome to utilize the room in caring for their little ones.)
A second reason why I do not want to leave the chapel is actually far bigger--it means leaving Hubby alone with the other boys. It's not that he can't handle two kids in church, but we are both able to get more out of the meeting when we tag-team on the parenting. And as I said, when nursing Eagle, it's not like I would just be gone for a few minutes.
I could pump milk and bring a bottle to use for feeding Eagle during the meeting. In a way that seems the simplest solution...but what if I don't bring enough? Then we are back where we started anyway! I don't have any problem with teaching my child to take a bottle, but if I use a bottle in church solely because someone felt uncomfortable about breastfeeding, then it seems counter-productive in the whole goal of normalizing breastfeeding and the primary purpose of breasts.
A final option--and the one we've decided to go with for now--is that I will continue to breastfeed in church (without a blanket) but that I will sit next to the wall. If I'm against the wall then I'll automatically be more discreet because there won't be anyone standing over me at the edge of the pew. If (as yesterday) there are no side pews available when we arrive at church, then I will probably step out.

21 comments:

Eternal Lizdom said...

That's tough. I was fortunate that my church was equipped with a great "cry room" at the back of the sanctuary with dim lighting, rocking chairs, and a speaker and glass window so I could see and hear everything. There was also a door to the bathroom so the changing table was in easy access- but I also never hesitated to just lay my own mat on the cry room floor.


I very much support nursing in public. Part of me wants to tell you to battle it. Part of me wants to tell you that you did make a that promise to your eladers, though. While my own faith doesn't include that aspect, it sounds as if it's very serious to you so it needs to be respected.

The message was delivered through this other person. Can you request a meeting with the bishop to discuss needs?

My other thought is about what is worn when nursing. I would wear a shirt I could pull up and had a cami underneath that I could pull down. I'd get baby latched on and then my shirt rested down to basically cover everything and my cami left the bottom half covered, too.

Another thought would be to nurse in a sling. I used to walk around the store nursing in my sling and no one would ever know it!

Mommy Bee said...

Ahh Liz, I cannot tell you how many times I have wished that our chapels came equipped with nice cry-rooms like that. Especially for a church that is so pro-family in its teachings, many of the buildings are not terribly conducive to worshiping with children.

I layer with a cami or something too--like I said, I try to be discreet. I'm naturally quite a modest person and I don't like to have it all hanging out. I really think the only time anyone would have truly *seen* anything was if they were right next to me, or perhaps briefly during the beginning/ending of a nursing session while we adjusted everything into place. Part of me suspects that someone was uncomfortable just with the fact that I was nursing (a fact which would not be changed if I used a blanket!!) Alternately, I seriously wonder whether the person who was bothered was not a young man, but rather someone's mother or wife!!! THAT bugs me to no end!

I know plenty of women who have been in similar situations, and who have chosen to battle it. They feel that the leaders were overstepping their bounds to make such a request. The thing is, whether he's overstepping or not, I have promised to sustain him as my leader. Sustaining is not obligatory, but I believe that it's the right thing to do, so I do it...and since I've said I would, I feel that I should follow through. He's been called to be my leader at this time.
With that said, I guess in a way I am still choosing a level of defiance...he requested a blanket, which I'm not doing. I'm just choosing a location that will keep my nursing a little more private.

Jenne said...

That's frustrating! Perhaps you could submit that cartoon to the ward bulletin? Just kidding.

You might try sitting in the middle of the pew, wherever you are in the chapel. That way whoever is sitting next to you (likely one of your children) will obscure the view for anyone else.

Do you wear shirts that you pull up over your breast when you are breastfeeding? I find that wearing a shirt I can pull up with a tank-top underneath covers the top view so my breast is basically obscured from my view above. I often hold the bunched up fabric out and away from my body and the baby's face so the view is further obscured.

I agree with normalizing breastfeeding and make an effort to do that in my neighborhood and ward. No one has said anything to me yet but it may be a matter of time until someone bothered by me doing so encounters me doing it. In my experience, most people aren't aware that I'm breastfeeding when I am. They only become aware when I'm rearranging my clothing when the baby has finished.

Samurai Mom said...

I think I would move over to the wall. i LOVE that comic!

Mallory said...

I read this post out loud to my husband (who is very sensitive to public breastfeeding) and he thinks you are handling it perfectly! I actually nursed Bug in sacrament meeting without a cover yesterday (while sitting next to the wall, rather than in the aisle) and he was surprised at how discreet I was able to be. (I also showed him the comic, which he thought was funny. He said that is very much how his mission in Argentina was like!)

Another idea, if you would rather still have an aisle seat for when you need to take the baby out, would be to keep a small blanket or burp cloth right next to you and use it to cover only during the passing of the sacrament. You can cover when the sacrament is being given to you, then easily take it off when the sacrament is over. (This is assuming that the young men passing the sacrament are the only ones bothered by your breastfeeding.)

Benson & Sarah Garner said...

I don't see why it's such a big deal to be more discreet about it... just because it's YOUR preference doesn't mean you should not take others feelings into consideration. To me, it seems like you want everyone around you to change because of something you believe in yet you are so un-willing to change for something someone else believes in. If the bishop asked someone to say something then he obviously thinks it's a big enough issue to be addressed... They do make nursing covers with a stiff collar to make seeing the baby easier.

Mommy Bee said...

Sarah, I AM taking others' feelings into consideration. I was not asked to stop breastfeeding in the chapel, I was asked to be more discreet. That is what I'm trying to do.

NessaAnn said...

I HATE the blanket, but my sis gave me a "hooter hider" for my birthday last year, and I never thought I'd say it, but... I love it! So easy to use! So lightweight! Never hot! Baby can't pull it off! I don't have to keep checking to make sure I'm discreet, no nervousness when baby flails and pulls shirt or cami up/down. Baby sees me, I see her, everyon is happy.
I decided that though my "stance" on breastfeeding was absolutely NIP, no cover required, in real life I could be realistic and love my nursing cover. So I do. And it has greatly simplified my life. I get lots of compliments on both the cover (which is so pretty) and on my tastefulness nursing in public. Never any questioning gazes, always supportiveness. I feel like that does more for the NIP movement than anything.

Also, this funny moment in my blog:
http://nessaandmichael.blogspot.com/2010/01/sunday-morning.html
I totally had that comic strip in mind!

Brooke said...

Jenni, I feel your pain!! Once in Sacrament Meeting when I was investigating, I was nursing my youngest (she might have been 4 months or so) while the Sacrament was being passed (I always sit on the end so I can escape since I have 3 small children I'm the only one there to wrangle them). I DID have her covered with a blanket since there was a 12 year old boy standing next to me :) however, Leah gave the blanket a good yank just as I was passing the plate to my children... He got quite the look! I wouldn't have thought much about it, but after the meeting I heard him telling his friends what had happend. I was pretty much mortified. Oh, and this kid's dad just happend to be the Bishop, lol. Oh well, it was soon forgotten :)
I was greatful when Leah was old enough to not nurse during the 3 hours of church! We have a nice mother's room w/ a changing table, sink, AND a speaker, but if I went there during SM then I had to take the other two kids who would be loud and distracting and I couldn't pay much attention to the speaker anyway. For me, it was go to church and nurse in the chapel, or stay at home!

Destiny said...

I would say continue sitting by the wall and maybe just place a burp cloth over you when the sacrament is passed. Unless someone is paying way more attention to you than need be, they shouldn't be able to tell you are nursing, but it may be an exception for whoever is passing the sacrament.
I would also talk to the Bishop (or RS pres--she had more sway in our ward) about having a speaker set up in the mothers lounge.

Becky said...

That's definitely a tough one. I think I would probably go the wall option, too. We are lucky enough to have a mother's room with a speaker and a changing table in our building. The problem is, it is tiny! Three women, max, can fit in. I once made a comment to the bishop that as Mormons, we like to procreate but we also like to go to church. Which means that we should have a nice place to feed the babies. :)

TopHat said...

Jenni, I think you know my thoughts:

Expecting someone to sit/eat in a different place because it makes people uncomfortable is discrimination. I remember sitting next to another family whose son is one day younger than my DD- and there he was eating his cheerios and no one batted an eye. They weren't expected to sit in the back or at the wall or any other place because of his eating habits. And if he's "ok" then my daughter sitting and eating in the same pew (we sit in the center pews, so you can fit a couple of families across) is ok too.

I've actually been told by someone in my ward that remembering me breastfeed has actually kept him from going to porn sites when tempted by it. I'm glad I've nursed in public- in sacrament- uncovered because I feel we need to see breastfeeding and breasts in a non-sexual context.

Carrie said...

Jenni, I think you are handling it perfectly. I used to nurse with a hooter hider in sacrament meeting but then I realized that if someone was standing over me they could see everything that I could see. What was the point? I could be more discreet without one and not wear a huge sign saying "LOOK! I am nursing! Please sneak a peek over my shoulder!"

Maria said...

Why does the bishop need a messenger? Why isn't he able to tell you himself? You need to meet with him so that you can know exactly what the "complaint" was/is.
I wouldn't be surprised if they actually were women who complained - that is who complained about me.

Bronwyn said...

If the bishop does meet with you, be sure it's with your DH too, not just for moral support, but I think this is a family issue and needs both representatives from the family. Other than that, I think you are handling it well. I know I'd have difficulty not getting defensive. I've almost wanted the issue to come up just so I can say "I worked my butt off to be able to nurse this child, just try and tell me to stop!" But it hasn't and I'm grateful for that for many reason. Anyway, just lending my support.

~Aimee~ said...

I've started nursing during Sacrament meeting and have done it during the administration of the Sacrament a couple of times. So far no one has said anything to me about it. I do make sure I'm wearing a nursing top or other layers, so that breast is not really being exposed, other than what my baby needs. I can certainly understand the dilemma you feel, especially when it comes to sustaining your leaders. BUT this is where I get my feathers ruffled. If the bishop has instruction for you, it should come through him. Asking a friend to tell you is a cop-out (if the friend is the Relief Society president, that is not as bad, but if not- then it's totally inappropriate). He is the one presiding over Sacrament Meeting and if there is an issue, it should be a discussion with you about it. My suggestion is to have an open discussion with the Bishop himself.

It's a tough situation for sure. I believe that breastfeeding in church is completely appropriate, as it is glorifying the body God created, as He intended it to be used. Then again, to do something in direct opposition to your leaders AND it being something you know to offend people, isn't a good thing either. When it comes down to it, I think you should do as much as you can to help the offended people learn and understand, persuade them to your thinking, since you are technically in the right. If after you've done all you can, people are still unwilling to budge, and the Bishop still says (directly to you) that he wants you to cover up or step out, I would acquiesce.

I don't envy you! I've been arguing this out in my mind for a few weeks now and haven't come to any great conclusions, but so far have been able to avoid getting any negative feedback. I hope you come to a resolution!

Mommy Bee said...

Aimee--the friend is a member of the RS presidency (not the president, but the president doesn't really know me, and this woman does) so that didn't seem out of line per se...
I agree that he should have spoken to me himself though. I am debating whether to go in and see him personally, or write him a letter...I tend to be more eloquent in writing, but I think a matter such as this probably calls for a face-to-face.

As I sit here typing this comment, the popup box is sitting just above my post from yesterday "darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
I have every intention of letting the bishop know how I feel, and why I don't want to leave the room...however I'm not going to fight fire with fire. I'm going to be nice and peaceful and loving about it. I will refuse to fight, but I will also refuse to ignore things that I believe in.

Jennie Yri said...

I think going with your husband to talk to the bishop is a great idea, just so that you are speaking directly to him, and there isn't anything being lost in communication. That way you can also discuss alternatives back and forth together, and find ones that meet both of your needs, his to take into account the uncomfortableness of others, and yours to easily feed your child.

I like your idea of not fighting fire with fire, but I also would like to think that he is coming from a place of love and concern as well. So it seems like you should easily be able to work together to find something that works for everyone involved, if you just sit down and talk with him.

Terresa said...

I've nursed my kids during sacrament meeting before. They were wrapped in slings or blankets, close to my body. No one knew, I don't think.

I've also nursed my kids in the church foyer, with missionaries and hoards of people passing by. no one knew.

I think the whole "blanket over the nursing baby" actually works counter to nursing. It is like a flashing light, "Look here, I'm nursing." Ironic, isn't it?

Sitting in the last row of a sacrament meeting might be the compromise. I did it with my twins when they were babies. Nursing one in the back row and then switching that baby to my husband and nursing the 2nd baby. Although I would've preferred to tandem nurse, that certainly would have drawn attention!! (although I've tandemed nursed in plenty of public parks)

Jessica said...

You know, if you sit next to the wall then your sweet hubby gets to change the diapers when you're done nursing and you actully get to enjoy more of the meeting. :P
I, too, prefer nursing without a cover, but was given a "hooter-hider" type cover when my third baby was born and I have really enjoyed it. I still prefer not covering up, but when my baby is tired it's a great way to let her nurse in a dimmed space without the lights keeping her awake, and it's not so heavy that we're both sweating. If you'd like, I'd be happy to give you the dimensions and I bet you could make one in 30 min. Yes, using a cover-up makes it obvious you're nursing, but if the point of NIP is to normalize it, then why is that a problem?
I haven't actually nursed in sacrament meeting myself, but after reading this post to my hubby, he complimented me on how modestly I NIP, and I just might not step out this next Sunday!
He also made the comment, though, that if a man (or boy) were to see breast skin in the chapel it may be really distracting and detract from his ability to feel the Spirit. We try in other ways to not be distracting to others during the Sacrament (taking noisy children out, dressing modestly, being extra quiet and still), so why not while nursing, too?
I think you are going about this the right way, and it would probably help to know what the comment was and who made it so you'll know what (if any) changes really need to be made.
As a side note: I know several wards have been asked to not have any snacks in the chapel, even for very young children, because of the messes left behind. Nursing is the absolute cleanest possible way to let your child "snack", so it's actually much better than Cheerios and the Bishop can't complain, right?

Christa said...

I nursed my baby in the foyer of the church on our first Sunday back (church was canceled because of the weather this week)two weeks ago. I put a blanket over me initially, but was so uncomfortable and felt like I was drawing more attention. Typically in public I don't cover up, but I was concerned about how people would handle me nursing in the hallway at church. Do you know when I realized people don't care... one of the sister in the primary presidency came up and said are you nursing and I said yes... so she moved the blanket to see the baby.
It was at that point it hit me like a ton of bricks... I'm not doing anything wrong, why should I hide?
The other thing is, we don't eat with a blanket on their head, why should our infants?

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