Nursing in public has gathered a movement behind it in recent years. With the growth of social media platforms, photography and stories surrounding women who are choosing to bare it all and feed their babies in public has become viral content.
Where do Christian women fit into all of this?
I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t know but I’m happy to share some perspective with you that I’ve gained with the birth of my son.
I don’t truly know the timeline of events but I feel like the “breastfeeding in public” movement really started taking off around the time that my daughter was born. She’s now 4 years old.
I remember it being a new concept to me, kind of weird and a little taboo. Nursing was a really private thing in my family, so I didn’t really see much of it growing up. The few times I did left me feeling uncomfortable. I’m sure this was due to lack of familiarity because I’m not typically bothered by similar situations. I spent years on a dance team where we constantly changed in front of each other, which lead me to become fairly comfortable with this sort of thing.
With my daughter being my firstborn, nursing was quite a challenge for me. Latching did not come naturally and I often had to take off my entire shirt just to see enough to make things happen. Because of this, I absolutely dreaded going out in public if I had to nurse during my time away from home. I just couldn’t figure things out and all of my efforts to stay modest weren’t working, or I’d find myself huddled in a nasty public restroom trying to find an angle that would work in a tiny stall to privately feed her.
It went downhill pretty quickly and before I knew it, she was refusing to nurse at all. We put her on formula after just a few months of struggle to ensure she was getting fed well. I’m ashamed to say it but during this time in my life I judged women who breastfed in public, especially uncovered. It seemed unnecessary.
Friends, that was because I was terribly ignorant. I was wrong for doing that.
When I found out that I was pregnant again, I prayed that this new baby would nurse well. I didn’t want a repeat of last time. I have nothing against mothers who go full formula, I just personally wanted to nurse and do so successfully.
Well, my prayer was answered. This little boy is always hungry, demanding and loves to nurse. After minimal work with a lactation consultant, I was able to breastfeed fairly easily. I didn’t have to do any circus acts like in the past with taking off my entire top. I was ecstatic and had no problems going out with the baby because I knew I could feed him without a lot of frustration.
But even with this, breastfeeding modestly was still an issue. The cover was still a pain to use and I flat out refused to hole myself up in some obscure area to feed my child. Through the four years that had passed, I had grown a lot as a mother and matured. During this growth, I had come to realize that it wasn’t fair to constantly give up my needs to keep others happy. This default comes from my childhood and we will not go down that long rabbit hole. The simple fact was I had an infant who had needs that only I could meet. He didn’t care if I could find a private place to feed him. He just wanted nourishment and he wanted it now!
So at some point, I decided that I had to stop worrying about what others around me thought. I couldn’t allow the fear of judgment keep me from taking care of my baby. Now when I’m in public, I don’t try to fuss with a nursing cover, I just do what needs to be done. I do still try to be conservative as possible as a courtesy to others by situating myself in the most modest position I can, but I don’t lose sweat over it anymore.
I get that nursing still makes some people uncomfortable and I can’t change that. But when it comes down to it, I’m going to feed my child when he needs however I can. I can only hope that over time people will learn that breastfeeding is meant to meet a need. It’s not about the boobs, they are just a tool to feed.
So with this new perspective I did something I would have never done four years ago. I was invited by a very talented photographer, Sabrina Rexing, to join a public breastfeeding photo shoot. Sabrina captures motherhood in the most beautiful ways with birth photography, maternity, nursing and more being featured in her portfolio. She’s well known in Austin for what she does and holds awards under her belt as well. So when I got the invitation, I thought long and hard about it. I definitely wanted to partner with her but it was stepping out of my comfort zone. After talking to my husband and much thought, I decided to be a part of the shoot.
It turns out that normalizing breastfeeding in public is something I believe in.
We should support any mother who is taking care of her babies. We all know how much sacrifice goes into motherhood. There’s just simply no room for judgment. So, I took the photos and you know what? They not only came out modest, they are beautiful. I had no idea what a treasure having photos nursing my baby would be.
So how should Christian women approach public breastfeeding?