Motherhood Monday: Nursing in Public

by jessicaturner on February 13, 2012

Nursing sweet Adeline

Because I am still nursing full-time, Adeline went with me to Atlanta this past weekend. (Our freezer stockpile is in the single digits!)

I am one of those moms who does not have a problem nursing in public places, though I try to always do it as discretely as possible – sitting in the back of a room, always using my hooter hider, etc. Adeline is a quiet nurser and I have never encountered an issue.

That is, until yesterday.

I decided to go to a large, popular, well-known Atlanta church on my way out of town yesterday. I was really looking forward to hearing the pastor, whom I respect, and the worship team. When I got to church, I knew I was pushing Adeline. She was tired and hadn’t nursed well earlier. So I planned to take things in stride, prepared to not stay the whole service if she wasn’t up for it. I sat on the aisle in the second to last row.

After about 30 minutes, Adeline was fussing a bit, and I decided to take her into the lobby (which was the biggest church lobby I have ever seen), nurse her and be on my way. A kind church member who was sitting behind me mentioned earlier in the service that there was a “mother’s room” and offered to take me there, but I declined, knowing that I would likely be leaving early and didn’t want to disturb folks more than necessary.

When I got into the lobby, I sat down on one of the giant square ottoman/couch type things. It had four distinct sides and there was no one on three of the sides. I sat just as I am sitting in the above picture and started nursing Adeline. (I had Matthew take the picture when I got home from Atlanta.) After just a couple minutes, a woman came up to me and said, “we have a mother’s room, if you would like to go there.” I said that we were just fine, but let her tell me where it was in case I changed my mind about leaving.

I continued to nurse Adeline and two minutes later ANOTHER woman came up to me and said “There are going to be about 70 people coming through here for communion, so it would probably be better if you went to our nursing mothers’ room. I can help you carry your things.”

My mind exploded with retorts.

I am FINE here.

Do you not see me nursing? Why would I want to move?

The 70 people won’t bother me or my daughter.

Do you have a problem with a mother nursing?

What is it with you people and the mothers’ room?

Instead, as calmly as I could I said, “you know, I was planning to leave town after feeding her, so I guess I will just leave now instead.”

She didn’t reply.

I pulled Adeline off and she WAILED.

I put Adeline in her carseat and left the church as quickly as possible. I nursed her in the car, called Matthew crying about the incident and headed home.

It is ridiculous in this day and age that people have such issues with public nursing. The CDC has a fascinating “breastfeeding report card” which illustrates facts about breastfeeding in America.

Interestingly, in Georgia only 10% of mothers are still exclusively nursing their babies at six months. So I am an anomaly (I only supplement a few ounces a couple times a week, so I think I can say that I am almost exclusively nursing:) ). I can’t help but think that the culture of the state impacted the way I was treated.

Have you ever encountered being treated poorly because you were nursing your child? How did you handle it?

Update: To those who have mentioned writing a letter, I sent several tweets yesterday to the church, who is VERY active in social media. They have not responded.

The point of this post is to discuss how women are sometimes treated for nursing in public. My situation happened to occur in a very popular, “hip” church. 

Also, to clarify, this was not my church. I was visiting this church while in Atlanta. I had never been there before.

Update 2 (Feb 15): I received a kind apology from the church yesterday afternoon. Again I want to emphasize that this post was about breastfeeding in public and how women are sometimes made to feel – not the church itself.

Update 3: I have disabled comments because they have turned from a dialogue to mostly being hateful, which is not helpful to anyone.



brie. February 13, 2012 at 5:44 am

i’m not a mom, so i’ve not yet handled it. but i live in the UK where public nursing is uncommon. i hope to nurse and i hope to be free to move around when we have children. i just want to commend you on doing what GOD intended – for you to feed your baby. it is so unfortunate that your experience was, what it was. but maybe with more women publicly feeding their babies, the stigma will change?

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 8:14 am

Yes, yes, YES! We need to get the word out there that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and help more people be informed so this doesn’t happen again.

Lauren February 13, 2012 at 5:46 am

I am one of the 10%, I guess! I am a Georgia girl who nursed exclusively for 13 months. I almost never nursed in public, but I have lots of friends who did/do and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it being a problem! I’m sort of shocked that you encountered that! I guess my only thought would be that it’s because you were at church? I’m not saying that’s an excuse for their determination to move you, but I bet that’s what they would say. :( Keep it up!

Jessica February 13, 2012 at 6:08 am

I haven’t had a problem, and I don’t even always use my hooter hider (if my outfit accommodates nursing without showing much skin, or if I’m wearing a scarf to drape strategically). This includes at church, my older child’s gymnastics class, and at home with company. People have never commented or seemed uncomfortable.

Jennie February 13, 2012 at 6:37 am

How annoying and especially at church where you are doing what God intended your body to do to nurture your child. (And good for you and A that you’re still nursing!) I’d be tempted to email the church, tell them what happen and request that they put in their bulletin that nursing mothers are REQUIRED to use the mother’s room if people there are going to be so pushy about. What kind of Christian love was that? Would Jesus have asked you to move?

And there is also the irony of your referencing the CDC which is located in Atlanta.

I nursed for 18 months, but the last few were mostly morning and evening. I nursed in public all the time but tried to be discreet with where I did it and I used either my sling or a small blanket to cover up any exposure. I nursed in busy restaurants and even museums.

I did email a popular children’s museum in Charlotte, NC and ask why they didn’t have a nursing mother’s room, though. I didn’t care if adults noticed but I was often uncomfortable if a child got curious because how parents want to explain things to their children is between the parent and child. Fortunately, I never had a child be too curious but I still felt at the children’s museum that it should have been easier to have a place to go rather than be another exhibit for the children to stare and wonder about! LOL (I got a polite email back but they haven’t changed anything there and it’s been almost 5 years.)

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

I love what you said here “would Jesus have asked you to move?”, because the way I see Him portrayed in His word He was always welcoming the most lowly people to dine with him and fellowship with him…so I can’t imagine him asking a mom, who is nourishing her child in the way He intended a woman’s body to, to move to a more “private” location. What kind of picture of the church does this give??? I wonder too if this had been a mom who had never entered a church before…would she ever want to go to church again after that experience???

Kasey Krawiec February 13, 2012 at 11:13 am

Exactly! This was my thought process when I responded to this post on her facebook page. I am sad above all that this happened at church where we should be about people (and not pretense) THERE above any where else. Had it been a visiting nonbeliver i fear her embarrassment would keep her from really wanting to ever embark on a church/God journey again.

Kari February 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Over the summer, when I nursed at the pool, there were a couple of kids who were VERY inquisitive. It was kind of hilarious.

What are you doing? Where is the baby? What is the baby doing?

The only bad thing was that I didn’t know how their parents were wanting me to answer all those questions, so that made it a little uncomfortable.

Diana February 13, 2012 at 6:38 am

So sorry this happened to you! I live in Georgia and I have seen moms breastfeeding out in public and I always smile. Why? Because I exclusively breastfed both of my kids until they were one years old. AND, I didn’t have a hooter hider either. Don’t let what happened at one place bother you please! Maybe they thought they were being nice to you but it came across the wrong way.

Jodi February 13, 2012 at 6:45 am

I am very sorry for the way you were treated. I am a Georgia-native and mother of 3. I have nursed my babies, all in public many times, with no issue. I’m going to venture and guess that this might have been a bit of an isolated incident. I truly hope you do not think almost every one in the state would be so rude. While the statistics may speak for themselves, I would like to hope you would not have been treated the same at every public location you visited and needed to nurse. Our church does have a mother’s room, but I have rarely nursed there, choosing instead the lobby or very back of the church during a service, fully covered of course. Again, I agree the way you were approached was inappropriate. Great job on nursing so long. I know the difficulties of it and one of mine I was unable to BF after 2 months because of a lot of issues. Thank God for lac consultants and prayer for my next 2 kids!

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 6:56 am

Oh no, I definitely don’t think almost everyone in the state would treat me that way. My only point by sharing that GA stat was to show that nursing 6 month olds is uncommon… :)

Jamie February 13, 2012 at 6:45 am

I like to think that you are probably over reacting, although they do seem to encourage nursing in the mother’s room. A lot. The first person was probably trying to be helpful and the second person too. I think the third lady was trying to warn you in case 70 people walking through would have bothered you. She might have thought that you wanted privacy since you were not in the service.
I think nursing mothers (myself included) often over react and think that the general public is against them. You have to feed your baby when your baby needs to eat. Period.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 6:54 am

Yes, the first woman was trying to be kind. I believe the second person was trying to get me to move and when I didn’t the third person came up to me (I saw them talking). Trust me, the third woman was doing much more than warn. She had a problem with me being there.

Lindsay February 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

I think that sadly, a lot of churches get caught up in their “image” and a mother nursing wasn’t something that they wanted people to see. We have to remember that church buildings aren’t museums and there’s no one there too “important” that they can’t happen to walk by a mother feeding her baby.

DARA GATES February 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Unfortunately, I’ve encountered churches where image is everything. Hebrews 13:2 comes to mind when I encounter this. ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.’

Jamie February 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Oh, no, that is so much worse. So the third person talked to the second person!? They should have just been honest and said “could you please move from this public area and go to the closet down the hall so that we don’t have to look at you”. I hope that you get some kind of response from the church. You were doing what God made your body to do.

Jessica Holmes February 13, 2012 at 6:55 am

And you are clearly covered! I’m sorry, especially since I live in GA now (although I lived in Nashville before). When I was an undergraduate I was working with a kid with Autism and we were in a very small food sitting area. There was a woman who whipped out both her breasts and was breast feeding, no cover no nothing. That bothers me because I tell my kids that private areas need to be private, but obviously they know that babies eat from mommies to stay healthy.
Anyways, I have no problem with people covering up and feeding. Covering is decent. Those mother rooms usually have crying babies so I wouldn’t want to nurse in there either. I think you should write a note to the pastor, just to let him know. Sometimes leaders don’t even know that happens and if it happened to an unbeliever I’m sure they would walk away from churches.
I am an early interventionist and I wish more parents breastfed. There are so many benefits, especially for overall development. Next time you come to GA we can go to church together! Keep breastfeeding and keeping Adeline healthy and strong!

Kelley February 13, 2012 at 7:00 am

I’m sorry you feel this way. Perhaps you could give it a positive spin? I doubt they’re anti-nursing since they dedicated a whole room to it. In fact, I’d venture to say they were offering you a more private place to nurse because of how THEY felt nursing. Despite the confidence many mothers feel about it, there are still many who are anxious nursing in public. Perhaps these women were attempting to make you feel MORE comfortable but unfortunately didn’t achieve that.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 7:18 am

I left the church practically in tears. I was made to feel like I should not nurse my child where I was. There is no way to put a positive spin on this. I’m not saying the church was anti-nursing, but at bare minimum, some of their staff or volunteers had an issue with it in the lobby.

sona February 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I too as sorry about your negative encounter. I want to tread softly. Giving any church the benefit of the doubt, may I say that churches are filled with several generations (as are malls and any public place), so we dont want to think or expect them to all think the way we do as nursing moms. We want respect yet we must be respectful as well to others who think differently…… Yes it is natural. Many things are natural, but perhaps most would not want to witness them in public. It is not personal, although I can sincerely feel how a young mom would take it so. You have shared you are a Christian so may I share 1 Cor 10:23 , as others have shared with me (even though it is not referring to breastfeeding). Everything is allowable, but not everything is profitable. Everything is allowable, but everything does not build others up.
Perhaps ask God if this is something that applies. I know He will bring the needed peace to your heart

Cara February 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

It is profitable for an infant to be fed when and where they need to be.

sona February 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Forgive me if I misunderstood. I was thinking the original query was concerning where, not when or if an infant should be fed.

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} February 14, 2012 at 10:03 am

your comment saddens me. those verse are about not letting one’s freedom be a stumbling block to a weaker believer’s faith. no one’s faith in this situation was being threatened, but a mother was shamed and made to feel unwelcome at worship.

jessica had already removed herself to the lobby and put her baby and body under 100% cover–two giant (and i’d argue, unnecessary) concessions to “decorum.” if those women “would not want to witness them in public” (they could see nothing!), they could certainly avert their eyes. having a nursing room is great, but mandating that all breastfeeding happen there is ridiculous.

gnostic heresy–fear and disdain of bodies made in God’s image–is alive and well in the american church. this church should be ashamed of being so unwelcoming to women, babies, and visitors.

Kristin February 13, 2012 at 7:41 am

I am so sorry this happened to you! I was never a graceful nursing mother so I always had to nurse in private. I wish I could have nursed in public … it would have made life a bit easier. :-)

I don’t think anyone has the right to pass judgement or frown upon a mother feeding her child, especially when you were covered up so modestly. And it is obvious the last two women had problems with the situation if you left so upset and they did nothing to stop you or to explain themselves better.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I am much better at nursing in public with Adeline than with Elias. I never got the hang of it with him. She is just SO attached to me we had to learn. :)

Sarah February 13, 2012 at 8:01 am

I hate that this happened, that you were made to feel this way in a church :( the ladies had no way of knowing if you were a visitor, or even a Christian. Imagine if you based your opinion of christians on this experience…you would probably never step foot inside a church again. I think it would be a good idea to send a message to the pastor.

beccarayle February 13, 2012 at 8:03 am

This hurts my heart :( So sorry you experienced this. I’ve experienced similar situations with a family member actually, they wanted to stop Christmas festivities so I could go in a room alone and nurse. I said, no I’m fine here, covered and discreet. THAT is annoying. I nursed exclusively for about 5 months and I nursed wherever I felt comfortable and covered.

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 8:05 am

This makes me so sad! My friend mentioned to me that WI has a law that you can’t ask a nursing mom to move…but most people are uneducated and ignorant of it. I hate that you had this experience, because nursing is a natural and beautiful thing. Why in the world would someone ask you to move while you were nourishing your child??? It just boggles my mind. Especially when people look the other way at a woman scantily dressed…but make a huge deal out of a mom nursing her baby the way God intended. I probably would have had a few more choice words for those ladies in that church. I don’t think it was overreacting at all…I think that other people don’t think about how when they say something like that to “be helpful” they are doing more harm than help to you, because you were obviously comfortable and discreet about nursing. While we have a nursing moms room at our church, I’ve been known to nurse my babies in the back of church and, thankfully, no one has said anything to me. I just wish more people thought before they spoke…

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 8:09 am

And I wish I could reach through the computer screen and give you a hug. Because no mom should have to leave a CHURCH crying like that… :(

Betsy February 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Georgia has a similar law, that protects mothers from being forced to stop nursing. But that doesn’t change the awful situation Jessica was in or the awkwardness/rudeness of the encounter. I live in GA and am about to have a baby whom I hope to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months – I’ve been advised to print up the state law in case of being confronted like this, but honestly mid-feeding seems hardly the time to get into a legal discussion with someone who is obviously uncomfortable and making me uncomfortable.

Jessica, I’m sorry for what happened to you!

Heather R. February 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

It seems that almost every time you turn around media is using sex to sell just about everything and women’s breasts are hanging out for the world to see, even young children…yet nursing mothers are treated as though they are doing something wrong and not even exposing themselves to others around them. I don’t get it. I nursed my daughter her first year and I can remember feeling like I had to hide out in dirty bathrooms sometimes because I would get such mean and hateful looks from other people around me, despite the fact I was using a cover similar to yours. But if I go out with half my boobs coming out of my dress, no on will bat an eye. Am I the only one who sees this as completely ridiculous?!

Amy February 13, 2012 at 8:48 am

Totally agree! Even in church and in the workplace there is more cleavage shown than a discreet nursing mother shows!

Heather R. February 13, 2012 at 8:31 am

And let me just add how sorry I am that you left that church in tears. My heart goes out to you…it truly does. (((hugs)))

Amy February 13, 2012 at 8:46 am

I’m so sorry you had to deal with that.

I never BF my baby in church just because we belong to a really small church and there’s not a place where I would feel secluded enough for my own comfort. Even our nursery is not as private as it should be. There are other ladies who feed their babies in the corridor and I have no problem with that, I’m just personally not comfortable feeding my baby in mixed company.

What makes me mad is when people act as though a discreet nursing mother is being indecent. It is not a sexual thing whatsoever and as long as the mom is being discreet I don’t understand why people are so bothered by seeing a baby nursing.

Also in many states nursing mothers are explicitly allowed to nurse in public. Specifically in Georgia “Ga. Code § 31-1-9 (1999) states that the breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and allows a mother to breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.”

If you write a letter to the church I would reference the code and hopefully educate them.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

I know! The people who sexualize it really frustrate me.

Sandy February 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

I guess I will be in the minority opinion here. While breast feeding is a natural act and it is becoming more widely accepted to do in public, you can’t expect everyone to feel comfortable with seeing a nursing mother in public. While many adults find it “no big deal” there may have been some teenage boys in that congregation that may have walked by and thought something more perverse (if I stick around will I catch a glimpse of something?). I go to a mega church and we not only have an infant room, but we also have a nursing room. It is not a requirement to use that room when you nurse, but it is available if someone wanted more privacy. I am all for nursing in public, but I was a nursing mother and it was my choice to do my nursing in private.

Cara February 13, 2012 at 6:02 pm

The point is this: Jessica needed to feed her child. Other people’s feelings frankly don’t come into the equation when your child needs to eat. If they don’t like it, they can go hang out in the bathroom (as so many suggested she go nurse in a bathroom).

Asha February 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I am a little unclear on what there is to be uncomfortable about? While it is obvious that she was nursing, she was completely covered. Not only that, her daughter was completely covered. What exactly would make someone uncomfortable about that situation? Because in their minds eye they can see her nursing an infant underneath a nursing cover?

Kate February 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

As a soon-to-be breastfeeding mom, this story makes me nervous. But I will still nurse (discreetly) in public.

On another note, have you seen this? It’ll make you laugh. :) https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/429028_330383916999701_288062657898494_949884_866723622_n.jpg

Missy February 13, 2012 at 8:58 am

I too have encountered issues at church, our church and a catholic church none the less. I exclusively breastfed both of my children, I’m actually still nursing my youngest, and I tandum nursed my oldest and my youngest for 9 months. I nursed through pregnancy and as I work and continue to work full time. When I encountered problems at church, I just quietly said, “Oh I didn’t realize that the Catholic Church had changed their stance on being pro-life, because my child is starving and she need to eat to live.” (Let me add that I am a bit snarky when it comes to breastfeeding and people telling me how and when I should feed my babies. And I was sitting in the lobby, and we do not have a mother’s room or any private room for that matter.) My comment certain made them stop and think and I was not bothered again in our church. I’m a truly sorry that you had to experience this, in an house of God, none the less. I think you handled it with much more grace that I have been able to do in my experiences.

Cari February 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

I would send an email to the pastor with what you typed here. He needs to be made aware what happened. That is horrible.

Erica February 13, 2012 at 9:18 am

I am exclusively nursing an 8 month old (cutie boy!! :) I feel your pain. I would be crying also, as you chose to nurse discreetly in a corner of a big lobby!!!!!! I’m sorry that happened to you. I try to nurse privately if possible, but it’s only because I am not very good at public nursing. I never have a problem with another mom nursing in public. I’m glad you posted this so that others can be more educated about the need, importance and normalcy of breastfeeding.

Erin Brady February 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

In a church?

People made you feel this way inside of a CHURCH?

It’s a shame, really. I agree with Cari; the pastor should know how you felt. This is not exactly an acceptable illustration of the church being the hands and feet of Jesus.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

The pastor is active in social media. I would think he (or someone on his staff) would have seen my tweets by now.

Nurse Bee February 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

The church we attended when I had my first baby was the same way. I would nurse on a couch in the bathroom (not really as bad as it sounds), but women would always come up and say I could go to the nursery. I got to the point where I just brough a bottle of pumped milk, because I was too embarrassed.

At the church we attend now, I nursed my second in service, and never even had a dirty look!!

Elizabeth February 13, 2012 at 10:03 am

I’m sorry they didn’t seem to want you to nurse there. I have always nursed in public with covers and haven’t ever had a problem thankfully. I don’t think this church would like me much because I have nursed during service…just put on my cover and nursed right there listening to what I came to listen to.

Michelle February 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

I’m so sorry this happened to you. This happened to me at a party our friend has every year. My son was 4 months old. It was in August- everyone was outside. I went in and sat on the couch, covered with my hooter hider and fed my son. A girl that was just a friend of the host walked by and saw me and said, “oh you can’t do that here, go back into the bedroom. Your baby will be so much more comfortable than here in front of everyone.” I was shocked, but calmly said, “He’s fine, I’m covered, it’s okay.” She said, “no, it would really be better for your baby if you had some privacy.” So I went into the hosts room and sat on the edge of his bed and nursed, in tears. She made me feel so embarrassed and dirty and like I was doing something wrong. And she had raised two kids- they were teenagers, guess she didn’t nurse? The host had no idea and would not have made me feel like that. I will add that I was completely covered and there were no kids around, not that it reallymatters.
The best was at this years party, her shirt was so low cut – everything was on display. You could almost see nipple. I so badly wanted to tell her, “oh no you can’t wear that here, go back into the back room!”

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

That is awful.

Ingrid February 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

Jessica

I’m so sorry you had to go through this – people just don’t get it! I was at NAMS and thought you were awesome taking baby with you. I almost didn’t go because I’m still nursing my 9 month old and I didn’t know how she would handle a bottle all weekend. Consequently I toted my pump around all weekend and didn’t get to hang out as much as I’d have liked to, but right now my priority is to be a b/f mom. Sorry we didn’t get to connect there but glad to have found your blog!

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I would have left her at home had I had the breastmilk supply in the freezer to do so! It would have been a LONG weekend for Matthew though. I didn’t mind bringing her. Hope we can connect at the next NAMS.

Ashley February 13, 2012 at 10:21 am

Grrrrr! This makes me mad! And so sad for you!
I often felt this way with my first. Everyone gave me dirty looks at church and I finally just started bringing a pumped bottle for her. Now we live in CA and I freely nurse my 3 month old anywhere. I’m always covered up but I still feel like I make some people uncomfortable. I stick with it because people (especially our kids) NEED to see women nursing in public so this ridiculous discrimination will end and they won’t bat an eye when they are older.
To the person that commented on the possibility of teenage boys seeing you: who cares! They wouldn’t have seen anything and would maybe be more comfortable around a nursing woman in the future. Think about what a blessing that would be for their future wives, to have the full support from the husband.

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

I totally agree with you on the teenage boys comment too. My husband grew up knowing that nursing was normal and beautiful, because he saw his mom nurse well past the age of one for his two younger sibling. His mom was also a La Leche League leader well after her kids were done nursing, so he was often exposed to nursing moms. He has been my biggest support and has even talked to coworkers about the benefits of nursing. My brothers have seen me nursing my little ones too and they are not at all embarrassed. In fact, my brother has already declared he will support and encourage his wife someday to nurse their kids because he knows how beneficial and beautiful it is!

Roberta February 13, 2012 at 10:25 am

Wow…I’m shocked and saddened that this is still such a dilema…my kids are grown men now, 32 and 24 and I nursed them both for as long as I could. Even though my first ended up with thrush and I went back to work at 6 months so he sorta weened himself and my youngest was such a voracious eater that I couldn’t keep up with him after a month and ended up with cracked nipples. I was still glad that I was able to provide them with the most important part of exposure…even if it was for such a short time…they got my colostrium and anitbodies! That being said…why on earth do humans have such a issue with it. Kids can go to a farm and watch animals feed and mate and they show it on Nat Geo all the time…but when it comes to humans…it seems to be a sexual issue. So sorry that you were made to feel so uncomfortable or to even question yourself.

Momoffive February 13, 2012 at 10:36 am

I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you were made to feel that way, and that you left so upset, that was not right no matter where you were, you should have been treated with respect and kindness. That being said I would like to add a little different perspective, I am a mother of five, I nursed all of them. I do believe that nursing is the best thing for babies and think it is great that you are choosing to do that for your child. That being said I am not a fan of public nursing, I believe that god did give us our bodies and that he made them the way he did so we could nurse, but I also think that our bodies are ours and should not be shared with everyone(I know you were covered up but not everyone is). I am not trying to sexualize nursing at all, but I also know that women’s bodies have been used by the media and other outlets that way. As a mother of boys and a wife I know that men and boys are constantly bombarded with sex and sexual images. So when a teenage boy (and let’s be honest most men) see a woman’s breast, nursing or not they automatically thing about sex. I am not saying this is right, just the way it is. I know my husband and sons try very hard to not be exposed to this and to try and keep their thoughts clean but it is hard to do when they are exposed to sex and woman’s bodies constantly. I know that when we are at church it is one of the few places that we feel like we can excape

Momoffive February 13, 2012 at 10:42 am

Escape this and so if someone is nursing there it is there too. I know that most people think that it is not their problem or issue what others think, but I just wanted to offer a different perspective and also a different thought, that as a mother and wife, I appreciate that you choose to nurse, but I also would appreciate that you would respect my husband and sons to not be exposed to it. Thank you for letting me put my thoughts out there too.

Matthew February 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

MomOfFive,

While I have no idea what your sons and/or husband think about when they see a woman breastfeeding, but my gut says that they’re minds don’t immediately go to sex or sexual images. If this is a concern of yours, the next time you and your family see a mother breastfeeding her baby, you might use the opportunity to talk about breastfeeding with them in hopes that won’t be inclined to ever sexualize something that is a natural way God intended to nourish babies.

You’re right, most guys do thinks boobs are hot. But it’s also possible for us to think and know that boobs are for nourishing babies. In fact, we need to know that. It’s important for us to know this. Breastfeeding is lived out in various ways (and usually without covering up) in countries all over the world. And the kids in those countries aren’t any more or less inclined to have sex or look at porn or become sex-rages crazies than those of us in America who have (for the most part) been protected from healthy pure images of breastfeeding.

Trust me, I appreciate your desire to ensure that your boys’ minds don’t become filled up with “sexy images” of breasts. I love that you are an engaged parent! But by sheltering them from pure healthy images of a mom nourishing her baby, you’re somewhat deeming that image “sexual” by associating it with the “taboo” images you’re protecting your boys from seeing. And by not giving your young men the benefit of understanding the breast for it’s most important, God-created purpose, you might be teaching your sons to only think of the boob as sexual. Because at some point, they are going to see images (at the mall or on a TV show) of boobs presented in a sexual manner. And it’s sad that, for many men in America, they’re first image of the breast is a sexual image. And without ever having become comfortable with the non-sexual image of the breast, they will be inclined to only ever see the breast as a sexual object.

Yes, I admit, boobs are sexy. But first and foremost, they are sources of life for little ones. And that’s not weird or taboo or sexual, and most guys aren’t so barbaric to be unable to see and appreciate the difference. But we have to be given that chance…

Matthew (Jessica’s husband)

Carole Turner February 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

amen

Jeni February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Very well said, Matthew!

I think it quite upsetting that someone would think that men automatically would think a sexual thought when seeing a mother nurse her child. come on, let’s give men some credit. If we’re open about breastfeeding from the start there won’t be the issue of “sexuality”. Believe it or not, men are able to know the difference between nursing a baby and something sexual. They’re not mindless creatures who only think with their penises.

Brei February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I am so mortified by the way Passion City’s staff/volunteers/whoever responded to you and your sweet babe. Completely inappropriate reaction to a mom breastfeeding. Good grief.

My husband was the first male to respond to a friend on Facebook’s status regarding some snubbing she encountered while breastfeeding, and here’s what he said – “It’s a completely natural and nonsexual thing. I say keep doing it and sneer back knowing your child will be better for it.” HA! I’m so sorry you went through that. It is obvious you are an awesome mom and are so attentive to your babes. I just hate, hate, HATE that this happened.

Melanie Jordan February 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

well said Matthew!!!

Jess, I had an experience in my own church of this same magnitude and it makes me so sad to think about.
I was sitting in the fellowship hall/kitchen with a handful of others (maybe 6?) and Asher, my youngest was hungry. So I proceeded to do what any good mother would do if their kid was hungry, whether bottle fed or not. I fed my child. Granted, I don’t use a cover, but I don’t show anything. I wear a nursing tank under my shirt so that my stomach and back stays covered at all times, and my actual shirt was pulled down all the way to his face so no one could see ANYTHING. I prefer to nurse this way because my son hates the blanket over him and is likely to cause MORE of a spectacle if I use it. Anyhow, back to the experience. As I started to feed him, another woman in our church (where we are the children’s pastors mind you) threw a dirty dish towel over my son’s head and exclaimed that it offends her. EXCUSE ME???? Later that evening, she walked up to me and said “I’m sorry if I offended you but I don’t think it’s right for men and children to see you do that. You need to go somewhere private like the bathroom to do so. And then she went on and on about how she nursed her own kids. I was LIVID. I held my composure, and I replied to her kindly, with “well what is the difference between me feeding my son, and anyone else giving their baby a bottle?” and her response was “YOU are using your body to do it and it’s not appropriate here at church, or anywhere where men or children will see it.”

Did she really tell me I should feed my son in the bathroom??? Good grief, I was mad.

Anyhow, I’m sorry you experienced this in a church. It is my opinion that if any man looks at me nursing my son, while you cannot see any skin at all and has impure thoughts, that seems to be something HE needs to take captive as to Christ, not something that I am making him do. Come on guys, let’s own up to the fact that WE choose how we think when we view things.

Nurse Bee February 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Bravo Matthew!!

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

AMEN! Well said and so refreshing to hear this support from a dad. :)

Cara February 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Amen, Matthew! Our culture has over-sexualised breasts and I refused to give into that when I nursed our daughter. I was discreet. I have a friend who isn’t at all – she just sits there and nurses. And y husband said “You know it’s a little weird because you know I’m not used to seeing someone else’s boob. But so what? She’s nursing a baby! And it’s not like I’m turned on or something by it. She’s nursing a baby.”
So there you go.
Raise your boys to understand that women’s bodies are beautiful things that also serve an amazing purpose in birthing and feeding our babies. THAT is something their future wives will thank you for.

Sharon K February 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Covering up while breast-feeding, in order to protect men and boys from their possibly lustful thoughts and desires, is exactly the same excuse that repressive Middle Eastern countries give for why they have to force women to wear burqas, and stay practically imprisoned at home. And, as often as not, when people are uncomfortable around a breast-feeding mother, they areas likely to be female as male. I can’t believe they’re all just uncomfortable because they’re trying to protect their menfolk.

hayley February 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

i so struggle with this comment and the previous one about teenage boys having perverse thoughts. can we get to the point where we no longer shame modest women who are not trying to be seductive, for the fear of what men might think (not even just talking about bfeeding here)? the whole “stumbling block” argument only goes so far.

oh, my cheeks are hot about this whole “teenage boy” thing. and please know…i have 3 boys and care deeply about their purity, but damage to women for the sake of men is not okay either.

hayley February 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

this was to the original comment, not Matthew’s response. :)

Melanie Jordan February 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I agree (as am sure many can tell by my post above) at what point do we stop holding men/boys accountable for their thoughts as well on something so natural and unsexual. Sounds like the problem isn’t juts the nursing mother here.

Robin Troxell February 13, 2012 at 10:37 am

OH MY WORD I WANT TO HUG YOU SO HARD!!!!!!!!!! That is beyond ridiculous. I would like to think I would have had a good retort like Missy above, and just stayed however in the moment I would probably have done what you did. I have nursed three babies, the longest for 11mo, and got more comfortable myself doing it publicly with each one. I was always covered w/a blanket or my shirt, and never really had any kind of backlash at all – my husband was the most squeamish about it actually. I didn’t just whip them out, but I did nurse in the back of our church multiple times w/no issues, or in the nursery (harder as they got older and wanted to look around more!) or in the lobby with no problems at all. I think that church falls under the heading of “jesus needs new PR” for such awful behavior from those women. XOXOXO

jen webb February 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

I saw your tweet yesterday and was angry for you. This shouldn’t happen anywhere, but least of all at church. Especially to a guest who you have no relationship with. Are they trying to drive people away? If so, it worked. I’m sorry that you had to go through this.
I also saw some dude trying to tell you not to call the church out. Yeah. Martin Luther sent that private email, and the church was reformed.

Therese February 13, 2012 at 11:22 am

I am sorry this happened-just so wrong. I have had the other sort of poor treatment. I am unable to nurse for physical reasons I won’t go into, and I have been maltreated because of it. No one should be made to feel this way because of how they feed their child.

Lisa Baker February 13, 2012 at 11:25 am

!?!?!?! Jessica, I am SO sorry you had such an awful experience here in Atlanta! I’m glad you didn’t say what church it was…I might have to stage a nurse-in there if I knew. Probably better if I don’t know. :)

However, I’m happy to say that there’s a nurse-in coming up that I DO plan to attend at the Georgia capitol, which will be trying to convince legislators to change the wording of Georgia’s state law to protect nursing moms from indecency laws. We have a law already stating that moms have the right to nurse anywhere we’re allowed to be (i.e., if you’re not trespassing, then you can nurse), but some states also have a clause stating that nursing mothers can’t be accused of indecency “regardless of whether a nipple is exposed incidental to the act of breastfeeding.” We want to get a clause like that added to Georgia’s law.

All that said, I must admit that I’ve been breastfeeding indiscreetly, without a cover, for four years now all over the place in Atlanta and have never had a single negative comment said to me ever. I think that’s probably because I pretty much never leave the city limits, though. :) People inside the city are much more progressive than folks out in the suburbs (which is why I’m kinda scared to go out there, haha!).

And no, I’m not an exhibitionist; I just never got the cover I asked for as a baby shower gift, didn’t bother buying one, and then just gave up caring because when you have a high-needs newborn who only stops crying when she’s nursing and you are extremely sleep-deprived, you just stop caring about whether you’re showing a little skin. :)

Lisa Baker February 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

Oh, and I nursed in church yesterday, too. In a carrier, so it wasn’t obvious, but I didn’t try to cover up. Nobody cared or said anything.

shellie February 13, 2012 at 11:32 am

Sounds like you handled yourself very well! I’m not a mother *yet* but plan to nurse and plan to do it in pubic if I need to (with a hooter hider). The picture at the top of your blog is not offensive at all and I agree that it sounds like the third woman had an issue. I also think this could be a post on Jesus needs New PR. It’s not like you were topless nursing up on stage, I mean come on! You were by yourself, out of the way, with a hooter hider. (And if a man, or teenage boy thinks of sex when they see a baby nursing? There’s a bigger issue… )

Stephanie Hanes February 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

Agreed! My husband AND my brothers have been exposed to nursing so much that they see it as a normal and beautiful part of life. I would much rather my son see a woman nursing in public than a woman dressed inappropriately. I’ll have to ask my husband, but I find it hard to believe that any boy would think of a baby nursing as a sex symbol…seriously???

aDm February 13, 2012 at 11:46 am

I don’t usually jump into conversations like this, but I had some thoughts as a member of the younger, childless crowd.

When I was little I remember our church told women if they wanted to nurse they had to go sit in the bathroom. They were so nice as to have a small section of chairs in the back of the sanctuary reserved just for moms so that no children or needs that children may have would disrupt the work of God that was going on in the service. It made us all feel very welcome and pro-life, I assure you.

I am not shocked that this happened to you, though I am appalled by the complete lack of grace these women showed. Babies eat and women have breasts- we all know this to be true, so why should we be offended when we see a mom properly taking care of her child?

I’d love to see that church’s Mother’s Day service. We all stand up and say we love moms, and children, and what a shame it is that some people don’t want kids; but then they’re seen as a problem to be dealt with; and nursing moms are seen this way by extension. People seem so worried about what kids are going to see- what I saw growing up were scenes like the one you went through and the impression they gave was “Something’s wrong with having babies.” If people would handle this the way my mom did and just tell their kids the truth “she’s feeding her baby, isn’t that nice?” and change the subject; it would be better for everyone involved.

Also, in reply to someone else’s comment- why should she have to be ashamed of nursing just so that men won’t have to think about the fact that sometimes women breast feed? I’m a premed student; all of this is covered in co-ed biology classes to detail most people will never need to know about and it isn’t sexual at all. It’s biological and medical fact and I don’t think we need to tell mothers to go hide in a closet so that the men in their lives won’t have to control their own minds. If I’m wearing a low cut shirt that’s one thing, but if you can sexualize a woman breastfeeding, you might need to deal with yourself. ~aDm

Shana Harder February 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Jessica,
First of all, great job for breastfeeding! I am so sorry this happened to you. It is absurd to get this kind reaction using our bodies the way God intended… And I actually think that it is illegal as almost all states have laws that allow women to breastfeed their infant in any public place.

http://breastfeedinglaws.uslegal.com/state-laws/georgia-breast-feeding-laws/

I can’t tell you how much I would like to organize a “nurse-in” at this church…

Barb February 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I am so sorry you had to go through this. I am very disappointed in that church. Clearly, you were a visitor and to make you that upset on your first day…what an impression! I am sure woman #3 felt justified, but the fact that no one followed you out to be sure you were not upset makes me think that might have been her intent…that you moved out of the area she wanted you to one way or the other. How sad for you, and how sad for a place teaching God’s word. Keep being the mother and woman God is calling you to be, the rest will take care of itself!

Andrea L February 13, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Big hugs!
This must be the theme of the day too because I just read a similar story in an online newspaper article: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/1129638–mother-seeks-apology-after-urban-planet-clerk-objects-to-breastfeeding

Nikki February 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Were those women ushers or were they just people at worship? If they were ushers, I think the church needs to be alerted….they could have really handled the situation differently. Especially when the 3rd lady clearly saw that her comments upset you.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

They were staff or volunteers – not attendees.

Amanda A February 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I don’t have kids but I don’t see what the big deal is about nursing anywhere. I see kids and adults walking around in public eating snacks. I see people feeding their older kids a fruit roll up or something while out in public. How is nursing any different than that? A breast isn’t a sexual organ. It’s a natural thing to help nouish a child. People need to stop being azzhats and get over themselves.

C. Smith February 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I personally don’t have a problem with a mom nursing in public as long as she is modest…I nursed all four of my children for at least some period of time. The only opinion I have is that Paul warns us not to let our freedom become a stumbling block for the weak. If I knew that, in the place I was, that someone might be offended, I tried to go to a more private place. Did I HAVE to? No, but as a Christian, I had to decide if it was my right or someone’s comfort level that was more important. I think it is sad that people are so uncomfortable with it, particularly since we don’t seem to mind half naked people everywhere (on TV, billboards, in person). What do you think those people would say if we came up to them and asked them to cover up? A complicated issue, to be sure. Just my two cents.

Mdshelley February 14, 2012 at 9:38 am

When I read this, I immediately thought of Paul’s warning to not be a stumbling block for others. I think it is sad that some folks can’t look at a nursing mother without their thoughts drifting to something sexual, but it is also sad that some folks can’t watch someone else drink a beer without being tempted to go on a drunken binge. This is the broken world we live in and as Christians we are called to be cognitive and respectful of others’ weaknesses. We are not allowed to exercise or “right” to do things that may cause another to trip up. This is as much a sin as the impure thoughts or the drunkenness.

As a staff member in a church, I believe that the request was not so much that the act of breast feeding was so offensive, but more to protect the weakest attendees of the church. Again, it’s sad that our brokenness leads us to these kinds of situations, but that is our reality as Christians.

penelope February 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I never had anyone say anything! I never nursed in the church lobby, but I did in the back of the Sunday School class!
I’m sorry you were treated poorly.

Bekka February 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

There is a very big difference between someone asking if you are comfortable, and someone asking you to move. It seemed to me like the first few people were just trying to make sure you were comfortable, but I would definitely consider the last person’s actions to be inappropriate and unacceptable.

I’ve nursed both my kids in public. Having to take a two-week old daughter on a 15 hour road trip to see my dad who had just experienced a heart-attack, there weren’t a lot of private places to nurse. With my son (who just turned year old on the 5th) we had an “udder cover” to use instead of blankets – what a big difference that made!

With both kids, I was often asked if I would be more comfortable somewhere else, but never rudely or pushed somewhere out of the way. I have heard stories of mothers being asked to move, or demands made that they move, but fortunately have never experienced it myself.

I sincerely hope that you never have to go through such an experience again, Jessica. I also think you handled it well, considering the circumstances.

(I’m hoping the reason the church hasn’t responded is because they are getting to the bottom of what happened on their end – granted, an apology with a “we’re looking into this” would still be nice.)

RevJATB (KnowTea) February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I agree with most of you who are essentially saying “that’s why God made ’em.” Like Matthew, I personally think the female breast is pretty hot (OK, extremely hot), but I also know that God made them primarily for feeding babies! I am a dad of six, and my wife has been asked to go to a restroom before in order to feed one of our children. A restroom? Do YOU want to go eat in a restroom? Why do you think my child wants to go eat in a restroom? I think that trying to hide nursing moms only encourages the idea that the breast is somehow “dirty” and needs to be hidden from view.

Bree February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Ugh, I am so sorry you had to deal with this. And, in a church, no less!

When it comes to breastfeeding, I have truly been blessed. I nursed for 12 months, and never had a problem, with nursing in public.

Carole Turner February 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I nursed my daughter until she was 22 months old. I always hated when, in a restaurant, people would expect me to take my baby into the bathroom to nurse. Yea, that’s perfect, I’ll crap and feed her at the same time! Ugh!!

I loved nursing. She was the only child I was able to do it for because she was our only miracle of birth ( I tried with our son that we adopted at birth but couldn’t get enough milk) I cherished the bond and the fact that God created it this way.

I have friends who purposely would nurse in public, uncovered, just to get a rise out of the anti-breast feeding people. I always covered up, like you have pictured above. It’s just plane wrong for someone to tell you to leave a public area. Wrong.

Jessie February 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. It’s not right. When I saw your tweet and saw that the church is in Georgia, I was not surprised. They have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country. But the people of a Christian church should know better.

(Mother of one, and I’ve nursed all over the place — I refuse to be bullied into seclusion just because I’m a mother doing what’s healthiest for my child.)

Stephanie February 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I admire you for nursing for so long first off. My daughter is 3 weeks old and we are still getting the hang of it. We haven’t ventured out much as of yet but I hope that when we do we will be treated better than you were. I definitely would contact the paster of the church just to let him/her know the way a visitor was treated. I would have left in tears also. You hear from all the experts that breast is best. It is sad that nursing mothers can’t get the support needed to do what our bodies are meant to do. Good for you for sharing your story.

diane February 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm

I am a mother of two boys, and I did not choose to nurse either of them. HOWEVER, I am sorry that you were treated that way. Church should be a place of love and acceptance. I hope that we, as church goers, can take something from this: a) not how to handle visitors’ situations, and b) remember WHY we go to church – to worship God and to love one another. How you were treated does not involve either of those.

Jennifer February 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

When you said Adeline wailed when you pulled her off…that just broke my heart.

Robin Troxell February 13, 2012 at 2:18 pm

me too – and if that didn’t soften that woman’s heart then I don’t know what would.

Jessica February 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I am on the fence about this subject. I am not a mom, I’m not even married yet. First of all, it doesn’t seem that the church staff was rude in suggesting the mother’s room. The last one did seem a little pushy though. Did the women all know that you had already been approached?

But, from a college, Jesus-loving girl, if I were to walk out of church and see someone breast-feeding (even covered up), I might be taken aback a little too. Not because it’s scandalous or filling my mind with sexual things, or anything of that nature, but because it seems to be a private matter. First of all, the church offers a mother’s room for you – so why wouldn’t you take advantage of that… and even if they didn’t, there’s also the bathroom. (I realize that last sentence sounds somewhat belittling, but that’s not the intention of it.) I would assume PC would have a rather nice, perhaps large, bathroom… especially if they have a whole room devoted to mother’s somewhere in the building. I think if the accommodations are available, you should take advantage of them, and respect the fact that people may feel uncomfortable with you breast-feeding.

A. Medrano February 13, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Feeding a baby is a private matter?

Hope February 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for your honesty here. Honestly, when you’re a young mom, you’ll understand much better. Moms need socialization. Being a mom can be lonely. My church had a nice area in the bathroom for nursing moms, but after a while, I hated having to leave the service. I needed God, too, especially considering that I was suffering from depression and lack of sleep. I was modest, and most people in church look straight ahead anyway, so most of the time no one knew. Moms shouldn’t have to leave unless they’re more comfortable doing so. Just because there are accommodations doesn’t mean we have to use them. Respect goes both ways. Other people can and should respect a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in public, particularly if she is covered up.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm

First of all, I should not have to defend why I would rather nurse in the lobby, but since you asked… a)mothers’ rooms often have crying babies in them which would have been distracting to Adeline and she wouldn’t have nursed well b)I was going to leave right after feeding her – why go to another room (which was not convenient carrying the 20+ lb baby+carseat + diaper bag by myself. c)some mothers’ rooms are no more than chairs in a row – the ottoman was spacious and comfortable and perfect to sit and nurse on.

To your question about the bathroom – do you eat in a bathroom??

Informing me about the mothers’ room is one thing, offering to carry my things there is another.

If you are a mother someday, you might change your mind…

Brei February 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Absolutely. And that a staff member/volunteer at a church was unresponsive to your vocal decision “go ahead and leave” right away?! Ridiculous.

Jessica February 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Obviously a church staff member would have helped you to the mother’s room, since the one was pushy – and yes, I agree that the last lady acted rudely. I’ve been diabetic for 18 years, 15 of those years I had to take needle injections at every meal/snack (now I’m on a pump). Unless I was sitting in a booth at a restaurant, against the wall and could hide it, I went to the bathroom to take shots. Not that my family every made me or encouraged me to do so, but because it’s awkward to see someone lift their shirt a few inches to take a shot in their stomach, or just stick it in my arm. I would have much rather been able to take my shot at the table (which now I can), and whatnot, but out of respect and courtesy (as Christians should act), because some people don’t like needles, I excused myself. I’ve had plenty of stares, plenty of comments, and my fair share of missing out on things because I have to go sit out due to a blood sugar out of whack. And, I think church bathroom > gas station bathroom, Adeline wouldn’t have been eating food off the floor.

You were not treated or spoken to fairly, I acknowledge that. But I don’t think it was 100% meant to come across that way, they were just doing their job. As one girl said below, I would feel uncomfortable, but would not think of asking you to leave. I would just consider it a courtesy for me to breastfeed somewhere more private.

Briana February 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm

Would you eat your dinner in the bathroom even if not directly on the floor? Uh no…there is still bacteria in the air and it’s just plain nasty. Your situation is different , you aren’t eating. And it would not be comfortable to breast feed in the bathroom standing up!!!

I would feel much more comfortable siting in the chair that Jessica described.

People just don’t get it.

Hope February 13, 2012 at 8:52 pm

You would consider it a courtesy for you to breastfeed somewhere more private…

then perhaps you should reserve judgment until you have been in our shoes.

Katie February 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm

From a college aged, non-mother I WANT to see more mom’s in my church being mom’s and part of being a mom is feeding your child. Young women and men need to see examples like Jessica’s of caring for our children, not put away in a separate room because it’s inappropriate or uncomfortable. The only reason it is uncomfortable is because we haven’t normalized it in our culture. The thing is it’s not a private matter. Seeing Jessica breast feed in public is an example of a mother caring for her child in a very natural god-given way and it can affect the way I view breast feeding. I need good examples of mothers in my life as I prepare to be a mother myself one day. That doesn’t only include only breast feeding but for some reason we tend to exclude that part of motherhood.

Thank you Jessica for your example as a mother, not just in breast feeding but in many areas that I watch from afar by reading your blog and your husbands blog.

Also, I can’t help but wonder if you would have received the same response if you were sitting on the couch bottle feeding.

hayley February 13, 2012 at 3:43 pm

+1

Amy February 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Jessica- since you haven’t had children yet, please allow me to explain the logistics of nursing a baby in the bathroom.

Most bathrooms are equipped with toilets as the only seating option. No chairs, couches or ottomans. Therefore, you are left with two choices.

1. Sit on the toilet seat with your clothing on, getting fecal matter and God-knows-what on your pants.

2. Undo your pants and sit on the seat as if you were using the bathroom for as long as it takes your baby to eat (possibly 30-45 minutes).

Either way, you take up a stall for what could be 30-45 minutes with a slow nurser. As a bonus you get to hear everyone’s tinkling, flatulence and poop noises while your child (who if still nursing is young enough to have a delicate immune system) eats. People may actually wait in line or peek into the crack of the door to see who is taking up the stall so long.

I have breasted 4 babies. I have fed many a baby on a toilet. Now that I’m on my 4th child I am over it. It is disgusting, humiliating, unsanitary and, quite frankly, insulting that anyone would ask me to feed my baby in the crapper.

I usually feed my baby in our car because that is where we are most comfortable. But I think the right to feed my baby publicly should be protected.

Jessica- I don’t mean to personally disparage you. It’s just so frustrating that so many people just say, “Go to the bathroom with that!” and don’t really think about the logistics of it.

Heather Johnson February 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

As a nursing mom right now myself, I can empathize with what you went through. Like everyone else I will never understand why women are put into such a dichotomy–at the doctor’s office and in every parenting book out there we are told breast feed, breast feed, breast feed but when we do what we are urged to do we are (at times) looked at with disgust and disdain. Glad you tweeted–but honestly, I am sure it falls on deaf ears. It so hard to get through to truly ignorant people, they will forever feel as if they did nothing wrong…..

Mallory February 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Looking at that picture, I can hardly tell there’s even a baby under there! For all I know, your arms were just cold! Haha. Seriously, though, I think that if a woman is covered up like you are, I think it’s their right to do it wherever they want to. I woulld just be a little uncomfortable sitting by someone with her chest exposed. (And for the record, I get a little uncomfortable if there’s a woman NOT breastfeeding with her chest exposed.) However, that is JUST ME, and if a woman were to breastfeed her baby without a coverup near me, the LAST thing I would do would be to tell her to go somewhere else. For all I know, she’s running late with her baby’s feeding and he’s starving. Ya know? I’d be horrible to ask her to take my personal comfort over her baby’s food needs. (coming from an unwed, childless college student)

Sara Grafton February 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Breastfeeding can be challenging for many reasons, but this should not be one of them. Thank you for sharing your experience and getting people thinking and talking.

desiree February 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I am so sorry you had to deal with this. I nursed both my children until around age 1 and never had a problem, even in public (I used a nursing cover like you). The only thing I had was a couple people asking to see the baby and when I explained that I was nursing they got embarrassed and quickly left….haha.

On the flip side, I have been uncomfortable with people nursing in public when they DON’T use a nursing cover. I have seen women walk around in a mall without anything nursing their child – seriously. I am all for nursing – but it should be with a cover or blanket.

Tori Taff February 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Jessica,
I saw your tweets on this yesterday and had a brief episode of smoke -coming-out-of-my-ears! It is outrageous that in this country, in this day and age, there are people who are still so incredibly ill at ease with the thought/sight of a baby being nursed! Especially since we live in such a boobs-on-display culture– if you own a television, a computer, or drive down the road with your eyes open you will see more cleavage, bare skin and nipples than you would EVER catch a glimpse of with 99% of nursing mothers I have ever witnessed!

I nursed one of my girls for a year and the other one for six months (until she literally burst into tears at the sight of my incoming breast– which still hurts my feelings) and let them wean themselves naturally. I got so good at it that I often nursed Charlotte while I was strolling down the grocery aisles at Krogers, ably assisted by my version of a hooter hider, the Sling. I was never challenged or ostracized, but if I had been, I would feel exactly like you did– bewildered, embarrassed and more than a little pissed.

Why would anyone try to ‘make you more comfortable’ about nursing your baby by publicly calling you out?! And it was done by other WOMEN, for crying out loud!

Gah.

Amy February 13, 2012 at 1:48 pm

If the women were just attendees, I wouldn’t “call out” the church on the issue. But, you said they were volunteers. They were acting on behalf of the church. It’s one thing to tell you that there are options to use a nursing room, but unless it is church policy (which would be ridiculous!) that nursing mothers must use the nursing room, anyone who is acting as a representative of the church and making you feel like you cannot nurse wherever you like, is wrong. The church should apologize and communicate to the volunteers/staff/greeters that it is inappropriate and to made women feel unwelcome and uncomfortable for choosing to nurse their babies wherever they choose.
I wonder if you haven’t heard anything back because they aren’t sure what to say particularly if the people you dealt with aren’t on payroll or they have never had to think about this before. I’m hoping you will hear a response soon that says, “I’m sorry.”

Kari February 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I am really sorry this happened to you. It would have upset me, too.

I nursed my son for a year, and I nursed him every day at the pool this summer (he was 5-8 months then). Like you, I always used a cover, but I was ready for a fight if one came. I was lucky; nobody said anything. Mostly people just averted their eyes and focused on their phones. If someone had said something, I was prepared to calmly say, “I have the legal right to nurse anywhere, public or private.” Obviously you have to know the laws of your state (and I don’t know what the laws are in Atlanta, but that’s what the law is here in my state). I nursed in a variety of places and I could tell some people felt awkward, but many other people gave me encouraging looks.

I completely agree that it should be seen as more natural and normal than it is in this country. Since you didn’t get encouraging looks yesterday, imagine that the internet was there encouraging you on. Good job, mama. :)

Hope February 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I hate that happened. All my babies are teens now, so I’m not as current on breastfeeding issues anymore. But way back when…I got tired of having to leave all the time to feed my babies while my friends and family got to enjoy each others’ company. I hated having to sit in the nursery or the bathroom during church services. I needed that God-time in church. God made breasts. Breasts feed babies. And moms need to socialize. I got depressed when my second child came along and breastfed every 2 hours. I was lonely, so I decided I wasn’t going to leave anymore. I was modest, and most of the time people never knew what I was doing. And I was a much happier mom. Yeah, I know there are some moms who go a little far, but the majority of us handle ourselves quite well. I guess in some places, the breastfeeding issue still hasn’t been settled. That’s unfortunate. I do have to say that most of my children’s breastfeeding time happened while we lived out in Washington state rather than here in the South, so people were a lot more progressive about it. By the way, I breastfed all of mine…and I had 4 in less than 5 years. I think all I did was breastfeed, change diapers and pray for sleep! God bless you moms out there! And treasure those moments. My oldest is about to graduate from high school! Where does the time go?!?!?

Jaklyn February 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm

I’m fortunate enough to live in a community that is mostly embracing of breastfeeding and never had to deal with this. I couldn’t imagine the senseless humiliation you must have felt. Those women were completely wrong in trying to persuade you to move. It’s one thing to want to accommodate, another to bully someone because they were uncomfortable. And why? Your picture shows how discreet you are.

You were doing what God intended you to do. The church ladies really missed the mark on this one. Make sure the church finds out. If that was someone else’s first encounter with church in general, how damaging would that be?

Nancy Peacock February 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

This is so bizarre to me. My youngest is turning 20 and I used to nurse him in the sanctuary (I never moved from where my family was sitting) with a small receiving blanket over the part of my breast that would have showed. He would have died of a heat stroke under Adeline’s cover up! Nobody ever indicated any problem with it, and I never imagined anyone would have a problem. I don’t know if it was just the church I went to, or if Canadians are just a little more adjusted to the natural, sweet function that a breast provides for a nursing baby.

Jessica Hays February 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I love all of the blog support this post is getting! I could not agree more with all of the women who are standing together on this. I read this article about the cost savings America would see if more mothers breastfed for 6 months or more, and it really puts some numbers to the discussion http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/04/05/us-breastfeeding-study-idUSTRE6342ZG20100405

PS – I think you should “out” the church. Not to be malicious, but so that they don’t sweep your Tweets under a rug and attribute them to just one “radical” breastfeeding mom. We’re all behind you :)

Andrea February 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I’m so sorry this happened to you. I have four children and my younger three all nursed until close to 2yrs. My first daughter only nursed for the first three months. I had a lot of issues that lead me to chose to go with the bottle but one of them was that I never got the hang of nursing in public. I had tried so hard to be discreet with my first that I once nursed her standing up in a teeny tiny dressing room even though there were comfortable couches out in the open in the department store. I decided with my younger ones that I just had to go for it when it came to nursing in public and although I tried my best to stay covered, it wasn’t always easy. My son would push the blanket that I used to cover up off his head, leaving me completely exposed. My daughter loved to unlatch with no warning so I often was left uncovered. I never had any bad experiences but I sometimes I did get offended looks from people that I pretended to ignore and once I heard a couple whispering about me from a few tables over (which was especially odd because for once I had managed to be completely covered). I am a “people pleaser” and easily embarrassed so that was hurtful but I reminded myself that what I was doing was not offensive or gross or inappropriate and anyone who thought it was could just go kick rocks. I’m so sorry someone made you feel embarrassed for doing what is best for your daughter. I hope word gets back to those ladies that came up to you, not to shame them but to remind them that THEY were being inappropriate by making you feel uncomfortable.

AdamUndefined February 13, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I’ll admit that as a single guy I’m sometimes uncomfortable when I see a woman breastfeeding. But that is nobody’s problem but mine. I’ll awkwardly look at the floor for a few seconds and be on my way, no harm done. Babies have to eat and I’m fine with women breastfeeding whenever and wherever they want. I’ve seen the bathroom suggestion many times but I personally wouldn’t want to eat in a public bathroom and I can see why a woman wouldn’t want to feed her baby in one either.

Melanie Jordan February 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Adam, THANK YOU. It’s so nice to see a guy chime in on this and admit that if you’re uncomfortable seeing a woman nurse it isn’t always her problem. Bravo to you.

Jeni February 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I nursed my first daughter until she was 6 months and I’m suddenly nursing my youngest who is 7 months. I have never had a problem with breastfeeding in public. But I have to say you handled those women with more grace than I could have. I would have flipped. I know it’s not right, but I get snippy when it comes to my kids. lol

I have saved the breastfeeding laws on my phone in case a situation were ever to arise. 😉

Sarah K February 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Wow, Jessica. What a response! What could I possibly say that hasn’t been stated already? I’m just amazed.

First of all, I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a huge hug. My heart just aches for you, thinking of you sitting alone in your vehicle with tears running down your face while you nursed that sweet girl. Ugh.

Second, I am still in absolute awe of how hard you have worked to still be nursing Adeline full time considering how crazy busy your work and travel schedule is. Bravo a million times over. That’s such an incredible accomplishment in and of itself.

Now, on to the encounter at hand. I would definitely add a big fat “Ditto” to Matthew’s comment on the whole matter. I’m the momma to three boys and I didn’t really worry about covering up while I nursed my infant at home with my 4 and 2 year old sons around. My 4 year old asked me questions about what I was doing and what things were called and I told him. No need to be ashamed or hide it. In fact, I would agree with the argument that it’s important that our sons are educated and aware of what breasts were actually designed for. Yes, God made them attractive to men as well, but in a very primal way – because they are the means of nourishment for offspring! It’s Biology 101 and there’s no need to be ashamed or to turn nursing into something sexual when it’s not. It’s not like you whipped your boobie out in front of the altar and did a quick impromptu pole dancing routine before feeding Adeline!!! Sheesh!

I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. Hopefully this incident stemmed more from the close-minded thinking and inconsiderate nature of these couple of people, rather than the position of the church as a whole.

Again, hugs to you!!!

A. Medrano February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

At my church, of which happens to be a conservative charismatic church, actually allows moms to breast feed anytime, anywhere. It’s never looked down upon. If a baby is hungry, it needs to be fed. What’s the big deal about that? I admit the first time it was a little awkward when my wife did, but mostly because I wasn’t sure how she was feeling about feeding in public. But in time it was something that mothers should just do without feeling any kind of weirdness. As for the sexual thing, really, at least the young guys I work with who are not “religious” don’t think of “sex”. Christian young guys probably think of it more than normal because all they hear is that “ladies who publically breast feed are being indecent.” That kind of rhetoric enforces the idea that mother’s should go into hiding to feed their babies since men are trying sneak a peek. Our Christian culture created this problem.

Amanda @ Naturally Chic Mama February 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I had a similar uncomfortable experience at another trendy Atlanta mega-church…

http://naturallychicmama.blogspot.com/2010/11/please-check-your-baby-at-door.html

So sorry my hometown treated you poorly!

Amanda

Monica February 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

I am so sorry that you had to deal with this and were so upset by it. I wonder if nursing is more “taboo” around Christian settings. When I nursed my last two (each for a year) I got a harder time about nursing in public in Christian settings. These were the times when I was asked to go into a restroom or another room. It always felt as if I were doing something shameful rather than what I should be doing…providing nourishment for my babies. I think it is so very sad that modest nursing in public is looked down upon.

Ann T February 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm

If this is the church I think it is. (Down the street from my childhood home) it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t see a problem with what you did. That woman had a problem. Breastfeeding sin’t big here and there have been a lot of problems with mothers doing it in public, even discretely. I would hope that it would change, but sadly it hasn’t. I will say it has factored into my mind about wanting to start a family here.

Nirupama February 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Thank you for posting this.

Jeni February 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm

When my first daughter was a baby, my grandfather in law and I had a conversation about nursing in church. He is 76 years old and was saying when he was a kid/teenager he went to a very conservative, country, church in Southern Ohio and it wasn’t uncommon for a mother to nurse her baby in a church, in the sanctuary, and uncovered. *gasp* 😉 They didn’t “strategically cover” anything, the didn’t wear udder covers, hooter hiders, blankets, etc… The baby was hungry so the mother unbuttoned her blouse and fed tr baby. No one thought anything of it.

I can’t remember where I saw this but it stuck with me “if breastfeeding is sexual, then a bottle is a dildo.” (*note* I have no problems with bottle feeding. My first daughter was breastfed for 6 months then due to A LOT of issues she was formula fed until she was a year old.)

Rebecca February 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Hi Jessica, I follow your husband on twitter and saw his retweet of your experience while visiting here in Atlanta. I’ve read most of the comments here, and it seems no one from the church has replied yet at all. I attend there regularly. I just wanted to make sure that at least one person from there responded to you. It is not typical for this kind of harsh treatment or unkindness to be shown there. I am really sorry this happened especially since it appears to have upset you so. They have some of the most loving, humble, and gracious door holders (volunteers) that I have encountered at a church anywhere. Even the people in the congregation have been one of the kindest as a whole that I have found. Hopefully someone with influence in the church will respond to this situation by retraining the door holders on how to handle different situations properly. Again, even if no one else offers their condolescences, I am truly sorry this happened to you there.

jessicaturner February 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Rebecca, thank you for your kind, kind comment. I was sooooo excited to go to your church – as excited as to go to the conference. I skipped the last conference session so I could go to church, so it was really unfortunate that this was my experience.

Like I said in my update, this post was not about the church, but about how I was treated. It could have happened in a mall, at a park, etc.

I too hope that, even if they don’t respond to me, that they discuss it with their staff/volunteers so that it doesn’t happen to someone else.

Robin Troxell February 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm

thank you for responding – I do hope she gets a formal reply but am glad you put yourself out there!

Laurie February 13, 2012 at 3:07 pm

You know no one bats an eye at a baby taking a bottle so why should it be such a big deal for a woman to breast feed her child. I mean you can’t even SEE anything when you’re discrete.

One time I was nursing my kid in the back row of the church and a woman walked up and asked “Why are you covering that baby’s head! I want to see her!” I told her “Well you might see more than you bargained for if I took the blanket off my shoulder.” When the little lady realized that I was breastfeeding my kid she gave me this big ole goggled eyed look at walked away quickly. My thought was that up until I told her what I was doing she had no idea that it was going on.

It’s not like you flopped your boobie out and had a neon sign above you stating “WOMAN WITH BOOBIE UNLEASED!” Good grief. Those people need to worry more about your baby getting fed than where she’s getting fed.

Laurie February 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Ugh… *UNLEASHED

Robin Troxell February 13, 2012 at 3:31 pm

hahaha :-) love the type

Maria February 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm

The fact that all of this is even an issue just goes to show how backwards our North American culture is when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding in public shouldn’t even be an issue. All over the world, in cultures less “developed” and civil than ours, mothers nurse their babies without incident, because those cultures have a normal view of breasts and what they are designed for. That a mother can’t feed and care for her baby whenever and wherever makes me rage with anger inside. Women’s bodies have been degraded to objects and breasts have been over-sexualized into men’s playthings, when in fact their first purpose is nourishing our young.

What a wonderful creation by our God that we have the perfect way to feed our infants!!! I have nursed in church lobbies, thankfully without incident. I do live in Canada, where our breastfeeding rates are higher, which hopefully means it is more supported. I am so sorry that you have had this experience, but God is using for His good – you’re raising awareness!

Worrying about causing a stumbling block for men is a poor argument. Men need to learn to control themselves and their minds. By covering up our nursing mothers or shooing them to private rooms and bathrooms, we are sending the message that breastfeeding is something to hide and be ashamed of. And this just perpetuates negative views of breastfeeding, and that breasts are for sex and not for food. The more that men and teenage boys and young boys and in fact EVERYONE, male or female, young or old, see healthy examples of breastfeeding, the more our nursing mothers will feel supported and empowered, and hopefully this would lead to increased breastfeeding rates.

Asking nursing mothers to stop, or move somewhere else because someone might be “uncomfortable” is ludicrous. What about our babies, who are “uncomfortable” because they’re hungry?! What about poor Adeline who was having a delicious meal and snuggle with her mommy, who had to get unlatched and her meal interrupted? Jesus calls the little children to Him. I am sure this includes the nursing babies. Of course there were nursing babies in Jesus’ day! Was this an issue back then. Probably not. There were most definitely nursing mothers listening to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and I’m sure no one asked them to move somewhere more private.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a modest person, and agree that there needs to be some discreetness involved. I think your hooter hider is above and beyond discreet – it covers you up more than a normal shirt would. There is no reason why anyone should have asked you to move. Every time I see a mother nursing in public I want to cheer out loud. So, take heart, Jessica, and be encouraged by all this support you are receiving!

Sorry this got so long. I hope you hear back from the church.

meme February 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I’m sorry that you felt unwelcome and ostracized by the church ladies. Perhaps they should have explained why they wanted you to move. Not that you had to move but it may have made you feel less intimidated. Breast feeding makes some people uncomfortable because we are taught as children to cover our “private parts” which is somewhat contradictory to breastfeeding – not that I think you were displaying your breasts which is quite different. And although a Hooter Hider is a cute name for a cover up, the word Hooter does not make me think of a breast feeding mother.

Shene' February 13, 2012 at 3:44 pm

First, I am so sorry this happened to you. I breastfed both of my children for a year and I feel angry and sad on your behalf. It is easy for me to get on my nursing “soap box” because I feel that it is a beautiful, natural, and healthy thing for both moms and babies.

I never had anyone ask me to move while nursing in public, but I could definitely tell that it made some uncomfortable. It has always boggled my mind because with my baby in front and a nursing cover over me, I was actually MORE COVERED than I was when I just sat there in your average shirt.

I also find it interesting that our society, which is SO into things like going green, eating locally, eating organically, being healthy, etc., can’t get behind breastfeeding. Does it get any more local, organic, and healthy than that?!? People should think about that as they drive their hybrid to their local Whole Foods to buy organic veggies, which they will put in reusable bags.

Jamie February 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Is there even a remote possibility that this is an overdramatized situation whereas you hold 1-2 people responsible for representing the church as a whole? And you’re surprised the pastor hasn’t responded to the drama? Suggestions at staging a nurse in? People make mistakes. Perhaps if we as a whole were as grace giving as we demand others to be, this whole situation wouldn’t be so blown out of proportion. Perhaps you were extra sensitive. Perhaps you were spot on. All this ruckus over people suggesting and offering to assist you to a mother’s room when you don’t know the motives behind their suggestions?? It’s absurd.

Matthew February 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm

When somebody calls for grace, they themselves should speak with grace.

While you might have a small point, it sadly get’s lost in all of your assumptions and passive aggression.

Ashley Turner February 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Way to go for still breastfeeding your baby! I have 2 year old that I wasn’t able to breastfeed and come April I will have another baby girl that I plan to breastfeed (and thanks to this post, I ordered a Hooter Hider today!). My sister in law has three kids that she breastfed and had a few rude encounters, one at a church where they asked her to use the bathroom to nurse and she refused. Like you, she was well covered and was in a lobby where most people were not at. You shouldn’t have to defend where you choose to feed your child!

Lis February 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I am sorry you went through that.

Bea February 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I see your point, and I am so sorry you were offended. My issue comes with how big of a deal this has turned into: I just think we need more grace with each other. Maybe the intention of the volunteers was good? Maybe this is getting overdramatized a smidge?

Emily February 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Perhaps the first two women were just proud that their church thought of the details in having a nursing room and wanted to ensure your comfort. We can hope, right?
The third woman I would have been upfront with and asked outright (albeit nicely) if the church does not allow nursing in the area you were in. ANd then if she said no I would have pitched a fit. {Really, injustice makes me ugly}
The only way to change people’s perceptions is to keep exposing them (not literally!) to nursing so it becomes “natural” again.
Here in Hawaii nursing mothers are not uncommon and rarely frowned upon- in nursing my two girls I only had one incident with a woman who blatantly told me I should not be nursing near the playground where my other daughter was playing (?!?). Of course her one year old was sucking on fruit punch and ended up biting another child so, yeah, I’m not following her parenting advice :)

Cheryl February 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I’m a grandma now, but I nursed all four of my babies many, many (many, many) years ago. This is just my thoughts, but I think some women have hurt the rest of womanhood by nursing indiscreetly under the guise of ” it’s natural, get over it”. I’ve seen this myself, and find this militant attitude of “I’ll show you” and then they whip out their breast to nurse in full view, in public, to be very disturbing. Now I know that MOST ladies would never do this, but in the Church’s defense, they may have come across this and had to make a ruling for all women based on a few who tried to defy propriety. Too bad some women may have ruined it for so many others.

Juanita February 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I agree Cheryl, that has been my experience too. I have been on the receiving end of militant breast-feeding mothers who think it is their right to expose themselves whenever and wherever. It is actually offensive in those circumstances. And often these are the same women who frown upon mothers who bottle-feed or outright condemn them. I agree with the previous poster who stated we all need more grace with each other. I breast fed four babies. Some only a short time and some over a year. I gauged every situation and location to see where and when it would be appropriate to breast feed openly or if I needed to be more discreet. Let’s face it, it makes even my grandma blush. However, I do think in YOUR situation, there was a serious lack of communication and an even greater lack of grace extended to you. Simply offering you the option was enough and it should have been left at that. No need for any “nurse-ins” or what have you. Anyone reading this~ if it bothers you, walk away. And that’s all.

Cara February 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Oh I am SO sorry! And I’m doubly sorry for the comments saying this is being “over-dramatised.”. There is nothing over -dramatic about a mother feeding her child and being asked to move. THAT is what is absurd.
I live in Berkeley, CA, so I never experienced this.
In fact after using my cover a few times I realised no one else uses them here and since I always wore nursing tanks I could nurse without showing anything off (I had my husband check:), so I stopped using them — and I nursed until my daughter was 3 (not in public past about 18 months since it was just a bedtime/wake-up thing from that point on).
Asking a woman who is nursing to move – while she is nursing!!! – is the strangest thing I have ever heard.
Again I am so sorry. I would have absolutely been in tears and you are right to bring this to their attention because you are surely not the first person this has happened to. How many women have walked out those doors never to come back? Sad.

Cara February 13, 2012 at 5:49 pm

And the “militant whipping it out” is an interpretation of a mother’s actions to feed her child. That’s on your perception of her actions (those of you who said that), not hers actions. We have so over-sexualised breasts that we get offended if we catch a glimpse of a breast when a mother is feeding her child? Now that’s a sad commentary on our culture.

Cheryl February 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm

My deepest apologies, Cara. I never wanted to hurt someone’s feelings or offend them. Just an older woman’s observations. Please forgive me if it was voiced in a way that offended.

Cara February 13, 2012 at 9:23 pm

Thank you, Cheryl. I just think saying they “whip it out” puts a motive behind it that most likely isn’t there – she is just trying to feed her baby you know, and may not cover up as much as you (or I!:) would. I don’t think women should be scolded for breastfeeding at all no matter how/where they do it. Thanks for replying – I really appreciate it!

Melody February 13, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I think many people assume that nursing mothers are embarrassed of breast feeding in public. A couple of months ago my two year old daughter hurt her forehead and needed stitches. The first doctor(a woman) tried to stitch her up, but it just resulted in her getting really upset. To calm her, I started nursing her. I didn’t have a cover and wouldn’t have used one anyway since her head was bleeding. The doctor told us she wanted to get another doctor to help her with the stitches. She looked at me and said, “it’s a man, is that okay?” I said, “of course. He’s a doctor. I’m sure he knows that toddlers eat.” The male doctor stitched her up while she nursed. Both doctors and the nurse were very uncomfortable with the situation. I felt awkward because they were all so obviously uncomfortable, but there was no way I was going to deny my child what little comfort I could give her when she was so distressed. Between my two daughters, I’ve nursed a total of five and a half years in all sorts of places (including in church). I try to be sensitive to other people’s discomfort without letting it dictate how I parent.

kristina February 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

I’m SO sorry you had to go through that, Jessica. Sigh. How unfortunate and honestly, SO disappointing. I breastfed my daughter until she was 7 months and I’m still breastfeeding my son (he’s 16 months old). I haven’t had to breastfeed in public that much, but when I have I haven’t had any problems, thankfully.
What is wrong with this world when a Mom breastfeeding her child is offensive or needs to be “hidden” when there are people who show up at church showing more boob that breastfeeding Mom’s do and they aren’t asked to “go to the Mom’s room” or the bathroom. LOL. It’s pathetic and breastfeeding can be hard enough without having to deal with things like that. It discourages women from doing such a natural, God given thing. Sending you BIG hugs!

Teri Lynne Underwood February 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm

First, I am going to find you at Blissdom and give you a big hug! Yay for you standing up for yourself (and I, too, would have been in tears by the time I got out the doors).

We had a very awful experience at a larger church in Atlanta ourselves a few years ago. I, like you, attempted to contact the leadership at the church – emailing was the only option available at that time. I received a form reply from the “Pastoral Staff” that our concern had been read and prayed over.

Somehow, that did not allay my concerns about the situation. (Who knew?!)

I think the thing is we expect churches – especially well-known churches whose leadership is vocal about the importance of family, etc. – to practice what they preach. And, as a pastor’s wife, I don’t think that is, in the least, an unreasonable expectation.

Your experience indicates a failure on the part of the church leadership to train their volunteers … isn’t the biggest character trait we want in those people who greet and welcome and assist visitors to our churches grace and kindness and compassion.

I am so sorry, Jessica. As a mom who nursed until my child was 15 months old, I find it shocking and very frustrating that any nursing mom is ever treated with anything less than respect and kindness.

Noelle February 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I nursed my babies just about everywhere when I was in public with them. They did not tolerate covers over their faces, so I gave up on blankets pretty quick. It took practice, but I figured out how to nurse without showing much skin at all. Baggy shirt on top, baby covered belly skin.

I worked long hours as a family medicine resident when I had my son. I spent more time pumping than I did nursing. There was no way I was going to give him a bottle if I actually got to hold him. With my daughter, I was a busy practicing physician. Though I did get more regular hours with her, I certainly wasn’t going to use up those precious bottles in the freezer when I was with her. And she was a huge mommy’s girl. She wouldn’t have stood for it.

With all that pumping, you can bet I had to do it in a lot of embarrassing and uncomfortable places. Especially as a resident doing different rotations every month and repeatedly having to ask someone else where I could pump. After getting used to that, there is nothing that could’ve possibly cowed me about nursing everywhere. I was asked if I wanted to cover up once, by my step-mother. I gave it a try, found it hot and sticky, and my son grabbed that blanket in his little hand and threw it on the floor. I was glared at once, by a young man in a restaurant. I returned the dirty look. He’s a lucky man he chose to keep his mouth shut.

If everywhere you went and everywhere you looked some mom was nursing her baby, it would be as commonplace and natural as breathing and no one would care less. As important as breastfeeding is for moms and babies, the sooner thus happens the better.

Amber February 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I am sorry you had such an experience! Sometimes I wonder if churches aren’t trying to make everyone happy…I think nursing in public makes some people uncomfortable, especially the older generation. I wonder if they weren’t trying to deny your rights, but trying to make everyone happy? I certainly can’t say for sure, just wondering if that might have played a factor. I am definitely for mom’s being able to nurse, but I think there is a way to do it that doesn’t make others uncomfortable. I think if I were to nurse my baby at work in the lobby, it would be inappropriate, even if I was totally covered up. Please hear my heart, I am not trying to offend you or defend the church. I guess I’m just trying to say it’s a very fine line for people. Not everyone is as used to or open to nursing in public. I do think they could have and should have interacted with you in love and compassion. With nothing but love, Amber

FFannie February 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

I am a former breast-feeding mama. I think I would be more offended if they said no breastfeeding allowed. You werent in a public place, you were in a private church that apparently made efforts to accommodate nursing mothers. They tried to ask you in a round about way to not nurse in the main area where people were about to partake in communion. You came into their church and refused to respect their norms and customs. Maybe they weren’t the rude ones. Just an alternative viewpoint.

Hope February 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm

FFannie,
Talk about rude…

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} February 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

even churches must follow the law, and georgia law protects a mother’s right to feed her baby wherever she herself is legally permitted to be: http://breastfeedinglaw.com/state-laws/georgia/

nicole February 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm

You know what I don’t understand? Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and yet people want to discourage it by their actions. I’m sorry that you were treated that way. Talk about an unwelcoming church for visitors! And I totally get the nursing room, however, you were ALREADY feeding her!
Kudos to you for being able to breastfeed this long. I had to stop around 6 months because my daughter wasn’t growing as fast as she should and once I started supplementing she sprouted like a weed!
Nicole

Tena February 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I was once completely covered in a dimly lit restaurant when the manager came up to me and told me I was causing another patron some discomfort because he “thought” I was breastfeeding. He said the man kindly suggested I go to the Ladies room and nurse. WELL… I wasn’t nearly the lady you were–I go up with my child still attached (and still covered), walked right up to the man and told him that I would go sit on the toilet and feed my child right after he picked up his plate and went eat his meal on the men’s room toilet!!! As I turned away his mouth hung wide open. My husband and I picked up our stuff and left. And no, we didn’t pay the bill either. This was 9 years ago and I’m still aggravated when I think about it.

Tena February 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Also… as an educator, I am of the opinion that young children should be exposed and educated on the true purpose of breasts. If we teach them NOW, they won’t be shocked or offended as adults. It will be NORMAL!

Sannan February 13, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Several people have already stated this … but what if you were a brand new Christian…Or just visiting…Or reluctantly visited with a “nagging” friend. I pray these ladies are spoken to by Jesus ~ and realize this is way more than just breastfeeding.

What astounds me more than strangers bawlking at bf-ing, is your own dear friends. It begins to tear at your friendship & creates holes where there once were none. I’m not judging anyone for NOT breastfeeding. I am a HUGE advocate & will list no short of 100 reasons why you should; But I won’t judge you for not doing it. So why should they judge me.

Personally, beyond my sweet relationship with Jesus & my amazing husband, this has been the greatest 5 months of my life nursing my daughter. The stolen moments I can never get back will forever be etched in my mind. I pray this moment you experienced is but a distant memory.

Now…More importantly, where can I get a patter for that AWESOME nursing cover?! I have a basic pattern…but this…THIS is awesome with the ruffles! Next blog post I think!!! ;o)

Kristen February 13, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Here is what is ironic to me: in Church isn’t a woman raising her children in a godly manner one of the most preached/encouraged things? And then you go & nurture your precious little girl in the exact way the Lord created you to… and are met with this response?

Um, no. No. Unacceptable.

I definitely think you deserve an apology & that the staff should be taught how to deal with things of this nature in the future…

so sorry you left in tears!

Blessed Girl February 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I’m a Georgia girl, and although I’m not a mother yet myself, many of my friends exclusively breastfeed their babies. As a matter of fact, in my couple’s Sunday school class (at a church in a rural area) this past Sunday, a friend of mine nursed with her hooter hider during our class (and has before). Maybe it was just something with the church you attended. I’m very sorry that that happened to you and I am grateful that the area I live in and church I attend doesn’t seem to have such a view of public breastfeeding.

Lynn February 14, 2012 at 7:12 am

I’m so sorry this happened to you! And I agree that there isn’t really a positive spin to be put on it :( i left a “don’t you want privacy?” kind of church and wound up in a (Catholic) parish where I nursed a toddler without a cover (but discreetly) in the front pew for about two years. It was so freeing to actually make it through an entire service and hear a whole sermon! Ooooh, the novelty of it :)

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} February 14, 2012 at 10:18 am

i love it. i went to a catholic baptism once. the baby started to scream and her mama put her to her breast right there at the baptismal fount, where she quieted right away. i think catholics have much to teach the rest of the church about living out a God-honoring theology of the body.

Georgi February 14, 2012 at 8:04 am

Wow. How totally inappropriate and upsetting that you were treated this way in a place of worship. My kids are grown now, but I sure wish I could have had one of these: http://www.etsy.com/listing/58969933/boobie-beanie It probably wouldn’t have helped – even made it worse! but it sure is humorous. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” What would this have said to someone outside of the faith? So very sad when the church gets it wrong.

suzannah {so much shouting, so much laughter} February 14, 2012 at 10:14 am

your story makes me so angry, and i’m so sorry that happened to you.

i had a similar experience at a church i was visiting. i was actually in their nursery feeding my baby before the service. i didn’t have a cover, but all skin was completely hidden by my clothing and baby. a young women pulled a blanket out of a drawn and actually threw it at me as she hurried away: “here! you can use THIS to cover up!”

nursing rooms and nursing covers are great, but no one should make a women feel that feeding her child outside either is wrong–especially in church. if we all saw more people breastfeeding, it would seem as normal as it is.

glad you posted this. i hope that church reconsiders its interactions with breastfeeding moms and visitors.

Rachel Mercado February 14, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Wow, how sad that you had to experience this! I have exclusively breastfed all of my three girls, so I have definitely fed my babies in all sorts of environments. I am very blessed to have a very supportive pastor and church, and I have been encouraged to nurse whenever and wherever I need to. My pastor has personally come up to me on many occasions and praised me for my decision to breastfeed and let me know that I was free to nurse wherever I felt comfortable to do so. I did have a similar experience when I visited another church, out of state. I was asked and recommended that I use a mother’s room more than once. But I held my ground and said, no my baby is already eating, I’ll just stay here. But those people were not as rude as those in your situation were. Wow, we are supposed to be the body of Christ and lift each other up! I cannot fathom anyone being treated that way in church! Breastfeeding is God’s design, and should never, ever be considered inappropriate!

Jen February 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm

I’ve been on the opposite end of this and both times felt it was inappropriate. We had a young mother who breastfed in the church during the preaching. Another time I was an assistant in the Bible quizzing class and the teacher started breastfeeding during class. To the women that breastfeed you think nothing of it, you’re just feeding your hungry child. But try to remember that you are the minority, and for people that aren’t used to seeing this it does make us uncomfortable. In this particular situation I think they were trying not to be rude and telling you in a nice way there was a place for breastfeeding.

Nikki February 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I am a mother of 4 and nursed all of my children. Leaving the room to find privacy to nurse is part of nursing. I really feel that demanding to do something that some may find offensive is not glorifying God.

Claire February 14, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I have to disagree with your post – I know the church in Atlanta you are speaking of…in fact I have been a regular attender and volunteer there for several years now. You need to stop treating this like the “church” is attacking breast-feeding your baby and that these volunteers were against breast-feeding in public or that it was inappropriate or not what God has intended for women, because I surely agree that it is! That is not what is going on here at all. Those female volunteers were simply trying to make you feel the most comfortable because they knew there would be a lot of activity going on in the lobby right around you. No one demanded you to leave – instead the volunteer offered to help carry all of your stuff to the other room! I am overjoyed any time I have offers to help! You made that choice to leave the church building…no one else. Most nursing moms would have been happy to know there was a different location where they could feed their child in comfort. In fact this church has made multiple spaces available to nursing mothers where they can still watch and be a part of what is going on inside the auditorium. If you were sitting on one of the seats in the lobby, you were only about 20 feet away from the mother’s room, which has been generously furnished with much more comfortable chairs, sofas, a changing table and TV monitor so you won’t miss what is going on in the service. Of course you would know this if you had actually taken the time to check it out rather than assume the volunteers were trying to discard you. As a mother of three in Georgia, all of whom were breast-fed more than 6 months, I do not empathize with you at all. I see what happened to you as being a place where you can selfishly step up on your high-horse and make a blog post about it so you can get comments from other moms who think you have been really wronged by the church to make yourself feel better. Is this about breast-feeding in public or blog ratings? Shame on you.

Michelle W February 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

I wasn’t going to comment since most of what I think & feel has already been said…until I saw this comment. Did they teach you to condemn people in this wonderful church of yours?? Because that’s what you just did with your spiteful comment. I get that you don’t like someone saying anything about your church. We all get defensive & protective of our place of worship, especially if we love it like we should. But a church is made up of people – human beings with flaws. People who make mistakes. Jessica already stated that this was in no way an attack on your church, but rather a way to open a discussion about breastfeeding in public. Do you think your comment makes her want to come to your church again?? If anything, it just reinforces what she was saying in how she felt. Is that Christian? We should be talking about this because women *are* made to feel unwelcome at times when they are breastfeeding in public, even if they are covered up. Maybe you need to pray about it instead of judging.

Matthew February 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

Claire,

I’m Jessica’s husband. I was the first person Jessica called upon leaving your church. I was the one who listened to her story and tears. The experience was hurtful.

And you can make all of these mean claims if you want, but the thing is, you don’t know Jessica. I do. I know her heart. I know her intentions. I know her passions.

You don’t.

I’m not going to speculate about the intentions of the women who approached Jessica. But let me say this: rather than becoming defensive about your place of worship and writing “shame on you” and leaving a comment that really helps nobody except to satisfy your own rage, perhaps it might be more helpful to just say: “I’m sorry you felt that way. I know that it wasn’t there intention to make you feel that.”

Instead, you chose to make an already hurtful situation even more hurtful. And that helps nobody, not your church, not Jessica, and in the end, not you.

Matthew

Jennifer February 15, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I saw a sign on pinterest recently that I think applies here…”have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?” I hope you did. I hope you prayed about it before taking to social media twittering and blogging. I wonder if you considered how damaging this could be to the cause of Christ? You have a large following and I would guess not all are believers….if just one unbeliever reads this and it turns them off from church or the gospel, was it worth it? I know that’s not your intention but it could happen. I’m sorry your feeling were hurt, but more important is how you reacted. Twitter? your blog? how has this helped anybody? If these women were wrong they will be held accountable to God for their actions and their motives but so will you for how you’ve reacted. You’ve judged your sister in Christ without knowing her side of the story. You’ve also caused a lot of people to get angry with this woman when they don’t even know her or what her reasons were. If Christians are going to reach a lost and dying world we’ve got to do better than this.

Ephesians 4:30-32
New International Version (NIV)
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

FloRae February 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm

And yet you leave a comment not doing any better than “this”.

Plank meet speck.

Michelle W February 15, 2012 at 10:07 pm

So are we not supposed to talk about it then?

Jenn A. February 15, 2012 at 7:21 pm

I am so sorry this happened to you. I am about to embark on the adventure of mommyhood and breastfeeding (hopefully!) and I live in Atlanta (I’m 38 weeks pregnant). I am surprised by the lack of public breastfeeding I have seen in the city, actually. I didn’t realize there was a negative culture surrounding such a natural act here in the Atlanta area.

I did get a nursing cover (The BOOBTOOB from Etsy) but I did so more because of my own preference for discretion, not because of others’ potential reaction.
When I do see a mother breastfeeding in public, I always try to make eye contact with her and smile at her. It truly is amazing to consider all our bodies were made to do, isn’t it? I can only imagine how satisfying it must feel to nourish your child with your own body.
In my experience with my friends who are young mothers, I have learned that motherhood can be isolating (or so I have been told). It is a shame that you experienced such a negative encounter in a place where we are supposed to feel most accepted and loved.
(side note: I love the fabric on your cover-so pretty!)

Jenn A. February 15, 2012 at 7:25 pm

By the way, I hope you don’t mind that I posted a link to your blog post on my FB page because I do live in the city and I think it is an important discussion.

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