Saturday, February 19, 2011

Update to breastfeeding in our parish

The orginal post is here.

You can read a slightly edited and clarified version of the story here, at Nursing Freedom.

I've read all the comments, all the suggestion and talked to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I've listened to wise cousel from people who know the DRE and those who don't. I've spoken to my mother, my sister, members of my parish and other nursing, attached mothers. And I came on a course of action.

That is, I did nothing.

I've decided that my strongest response and statement would be a peaceful, nothing-at-all.

It's not that I don't think the DRE's call was over the top. A parent complained and she had the right to let me know of that complaint. I think her concerns are valid and I agree we need to come up with a solution to the "problem."

I DON'T think nursing in a bathroom or in a locked room with the doors shut and the blinds drawn is the answer. I think it sends the wrong message about breastfeeding and what breasts are for.

A friend pointed out to me that these students aren't my children and, "Is it your job to teach them about this?" Well, yes and no. No, I am not their mother and it isn't my primary job to teach them about sexuality, breasts, babies and lactation. That should come from their home life. However, I am their RE teacher and it IS part of my job to be a living example of what they should see. Not only should I teach the faith but I should live it myself. This includes respecting the dignity of human life in ALL its stages.

By feeding my baby and keeping him close to me, I am respecting his need to eat on demand. I am respecting his need to be close to me, his mother. As a tiny baby (at the beginning of the class) his need to nurse and be with a loving caregiver are very real needs, not wants. By giving him this, I am respecting his stage of life.

Being pro-life isn't just about protesting abortion clinics or consuleing women at crisis pregnancy centers. Those are important tasks but they aren't the whole of the pro-life parts. Part of being pro-life, in my opinion, is repecting my children and meeting them at the stages they are at. When I brought Cole to class and fed him, I was doing this.

In junior high RE classes we touch on human sexuality and respecting our bodies. Of course, this information should primarily come from the parents but as an RE teacher, it is my job to re-enforce this idea. One of these concepts is respecting our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and practing purity and chasity. Our bodies are lovely and wonderful and they are ment to be treasured, not to be used to insite lust in others.

Prevenlant in our society is the idea that breasts are for sexual pleasure only. These kids are 12 and 13 years old and, believe me, they get the idea that breasts can indeed be sexual. But having a basic, non sexual function? Unless someone close to them is breastfeeding or works in the child birth industry (doula, LLL, lactation consultant) they probably aren't exposed to that idea much. What message, then, am I sending them by nursing Cole? I believe that I am telling them that it is okay to nurse in public, that breastfeeding it not shameful or something that needs to be hidden. I am showing them that breasts have a purpose other than selling bras or bodies; they can nourish too. As the mother of a daughter, I want her to know that breasts are for babies and as the teacher of teenage girls, I want to show them, by example, that their bodies are wonderful things that, when the time comes, can feed another human being.

I have changed nothing since the DRE called me and I have contiuned to meet Cole's needs. On days that I directly teach, he stays home. When I don't teach he may come with me, but now that he is 10 months old, mobile and very vocal, he is becoming a distraction. He stays home with my husband. When we go to Mass, I take him to the cry room to nurse and, because of where the cry room is, get a better view of the altar than in certain areas of the church!

When I do other work around the church, I often bring Cole with me. Many times, I am the only other mother there with an infant. When questioned, I simply respond that I am nursing and want the freedom to visit with people as long as I need, without running home to nurse the baby. I have had other mothers express that they wish they had brought their baby but didn't feel comfortable doing so. I often quote my friend, who once told me, "Laura, you can't be a pro-llife Catholic, follow the church's teachings on birth control and not expect there to be babies running around!"

Will bringing my child with me to functions and mothering him in the way that my culture teaches to mother, to feed him in the way God intended- in the way that God Himself made flesh was fed change anything? Not right away. It won't change overnight. But if one other person feel free to bring their young child with them to functions, perhaps someone else will too. A cascade effect could happen and then, yes, over time, things will change. Maybe people will be more comfortable with breastfeeding. Maybe it will become the norm.

Can a little nursing baby really change society?

Well, one did.


  1. LOVE IT! I enjoyed reading this post (and the previous one as well). I now have a little extra encouragement to follow suit when we have kids. Thanks!! ~T

  2. Good for you! I nursed (am nursing) 2 babies and I did not have the fortune to have ever witnessed a mother nursing until it was my time to nurse. No wonder so many moms have a hard time figuring out how to do it!
    I am always glad to see moms out and about feeding their babies.

  3. "Part of being pro-life, in my opinion, is respecting my children and meeting them at the stages they are at. When I brought Cole to class and fed him, I was doing this."

    I love this. Sometimes I feel that people (not just Catholics) get caught up in saving the pre-born, but meeting the needs of the children out in the World don't get as much attention. Pro-life should mean respecting ALL stages of life.

  4. I saw your post linked to on Nursing Freedom's Facebook page. I wanted to comment as another Catholic, breastfeeding mother. I would be extremely happy if I had a teenage son whose religious ed teacher breastfed during class - how great for teens to see breasts being used in their normal function, just as Mary fed Jesus as an infant and young child! I can see how other moms of the kids in the class might not have understood... unfortunately, the lack of exposure to nursing moms along with over-sexualization of breasts has made it so that many people really don't get it that nursing a baby in front of other people is okay. It will take many years of many people willing to nurse in public and talk about it, and I hope the tides will turn so eventually most parents would feel very comfortable just saying to their teens, "Yes, she is feeding her baby. Many women care for their babies in that way. Babies are so special and precious, and so unable to wait to have their needs met," or something along those lines.

    I have nursed mine in church during the Mass, and continued nursing my second one during Mass until she was two and a half years old. I think i got a few looks - although I might have imagined them! - but nobody has ever said anything to me, fortunately. I think the best answers in a Catholic setting are to remind people that Jesus was breastfed and what it means to be pro-life and accepting of babies.

    Thanks for sharing your story!!

  5. Thank you for the comments ladies!
    Erin, someone also asked me, "If your older son had complained to you about a mom nursing in class, what would you do?" I said, "Tell him to get over himself and whip out a few photos of him nursing!" :)