Breastfeeding in church

My favorite birthing and mothering website continues to be the blog of Rixa Frost, PhD, a homebirthing mother of two.  She recently posted on breastfeeding in church, and at last check, nearly 60 women have chimed in with their own experiences and opinions.  I found it fascinating!  My comment ended up being really long…  I’ll post it here, and I would love to hear your own observations and experiences (both good and bad!).

I think that the culture of breastfeeding in a church really depends on the opinions of the leadership, and from what I’ve been reading here, that can REALLY vary, even from church to church within the same denomination.

I go to a nondenominational Christian church (a Vineyard), and while we tend to be more laid back than a lot of other churches out there, the only thing that bothers me a bit about my particular church is that it is not particularly … well, I don’t know how to put it. Families are blessed and encouraged. My pastor even called out my hubby and me on a recent Sunday morning with some public words of encouragement and blessing for us as parents, and for our brood of five. So, it’s not like it’s anti-family. But, if you do have a baby in the service, there is an expectation that you would leave the room if the baby became very vocal; it’s not an environment that is particularly friendly to noisy babies, let alone toddlers. Along with an infant’s nursery and age-appropriate classes for children during the main service, there is a nursing mother’s room — which has a fairly nice set-up and is clean and good-sized and in fairly good repair. The sound is SUPPOSED to be piped in, but it doesn’t work very well, and the room is actually in a building that is totally separate from the church sanctuary! Still, I have long enjoyed the community of nursing mothers that frequent the room… Even though I love being a part of the service and hearing the message, I also think that it is part of Christian community to… fellowship with others — to share in their lives, catch up on their triumphs and struggles, share advice, find out who needs hand-me-downs, etc. So, I ALWAYS enjoy going to nurse my baby and — basically — socialize with the other mothers. And, if I miss a message, I can always listen to it online the next day (or whenever), and I have done that frequently.

I have occasionally bf’ed from the back row, covered with a blanket, and I’ve seen other mothers do so, too. But, ALL of my children have been noisy, distracted nursers… and despite nursing five, I always feel clumsy nursing in public, and generally prefer going somewhere more private.

There is a smallish storage room that shares a wall with the sanctuary. I have long considered asking my pastor if that room could be converted, with two-way glass, to a more conveniently located nursing mothers room. I think this post has spurred me on to do so!!!!

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on December 9, 2009, in Babies, Motherhood, Vineyard Phoenix. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I think your idea is great Karen! How much more of a blessing to be “in the service” but able to nurse without feeling distracted. It’s better for baby too.

    I have had similar experience as you but am akward in public so it is nice to have a private but not “segregated” solution.

  2. I’m with you on the clumsy nursing thing. mine like to look around, take a few slurps, pull up my shirt, talk, take a few sips, play with my face, slurp a little… you get the idea. it’s like a leisurely lunch at a buffet – not a get down to business meal. I’ve been to both churches that encourage children in the service and those that don’t it took me a while to get used to it – but I now could never attend a church that made it clear that children should be elsewhere. I adore having my kids with me – even when it is extra work (which it always is!). but I also adore having a nursing for cranky little ones, corrections (because who wants to be trying to talk some sense into a whining 3 yr old while in front of a whole congregation) and for nursing. plus like you said – it’s a great place to fellowship with moms.

    • I don’t think my church has “made it clear that children should be elsewhere.” (Not that you’re saying it has.) There are a number of families who frequently (a few who ALWAYS) keep their kids with them. However, I do think that if those children were disruptive, they’d probably be (quietly) encouraged to bring their kids to a children’s class — mostly so that the parent could be free to hear/learn/worship, and so that the child could be in an environment that’s tailored for his/her needs. At least, that’s my understanding of my church’s stance.

  3. I know the nursing issue is what you are discussing about church/family life, but it can apply to any parameter used in choosing a church to become active in. Active being the key word, not just an observer. So I would ask myself, is this the pastor/sheppard God wants to be the spiritual authrority in my family’s life? So let’s assume the answer is YES. Then if you are sure this is where God has led you, then it becomes a matter of you and your family adjusting, intially, into the church. As in the breast feeding issue, it is up to you to be flexible and accomidate yourself to that churches personality.

    But what I have seen to be true is that sometimes God wants you and your family in that church to use YOU to bring dynamic change. Your family is tested at first about humilty and submission, forgiveness and relationship, then He can use you to help your Pastor see the need for and the resources to make changes to accomidate growth.

    So to translate all of that, you and your family have been a part of your Vineyard for years and years. You have built all of the relationship with the Pastor. So now it could be an opportunity for you and your family to help your Pastor move out of his comfort zone and transition your church to where God wants it to go.

    Does any of this makes sense to anyone? Hope so, if not sorry to get things off track.

    • I agree, somewhat, Jane. I don’t see our longstanding membership, though, as a “ticket” that gets us through the door to try to make a pastor do what he doesn’t have vision for, in the church. That seems manipulative to me. OTOH, it is valuable, at times, for a member of a church to alert leadership to a need that they might not be aware that exists! I don’t see it — at all — as my place to root Pastor Dennis (or any pastor) out of his “comfort zone.”

      • Except that if I understand what Jane is saying God may use the “long term relationship” not as a ticket but as an opportunity for you (or hubby) to speak into the pastors life (or other in place of authority) because of your history not the other way around.

        If it is an issue where change may be in order as I belive Jane may have been steering toward.

        In the case of nursing. An EXAMPLE: Your church does not provide a nursing room since the culture believes it is best to keep children at your side in services. You don’t fully agree, feeling that your children could also learn in a “tailored environment” as well as seeing the benifit of mothers fellowship in an adjoining room…BUT you allow God to work in His time through building of relationships until a point when He has brought others around to this thought. Then, you step out in faith (as you plan to do) and submit your idea possibly a little out of your pastor’s thinking but he understands your heart and may actually change something as a result. In this scenario, you aren’t rooting him out of his comfort zone, God is using you to bring about His changes.

        Opposite scenario- You are new at a church where things aren’t set up thr way you want so you march in and demand change. 🙂

        • Yes, Jess – what you describe is my plan (though I’m 99% certain that your example is not meant to describe my particular church’s culture; that you’re just using it as a ‘random’ example). Over my history, I’ve come to know that when someone comes in and says, “This needs to change!” if it’s something that the pastor can agree with, he says, “GREAT! Now you make that happen!” (Which is not usually what people want to hear; they want it done FOR them.) I also know that my pastor likes to see well-thought-out plans, in writing. So…. I’ve started calling around, researching a few options, to see what the expense of the project would be. Now, I may spend several hours on this just to hear him say, “No, I don’t think that would be a good use for that room. Sorry.” But, I’m going to do my best to present the plan to him in a way that I think has the best chance of him giving it some consideration.

          And, knowing the preferred procedure (and just my pastor’s personality) is — yes — out of a history of relationship. So, in that sense, I’m “using” that ticket.

          I guess my concern (with both myself and with Jane’s comment) is that I know oftentimes people make demands of pastors (like your last scenario) that they really have no business doing — it’s rooted in wrong motivations, wrong assumptions, lack of humility, a “serve ME” attitude, a disrespect for pastoral authority, etc., and that’s what I desperately, dearly want to avoid. I want to avoid even the APPEARANCE of that, even if I’m confident that my pastor knows my heart.

        • Thank you Jess. I have been away for awhile. Karen, under no circumstances would I ever suggest we move any Pastor out of his comfort zone based on our own perspectives. As Jess stated, if GOD Himself, would use you. That was all. Everything being subjected to God and HIS WILL for us to be used as HE would see fit. Nothing else.

          Again thank you Jess, what you stated is what I meant. I was away and could not respond quickly as you did! NO ONE EVER has a free pass of anykind based on any relationship.

  4. It seems though, that male pastors especially just might not be aware of the types of things moms, especially those bfing, go through. Nor might they be aware of how emotionally involved bfing is. I think your idea to suggest a closer cry/nurse room makes sense. Maybe no one ever thought through how alienating it might feel to some people to have to walk to an entirely different building. And if you can’t hear the sermon there half the time, then they may want to know that as well. It may go nowhere, but at least something was said. Sometimes, people need to speak up. Not in a complaining fashion, but in a “did you know” or “were you aware” fashion. Even pastors can’t be everywhere and understand everything from every perspective.

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