Tonight I came across this article about nursing discretely as Mass. The comments were pretty interesting, especially those who found public breastfeeding (especially at Mass) to be immodest, unthoughtful, disrespectful and downright offensive.
I breastfeed at restaurants, shopping centers, parking lots and even Mass - it never fails that L will be hungry. I try to do it discreetly - I put a blanket over myself as I "get the boob out" and "close up shop." I keep the blanket draped on my shoulder so my stomach does not show on the side she's nursing on. I try to keep the shirt covering most of my breast but I do not nurse with a blanket over L's head. She doesn't really like it, and I don't blame her since I don't like eating with anything covering my face.
I understand that breastfeeding can make some people uncomfortable and that for men it can be a challenge if they get a glimpse, especially an unexpected glimpse of boob. But in my mind, there is absolutely nothing sexy about a breast that's squirting milk. I have relatives and friends who are male who become very uncomfortable when I feed my daughter. For them I will leave the table or room, or at least turn away from them as L eats. I also try to remember to ask people if it's okay for me to nurse in front of the, but really if you're a woman I'm not going to try to hide much. I believe the absence of a high profile of nursing mothers is to blame for the over-sexualization of all things breast related* and the amount of women who do not breastfeed or give up early on when there are difficulties establishing breastfeeding.
It's fascinating to look at the large amount of Catholic art that shows the Blessed Mother nursing the Infant Christ. There is nothing sexual or awkward about it. The artists were showing the full humanity of Our Savior and God - He was fully dependent on a woman for life. The works also show the tenderness and love they felt for each other. In my new role of mom, Mary nursing Jesus is one of my favorite things to meditate on, especially when L is at my breast.
And as far as nursing at Mass goes - I like to think of the line from the Gospel and the Eucharistic Prayer, "This is My Body, which will be given up for you." Being a breastfeeding mother is a sacrifice: my body is no longer my own. And now my understanding of God's love and Christ's offering are greater because of that.
*See this article for more info on that statement. The above magazine cover was called "gross" and I heard one man even call it "pornographic." The first statement is a pretty sad reflection of our secular understanding of the female body. The second is just sick.
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