Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:13
A recent status shared by my husband on his Facebook wall has made me realize how much confusion there is amongst Christian ladies and mothers regarding breastfeeding and the question of modesty.
As the verse at the top of this post says, it is important that we look at God's commandment(s) regarding this issue, so we know what to follow rather than being led by our sex-crazed society that puts women on birth control wholesale, and sees them mostly as objects to gratify men's lusts rather than as nurturers and mothers.
First off, let's see how God defines nakedness.
Exodus 28:42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:
nakedness = loins unto the thighs, or what we would call waist to the top of the knee
Isaiah 20:4 So shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians prisoners, and the Ethiopians captives, young and old, naked and barefoot, even with their buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt
God in Leviticus 18 talks about all sorts of scenarios between both men and women of who should not uncover who's nakedness, but there is no alternative definition of nakedness given for women that expands it to include the upper body.
Quite to the contrary, by relating "uncovering a woman's nakedness" with "uncovering the fountain of her blood," the Bible reiterates that nakedness is referring to the part of the body from waist to knee (loins and thighs in Bible words).
Leviticus 18:19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness.
Leviticus 20:18 And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
THAT is the only correct definition of nakedness - loins to thighs. My husband has been preaching this all along, even as far back as 2006.
Not radical Islam that says a woman must be covered literally from head to toe, including gloves and a screen over her eyes, because virtually any part of a woman's body can be sensual in nature to men. Examples are: dainty feet, luscious lips, tender eyes, a perfectly curved calf, hair in soft curls, feminine hands, etc.
Not the nudist idea that says if you have a hat on you are not naked.
Sometimes, vague verses are used to try and teach for commandments the doctrines of men, such as
1 Corinthinans 11:14 Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?
The argument being that even though the Bible does not define breasts as nakedness, we all know that they are. Well, we DON'T all know that, and one cannot just add to God's Word to suit their opinions or "common sense." In the passage in Corinthians, God does not leave us to guess what correct hair length is, along the lines of, "Well, I don't need to talk about hair length, because you all know about that in your heart anyway." On the contrary, God devotes a huge section to telling us about the length of men's hair and women's hair, and He just follows it up with a comment that even just nature itself also confirms this law of God. Get it? Nature confirms the law as fully expressed in the Bible, it does not substitute for the law, or generate it. The verse does not give someone who feels in their heart that something is right or wrong a cart blanche to impose that opinion on others.
Nakedness is a very shameful sin, except between husband and wife. As such, God gave us clear, consistent commandments in the Bible as to what defines nakedness. It is not left up to personal opinions that disregard the Bible. The upper body is never once defined as nakedness, and I defy anyone to post a verse to the contrary.
Breasts, breast, breasts
If the word "breast" makes you cringe, consider this: the Bible uses "breast" 18 times, "breasts" 27 times, "paps" 4 times, and "teats" 3 times.
Indeed, if the word "breast" makes you cringe on the inside, you have been influenced (and not for the better) by our weird, twisted society that views women only as objects for the sexual gratification of men since reproduction has all but gone by the wayside, an afterthought of sorts. Breasts have been blown out of proportion as sexual objects because we have lost touch with the fact that women are mothers and nurturers first and foremost. Under normal circumstances, a woman's breasts will be used ten times as often to feed a baby, than to satisfy their husband's righteous desires.
To further illustrate my point of breasts being overly sexualized, consider this: it is entirely acceptable to use the word "nipple," but only in the context of "bottle nipple." We even try to make them look and feel and function as close to the real deal as possible, yet nobody bats an eye if you pull your fancy breast-replica bottle nipple out, or even drop it off with baby in the nursery.
Personally, I have always found these rubber replicas to be far more explicit than a woman breastfeeding without a cover, since the real nipple is actually in the baby's mouth and out of view. If someone made a replica of the part of men's or women's private parts that the Bible defines as nakedness, I certainly wouldn't want to show and pass that around any more than the real thing, because even a replica would still be obscene.
If breasts are nakedness, or even just terribly immodest, why are we publicly displaying these life-like replicas without so much as a blush?
Before you pass out, read on, because then there is
The question of modesty
1Timothy 2:9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;Proverbs 31:25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
Are breasts sexually appealing? Of course they can be! Is that their primary or even predominant function? No.
Many guys find ladies' feet and/or calves appealing, too. In fact, for decades, many churches taught that ladies ought always to wear closed shoes and hosiery in order to not lead men into lusting after them. On the other hand, there is an entire style of shoes - high heels - that accentuates this part of ladies' bodies. But the primary function of our feet is still to get us from point A to point B, not to strut around and get attention. You will never see me wearing such "hooker shoes". Not because they expose my nakedness (because they don't), but because they are immodest, drawing attention to my body merely for the sake of drawing attention, rather than for any practical purpose. It is the presentation that makes such displays immodest, not the very fact that I have feet, that I use them, and that I don't cover them in tights and closed shoes.
By the same token, if women go topless, have plunging necklines over push-up bras, have implants, show cleavage, etc. they are doing all this for the sensual and vain reason of putting their body on display. Immodesty = seeking attention
A woman breastfeeding, on the other hand, is doing so 100% for the express and practical purpose of feeding her child. She is not seeking the attention of gawkers, and is therefore not immodest.
By this correct definition of immodesty, a woman who struts around in high heels, with a fancy hairdo, covered in jewelry and make-up is still immodest, even if she covers up when she breastfeeds, because she is seeking to draw vain attention to her physical features.
Lamentations 4:3 Even the sea monsters draw out the breast, they give suck to their young ones: the daughter of my people is become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.
Here is a quick science lesson: whales (or sea monsters, as the Bible calls them) do not actually have breasts in the sense of that being some appendage like an udder; they have mammary slits. Nor do they have anywhere to pull these breasts out of, nor do they have hands to pull them out with. God is using this metaphor to say that even whales do more for their young than these wicked women, who should be the ones drawing out the breast and giving suck to their young.
Drawing the breast out of where? The clothes, of course, since there is nothing else to pull them out of. Drawing out the breast, to then cover it with a blanket? Hardly!
Why not just cover up?
Well, why don't YOU eat your meals under a blanket? There are many reasons, such as
- heat and stuffiness for mom and baby
- baby wants to see mom
- mom wants to see baby
- baby wants to study and learn about the world around them
- baby wants to hear what's going on
- new moms have a difficult time getting a good latch blindly
- blankets and those hideous nursing bibs draw more attention, not less
- covers further push the idea of over-sexualized breasts
However, all these pale in comparison with the biggest reason not to cover up while breastfeeding: Because it hampers healthy breastfeeding.
A baby wants to eat under a blanket as much as you want to eat by yourself in a sterile white room without being allowed to read, talk, look out the window, play on your phone, etc. You would hurry up and finish the meal, so you can get back to the funner parts of life. So yes, get a baby hungry enough, and he might sit still under a blanket long enough to fill his tummy, which in a baby over 3 months takes about 3 to 5 minutes. But they will not want to linger at the breast, suckling on lazily while taking in the world around them. THAT kind of nursing is prerequisite for most moms to make lactational amenorrhea (LA) work for them. If you only ever, or mostly, cover up while nursing, your baby will spend a small fraction of the time on the breast that it would if they were uncovered. Not to mention all the bonding and close contact you and baby miss out on when separated by a "veil".
God could have made milk come out of our pinkies if He had so chosen. He could have made it so babies eat table foods from birth. But no, in His wisdom He designed our bodies to nurture our babies in our bosoms, where they can smell us, see our faces at the ideal distance that their little eyes are attuned to at birth, and hear our heart beat that is so familiar to them from the womb. We moms, while gazing down at our baby's sweet face that God designed to be most appealing to us in its features, are so much more likely to sit and linger, put our feet up for a much-deserved rest, and admire God's perfect handiwork, rather than just getting the job of feeding baby done in a matter of minutes, and propping him up in some bouncy gadget while we tackle the never-ending housework.
Breastfeeding is God's design to allow a lady's body to recover from one pregnancy before embarking on the next. Breastfeeding hormones, like all hormones, are fickle and easy to disrupt. Just as the baby needs to be skin to skin with mom, suckling all night by her side, to make LA work, so extended breastfeeding throughout everyday activities is crucial. It's simply not possible under a blanket - no baby wants to do that.
Other suggestions, such as nursing without a cover, but off in another room, or staying home from all outside activities while baby is breastfed, are too ridiculous for me to address in detail. Obviously, no mom of many can leave the main part of the house and retreat to her bedroom, leaving the other kids unsupervised, for hours each day. And no husband wants to take on the outside responsibilities of his wife for two to three decades of their married life.
Women who pontificate about breastfeeding under a cover likely only have their token child or two, or they use birth control. If they don't, they will have children spaced very closely. Sure, there are a few women who will never have a cycle even if they just nurse their baby once every 24 hours, but that is the exception. Most moms, unless they breastfeed extensively each day, will have their cycles return too soon to be healthy or sustainable.
There are many reasons why we should allow God's design to space our children. One important reason is that it allows us moms to "reset" our bodies between pregnancies, lose the baby weight instead of packing on more and more over time. Also, when our hormones are not out of whack, we women tend to be better wives and mothers, which in turn sets the atmosphere for the home. Cover up at what expense? So you can be a short, snippy, angry wife and mother, run ragged by having a baby every year? There is nothing like sitting down with baby for a half an hour, nursing and cooing, to lift mom's mood through endorphins and calm her frayed nerves. She might even sneak in a short nap! Under a cover? No baby will go for that for more than mere minutes.
A scantily clad woman will be viewed as a sex object, and lusted after by unrighteous men. A lady breastfeeding is viewed as a mother, and as such, occasions little to nothing in the way of temptation.
Only a hypocrite would expect women to only breastfeed while covered, even as they watch TV every day where women are flashy, immodest, and show their breasts for purely sexual appeal all day long. Cover up in front of your teenage son, who is sitting next to you on the sofa watching some harlot on TV? Yeah, that's really important - not!
Just because a lady does not use a blanket to cover up while breastfeeding, does not mean she has to be completely exposed. A shirt can easily be pulled down if need be, and baby's body is covering most of mom's midsection.
If a man is making a point to gawk and catch a glimpse of skin, if he is drawn into temptation and lust from seeing a non-descript sliver of skin that may as well be part of the upper arm as part of the breast, then there are far greater problems at work. A man who is satisfied with his own wife, having his appetites met by her in righteous marital intimacy, will not struggle with lust from seeing a breastfeeding woman, or catching a glimpse of her breast. Ladies, keep your husbands fed, and they won't go through life so starved that breastfeeding mothers suddenly start looking appealing.
Proverbs 27:7 The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
Furthermore, as stated above, we cannot expect ladies to cover up to accommodate all of men's personal whims, unless we want to mandate burqas. The Bible has enough commandments in it, we don't also need to add our own to it.
If you want to cover up, more power to you. But don't impose your opinions on others, as there is no command in the Bible that tells ladies to cover up to feed their babies.
Per law, mothers can breastfeed in any public or private space that the mother is legally allowed to be in, in every state in the U.S. Don't let anyone tell you differently!
1871 in church
For more beautiful breastfeeding pictures, please click here. It's worth a click, trust me!
Think these photos are anecdotal, the exception? Please share with me all the old pictures of women breastfeeding while covered, from back in the day when birth control was not used and we had normal views of breastfeeding mothers. Because they don't exist.