Biblical Breastfeeding and Personal Responsibility



In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to normalize breastfeeding, I’d like to address the idea that exposing men to the sight of breastfeeding somehow tricks them into being unwitting victims of their own lust.  Lest I be accused of fabricating this stance from my own errant feminism, I’ll stick to the words of The Man Himself.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  it is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”  Matthew 5:27-30

Guys, I want you to carefully and thoroughly read that quote.  Write it or type it out if that’s what it takes to fully commit your attention.  When Jesus speaks about a man lusting after a woman, He does not place the blame on the woman for exposing the man to lust.  OUR sinful nature shifts that blame.  OUR corrupt culture does that.  The World says it’s the breastfeeding mother’s fault for doing that in front of you.  Jesus says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  In *HIS* heart.  Not their hearts, not her heart, but his heart.  He has done that.  Without her participation, consent, intent, will, or knowledge.

As a woman, I am absolutely aware of the ways I can entice or invite sexuality into life.  Our sex-crazed culture has certainly done a thorough job of educating women on that.  But when I went to the doctor last week, I did not cause him to sin or stumble by discussing my health and body with him or allowing him to evaluate and consider my physical form. Context matters.  Intent matters.  Consent matters.  In the context of breastfeeding my child, my breast is not begging for the gaze or lust of a man.

We have spent decades (longer?) telling men that they cannot control themselves in the presence of a woman. That the mere sight of her is so powerful as to overwhelm and overtake his own will.  This is not true.  Jesus does not say that the woman has forced the man into a submissive position of lust.  Jesus does not say the woman has violated the man’s will or intent.  Jesus says “If your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”  He doesn’t instruct men to get women to cover up or leave the room if their breasts causes men to stumble.  He doesn’t say women should cover up.  He says YOU should gouge out YOUR OWN eye if it causes you to stumble.  It’s on you, men.  This is on you.  You can do this.

This is not an instruction to be taken literally with kitchen utensils.  Jesus loved a good story, and for reasons that fully elude me, He had confidence that we would be able to understand the concept of a metaphor.  Jesus is telling people to be responsible for their own body, for their own wills, and for their own sins.

If you see a woman with a baby (or toddler, or small child) start to fiddle with her shirt or bra strap, she is probably going to feed the baby.  This is where your volition comes into play.  If you suspect you’re going to feel aroused, be tempted to let your mind wander into dangerous territory, or otherwise turn a baby’s breakfast into something it should not be, look away.  Just use your neck muscles or eyelids, and don’t watch.  I’ve yet to meet a single person who is incapable of not looking at something that do not want to see.

If you are unable to override your desire to watch a baby have breakfast get all lusty, get some help.  There are so many mental health professionals, pastors, accountability buddies, programs, clubs, groups, and online support for men seeking to get the upper hand over their base desires.  You can do this.  Babies need to eat, you do not need to lust, you do not need to stare.

The more common place this becomes (thanks to concepts like World Breastfeeding Week), the more desensitized we can all become to the sight of a hungry baby having a snack.  Which only leads us back to Jesus.  Back to being responsible for our own sin, loving our neighbors, and making room for the little children to be present in our communities.  Like church.  Right now, I am very tempted to start a long rant about the importance of not evicting babies and children from church to appease the refusal of grown men to control themselves.  But I too can resist temptation.  I can feel the urge to do something, and simply choose to say “no”.  And save that discussion for another day.  Because I have a baby who needs lunch right now, and his need is more important than my desire.  My desire to say/do/think something else can be subordinate to my will, and his need.  See how that works?

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Additional reading on breastfeeding in the bible

Additional Resources


Breastfeeding and the Christian Mama- What does the Bible say about Breastfeeding?
One mama examines what the Bible asks of breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding and Following Jesus – uninviting ‘modesty’ to the conversation
TLB basically shreds all the arguments of pearl-clutchers and women shamers saying that breatsfeeding is immodest.  Raising my fist in solidarity over here.

Uninhibited Breastfeeding in Public {Reclaiming my Womanhood From Perversity}
More awesome commentary combining some basic critical thinking skills with a basic human needs of the tiniest among us.

What the Bible says about Nursing in Public
Babydust Diaries works out modesty, the act of breastfeeding as designed by God, and her own responsibility to give God glory.

Breastfeeding, by Rabbi Jill Jacobs
Rabbi Jill Jacobs offers some really interesting information about breastfeeding in Jewish texts.  I love the stories she presents – breastfeeding was (is) so powerful!


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Biblical Breastfeeding: Genesis 49:25

breastfeeding, bible, verses


Genesis 49:25 reads “Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb” (King James Version)

Jacob is on his deathbed blessing Joseph and his other sons.  Interestingly, he uses the name for God that is sometimes translated by Jewish scholars as “the many breasted one“.  Now, the name “El Shaddai”, is not typically translated that way.  Typically Christians translate El Shaddai as “God Almighty”.  In Genesis 17, God identifies himself as El Shaddai and promises to make Abraham the father of many nations. In his blessing of Joseph, Abraham calls on that name of God.  Conventionally, these blessings are made using the covenant name for God and referencing God’s unbounded powers of provision.

Which, when you think about the potential metaphor of ‘the many breasted one’, kinda makes sense doesn’t it?  Breasts are the sole provision for all babies in Jacob’s time.  No one survives that is not fed from a breast, and breast milk flows to feed baby after baby both when mothers are feeding sequential children and in tandem.  Frequently, God refers to himself caring for us the way a mother cares for her children.  And although contemporary Christians get a little touchy with any suggestion of God with a feminine tone, women were created in the image of God just as men were.  God shares similarities with women too.  And when El Shaddai cares for us faltering earthlings, He nourishes and sustains, quiets and comforts us.  He builds us up, strengthens us, and gets us through the day.  That is what milk does for a baby.  I need to sit down with someone who knows Hebrew better than I do to more fully understand the meaning of the name El Shaddai, but several authors suggest that the name is derived straight from the word for breast.  (Here, here, here.)

So Jacob is calling down a blessing for Joshua, and references the blessings of womb and breast from El Shaddai.  The blessings of womb and breast are life.  Nourishment.  Comfort.  Protection.  Love.  The reference to breastfeeding is tender, and powerful, and a beautiful phrase to speak as one’s last words to his son.  What a powerful way to call attention to the full circle of life, by issuing a last blessing that calls back on the blessings of giving life.

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The Prodigal Father

My pastor recently preached a sermon about the parable of The Prodigal Son and I have been chafing ever since.  She suggested that maybe the story was not about the wasteful spending and reticent behavior of the son, but that of the father.

Apparently, the word prodigal doesn’t mean all the things I always assumed it means.  It means wasteful, extravagant, lavish.  Not ‘returning from making bad choices’ or ‘regretful and sorry’ or ‘ready to receive deserved punishment, good and humble’.

Nadia (those of you who wince at the idea of a female pastor can just call her Pastrix Bolz-Weber) suggested that we focus on the lavish ways the father spent love and resources and take a lesson from that.  The older son is the character that makes the story hard for me.  He’s doing all the ‘right’ things and ‘good’ things and then throws a fit when the father celebrates the return of the younger son.  It’s easy for me to accept that we should celebrate the returned sheep, the returned son, the lost souls coming home.  But when the father tells the older son ‘all I have is yours’ I want to stop reading.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always enjoyed a science classroom, or because I grew up very outside the church, or because I don’t care to learn the social game and hierarchy within ‘normal’ churches, but I spend a lot of time around people who’ve been really hurt by church people.  People who are now actively rejecting church and even sometimes poking it with a stick because they’re trying to regain their sense of power.

So when I read this story, I see my friends in the young son, and the mean church people in the older son. I see people who said that people like my husband and I aren’t welcome in the denomination he grew up in.  People who say that my friends shouldn’t have access to the grace of God if they don’t understand and believe the right things.  People who say that my friends need to make the first move, when it’s church people who started the fight (and sometimes ended the relationship too).

And I don’t like hearing that the father in this story, or my Father in heaven, is going to give all that he has to these people who are hurting my friends.  And doing it in the name of God!  Ah!  It’s like saying Michael Pearl gets to pass through those pearly gates and that I’m going to have to play nice with him.  !!!

But I don’t have to check my pastor’s facts to know that she’s right.  I don’t need a dictionary to check her definition of prodigal, I don’t need to even crack my bible to know that she’s not misrepresenting the story.  The Holy Spirit does live within me, and sometimes when words pass through my ears and into my heart, the Holy Spirit does the stadium wave.  There’s no mistaking that feeling.  I can tell when I’ve heard Truth – even when it’s Truth I don’t like.  And so I’ve been changing the subject whenever my inner dialog goes back to this.  Suddenly being oh-so-happy to think hard about loading the dishwasher or signing a loud song with my girls or find some other activity that will engage my brain *just* enough to block out the knocking of an idea that makes my stomach turn.

The people who throw a tantrum about ‘welfare moms’ getting food stamps or having more children, the people who claim that the local university is trying to tear apart the church, the people who vote Republican after being GIVEN nearly everything in life -and don’t even see the irony!- they all get the same heaps and mounds of love and grace as everyone else.  Same as my friends.  Same as me.

The reason it hurts is not because I’m jealous.  It hurts because I’m judging them.  I want to see them held accountable for the ways they’ve hurt my friends and they ways they’ve hurt me.  I want to see them cry real crocodile tears for all the times they’ve made other people cry for feeling not good enough for God.  And I don’t know if any of that is going to happen.

At some point, it’s not about revenge anymore.  Not even the revenge I was pretty sure God was going to lay down on them.  It’s not about payment or punishment or even just knowing the repercussions of their words and actions.  It’s about accepting grace.  For myself.  And the inherent (and more fair than I have been able to admit) spreading of that wealthy love on everyone.  To everyone.  Even the Mean Girls (or, more traditionally in the church, Mean Boys).  

I don’t think I could have gotten that lesson without the parenting that I practice.  I am fully against demanding punishment or retribution from my children, because I believe their sins are paid for.  And extending the grace of God to them has familiarized me with the concept in a way that makes me now aware of its extension to the adults I judge as guilty too.  If I am going to pray without ceasing about anything, it’s about that.  Learning to extend that grace, forgive them, forgive myself, and live in a way that reflects the gift I’ve been given and not the gift I want withheld from them.  

It’s the only way I can be authentic.  Or honest.  Or face God in the morning.  I can’t love God when I’m absolutely refusing to live a life in response to salvation.  It doesn’t compute.  Even though I feel like I’m standing up for the oppressed and the marginalized and the lost sheep, I’m acting like that older son.  I’m stomping my foot all mad throwing a tantrum.  There is a fine line between advocacy and damnation.  I know it’s there, but I don’t seem to have any idea where it is.

And that is why I don’t like that sermon.


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Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Battle of Allegiance with the AP Community

So someone said she was distancing herself from the AP community after much rudeness and shaming and frustration.

And somebody else responded that mothers who believe in AP principles should stay to show other moms that the AP community is more than the loud extremist voices.

It’s an old, common story.  Look, in every group of people you’re going to find some people who are angry and self-righteous and way too focused on tell all the other people where they went wrong.  Welcome to middle school, high school, college, and beyond.  Welcome to humanity.  And I often do stay involved with a community despite the behaviors of certain people (Christianity being the prime example).  But mother hood is an extraordinary time.  Trying to develop habits that will impact the course of your child’s life is not to be underestimated.  Community is both of utmost importance and a place of real risk.  Someone who undermines what you’re doing or trying to do can have a huge impact on your outcomes.  We’re vulnerable, we mothers of young kids.  Anytime someone tries to change their behaviors or habits (or institute entirely new behaviors after a major transition like becoming a parent) they are more impressionable to peer pressure.

If you struggle to stay on track when you’re in the company of certain people, change your crowd.  By all means.  Your journey as  a parent is infinitely more important than your obligation to the AP world.  If the AP community wants to thrive (and it does, and I believe it will) then it is going to have to learn how to play nice.  But leaving harsh and critical people doesn’t mean isolating yourself.  It means finding the other not-nutjobs and hanging with them.  We need support.  Not just as mothers but as people.  We’re social creatures – herd animals.

For every internet community that is angry and hurtful there is another herd of animals who are less inclined to rip your throat out.  They’re out there.  And as more people leave the angry mob for groups a little more inclined to practice what they preach (i.e. showing the kindness and grace the extend to their kids to adults online as well) the face of the AP community will change.  People will hear the loud and angry voices, but if we stop polarizing ourselves people will also see the rest of the community too.

This isn’t a black and white choice.  There is no official membership to The AP Club.  You don’t have to choose between bullies and your duties to The Club.  Just move your voice, your face, and your presence to a group that better demonstrates what you believe in.  You’ll thrive better, serve better, and experience a lot less stress.

[The problem with my argument is that the most strident voices on the internet are also people who spend the most time on the internet.  Some of them are going to pop up wherever you go.  I highly recommend Facebook’s block feature for dealing with those people.  ;)]

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The gift of a willful child

Sometimes I watch other parents with their kids and wonder at how docile they are.  Some kids just . . . obey.  It’s entrancing.


And I want to ask “HOW did you DO that?” as if their child’s personality is somehow the doing and making of the parent.  But let’s all say this together: My child is not my report card.


There is no intangible parent figure going to rain down punishment on me for my child having a bad day.  God is not going to hold me accountable for their behavior or compliance.  That’s part of the beauty of Christianity.  It’s one of the few religions where I answer directly to God and not through or to anyone else.  There IS accountability, but always and only processed through grace.


So anyway, when I’m standing there gazing at some beautiful little child coloring quietly while the parent finishes a conversation (or cup of coffee, or sermon, or whatever) and my child is literally running circles around me quizzing me on baptism (or elephants or trains or why the temperature drops when the sun goes down) I often find myself questioning their parenting to mask my questioning of my own parenting.  I alternate between wondering what the other parent must be doing right and what they must be doing wrong. I mean, you must beat them or something right? And maybe all my flailing attempts to be kind, gentle, respectful, and all the rest are really fruitless and going to mess up both the kids, my family, my marriage and society.


But I know my kids.  I know them especially well because I see so much of myself in my daughter.  My parents tried to lay down the law.  They were the dictators, I was to be obedient.  If I did X, I would be spanked.  If I did not do X, I would be spanked.  Do as your told.  All of that.  You know what?  It got my parents no where.  It destroyed our relationship and did major destruction in my head.  But in the end, that abuse becomes a sick, weird silver lining because I KNOW that will not help my daughters.  I know that they are too smart, too strong, too passionate, and too beautiful to be broken down by my own insecurities.  I could spank them in an effort to look in control to other parents, but my girls would only fight harder.  And in the end, they’re the ones in control of that relationship.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if you are in a power struggle with a 2 year old you have already lost that battle.


What’s more I know God does not give these qualities out to just anyone.  Not all people have this perseverance, this genius, this glow.  My girls are destined for something incredible.  I can see it in the gifts they’ve been given.  Breaking those gifts tries to usurp God’s authority in their lives and does nothing for any of us involved.


So I’ll answer the questions about baptism and elephants and trains and why the temperature drops when the sun goes down.  And I’ll run in circles with them and chase them when they dash off in the store.  I’ll get them exercise so they can finally rest and go to the library to find answers to all of their questions.  I’ll respect them physically, emotionally, and spiritually and respect God by doing so.  It’s obedience to God.  God loved me enough to give me these children, and I will not defy him by destroying these gifts.


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My newest venture: Press Pause Photography

We haven’t been properly introduced

Here in Denver I’ve started taking pictures of and for some really amazing people.  Over the last several months I’ve been stitching together a photography business, which ends up being significantly more complicated to do legally than one might anticipate.  I suppose I could just skip the tax man and legal obligations, a lot of beginning photogs do, but that’s not really my style.

Anyway, I would really appreciate if you would follow the link above and leave me some love.  Starting a business is a big thing, and it feels a bit vulnerable to open myself up like this.  I’d love some support.

Plus, that’s the place to be if you want to see pretty pictures, meet awesome people in denver, get tips for staying sane in a life with kids, and see what’s up in the mile high city.  ❤


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