Monthly Archives: October 2011

Let’s Flesh This Out – Breastfeeding and the Bible

Aliza nursing in her early days 

There is a line of thought common to Christians that breastfeeding is sexual.  Or, breastfeeding might not be sexual per se, but it’s still something that should be done out of sight and possibly/preferably out of the room.

I disagree.

In my effort to double check my theories against the bible and God’s theories, I did some research.  The bible has a LOT of references to breasts.  A lot.  They’re all over the place.  Most often, the word breast is an anatomical reference.  The right breast for a sacrifice or the growth of breasts to symbolize puberty.  Then, there are the sexual references.  All seven of them.  Four in Song of Solomon, one in Proverbs, two in Ezekiel.  How many times does the bible reference breasts in the context of breastfeeding?  14.  Plus 10 other references to nursing and drinking mother’s milk.  Twenty-four times the bible references breastfeeding without shame.   Without hesitation.  Without hiding it under a blanket or in another room.

Breasts are used for feeding and comforting babies twice as often as they are used for the ‘comforting’ of a man.  And the authors of the bible (talking about the penholders here) referenced breastfeeding in a way that is so tender.  There’s almost a longing or reminiscing about the days of being comforted at their mothers’ breasts.  Because breastfeeding is so much more than food.  So much more than simple calories.

God designed women (and men!) to have a biochemical response to babies, particularly to breastfeeding babies.  Not only do women let down their milk as a result of an oxytocin release (a hormone that provides feelings of bonding and love) by men are physiologically impacted by the continued presence of a lactating woman.  A man’s estrogen level increases as his primary female partner (aka wife) nears the end of her pregnancy and this hormone level remains high for a period of time after the baby is born, suppressing his libido.  This isn’t an accident.  God didn’t let this slide as a side-effect of our design.  Breastfeeding stimulates feelings of love and attachment, and those feelings are recalled throughout life by members of both sexes.

But love does not have to include sex.  A man is perfectly capable of loving a lactating woman without being either turned on or turned off by her milk.  Just because a man sees a woman breastfeeding a baby/child does not mean he is enticed to lust.

Breastfeeding is not enticement.  Even though breasts may or may not be visible during breastfeeding (even without a nursing cover, there usually isn’t much to see), the simple presence of a breast is not enough to encourage a man to lust.  Each person’s lust is wholly within themselves; as Christ put it: “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed lust with her in his heart.”  The man doesn’t need the woman at all.  He can lust without her knowledge or consent. And his lust is fully within himself.

Hiding breastfeeding does not help a man to avoid lust, either.  Hiding breastfeeding (in another room or under a nursing cover) only furthers the separation of that man’s experience with breasts and the true function and purpose of breasts.  Further entrenching him on an inescapable island of helplessness.  If/when men only see breasts in a sexualized way, the sexuality is reinforced with each exposure.  When you start to temper that extreme view, you desensitize him to his incorrect notion that breasts are only for him.  Only for his own selfish pleasure.  Breasts are first and foremost for the nourishment and care of small children.  Only as an addition can we consider the sexual qualities of breasts.  And if men were seeing breastfeeding twice as often as breasts as sexual toys, we wouldn’t have to have this discussion at all.  Breastfeeding, uncovered, in the presence of men is the only way that I can help a man gain control of his lust.  Not because I expose him to something sexual and give him the opportunity to control himself, but because I expose him to something decidedly asexual and give him the opportunity to understand that.


I wonder if that’s why breastfeeding is a more common biblical context for breasts than sex.


Filed under Christian Parenting


[This is a story I’ve been telling Adelaide at bedtime.  I’m hoping that if I tell myself stories about a patient, calm mother who handles an unruly young one with grace, I might start to be just like that mama.]

Gertie was a giraffe who lived with her mother in the jungle.  They liked to take long walks and use their very long tongues to eat leaves off trees.

One day,  Gertie was thirsty.  So her mother decided to take her to the water hole.

Gertie was excited, and was running very fast.

“Slow down Gertie, or you might slip and get hurt,” her mother reminded her.

But Gertie was excited, and she ran fast, and she slipped, and she hurt her knee.

Gertie’s momma checked her leg, and then asked, “Gertie, would you like me to sit with you until you feel better?”

“Yes mama,” said Gertie.

So Gertie’s mama sat with her until she felt better.  And they used their very long tongues to eat leaves off the trees while they sat.

When Gertie was ready, she and her mama started walking toward the water hole again.  But Gertie was still thirsty, and now she was tired too.  She was walking slowly.

“Keep going, Gertie.  We need to keep moving if we’re going to get some water,” Gertie’s mama reminded her.

But Gertie was thirsty and tired and stopped to cry.

Gertie’s mother said, “Gertie, would you like me to sit with you until you’re ready to walk again?”

“Yes, mama,” said Gertie.

So Gertie’s mama sat down next to Gertie.  While they rested, Gertie and her mother used their very long tongues to eat leaves off trees.  After they had rested a few minutes, it was time to start walking again.  Gertie was still tired, so Gertie’s mother helped her to the water hole.  [In my head I have this great picture of a little giraffe laying limp over her mother’s back, legs dangling down, head dangling down, tongue hanging out, etc]

When they got to the water hole, Gertie and her mother took long drinks of the cool water.  Gertie felt much better.  When they’d had enough, Gertie and her mother used their very long tongues to eat leaves off trees.

Then, Gertie found a ball to play with.

Gertie was having fun with the ball when Gertie’s friend Karen came over.

Karen was in a bad mood and took the ball away!

Gertie was sad!  She cried!  Gertie’s mother came over and said, “Gertie, I’m sorry the ball is gone.  Would you like me to sit with you until you feel better?”

“Yes, mama,” said Gertie.

So Gertie’s mother sat with her while she calmed down.  When Gertie was ready, she walked over to Karen and said, “Karen, could I have the ball back please?”

But Karen was still not feeling very nice.  Instead of giving the ball back to Gertie, Karen kicked the ball as hard as she could.  Karen kicked the ball so hard that she fell down on her bottom.  Karen was hurt.  Karen started to cry!

Gertie looked at the ball and looked at Karen.  Then she said, “Karen, do you want me to sit with you until you fell better?”

“Yes Gertie,” said Karen.

[If you were writing a story to reinforce a parenting concept or practice using a line like “Would you like me to sit with you” what would your story be about?]


Filed under Uncategorized