11 April 2008

Courageous or Crass?

Since we're on the topic--Breastfeeding in public: Talk to me about it.

Specifically, I'm wondering whether anyone who stops by here has nursed a baby in the pew during church. And whether in general we are in favor of such, neutral, or horrified by the suggestion.

I can't make up my mind. Haven't ever done it, but with New Guy liking to eat quite often, and with the possibility that the whole baby train will follow me out if I try to make a discreet exit from the sanctuary for a quick feeding, the thought does become more tempting. It would make getting ready for church much easier, too, if I weren't trying desperately to tweak his (non) schedule while getting the rest of us ready too.

Of course, this would be done under discreet cover, with the expectation that few if any would realize what was taking place (which is another reason that these early weeks are probably the only time I'd consider this--I don't know about your babies, but mine tend to get rather noisy about the process as they get older, and tend to resent being undercover).

Part of me hates that this is even a question. I mean, Baby is hungry, Baby should get to eat. This is how God designed babies to eat.

Almost enough to make me look enviously at the woman in the next pew who whips out the Similac and gets to sit quietly through the sermon as her baby works on the bottle.


Gauntlets said...

More than once have I thought darlingly, "Yes! I'll do it!" only to not. Not at all.

My babies are like yourn: They hate to be covered up and they make their hatred known. And when not squawking under blankets they're gulping, slurping, grunting, gushing, and swallowing like sandworms. I don't think anyone in the pews near us would hear the sermon. I'm pretty sure they would know what was going on under my blanket. I think they would think about it. And I think there's a Victoria's Secret in the local mall that makes the whole thing too awkward for me and mine.

Here's an idea: At our CSPP convention, let's picket a Victoria's Secret. You know, as a field trip? I hate that place.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I have done it...generally with baby in a sling (even at my husband's call service). One secret that another pastor's wife let me in on...sit up front. Not only does it mean that your other kids generally behave better because they can see what is going on...but fewer people behind you will actually know what you are doing (rather than being able to turn around and see it all). And the only one who can see you is your husband.

There are other tricks. I find blankets are the worst because people obviously know what you are doing. Wear a button up shirt and simply unbutton from the bottom. Then your shirt covers you, and it just looks like it is a bit wrinkled from you holding the baby next to you. Also, you can just lift your shirt and arrange it so that it doesn't show anything. I've had people not even realize that I was nursing while having long conversations with me.

I love baby slings for that reason also. I especially love Maya Wraps (Google it) because you can get a large, and then it has a long scarfy tail that if you want to use it to cover up you can, and if not, then it looks pretty. Usually you don't even need it because the body of the sling hides the baby and the breast. And you can support the baby with one hand while you chase your other kids around.

Now the gulping, I can't help you with...lol

Anne said...

With #1 I lacked the experience and the nursin
With #2 I had invested in some nice nursing tops and had more confidence and would occasionally nurse in the pew.
By the time #3 came along I was starting to get fed up with the feeling that I should be expected to leave to feed my baby...no one else did (not many breastfeeders at that church) and I nursed in public everywhere else. Why should church be any different? I was able to discreetly latch on and stay covered up without a blanket, as far as I know, no one ever noticed.
#4 was a little cranky when it came to nursing in public, so I would occasionally have to take him out, but he did his fair share of pew nursing too. (this was when my husband was doing fieldwork in FW and the pastor of the church liked to preach standing at the front between the first pews...right where we sat and Luke would usually choose to start nursing minutes before the sermon...somewhat awkward, I so wished he would just use the pulpit!:)
In a few weeks we'll be adding #5 and I'll be back to pew nursing. I always encourage people to nurse in church, it drives me nuts how many bottles I see there, even from people who are supposedly nursing.

Anne said...

that was supposed to say w/ #1 I lacked the nursing wear to discreetly nurse and I always left with him.

Rebekah said...

RPW, I have a Maya Wrap and I haven't been able to figure out how to nurse in it for 4 babies now?! If you're going to be at CCA will you hold a workshop? I've been mad about it this whole time. I am so bad at everything relating to this topic.

Anne, I can't believe you didn't scare that guy back into the pulpit! You must be a real pro at sneak-feeding. :D

Anyway . . . we're also way too noisy and messy (and this guy would also glurk it all back at me within moments of quitting--I seriously don't know how he puts on any weight). Maybe I'm being too paranoid, but I think attempting it in church would freak a lot of people out around here; it's kind of a blue collar formula stronghold. People know that I nurse and a few brave and curious souls have asked me questions about it, but I get the impression that they still think it's pretty weird.

I think the bottom line for me is that I'm just not a good public nurser in general, and church falls into the public category. I don't even like to do it in the same room with my older kids, because it's a stressful activity for me and being alone makes it easier. Forgive me, La Leche League. :(

Rebekah said...

Oh, and Gauntlets--count me in for the picketing. I think I can even count on Girl 2 to carry a sign.

Jane said...

I nursed almost everyplace else, but never in church. (Unfortunately, it took me three babies before I got comfortable with nursing around anyone else.) Our churches at that point weren't baby friendly. Anyone under two was expected to be in the nursery, so I was already bucking the system. :) I would have nursed at the church we are at now; in fact, I know a few people who have/do.

And my boys would be happy to join your pickets, if they weren't too embarrassed to even walk past VS in the mall.

Kelly said...

I can't say I have any practical experience with this, but I was going to suggest the sling too. I've heard good things about Hotslings, which are pouch slings, for nursing in public, especially when baby is tiny. A traditional rebozo might also be a better alternative than a Maya Wrap - it's very similar, but there's no ring so you can fasten it any way you want. (Google the Rebozo Way Project for more info, or if you have any older Mexican ladies in your geographical area, they would love to show you how to make it work.)

A good place for information about babywearing in general and nursing with a sling in particular is www.thebabywearer.com.

Sandra Ostapowich said...

Ok...here's a related question. How do you handle a woman breastfeeding in public who makes no effort whatsoever to cover up or even be discreet?

Reb. Mary said...

I've never actually seen a woman BF in public w/o covering up, so I've never had to decide how to handle it :) It's actually rather hard for me to imagine.

Reb. Mary said...

Kelly--are you sure you haven't had that baby yet? You are WAY too prepared...thanks for sharing all that stuff, here and on your site :)

Reb. Mary said...

Thanks, all. It's great to know that there are women out there doing thins. You give me courage! I may do this yet! BabyBoy slept thru the service this am but woke up ravenous afterward--I almost sat in back of the adult Sunday school class to nurse, but the chairs had ended up closer to each other than usual, so I nursed him in the room right off the class instead, which does get some traffic passing through it. Even had a couple brief conversations with people I don't know terribly well as they went thru. Baby steps, ha!

Part of the problem, which it sounds like some of the commentors here have experienced/are experiencing, is the formula culture at this church. And then too, this little guy has developed an amazing nursing noise--not the gulping and grunting of the first baby, nor the swallowing and murmuring of the second. No, this is something between a squeak and an eep--sounds like some piece of machinery needs to be seriously oiled. And if it sounds loud at home, I can only imagine how loud it would sound during, for instance, the sermon.
Plus, he managed to glurk (great word, rebekah) what seemed to be more than he could possibly have eaten right down the inside of my shirt as I was settling him on my shoulder afterward. Ah, the badges of motherhood!

Reb. Mary said...

Sign me up for the Maya Wrap session too--Got one with Baby2 but he never liked it/I never got the hang of it just for carrying him, much less nursing. Will give it another try this time around...we get lots of mileage out of our front pack but that's not nursing-friendly. Will have to check out the Rebozo and site recommended by kelly!

Rebekah said...

I owe Dr Seuss for "glurk" (McElligot's Pool, highly recommended), although this application is my own.

I also don't have any direct experience with obnoxious nursers. My in-laws have regular dealings with one, and their solution is just to complain about her behind her back all the time, which I really enjoy. :D

I did have a run-in with an un-subtle, but not obnoxious, public nurser when we lived in a town with a large Latino population. We were walking through an outside shopping area and a lady walked (!) by nursing a monster baby, she must have had fantastic upper arms. No attempt to cover up, but I have to say, it didn't bother me. It just seemed normal, because she wasn't trying to make a point of it or anything, she was just living her life and nursing her baby. I wouldn't put myself in the lactivist category by any stretch, but I think this was just the kind of public nursing that should be ok if you've got the muscles for it--normal, apolitical, organic, no feeling obligated to try to keep your baby under the picnic blanket. My husband didn't even notice that she was nursing despite the unlikely angle and size of the kid.

Gauntlets said...

Wait, are we scheduling a Nursing While Slinging tutorial? SWEET! Sign me up! I've tried it inside, outside, round-about and back and then got nothing but cold in the process.

Cold and lonely. And blue. *sob*

Joy said...

okay, I realize no one will probably read this because it is now September '08. BUT. Courageous or Crass? Neither. I'm feeding my baby. Period. I live in a small mid-MO town where I know one other SAHM and breastfeeder--my cousin. Everyone in our congregation uses formula (*gag!) and moms "have" to work. They all know what I'm doing because my children refuse to suffocate under a blanket, wrap, shawl, sling, or whatever other devices you've got. I've literally had an entire pew turn around and stare at me, and I've had to wave at people on the other side of the sanctuary to get them to stop staring.

But you know? I'm doing what's best for my baby, and I'm seeking God's approval, not man's. While they refuse to accept breastfeeding for what it is, I refuse to deliberately deviate from the Lord's order of creation and feed my baby some concoction of sub-standard nutrition from a silicone nipple.