September 7, 2010

Breastfeeding at church: now and then

I recently read Rixa's blog post about an illustration at the LDS Church History Museum where you can spot two women nursing their babies during Sacrament meeting. The illustration brought back that immediate excitement and relief that I got to experience about 3 years ago, when for the first time since becoming a mom I saw a sister nursing her child during the Sacrament meeting. Since Rixa asked her blog readers for a couple more photos, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to enjoy a trip to the Museum and seeing the illustration with my own eyes (as well as taking some photos of it).

After failing to breastfeed my first 2 babies for more than 3 months, I didn't have much experience with nursing in public, at church especially. Maybe I didn't pay much attention until then, but I just assumed that all mothers used 'mother's lounge' for nursing, which in our particular church building is nothing more than a small room equipped with 2 rocking chairs and a changing table, attached to the restroom. Everyone who goes to the restroom passes the 'nursing area' and you can clearly hear everything that's going on in the restroom, while you're nursing or changing your child.

The room is ok most of the time, but there have been times when I just couldn't stand nursing my baby in there. That is why I was immediately overcome with joy when for the first time ever I saw that particular sister nursing her child right in the middle of the Sacrament meeting, back when I was pregnant with Anya 3 years ago. What a relief it was, knowing that I didn't have to hustle out of the chapel if my baby was hungry. I could simply nurse my little one right there and enjoy fairly uninterrupted meeting (aside from the usual crisises caused by my two other little ones).

That experience, combined with other experiences of seeing moms nursing in public places, greatly influenced my success in breastfeeding our 3rd baby (she self-weaned at 18 months when I was pregnant with Ivy). So naturally, seeing a 139 year old illustration of LDS women breastfeeding their babies during Sacrament meeting, with men sitting right next to them, uncovered (back in the days when accidental 'flashing' of ankles was not acceptable), reassured me just how normal it actually is to tend to your baby's basic need of nourishment and comfort, anywhere and anytime.

taken during our Lake Mary hike


Anonymous said...

Love this post, Olya! NIP has always been challenging for me to do due to my own modesty. Love the pics, you look great!

Jessica said...

Oh I love this! After I had my first, and he needed to eat in sacrament meeting I stood to go to the tiny little mother's lounge. My mom's friend was sitting in front of us, and she yanked on my arm to make me sit back down and hissed, "Oh for goodness sake! Nurse that baby right here. It's fine."

So I did. And I nursed all the rest just the same, and never got so much as an evil eye from anyone.

hairyshoefairy said...

I love that illustration! I've never seen it before so thank you for sharing. I nursed my first in sacrament meeting all the time and nobody gave me weird looks. In fact, nobody even noticed. I'm always surprised when others are appalled at the idea of breastfeeding in sacrament meeting. I didn't do it as much with my second simply because my older kid would try to distract him from eating so he didn't actually get much done so I went out to the foyer. I don't care for our Mother's closet, er, I mean lounge.

The photos of you nursing on your hike are great. Sweet little babe. I love the cheeks.

sariah said...

I received my first snide comment about my nursing in church a month or two ago (I was completely covered with a blanket!). I have to say it took my breath away and shattered my confidence too. This is baby number 6, so 1 comment over all these years isn't too bad, I guess....but wouldn't it be nice if some women could keep their rude thoughts to themselves? I am ashamed to say that for a few weeks I used the mothers lounge because of her words. I have now resumed nursing in the chapel and after reading your post I realize that maybe I can give some other mother confidence in doing so! How much of our lives, as mothers, could be spent in tiny side rooms- missing out on spirit-filled meetings, our other children's performances and recitals, etc.,if we let the opinions of a few others influence our actions.

tracy said...

Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures! I never knew about the Museum pictures! I have a favorite pioneer picture by C.C. Christensen called "Handcart Pioneers." It shows a mom nursing her baby right in the midst of all the wagons. If you look at it here:

you can see her over on the left, sitting on the ground in front of a covered handcart.

I have always nursed in sacrament and can't imagine life any other way. If I left the meeting every time my baby needed to nurse I would have missed most of the past 14 years of church. I don't even use a blanket. I just wear clothing that helps me nurse easily and discreetly.

Katrina said...

I love this picture and was so excited to see Rixa post about it. I always went to the mother's room with my first. It was actually fun in there in that ward with lots of other moms to talk to. With my second I've been nursing her uncovered right in sacrament and in primary where I'm a teacher. No one has said anything so far. I do try to dress more strategically on Sunday though to avoid having to flash my entire breast.

Amanda said...

Oh, how fabulous! Thanks for sharing that illustration! I'm glad you got to nurse longer the third time. And I love your labyrinth wrap -- so cool!

The Wizzle said...

That is totally awesome! I've never seen that illustration. I just *knew* in my gut that nursing in church was not only okay, but perfectly, naturally, simply the way it should be. It's the only thing that makes any sense. I've nursed my babies in sacrament meeting, but I've always been the only one I've ever seen do it. I've never even seen anyone else nurse in Relief Society. This totally made my night!

(And on a personal note, I'm so elated for you that you were able to experience breastfeeding Anya, and that little Ivy is such a nice easy baby for you! She's so chubby and perfect!)

Heidi said...

Olya, this is great! :) Totally agree!!! I love everything on your blog, always, especially your recipes, btw. :)

Carla said...

I am definitely adding this to my "greatest hits" list on my blog. Thanks so much for posting!!

L'Jn said...

Awesome! It really was totally common and fully accepted to nurse a baby in church in pioneer times. Ankles, no way. Breast=baby bottle, no big deal.

I think the women who use a blanket, hooter hider, etc. are more obvious to others. People are more likely to notice and the uncomfortable ones make comments. Without a blanket (especially with the right kind of dress/blouse), it just looks like you're snuggling your baby up close (like in those beautiful pictures posted here).

I nursed my first baby in church until she got into the habit of pulling my shirt up when she nursed. She'd also pull a blanket off because I never nursed her in other places with a blanket. Can't remember about the younger two. I probably nursed in church as well as nursing in the mother's lounge. I always nursed in Relief Society.

When my oldest was born, my spouse and I were nursery leaders. Only two children ever paid attention to me when I nursed my baby. Both of them were still being nursed. In fact, one told her mom that my baby got "numnums" too. (The mom told me.)

Nicole said...

So wonderful!!! I wish I knew more people like you in my ward! I am currently nursing my 20 month old son (he's starting to wean because I am pregnant) and we nurse in sacrament meeting. I used to go to the mothers lounge but I too got sick of having to leave the meeting. My mom encouraged me to stay and I have ever since. I'm glad to know other lds moms do too!