Mormon “Lactivists”

What do Mormons think about breast feeding in public?

I just read an interesting article about “Lactivism” – women working to protect their rights to nurse their babies in public. These mothers demonstrate that breast feeding is natural, beneficial for babies, and should be socially acceptable.

I have never seen any mothers breast feeding their children in Sacrament Meeting. I have heard multiple comments about how our Ward’s “Mother’s Room” has ugly, uncomfortable furniture, and very poor odor control from diaper changes between meetings.

Should women feel free to nurse their babies during Sacrament Meeting or Sunday School? What do you guys think?

Here’s the article I read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/nyregion/07nurse.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

247 thoughts on “Mormon “Lactivists”

  1. “Can’t a mom cuddle her child without nursing?”

    As far as I know.

    “The nursing part is not essential.”

    Ok.

    “Probably lots of kids would nurse forever if their moms would let them.”

    Somehow, I really doubt that.

    “Why do you ask?”

    Your comments made me ask. You made comments that I wanted to understand the reasoning behind.

    Back to my question, what makes it seem emotionally unhealthy?

    “I think we are bonding just fine with cuddle-time, and play-time, and bath-time, and swim-time, and singing-time, and book-time, and bubble-time, and music-time, etc.”

    Ok.

    “Show me credible medical case studies on the super-benefits of breastfeeding past the age of 18-mo’s and I might be persuaded to at least understand.”

    Really? Did you use credible medical evidence to make your decision not to breastfeed for an extended period of time?

  2. Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when the cause has disappeared.

    Let it go, Kim.

  3. “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when the cause has disappeared.”

    Interesting. I am being labelled a fanatic. A fanatic about what? I haven’t taken a side on the issue so I must not be fanatical about breastfeeding. Must be the fanaticism I display when trying to get people to substantiate comments made. I also fail to see how I am redoubling any efforts seeing as I just barely joined in the discussion.

    Actually, annegb, it is you who needs to define it. You are the one who used the phrase. You are the one who stated that extended breastfeeding doesn’t seem emotionally healthy. I simply asked why you thought that.

  4. There are no “super-benefits” to breast-feeding “later,” as far as I can tell. Nor are mothers who decide not to depriving their children in any way.

    But mothers who decide to do this are also not off their rockers. They are also sane, intelligent people who have their own reasons for nursing “later”. One such woman happens to be one I love dearly.

    Let’s cut each other a break.

  5. :) Kim, I really thought you were just playing with my head, trying to keep the thread going. I was going along. I thought you were trying for 300, I didn’t know you really cared. How funny.

    I don’t care who nurses who for how long, really.

  6. Nope, Kim may SEEM to play with people, but he really doesn’t. He feels people (on both sides of each issue) should always back up claims with substantial evidence (he expects this of me as well). He doesn’t take his own opinions into this either, when asking others to back up their claims.

  7. Hmmm…I love it when you guys post in each other’s names. and talk to each other on the blog.

    Well, let me see, Kim, you were serious. Hmmm…I wasn’t, entirely. But if I were, well, why bother to teach our kids to walk and talk and potty train them? Aren’t these things all rites of passage, the necessary part of growing up? Would not a three year old who didn’t walk, or talk, or wasn’t potty trained seem emotionally immature? I think it’s all part of the same growing process.

    I still don’t really care, though, nor do I have an informed opinion, just an opinion that makes sense to me.

    You didn’t answer my question, would you let your three year old have a bottle? Would you hold your three year old to feed them that bottle?

    And if it’s about strengthening and maintaining the maternal bond, why stop at all? Why aren’t you still nursing?

  8. Annegb,

    there are other reasons too which are completely subjective to the mother who decides to nurse at the age of 3. I think the defensiveness is because society refuses to respect the individual choice of a mother to do what she feels is best for her child (within the realm of decency, of course) and mothers who nurse past a certain age are harangued with all sorts of undue criticism and nastiness, as we have seen in these comments. So they respond like someone who has been cornered by nastiness is apt to respond.

  9. Now, if I was/were Kim, I might say, what certain age?

    I didn’t see or feel any nastiness. I actually thought this was a very cordial discussion.

  10. “why bother to teach our kids to walk and talk and potty train them? Aren’t these things all rites of passage, the necessary part of growing up? Would not a three year old who didn’t walk, or talk, or wasn’t potty trained seem emotionally immature?”

    While walking and talking are learned behaviours, they are not explicitly taught. I’m not sure what emotions have to do with potty training, so no it doesn’t seem emotionally immature when a three-year-old is not potty trained. Besides, potty training is not the only way to determine a child’s maturity. A child could be three and not potty trained yet excel at vocabulary and social skills, for example.

    “would you let your three year old have a bottle?”

    No. A bottle is nothing more than a feeding instrument. By three, a child can drink from a cup and eat off a plate.

    “if it’s about strengthening and maintaining the maternal bond, why stop at all?”

    From what I have seen, mothers who breastfeed for an extended period of time stop because the child has weaned himself/herself.

    “Why aren’t you still nursing?”

    Because I was hospitalised as an infant for malnutrition due to severe food allergies. It didn’t help that my mother was barely 17.

  11. Our children have never had a bottle (not that I am against them entirely, just don’t see the need for them).

    And as Kim mentioned, his mother stopped nursing him at one month and there was no formula that he could handle. He kept failing because of this. By then it was too late for his mother to nurse him of course (milk all gone) and it was his grandmother who saved his life by giving him goat’s milk, the only thing his body could handle and absorb by that point.

  12. annegb- no nastiness here. I was referring to the way my wife has been treated when people find out she nurses “later” in the REAL world.

    People who nurse “later” are cornered by nastiness in the real world, so they respond defensively in the virtual one.

  13. So what nerve did I strike with you, Kim, that this seems so important to you?

    I’ve never known anybody personally who nursed for extended periods, I’ve never been personally offended by anybody who nursed, I’ve never cared one way or the other. I wish I could have nursed longer, but I wasn’t good at it, but I don’t mourn it, either. That’s just the way it was.

    If I haven’t convinced you that it is not emotionally healthy for children to nurse beyond the age of three, neither have you convinced me that it is. I equate weaning with those milestones of progression such as potty training (and I do think that the average three year old should be potty trained, my grandson just barely got potty trained, he’s six, he’s immature), walking, and talking.

    If it is neither healthy, nor unhealthy, what does it matter?

    Except for those who have been treated badly like Jordan’s wife. No one in my ward was openly nasty to the woman who persisted in nursing openly and nakedly in Sunday School, but she was an object of ridicule for her lack of discretion. And she did really cause discomfort to a few people, like that young girl who was trying very hard not to stare.

    It didn’t bother most of us, there were a vocal few who said things, and I guess the bishop or somebody asked her to stop it. I don’t really know. I have defended her, but she is her own worst enemy in many areas and continues to bother others. Which is something I’m familiar with myself.

    And Kim, I’m sorry you were sick as a child (I was barely 18 when I had my first child, so I sympathize with your mom, that’s so young), but really, that is not why you aren’t still nursing, I figured you’d ask me something smart aleck like, “how do you know I’m not?” We all gotta stop sometime.

    I’m truly sorry for somehow inadvertantly touching a nerve in you. It wasn’t my intent.

  14. “So what nerve did I strike with you”

    None. I don’t know why you think you have struck a nerve with me.

    “If I haven’t convinced you that it is not emotionally healthy for children to nurse beyond the age of three, neither have you convinced me that it is”

    That’s not surprising. I wasn’t trying to convince you that it was. I was trying to get you to clarify your claims.

    “that is not why you aren’t still nursing”

    Technically, it is. After I was hospitalised, I never breastfed again.

  15. I can’t believe this it the third-most-viewed post on this site. Wow.

  16. We’re quite a lactive bunch. And good thing too- wouldn’t want to be inlactive.

  17. Mary Siever- I’ve said it before, and I see it still…a tower of strength.
    You are right on target about it is the needs of the babies that matter. And for the record, the women I’ve known who breastfed (including myself, 4 times, nearly 10 years!) are just as modest and discreet in the U.S. As for why anyone would want to continue to nurse an older child…well, cow milk is for cows, human milk is for humans. I used to express my milk to give to older kids when the cultural forces became too hard to deal with, and would serve that in a cup to my two-year olds. Cow milk causes allergies and worse to many if not most kids…. Thanks, Mary, for your courage!

  18. “A man who tried to conduct a job interview naked has been sentenced to three years’ probation and placed on the sex offenders’ register.
    Glasgow Sheriff Court was told that Saeed Akbar, a manager at an interpreting and translation company, “had wanted a bit of excitement”.
    Sheriff Brian Lockhart described the behaviour as “wholly unacceptable”.
    Akbar, 35, left the interview room and came back in to speak to his female victim naked and clutching a clipboard.

    When the job candidate refused to strip as well, he put his clothes on and attempted to continue the interview as normal, the court was told.
    Akbar, from Fife, said: “I wanted a bit of excitement that afternoon, that’s purely all it was.”

    Passing sentence, Sheriff Lockhart said Akbar’s partner had now left him, he had lost his job and his friends refused to associate with him.”

    He must have been a “Naktivist”. But what is more natural than to parade around in the altogether?

  19. El Jefe, huh? Where do you come up with these psuedonyms? I’m going to come to you when I decide to go incognito, get a fake passport and live in the Bahamas as an eccentric older woman.

  20. Some guys on the radio yesterday were talking about a related subject. If a dad is holding his baby and the mom is not around, and the baby begins to suckle, should the dad stop the baby or is this OK? And, of course, to relate it to this thread, what if you saw this in a public place?

  21. OY this is hurting my brain by this point. My only comment about nursing older children – maybe its financial? My brother served his mission in the heart of the Amazon and used to always say it was common and normal for a 5 year old to still be breast fed. I think I’m with whomever it was earlier that said “if he can ask for it, he shouldn’t be able to have it” My other thought – as a woman – how can you deal with leaky boobs for 3 years! yuck!

    This discussion of older children nursing reminds me of a King of Queens episode I saw a week or so ago. (huge fan) Carrie (a legal secretary looking to replace the owner of the company’s secretary who is leaving soon) offers to babysit the “bosses” nephew in hopes to make a good impression. Come to find out, every 5 minutes the boy grabs her breasts and gives them a squeeze, which makes her feel violated and frazzled by the end of the day. She finds out near the end of the episode that the nephew has asked his uncle (the owner of the law firm) to replace Carrie with a younger more endowed woman (with HUGE breasts) It’s hilarious really, but makes a good point that there’s a time to stop the childs familiarity with Mommies boobs – or anyone else’s as the case may be. How do you teach a 4 year old about private areas of the body when he/she is still sucking at the nipple? It doesn’t seem possible to me.

  22. Continuing this thread- I just want to clarify… :)

    Look- I’m sorry I said anything about nursing older children. By older, I just meant over the age of 1. I knew already what a misunderstood practice it was, and the comments here just confirm that the practice truly is widely misunderstood.

    The reasons for doing this differ from mother to mother. It’s not usually about the money. In fact, I don’t think it saves any money at all since older children who nurse DO NOT depend on nursing as their main sustenance- they nurse on top of eating all the “regular” food you can throw at them. It’s not always about bonding. Parents find myriad ways of bonding for their children for life, which may or may not include nursing longer than 1 year. It’s not always about health, although I could go on and on about how I feel we have been duped by the dairy industry into elevating cow’s milk to extremely loftier health heights than it deserves.

    As far as teaching an older child, there is no reason why a child can’t comprehend that the breast it uses to feed is a “private” part, if someone truly is still nursing a 4 year old (not at all what I had in mind by “older” children- I was thinking more along the lines of a 2 year old not quite 3 yet or generally kids older than 1). Does Emily’s line of thinking lead to the idea that it would not be OK to nurse your baby in front of older siblings, something that in the confines of a home often has to happen?

    Such misunderstandings and near ridicule for mothers who nurse “older” children (meaning older than 1) was the reason I was complaining in the first place that women who do nurse “older” (meaning older than 1) children need to keep the practice secret. I regret having brought it up- we’ll go back underground. Luckily, nobody in my ward (save ES, since he reads this)knows the (in Amber Stone’s words) “horrifying” secret that my wife nursed her last child until the child was 25 months old (she started weaning our “older” daughter cold-turkey yesterday to divert the nutrition used for her to the new life growing within my wife- it’s been very sad but part of life…)

    With every child my wife has weaned, she has had a good cry because she loves nursing them and it is something she misses dearly when the time is gone (always when the “older” child is between 18-25 months old).

    I suppose I’m glad to have provided some amusement in a King of Queens vein with our spectacle of nursing “older” children, and I’m sorry for the horror and disgust it has also generated.

  23. Jordan,

    I guess it’s good you didn’t have a 6-year-gap between your kids like I did. ;-)

    Come on, people, the only way we’re going to get this post to be the number one most-viewed post is if people start responding to my question about the appropriateness of men letting babies suck their nipples. A discussion, which, by the way, I think could only elevate the level of discourse for this post. :-)

  24. Jordan – I had no idea there were people that enjoy nursing so much that they have a hard time letting it go. I think you definately go too far to say it’s generated “horror and disgust.” I’ll be honest with you and say I think its weird, but its not my place to tell anyone else what’s right for them and if its such a special thing for your wife – who cares? (people who would comment on it to you are the same type who stick their noses into everyone’s business anyway) As far as allowing older children to see Mommy nursing, I think that if you CAN avoid it – try – to teach your children again that this is a private thing.
    Kim – what I mean is that if your child is old enough to talk, they’re old enough to eat for themselves as well, so should be weaned at that point.
    This is my last post on this topic since the conversation is really going no where new at this point, and Eric, letting baby suck on a male nipple is just wrong.

  25. Emily,

    “letting baby suck on a male nipple is just wrong.”

    So why DID God give men nipples anyway? Seems we’d be just as well off without them.

    I suppose this may fall under the “mysteries” that should best be left alone.

  26. Eric, men have nipples because all babies start out as females (not at the chromosome level, of course). The primary sexual organs develop later when variations in hormones bring about physiological change in the fetus. Thus, both genders have nipples.

  27. This thread really is getting weird. So here is my contribution. In one of my favorite quotes from the movie Time Bandits, Evil (played by David Warner) monologues:

    God isn’t interested in technology. He knows nothing of the potential of the microchip or the silicon revolution. Look how he spends his time:

    Forty-three species of parrot!
    Nipples for men!
    Slugs!!

    He created slugs. They can’t hear! They can’t speak! They can’t operate machinery! I mean, are we not in the hands of a lunatic? If I were creating a world, I wouldn’t mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o’clock, day one!

    (emphasis mine)

  28. Kim, could you define the term “determining factor” for me? I’m not clear what you mean.

    There’s a really funnny comercial about fat people where a baby latches onto his dad’s nipple, anybody seen it?

  29. From Instapundit:

    U2 frontman BONO was horrified during a visit to Ethiopia, when he saw local women pelting a breast-feeding aid worker with stones.

    The American woman was oblivious of the offence she was causing, and had to escape the angry onslaught from female Muslims who had no qualms about injuring her or her baby.

    Bono: “She didn’t mean to be insensitive.” But they did.

  30. If I heard someone complain about the chair in the nursing area being ugly, I’d have to walk away. Church buildings serve a utilitarian purpose. They’re not decorated by Pottery Barn. I agree that it is better to have a private room truly separate from the bathrooms. Hopefully this will be taken into consideration as new chapels are built. Some wards are making do when a room is available to use.

    As for the public issue, breastfeeding is about nourishment and the connection between a mother and child as a result of it. Generally, people don’t care as long as there’s a blanket over the child and breast. The reality is,you’re going to draw attention if you don’t have a blanket. Even some if you do. And if you do have a blanket, is that really fair to the baby? How would you like if it someone threw a blanket over you while you had dinner?

    A lot of women breastfeed in private without it having a single thing to with the “right” to do it. It has to do with sharing a tender bonding moment without distraction. It’s about a connection, not a cause.

  31. annegb ,

    I mean a factor that determines, as in “if he can ask for it, he shouldn’t be able to have it” being a factor that determines when to stop nursing a child.

  32. Hey Elisabeth,
    good post! It’s funny that you say that about not noticing people nursing in the ward. I can think of one who sat in the front row, with no blanket, and gave the bishopric quite a show! I have nursed in sacrament before, but it is stressful. A certain bishop’s wife has nursed in sacrament as well, and I have had quite an eye-full sitting behind her. It’s weird…I do it, but it kind of bugs me when others do it. I know that is so hypocritical. I think that it is because the breast is so attention-grabbing. It is why men and babies are so drawn to it. So when I see one, it diverts my attention from whatever I was doing. It is why I don’t like nudity in movies- it diverts from the plot and two scenes later I still have boobs on the mind. And I don’t know why I call them boobs. I love the sound of it. I call all reproductive parts by thier real name (I think that I am permanently scarred by having a mother who made up wierd names for them) but I can’t shake the boob thing. Anyways…it’s fun to chat. I’ll make sure to wave to you the next time I nurse in sacrament!! :)

  33. Well now… Ive been reading through this lovly argument and I have a few comments to make..

    1) Breast feeding is breastfeeding, there is no real big deal there, babies have been nursing since Eve figured out what they’re for, and the fact that people are having a problem with it now just goes to show exactly how far peoples minds are distracted from the important issues such as raising wholesome families by using their children as ammunition for pointless causes.

    2) I think the main reason most men are facinated with breasts is simply, we do not have them and we are almost never really exposed to them. Im not saying that women should walk around topless or immodesty, but from my experience, it is simple curiosity that draws guys attention, not neccesary a perverse or even sexual motive.

  34. As a mother of a five month old who is nursing I feel I have something to add to this discussion. I’ll agree that showing a lot of skin is inappropriate. But I also think that it is inconsistent for us to claim to revere motherhood, and say that the work women do in raising children is among the most righteous and important work to be done on the earth while at the same time saying that it is rude for a mother to want to feed her baby while she attends church and stays in the meetings. During the first few months of caring for my baby, the time I spent at church was often the only time I was able to have conversations with other adults (not including my husband) and other than trips to the grocery store, it was the only time I left the house. Listening to the lessons and talks was of paramount importance to me. Being in the chapel was the only way I could get the sacrament. But I was shy and retired to the mothers lounge, a smelly uncomfortable room directly connected to the bathroom. I missed the sacrament more than I should have because of that. Being the only mother in the lounge (we live in an elderly ward) I felt cut off from the ward and removed from my husband. My baby hated bottles, even when they were filled with my milk, and trying to prepare them for church was more work than I had energy for. I remember looking with unmitigated envy at a woman blissfully holding a bottle in her baby’s mouth while listening to the lesson in SS.
    To me it’s not about breasts. There are women who nurse their babies without showing *anything* blanket or no blanket. Nor is it really about the baby, the baby doesn’t care where it is fed as long as it isn’t uncomfortable. To me it’s about the mothers. I think we need to put up with, and dutifully ignore, the more brazen and ‘flashy’ mothers so that the shy mothers don’t feel bound to cut themselves off from one of their most important resources in the name of ‘modesty.’ I can assure you most of those mothers are more terrified of you seeing their breasts than you are. The fact is I needed church, I needed to physically be in the meetings, I needed to talk to the people around me, but I left to nurse my baby. If I had ever seen someone nurse a baby in sacrament meeting I wouldn’t have done that to myself.

  35. YES! The Lactivist thread continues. Enough time has now passed that the “new life” referenced by me in #224 is just about ready to be born now! :)

    What’s more interesting to me now than anything else in this thread is that the Bannergate crew posted here, meaning that I guess I can assume that everyone at M* knew who they were back then!

    Interesting…

  36. Jordan – I was KICKING myself when I went back through these comments that I completely missed that DKL and Miranda were posting from the same IP address. I had no idea in August that had I stumbled across that piece of information, I would have hit the jackpot, but, alas, I didn’t know the true origin of DKL and Miranda until much later.

  37. Really, now. Is there anything that could be said on this topic that hasn’t already been said? Of course, I support any posts that will help dethrone Mormon Face from top dog on the most-viewed threads list, so maybe reviving this thread wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

  38. Kim, why should the ability to ask for it have anything to do with whether or not the kid gets it? I know people who teach their nine-month olds how to ask for things with sign language– does that then mean they’re too old to nurse? And why, in a thread decrying the artificial restraints put on a natural act, would anyone want to support such an idea? So the kid can ask for it. So what? Other than potentially causing Mom to blush a bit, what harm is there? Heck, I think most people would be relieved to have a need that their kid can clearly ask for and they can easily provide. If you’re embarassed by your child coming up and asking for “the boob,” then teach them to say something else! “Mama, I want to nurse,” is clear without being shocking.

  39. SOLUTIONS:

    *Pipe the A/V sound into one of the classrooms and label the door MOTHER’s Lounge. (Our ward has done this.)

    *Stop the bathroom lounges. Would you want to eat your lunch in a bathroom? I didn’t think so. ewwww!

    *Some churches have a one-way mirrored room overlooking the chapel with a/v sound piped in for a mother’s lounge. It’s for nursing moms and YOUNG toddlers who are too squirmey for SM.

    *What about a closed-circut TV or webcam in the mother’s lounge so we can see the speaker?

    *Be respectful of moms. Are we just giving lip service on mother’s day and when we gloat on how glorious motherhood is? If not, then give them A/V sound in a private classroom with comfy accomodations. Give them ANYTHING they need to help them feel welcome and comfortable. That includes not staring in SM and not making comments to nursing mothers about it either. This probably necessitates someone in RS telling the elderly sisters not to harp on the younger generation who nurse in SM/RS. (Speaking from experience, the elderly matriarchs are the ones who will criticize ya, not the EQ or HP. We’re probably preaching to the choir, as most ‘anti’ nursing folks aren’t bloggers.)

    * Let moms do what they need to do where they are most comfortable doing it. Give them several options.

  40. *I like the idea of OPTIONS.

    If I’m not going to be able to nurse in church, I’m not going to be there for 3 hours while my kid SCREAMS from HUNGER. (Although I think from the sound of our ward, this is a popular choice.)

    I’m not going to nurse in a toilet.

    I’m not going to put up with old bags or grumpy old men being condescending either.

    I can stay at home!!!!

    Solution: Welcome everybody back to church and start providing for the moms!

  41. It’s time that RS presidents and primary presidents offer ideas and help!

    In a patriarchal church, things like this can be overlooked. It is very important that councils listen and support the auxillary leaders, who will have solutions and leadership in helping everyone accept change their attitudes and find the resources they need to be happy and comfortable in attending ANY meeting, but especially a 3 hr block.

  42. Very interesting thread. I read almost all of it this morning.

    What I’ve come away with is this:

    The ideal scenario in meeting places or worship gatherings is to have a nice, comfortable room devoted exclusively to “nursing” mothers, their infants and their toddlers.

    Perhaps a changing area off to the side in a mother’s nursing room wouldn’t be as offensive since the odor of exclusively breatfed babies’ diapers is entirely different from formula fed or solid food fed babies.

    Or, there could be a room/bathroom area for changing that is conveniently located near the nursing mothers’ room.

    One poster mentioned having speakers piped in so that the mothers who didn’t want to miss what was being said could continue listening. Everything that he did to accomodate nursing mothers is to be commended. But the social aspect of a mother’s nursing area is also appealing and quiet talking should be permitted for mothers who would like to converse while nursing.

    If there is no way to comfortably accomodate nursing mothers and their infants and toddlers, the mother simply has no choice but to remain where she is and discreetly feed her baby. If a mother is sensitive to her infant, she will be able in most cases to latch the baby on before the baby makes a fuss and thus as Mary said, no one may be the wiser. Taking out bottles, shaking them or mixing formula inside a “sanctuary” as I’ve seen done before is certainly more distracting than quietly latching a child onto a breast. The noise factor is still there with bottles. But because bottles were the norm in the U.S. for so long, most people don’t notice the noise a baby makes while sucking on a bottle the way they may with a nursling.

    I kept hearing baby blankets being mentioned for cover but didn’t find anyone suggesting a baby sling. A baby sling is an ideal way to discreetly nurse anywhere in public.

    As for me, I like the idea of a homey and comfortable room where my children and I can be with other mothers and their babies and relax the homier and more accomodating the better. Cold water, a small fridge where mothers can place snacks, a fruit basket, little ammenities like this can make mothers feel as special as they are : )

    Sincerely I pray,

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