World Breastfeeding Week has just ended, we are in the middle of National Breastfeeding Month, and I feel like I've been boob-deep in lactivist reading. Oops—did my use of the word boob bother you? If so, then you might not want to watch this video, which features women (including mini-celebrities Ali Landry, Kelly Rutherford, and Lisa Loeb) tossing off euphemisms for breasts at the camera in celebration of their own breast-feeding experiences. The Bump, a community website geared toward new moms, created the video as a pro-breastfeeding public service announcement, part of their "Join the Boob-olution!" campaign.
I love the video.
Before becoming a mother, I was squeamish when it came to words for body parts. I didn't like the word breast even when it was applied to chicken, while some of the other ones were downright un-utterable by me. It just seemed so immodest to say them out loud. Good girls don't talk about their dirty pillows, right?
Giving birth and then breast-feeding lowered some of my inhibitions, and now that I'm a certified breastfeeding counselor training to be an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), I can say pretty much any anatomical word without blushing. But I recognize that Christians and non-Christians alike maintain a great deal of squeamishness about women's bodies, and that posting the video on Facebook (as I did last week) might be seen as vulgar.
The women in the video are using words that are appear in our culture solely to sexualize women's bodies. That sin has become an obstacle that prevents many women from breastfeeding. Why should babies pay for the wrongs of their fathers and mothers? I applaud The Bump and its campaign for reclaiming breasts for babies by reminding us that the shock value of anatomical language can have the power to convict.
I'm all for the push-back against our unchaste, sexually perverse culture. I hope to raise my daughters to want something more out of life than Mardi Gras beads and thong underwear. And part of this means teaching them about the beauty of God's design of the female body, breasts and all.
At the risk of sounding crass, in order to breastfeed, a woman is going to have to be comfortable with words like nipple, suck, and erect. There is nothing wrong with these words, but a pious Christian woman might feel shame in saying them, because in our culture, their connotation is predominantly sexual. That shame gets misapplied to breastfeeding, making it something that's considered private, something that should happen only behind closed doors—in other words, like sex.
But while breastfeeding is an integral part of a woman's sexuality, there is nothing perverse about it. Far from it. In fact, of all the aspects of motherhood, from ovulation to intercourse to pregnancy to birth to lactation, breastfeeding is the only one with a true communal aspect. A mother learns to breastfeed by watching other mothers and by getting hands-on help. Because breastfeeding can't be scheduled without impacting the mother's milk supply or having potentially detrimental effects on a baby's growth, unless a nursing mother never leaves the house she will inevitably find herself in public with a hungry baby. God's design for lactation makes nursing at the breast the easiest, fastest way to soothe a crying baby. God has even made the physics of nursing modest, because the baby covers the nursing mother more than adequately.
Some in Christian circles argue that nursing represents a challenge to the "weaker brother" (Rom. 14), meaning a man who would be tempted to lust if a woman's breasts became uncovered at some point while nursing. To this, I would argue that it's much easier to teach men to look away than it is to teach a baby to wait until later to eat. If Christians think nursing is sexual and therefore private, then they should consider that they are sexualizing a nursing baby. Allowing our sick culture to prevent babies from eating the food created for them isn't something we should tolerate. And that fight starts by helping women—especially modest, godly women—to be comfortable with their breasts, both in word and function.
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