Update to breastfeeding in our parish

The orginal post is here.

You can read a slightly edited and clarified version of the story here, at Nursing Freedom.

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I've read all the comments, all the suggestion and talked to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. I've listened to wise cousel from people who know the DRE and those who don't. I've spoken to my mother, my sister, members of my parish and other nursing, attached mothers. And I came on a course of action.

That is, I did nothing.

I've decided that my strongest response and statement would be a peaceful, nothing-at-all.

It's not that I don't think the DRE's call was over the top. A parent complained and she had the right to let me know of that complaint. I think her concerns are valid and I agree we need to come up with a solution to the "problem."

I DON'T think nursing in a bathroom or in a locked room with the doors shut and the blinds drawn is the answer. I think it sends the wrong message about breastfeeding and what breasts are for.

A friend pointed out to me that these students aren't my children and, "Is it your job to teach them about this?" Well, yes and no. No, I am not their mother and it isn't my primary job to teach them about sexuality, breasts, babies and lactation. That should come from their home life. However, I am their RE teacher and it IS part of my job to be a living example of what they should see. Not only should I teach the faith but I should live it myself. This includes respecting the dignity of human life in ALL its stages.

By feeding my baby and keeping him close to me, I am respecting his need to eat on demand. I am respecting his need to be close to me, his mother. As a tiny baby (at the beginning of the class) his need to nurse and be with a loving caregiver are very real needs, not wants. By giving him this, I am respecting his stage of life.

Being pro-life isn't just about protesting abortion clinics or consuleing women at crisis pregnancy centers. Those are important tasks but they aren't the whole of the pro-life parts. Part of being pro-life, in my opinion, is repecting my children and meeting them at the stages they are at. When I brought Cole to class and fed him, I was doing this.

In junior high RE classes we touch on human sexuality and respecting our bodies. Of course, this information should primarily come from the parents but as an RE teacher, it is my job to re-enforce this idea. One of these concepts is respecting our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit and practing purity and chasity. Our bodies are lovely and wonderful and they are ment to be treasured, not to be used to insite lust in others.

Prevenlant in our society is the idea that breasts are for sexual pleasure only. These kids are 12 and 13 years old and, believe me, they get the idea that breasts can indeed be sexual. But having a basic, non sexual function? Unless someone close to them is breastfeeding or works in the child birth industry (doula, LLL, lactation consultant) they probably aren't exposed to that idea much. What message, then, am I sending them by nursing Cole? I believe that I am telling them that it is okay to nurse in public, that breastfeeding it not shameful or something that needs to be hidden. I am showing them that breasts have a purpose other than selling bras or bodies; they can nourish too. As the mother of a daughter, I want her to know that breasts are for babies and as the teacher of teenage girls, I want to show them, by example, that their bodies are wonderful things that, when the time comes, can feed another human being.

I have changed nothing since the DRE called me and I have contiuned to meet Cole's needs. On days that I directly teach, he stays home. When I don't teach he may come with me, but now that he is 10 months old, mobile and very vocal, he is becoming a distraction. He stays home with my husband. When we go to Mass, I take him to the cry room to nurse and, because of where the cry room is, get a better view of the altar than in certain areas of the church!

When I do other work around the church, I often bring Cole with me. Many times, I am the only other mother there with an infant. When questioned, I simply respond that I am nursing and want the freedom to visit with people as long as I need, without running home to nurse the baby. I have had other mothers express that they wish they had brought their baby but didn't feel comfortable doing so. I often quote my friend, who once told me, "Laura, you can't be a pro-llife Catholic, follow the church's teachings on birth control and not expect there to be babies running around!"

Will bringing my child with me to functions and mothering him in the way that my culture teaches to mother, to feed him in the way God intended- in the way that God Himself made flesh was fed change anything? Not right away. It won't change overnight. But if one other person feel free to bring their young child with them to functions, perhaps someone else will too. A cascade effect could happen and then, yes, over time, things will change. Maybe people will be more comfortable with breastfeeding. Maybe it will become the norm.

Can a little nursing baby really change society?

Well, one did.