Saturday, June 26, 2010

Breastfeeding and the LDS Church

Since I started sharing my Red Robin incident I've received a few comments about my "modesty issues". It's been said before, but I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. Modesty is a big thing for us. The guideline is to wear clothes that cover your legs to the knee, cover your midriff, cover your shoulders, and have a modest neckline.

Some have felt that because my breast was showing while nursing meant I was breaking the LDS Church's standard of modesty, meaning it was somewhat sinful.

So this is what the LDS Church has to say on the matter:

"Mother’s Milk Is Usually Best for Small Babies

Our Heavenly Father made the mother’s body so it could produce milk. This milk is made especially for human babies to drink. It is better for babies than milk from animals. The first fluid that comes from the mother’s breasts after a new baby is born is also important. It contains substances that help protect the baby from diseases for the first few months.

Sometimes for health reasons a mother cannot breast-feed her baby. Milk from cows or goats or prepared formulas can also be used, but the mother must take greater care to keep the milk sanitary. A mother should breast-feed her baby if she can. The mother’s diet influences how much milk she produces for the baby. A mother who eats enough good foods and drinks enough water can usually produce enough milk for her baby."

Annnd, that's it. The LDS Church has taken no official stance on HOW breastfeeding is to take place, just that they encourage that it happens.

Now the LDS Church has a lot of wonderful things to say about modesty, but I want to focus on what it says about situational modesty (found at the bottom of the link):

“Are Latter-day Saint girls exempt from standards of modesty in dress while they are performing in marching or cheerleading groups?”

Marilyn Arnold, “Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Feb. 1975, 10

Answer/Sister Marilyn Arnold

My first reaction to this question is to ask another question: Are we, can we ever be, exempt from Church standards, whether in dress or behavior? Can we expect the Lord to bend his principles or put them aside for certain occasions? I think the answer has to be no to the general question, but there are some aspects of the specific question about marchers and cheerleaders that we need to examine. For example, does adherence to LDS standards mean a girl in a marching group has to wear a knee-length costume? Perhaps the answer to this question can also be suggested by another question: Should an LDS girl wear a knee-length bathing suit when she goes swimming or a turtleneck gown to a dance? Is a ballerina immodest if she performs in standard ballet attire? Modesty in dress is at least partly dependent upon the appropriateness of a particular costume to the occasion or activity for which it is worn. What is appropriate and modest for one activity may not be for another. We have to exercise judgment and make every effort to obey the spirit of the law.

A shorter-than-knee-length skirt can be appropriate for a marching group or for cheerleaders. But even so, the costume need not be immodest. In fact, a Latter-day Saint girl who is a member of such a group can be a strong voice in the choice of costumes. And she should speak up, insisting that the costume be in good taste, appropriate, and modest. Marchers and cheerleaders are in a very real sense on display. I am sure there is no relationship between the brevity of costume and the excellence of a performance. If her performing group, over her protests, selects an immodest (and hence, inappropriate) costume, a Latter-day Saint girl should most certainly choose in favor of the eternal principle."

You can have situational modesty during swimming, professional dancing and sports, doctor's visits, and birth.


The following is MY opinion based of the information given to me. It is NOT the view of the LDS Church. If you have any fault with what I'm going to say it is MY fault and not the Church's.


I feel that breastfeeding in public is a situational modesty issue. I don't walk around with my breasts hanging out, but if my baby is hungry I will feed my baby the best way I see fit. I will strive to be discreet in most situations but if I cannot be 100% discreet I don't worry about it because of the situation I'm in.

So, let's talk about this. How do other LDS members feel? How do other of not our faith feel?

All of those LDS members who will be posting, please remember to NOT talk about things that we're not supposed to talk about. If you bring up sacred things I will delete your comment. This discussion can be had without bringing up those things we hold sacred.


  1. Krista I agree 100% with your post.

    discreet and modest breastfeeding is right, and perhaps not even applicable to situational modesty being that it is discreet and modest.

    Please give examples of discreet and modest feeding techniques

  2. I agree, Krista. I've often wondered the church's stance on dance/cheerleading attire. Thanks for posting that.
    Maryanne~there are women in my ward that nurse their babies without covering up. They pull their shirts up, and nurse their babies that way. The babies body/head covers most of the breast, and what is left she can cover up with her shirt. Of course, this is in the mother's room, and we have nice comfy chairs in there with armrests, so her side/back are usually out of view.

  3. I am in agreement with what you have posted. The church does not take an official stance on breastfeeding, I feel because the leaders must know that LDS women know how to remain modest and still feed their children.
    I do not think there is anything wrong with how you feed yor children Krista. Anyone who feels they need to judge you for what works for your children's comfort while they nurse is just wrong. There is no defending the rude remarks that have come your way and I hope you know that you are a wonderful mom, woman and all around person.

  4. Ok so here's the rub for me, and let me start by saying I am NOT LDS. I don't think that God would want us to be ashamed of or feel the need to hide His perfect way to feed our children.
    I think that in general modesty "rules" are subjective to the situation and a bit of common sense needs to be used as well.
    The last thing that should happen is a baby go hungry because of some one else's discomfort.

  5. Personally, in view of what I have read of LDS guidelines for modesty, which are actually rather vague, can be interpreted to be that modesty in breastfeeding is the exposure of the least amount of skin necessary to accomplish the task. There is nothing further on the subject, leaving it up to the individual.

    If this means accessing the breast via the neckline of a blouse, then that is fine. After all, pulling up a blouse exposes significantly more skin than accessing the breast through the neckline.

    Ultimately however the interpretation of these guidelines is up to the individual doing the breastfeeding, and they will define it per their own personal comfort level and what they feel is appropriate for the situation.

    However, humans being human, somebody will inevitably find something wrong with this interpretation, and people will gossip about it rather than directly approaching the person doing the breastfeeding. Inevitably somebody will approach the person, telling them that they feel that they may be being less than modest, and advise that they seek counsel on the matter on whether or not they are being modest. Personally, I feel that those who have the problem should seek that counsel rather than the other way around. After all, I can virtually guarantee that the person doing the nursing has given a lot of thought to how they are nursing in the first place, and will likely have researched the church's position on breastfeeding, and made their choices based upon what they found. The person who is uncomfortable with this interpretation of modesty is the one who should get clarification from leadership regarding their own position before ever suggesting to the nursing mother that she needs to seek counsel.

  6. Krista, it is a hard thing to say whether it is a modesty issue. It should be a personal choice. I think we may say it is a situational thing. However, we should try not to expose ourselves. Because it is a very public place, there are all sorts of people there. Who knows? I wouldn't want some psycho seeing my breats. You do not know what you could be encouraging.

  7. By-the-way, I am using my husband's name for the link

  8. Krista, i think everything you said was well put. And i agree a lot with what Jeff said. I love you hunny!

  9. I'm not a Mormon, but alot of my cousins are. I grew up a Jehovah's Witness, and similar standards of modesty apply. Luckily at the Kingdom Halls there are parents & babies rooms for us to breastfeed in private. I'm unsure whether you have that or not, I've never been inside a Mormon ((temple?)) place of worship before.

    Also, there are ways to cover yourself if you are in public. I think the difference is that when I had Vincent, my breasts stopped being a sexual object and started becoming a feeding station! I didn't care about who did or didn't see my breasts, I didn't walk around with them hanging out, but if Vincent was hungry + inconsolable on the bus, I'd feed him. What would others rather? A screaming baby or a breastfed baby they can easily not look at?

    ((I had to lol so hard at your comment on your post. I love word verification!))

  10. In my exploration of other blogs i discovered this post from a fellow breastfeeding mother who shares our views, i think you will enjoy it greatly! She talks about breastfeeding and the LDS church :)

  11. If it distracts from the service, then it should be removed. That applies to flowers, people wearing excessive perfume that may cause allergic people to be sick, a crying/arguing/loud child and yes, breastfeeding. There is the mother's room, it has a feed so you can hear things, if those are not available then sitting in the back where it should be less distracting or doing what you can to keep it less distracting seems wise.

    If the Ward isn't distracted by it, then I would say it's fine to breastfeed right then and there. But in most places... I can't see that. It would be distracting from the reason we're there, to worship Christ.

  12. I have been battling with this for a long time now. I am on my third baby. She is now at the age where she does not allow me to cover her up. I find myself not really wanting to go to church anymore because I get nothing out of it because I end up in the Mother's room the whole time. I can hear Sacrament in there, but nothing else. And since the mother's room is off the women's bathroom, my husband can't come in to sit with me or anything. So I end up all alone. There are not many babies in our ward right now. I have never seen anyone nurse outside of the Mother's room in this ward. However, if I were able to nurse my little monkey around others, I would be able to actually get something out of church for a change. I suppose I should talk to the bishop about it. Oddly enough, I am more comfortable BF'ing around total strangers than I am Bf'ing around my inlaws or fellow ward members. :( Way too many passive-aggressive people around me!

    1. Talking with other moms or my kindle help time pass more quickly.

  13. Mama Monkey, I love your comment! I totally understand how you feel about feeling like you miss all of church if you have to go to the mother's room and nurse. That's exactly why I feel we don't HAVE to go to the mother's room if don't want to or more importantly if we want to hear the lesson in sunday school or relief society. This is so wonderful to address. I think it's an ignored topic and I love that the church is pro-breastfeeding and I don't think we as women need to feel shamed for doing it around others at church whether we choose to cover or not.