Written in response to this.
To the leadership of the LDS Church,
I am a born and raised member of the LDS Church. My mother wasn’t able to breastfeed me, and I don’t have many memories of women breastfeeding around me when I was young. In 2006 I had a breast reduction, and when they asked me if breastfeeding was important to me I said it wasn’t really, because I didn’t know anything about it. I had no strong examples of breastfeeding women to want to emulate. Growing up in the LDS Church I was consistently told that motherhood was my most important role in life, but I knew nothing about how the act of feeding my baby from my own body, or how much I would want to make breastfeeding work once I had children of my own.
In 2010 I gave birth to our first child, a son. I poured all of my time and energy into trying to make nursing work, but after three weeks I decided it wasn’t going to work and switched to formula. I was devastated, and believe I missed out on crucial bonding opportunities with him. I am grateful for the women in my life, like my visiting teacher who loaned me a breast pump so I wouldn’t have to figure out where to rent or buy one, who helped me through that difficult time.
In February of 2013 our second child, a daughter, was born. This time around I have a much stronger support system made up of women with a variety of experiences related to breastfeeding, and though I don’t know how long I will be able to keep up my current schedule of nursing/pumping/formula, it is incredibly reassuring to hear over and over that the challenges I am facing are not unique, and that others have persevered. This culture of support has made feeding my first newborn and feeding my second newborn as different as night and day.
I haven’t been back to church yet but when I do go I want to be in a place that cheers me on for every moment spent trying to feed and bond with her. My husband travels for work on a weekly basis, and sometimes he has to work on Sunday. I don’t even know how I would manage gathering up my 2-year-old and keeping him entertained in the mother’s lounge while I tried to nurse our second. I want my priority to be her and her needs, and I don’t want to spend a single second worrying that I might offend someone who mistakenly believes that there is anything gross, sexual, or inappropriate about feeding my child.
Please make a public statement that encourages the membership of the LDS Church to support women as they attend to the needs of their children. Please revise the Church Handbook of Instructions to make it clear to local leaders that the only appropriate message to give in response to a woman breastfeeding at Church or Church-related activities is “You are a wonderful mother.” Because no matter how a woman feeds her baby, she is doing a beautiful thing