25 Feb

An Open Letter to the LDS Leadership Regarding Breastfeeding

Posted by Jenna, Under baby

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

Jenna Andersen

100 Comments


  1. Marissa Scroggins says:

    Beautifully said Jenna!!

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  2. The picture of T1 watching T2 eat makes me a little teary. I’m so looking forward to showing my toddler how breastfeeding works and raising a family of children for whom the process is completely normal. Best of luck and go you for advocating!

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  3. Bravo! I had a reduction in 1998 and stated I was not concerned with breastfeeding in the future. My son was 2 years old at the time. I was 19 when he was born. I breastfed for 6-8 weeks. In 2010, I welcomed my daughter.

    It was a ridiculously rocky and difficult start. For a few months, I had to supplement with donated breastmilk.

    My daughter, likely my last biological child, is 27 months and we are still going strong.

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  4. Preach it! :) Although I breastfeed my son wherever I want at church (we’re LDS too)… by the time you get to your third you don’t care. I’ve nursed in sacrament meeting, Sunday school, relief society, the foyer, and the mothers room. But my biggest reason for not wanting to nurse in the mother’s room is the POOPY DIAPERS. Our building is old so there’s no where to change diapers in the bathroom, so everyone does it in the mother’s room. And when you have 1:00 church you have the entire day’s worth of poopy diapers just festering in there. I tried to nurse in there at first but there is only so much diaper smell you can handle. And this is probably bad, but whenever I nurse on the nice comfy couches in the foyer I get satisfaction from seeing the older men in the ward look uncomfortable. I guess I should point out I always use a cover so you can’t see ANYTHING, so yup, not sorry at all. (and I use a cover because I’m too small chested for nursing bras so I have to use normal bras, which means to get boob access I have to push everything up out of the way, which exposes my muffin top and garments. I’m not comfortable with the world seeing my backside so I cover it all up)

    Oh, and if I do need to leave sacrament meeting with the baby when my husband’s gone (he’s in the military so he’s gone a lot) I ask a nearby YW or YM to sit with my kids while I’m gone. It works out great (and I’m pretty sure my boys prefer sitting with them than me).

    Reply

    Jessica Reply:

    Wow, someone’s touchy about the subject… I don’t interpret TW’s post as “I want to be supported for breastfeeding.” Especially given the FMH post, this is more about the Mormon church welcoming breastfeeding.

    You’re saying: “I’ve always had a great experience, so everyone who has not had a great experience is a liar wanting to generate fake drama.” (note, as a bonus, that this logic also works great in more serious cases, like child abuse)

    I would say: “The way the Mormon church is structured, some people are going to have good experience – if they have good bishops – some people are going to have a bad experience – maybe they don’t have good bishops – and the church could just come out and support breastfeeding and then everyone would have a good experience.” Problem solved.

    Reply

    Emilia Reply:

    Except she DID say she wants to be cheered on and told she’s a wonderful mother.

    While I don’t doubt that the Church could be more supportive, this does sound a lot like she’s trying to shift the blame. These were her children. A dirty look by a stranger in church never stopped anybody from breastfeeding if they wanted to.

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    Mungagungadin Reply:

    It is only blame-shifting if someone did not encourage women in this role.

    Let’s admit that she can’t approve herself, because in the Mormon culture, women are judged by men, and our own judgment is not allowed.

    This is how the problem with breastfeeding mothers getting chastised or stripped of callings or temple recommends started.

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  5. I think it is completely unfair to blame this on the church. This is how it is all over the US, not just in the LDS church. What is the big deal with just covering it up? Why then should it be okay to expose your breast when breast feeding, but not any other time? Because it is just manners and modesty.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Plenty of LDS missionaries who have served in Latin America have said exactly the opposite – there, the women breastfeed uncovered in front of everyone. Modesty is a cultural construct and the American way isn’t necessarily the right way.

    Reply

    Neitzy Reply:

    Well said! Feeding a child is not about modesty, the breast is the apparatus that the child is fed with. It is not a sexual object, so modesty should not be an issue.

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    Kristin Reply:

    I feel like you didn’t read Sara’s comment. She said that it’s a United States thing – not just a church thing. Your comment just pointed out that OUTSIDE of the United States, it’s not the same way. I don’t think Sara was arguing with that.

    And to your comment, if modesty is a cultural construct (and thereby is not followed in the same way in Latin America (and other places) – even in the church), then why should we force other cultural constraints on women? Or even people in general?

    Reply

    sara Reply:

    Jenna, you just supported my point. This is an American issue, not one with the church.

    I have read your blog for a long time, and as a fairly new member of the church I have to say it is very negative. I don’t understand what the problem is you have with the church, but I feel like you need to do some soul searching and quit blaming your insecurities on it. You always seem to have these perceived injustices and discriminations without anything ever actually happening to you. It seems like you have an axe to grind, and you have chosen the church as your target. Find out where this anger is coming from, and fix the problems there instead of publicly making unfounded accusations against an organization that has given you your life and your family.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    1) The church is a world-wide church. It is not an American church.

    2) Historically women openly breastfed in LDS sacrament meetings and other LDS meetings (church artwork supports this finding).

    3) The current, worldly, American culture sexualizes female body parts out of context. Female breasts have historically been treated as mothering body parts. In most of the world today they are still treated as mothering body parts. It is only in the last few decades of American culture that we see a mothering body part inappropriately sexualized.

    Therefore, If the international LDS church wishes to fight worldly American culture inappropriately sexualizing mothering body parts (breasts) it should build upon its past of supporting breastfeeding mothers in church meetings by openly encouraging breastfeeding mothers to breastfeed their infants and small children in church meetings.

    It is sick and unhealthy for our culture to encourage the idea that breastfeeding is in any way a sexual activity. It is eating. It is feeding. It is mothering.

    I will also point out that many different body parts are used in sexual activities including hands and mouths. At this point only nations such as Saudi Arabia attach sexual thoughts to those female body parts. But, we have begun sexualizing female body parts in America (beginning with the breasts, shoulders, and stomach) and it is only a matter of time before we end up just like Saudi Arabia – where a woman’s uncovered hair is considered highly sexual.

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    tf Reply:

    I dont think comparing across cultures is even a good comparison. Just because another culture does it different doesn’t make it wrong or right. It just makes it different. Their are cultures that do things that you would never push for here in america. Cultures are different that’s okay.

    Reply

    tanne Reply:

    Like eat horse.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    And, there are parts of the American culture that are wrong. In the case of breastfeeding other cultures around the world and throughout history get it right: Breastfeeding is a mothering activity. American culture gets it wrong by sexualizing an activity that is not sexual in any way.

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    Sara2 Reply:

    I know in other parts of the world it’s completely normal to see a woman breastfeeding and not covering up. I get it. It’s a natural thing to do; however, in this country I honestly believe it’s just not something people are comfortable with and never will be. How is it different to ask a woman to not dress inappropriately for church and yet a woman is sitting in the pew with her breast hanging out so her child can nurse? Really, it’s not any different in the American culture and that’s just the way it is. Your religion is very strict on dress codes and wearing garments so I’m not at all surprised that people would be even more upset that they would witness or children would witness something that in our society is considered wrong.

    I may not have children but one day I will but I for one will not be sitting around on a bench with my breast out so everyone can see. What’s wrong with being modest? What’s wrong with having a little privacy? Just because you’re nursing doesn’t mean you have to expose yourself. That’s what I’m saying. Do I think breastfeeding is gross and unnatural and wrong? No. Do I think all women should just give a child a bottle instead? No. But I do think women need to be mindful that many people do not wish to see a breast out for all to see.

    I know I’ll get a lot of grief for this but that’s just my opinion.

    Reply

    Steph Reply:

    I agree with Jackie. My gripe with our culture is that we’ve sexualized breasts to the extent we no longer remember at least 1/2 of what they’re good for. I’m not big into seeing breasts in public, but maybe it’s not about me, but about a baby’s need for food?

    Making women cover or hide away while breastfeeding only encourages the sexualization of breasts. Both girls and boys grow up learning that breasts are for fantasizing about, not for feeding babies, which unfortunately repeats the whole cycle as they grow up.

    I think best practices from other cultures are relevant to the discussion. Culture is fluid and is constantly changing in subtle ways. If our culture has flaws, we can push for those changes. I admire Jenna and others for pushing for cultural change regarding open breastfeeding.

    Just my $0.02.

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    HRC Reply:

    Exactly. The problem here isn’t the women feeding their babies, it is the people that insist on sexualising breasts in any context. It is bizarre.

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    tf Reply:

    Who even said it was the men that were complaining? For all we know it could have been the young women, or anyone else for that matter.

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    HRC Reply:

    Well, if women have a problem then the only explanation is that they’re sexualising breasts and therefore seeing them as modest. You don’t have to be attracted to something in order to sexualise it and therefore be uncomfortable with it. Just sayin’.

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    Jackie Reply:

    The point of covering up breasts in general is so men don’t lust. Some women, like LDS, choose to be modest in their dress to help their brothers. But breastfeeding isn’t an act that should cause men to lust. There the breast is being used as a tool, not a sex object. Many women find covers hot, bothersome, and implying they should be ashamed.

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    Steph Reply:

    Yes, I agree that there should be a sense of modesty. My mother breastfed around us children, but she was mindful of others and didn’t expose herself in public. It was a beautiful, natural thing to see her breastfeed at home, but she didn’t flaunt it to the world. There needs to be a sense of decency and class when breastfeeding in public. Our culture is one based on modesty more than other cultures, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. Someone said that maybe the American way isn’t the right way. But, then again, who’s to say that exposing yourself as they do in Latin America isn’t the right way either. If you’re trying to take a stand and make a point to the church, I would advise you to be careful.

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  6. “You are a wonderful mother.” Because no matter how a woman feeds her baby, she is doing a beautiful thing”

    Wonderful sentiment and right on. All of our communities, whether religious or secular, should support us as we try to do our best for our babies. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. I disagree with this letter, I feel like the church supports and applauds mothers in all their capacities. I am so grateful the church provides a separate and pleasant atmosphere where mothers can freely breastfeed their children without having to disrupt, intrude, or distract those around you.
    A place where you can truly bond with your child if that is really your intention. And as for another child, I don’t understand how difficult it would be to bring both children to the lounge so that you don’t have to worry about the 2-year-old running off down the aisle while you are nursing. It is something you prepare for ahead of time. Or, I’m sure a fellow ward member would be happy to sit with them while you meet the needs of your baby.

    Regardless of where you feed your baby his/her needs are being met and I don’t see how you feeding them during sacrament would make this any more pleasant for you or them. I think the church is completely accommodating and should be applauded for going to the lengths they do for mothers.
    -Mother of three small children

    Reply

    Jennifer Reply:

    As the mother of six children (all of whom were breastfed) going to the mother’s lounge is a huge pain. Gathering up your belongings, carrying an increasingly upset (hungry) baby out of the chapel, through the building, to wherever the breastfeeding closet is, towing along any toddlers on the way (if, like me, your husband is usually working at a hospital on Sunday). Talk about disruptive!

    It was always much, much easier to just plug the fussy baby up by breastfeeding during a meeting.

    The issue is that some church leaders are attaching sexual connotations to breastfeeding and, thus, forbidding the normal mothering act of breastfeeding during meetings. That is not accommodating of nursing mothers at all. It is demanding, insulting, and embarrassing for breastfeeding mothers to be told that, while their role as mother is so respected and wonderful, they should run off to a closet somewhere hidden when they actually have to do some mothering.

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  8. Wow. I hope your leadership listens and responds appropriately.

    I’ve nursed in Church. I was discrete, but didn’t use a nursing cover. It crossed my mind that someone might not approve, but it didn’t stop me, and I don’t think anyone has even noticed.

    I figure, if it was good enough for Mary and Christ Child, it’s good enough for me and infant. No?

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  9. This is an issue that only in the last 16 months (since Lyla was born) did I really think about much. Eli wouldn’t nurse, but I was lucky to have a large milk supply so I pumped a few times a day and had enough to feed him the breast milk through a bottle. Since I always pumped at home, I never experienced this. Also, since I didn’t nurse him, I did not at ALL “get it” when people would talk about how importing breastfeeding was to them. I was totally in there with the, “Is it that big of a deal to just pump/cover up/plan around feedings/etc.” Totally ignorant.

    Lyla nursed beautifully, and it was such a wonderful experience for me. I can now say I “get it”. It took us a few months to get our groove, but even at a year I was not ready to stop. If it weren’t for a trip that I was taking (without her) I wouldn’t have weaned her. I am completely on board with everywhere any mother goes being an open and supportive place to breastfeed, however works for that mother (with a cover, without a cover, in a separate room, whatever she needs). There were times I didn’t have a cover with me and therefore had to nurse without one. As Lyla got older she refused to stay under the cover so it was pretty worthless.

    But, I have to say, I also tried to cover up as much as possible in each situation. Although I don’t think anyone should ever judge or condemn a mother for nursing in any fashion, I also don’t think women should feel like they need to “prove a point” or stick to people and breastfeed as exposed as possible just to say, “HEY! YOU CAN’T STOP ME!” :)

    My personal opinion is mothers should try to make people feel comfortable as long as the mother and baby’s comfort is put FIRST (i.e. if a baby/mother is hot under a cover and that hinders the nursing experience, then don’t do it. If the cover does not bother the mother or baby, then out of courtesy for those it may make uncomfortable–even if it shouldn’t!!–then just throw a cover on.

    That’s my two cents. I’m so glad that things are working better for you this time around, and I hope it continues to do so! Like I said, I totally “get it” now :).

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    tf Reply:

    This is what I agree with 100%

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    shannon Reply:

    Great comment!

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  10. I think you need to move to the east or down south, i know people who nurse all over church, sacrament meeting included. It sounds like maybe your the one insecure about the whole thing. If you really feel passionate about it, whydo you care so much how others are viewing you, or what your doing? Just do what you have to do and move on,its only a big deal if you make a big scene about it. Feed your baby for goodness sake however you want.

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    Jenn Reply:

    You obviously didn’t read the original post this was inspired by:
    “A dear friend of mine is being released from her YW calling tomorrow for breastfeeding at church. Furthermore, she has been told that if anyone complains in any other meeting, be that sacrament, Sunday School, or Relief Society, she is to leave the room or cover to nurse from that point on. She was also told that if she does not comply, she is not sustaining her leaders and her recommend could be at risk.”

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    tf Reply:

    Oh I read it…I doubt it’s the whole story…There is WAY more to it then the post is giving I’m positive about that!

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    Jennifer Reply:

    So, are you saying the woman lied? Are you excusing anyone who noticed she was breastfeeding and started having perverted thoughts about her and her child? Or, since you are “positive” there is “WAY more to it” do you actually know the woman in question or live in her ward? If so, please inform us of the rest of the story.

    If the answer is “No” to any of those questions, then perhaps you might want to ask yourself why you are so quick to judge a complete stranger who went through a horrible ordeal.

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    sara Reply:

    WOW I really don’t know where to start with all of your comments Jennifer. If you seriously think that people have a problem with public breastfeeding because of having perverted thoughts “about her AND HER CHILD”, there is something way off in your head. I just can’t with that comment. You are fundamentally missing the whole issue here.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    If you sexualize a mother who is breastfeeding you also sexualize the baby who is actually breastfeeding. People who have the reaction of sexualizing a breastfeeding “couple” (the mother and baby) definitely need the help of a mental health professional. So, if you are one of the people sexualizing breastfeeding then (which is the whole issue) then I suggest you find the help you need immediately.

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    sara Reply:

    You are the only person on this whole thread talking about sexualizing babies. How dare you call me or anyone else a pedophile. No, I am not sexualizing the act of breast feeding. But I am done with this conversation because you are literally nuts.

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    tf Reply:

    Wow jennifer, nobody even said we were sexulizing breastfeeding…so the fact thst you thought of it in the creepiest way possible maybe it isnt the rest of us that need help immediately.

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    tf Reply:

    Read the story…it isnt even written by her…im not judging her, im saying i dont take everything wriiten on the internet at face value. Plus there is always two sides of the story. even the news articles about it dont sound convinced this is the whole story.

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    tf Reply:

    Kelly im glad im not the only one having a hard time believing this story.

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    HRC Reply:

    Ugh, really? This is like when people go ‘there must be more to the story’ about women who are sexually assaulted. I am not big on the whole ‘let’s get my boobs as out there as possible to make a point’ bandwagon but this is hardly what this issue is about. This is about a woman being told not to breastfeed and to cover up, even if her baby doesn’t feed whilst being smothered by a blanket.

    It’s been made pretty clear in all the blog posts about this issue that this woman was doing her best to be modest within reason and that she has made multiple attempts to rectify the issue with LDS leaders to no avail. If they are threatening to take away her right to attend Church (which, as I understand it, is what revoking a recommend will do?) then there is obviously an issue higher up in the Church. If the LDS Church doesn’t have an issue with breastfeeding in public then they should make that clear to all their community leaders so that things like this don’t have to happen to any woman.

    I don’t think Jenna is jumping on any bandwagon for the sake of it. I think she is trying to have a voice and grow within the constraints that her religious culture can place on women. It’s actually the thing many people suggested she should be doing years ago…and now she does it and still faces vilification. I am not some white knighter but seriously, give the woman a break!

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    Jenna Reply:

    Your first comment was my thought as well. “More to the story” is often a statement used in victim-blaming.

    And I admit I’m really feeling your last paragraph. Once upon a time I was too conservative/judgmental. Now I’m too feminist/progressive!

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    HRC Reply:

    Yup, it makes me so angry. Kind of like the time I had a guy ‘proposition’ me inappropriately and in a manner that left me shaking with fear. When another girl called him out on similar behaviour, I said the same thing happened to me. The grapevine decided I (and the other girl) was at fault for having cleavage visible the day it happened. It became a whole debacle of ‘is it Hannah’s fault or isn’t it?’. The irony? I was wearing a turtleneck. Everyone decided I was guilty because this guy said I was ‘dressed like a slut’. Thankfully I had many friends come to my defense but it still made me see how quickly women get blamed for being treated badly in many contexts. Classic anti-woman victim-blaming.

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    Kate Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more with HRC’s comment. Jenna, you being true to yourself, especially as you evolve and grow over time, is part of the beauty of being a woman, and something that your daughter will see and learn as she grows. Way to go, and stay strong in the face of criticism. People who see the status quo being challenged start to feel threatened. Good for you for loving your church, your roots, but still wanting and asking for a kinder, more accepting, loving environment for all women and all people.

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    tf Reply:

    Revoking a recommend does not mean she cannot attend church. You dont need anything to attend church, anyone can attend the LDS church.

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    HRC Reply:

    That’s why I said ‘as I understand it’. Frankly, I think it is irrelevant, honestly. Obviously revoking the recommend impacts on her ability to be a part of the community as she was before and that alone should be reason enough for outcry.

    Kelly, that is a really convenient answer. A. Just because you and your friends haven’t had a problem, doesn’t mean it isn’t common. And B. Why is it better for her to ‘get away from those weirdos’ than it is for her to campaign for change within the community that she can easily get to? Again, this comes down to blaming the victim.

    Jenna, I haven’t always agreed with you (that’s an understatement, haha) but I don’t see how anyone can think that you asking for your church to be more open-minded about something like this can be construed as a bad thing by anyone.

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    tf Reply:

    There are millions of members of the lds church, im sure hundreds of thousands have breastfed in church without incident, i dont think this is a common problem. The artical doesnt even tell us where she was or what she was doing while breastfeeding. She held a young womens calling, and if she was breastfeeding while teaching a lesson i can definitely see complaints from the young women and her getting released because of that. So see there definitely is more to the story. Heck she wasnt even the one to write the post a friend did it for her…have you ever played the telephone game?

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    HRC Reply:

    You are missing the point entirely. Why would they be just in releasing her for breastfeeding in front of young women? If nothing else, she would be providing an example of LDS ideology in practise: mothers feeding and nourishing their children. Whether with a bottle or a breast, these are things that should not be hidden.

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    tf Reply:

    Would you not find it a little odd if you had a college professor breastfeeding while teaching? Or how about your preacher if it were a woman breastfeeding while preaching from the pulpit…that might be a bit distracting…

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    tf Reply:

    And my point was there is more to the story that we dont know.

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    HRC Reply:

    I wouldn’t be bothered. But I was raised by immodest hippies who taught me that breasts can be used for feeding babies and that has nothing to do with them as an element of sexuality, so what do I know? And you know what? I am perfectly well-adjusted and my 27 year old brother was never one to ogle a woman baring her breasts, breastfeeding or otherwise. Basically, he was taught not to treat women as sexual objects through normalisation of things like breastfeeding and the naked body. Shock, horror.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    I had my temple recommend threatened once for what turned out to be a bit of gossip told to a new bishop by a person in the ward whom I hardly knew. It was such a crazy situation. I completely believe that certain bishops are either very insecure in their position and/or end up being part of the group that, once they get a little power, abuse it. They are mere mortals, after all.

    A church-wide statement supporting breastfeeding during any church meeting where a woman would normally be present would protect the women who face leaders who have succumbed to unrighteous dominion. The church has issued statements in similar fashion on birth control and other family matters as well. It’s actually not far-fetched for the church to issue such a statement on breastfeeding.

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  11. In my personal opinion, I feel like the LDS Church takes so much criticism for things that have absolutely nothing to do with it as an institution. The people are NOT the church. Just like if you were to get a funny look from someone while you breastfed in Target, doesn’t mean the mayor of the city is responsible to make sure that never happens again (or the manager of Target for that matter). People have agency, but because the Church has such high standards for itself, when something isn’t perfect with its members, everyone shakes their fist at its leaders. Makes absolutely no sense to me. I have breastfed all over LDS Churches (it’s true, I have) and have always felt welcomed and never criticized. This is a non-issue in my opinion and should not be publicized from the top down. Have confidence in yourself and your role as a mother, and move forward.

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    tf Reply:

    yes!

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    Jessica Carney Reply:

    Fantastic!!! 100% agree. I have never had a problem breastfeeding at church or anywhere for that matter.

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    Jessica Reply:

    The way that the Mormon church is structured, the people ARE the church, especially your local priesthood leadership. You can correct me if any of this has changed since I stopped going, but it used to be that your bishop determined your worthiness and what’s good/bad, and if you didn’t like it, all you could do is appeal to the stake president and even that was frowned upon because you’re not supporting your leaders.

    So if the Mormon church presidency sets things up that way – essentially allowing bishops to run their own kingdoms – it has to accept responsibility for those bishops’ actions. Some bishops forbidding breastfeeding is just the newest manifestation of a broken system; you should read up on how bishops used to treat blacks in the church pre-Kimball. Now, since the presidency never officially condoned those behaviors, the church as an institution is of course forgiven.

    Convenient? Yes. Right? No.

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    sara Reply:

    Totally agree with this! Also, it seems to me Jenna has never had criticism either, she just wants praise and “cheering on”.

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    Jennifer Reply:

    The church is legally structured as a corporation with its full name trademarked. Any local leader acting in the capacity of that trademarked name does act on and in behalf of the LDS church. This is a very big reason why the LDS church needs to be concerned about this issue.

    I find it disturbing that a person could reason that because they have never faced a particular trial or problem then that particular trial or problem must be no big deal or even imaginary. I have never been told to leave a meeting for breastfeeding one of my children, however, I recognize that it has happened (and, specifically in the case involving FMH). My lack of having faced that situation does not give me reason to belittle the woman who has faced that situation.

    Where is your compassion? Where is your concern for your fellow Relief Society sister? Where is your righteous indignation that a fellow mother would be harassed for mothering her child? I am actually more concerned about this reaction of anger towards the wronged mother than I am by the original event (of the mother’s bishop threatening her temple recommend). We are in the last days when men’s hearts will fail them. But, judging by this thread, women’s hearts are failing as well.

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  12. Try cupping your breast like a C. It will help the latch so that T2 doesn’t have to support the weight of your breast. If you hold it up to her mouth and keep holding it through the nursing session, she might do better. I made the same mistake, that’s why I recognize it.

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    Allison k Reply:

    Yes! I have to support my breast the whole time. I don’t use a “c” hold because my LC told me it changes the position of the nipple. I just support and let my thumb gently rest on top or on my babies cheek.

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  13. I am so proud of you, first of all for sharing your struggles of breastfeeding T1, I have no children- but pleasantly of the women around me struggled in this area, but were to ashamed to voice the fact that they needed some guidance. Second of all, I am proud that you are taking a stand for what you believe in. Yes, some people believe it is inappropriate- sure. But it isn’t like you are freely exposing yourself because you feel the need. You are feeding your sweet and innocent child of God. I feel that breastfeeding = bottle feeding. Are mothers allowed to bottle feed their babes?

    Again, I am proud of you for standing up for yourself and all the women that do not have the strength to do so.

    Jackie.

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  14. Katherine (aka Sparkles) says:

    Ya- why are you kind of superficially pinching your breast that way?
    One picture doesn’t give a good impression of how you secure your latch but for me when i was breast feeding- i had to like cup my entire breast and shove it somewhat aggresively into my tou g newborns mouth (much more than you would think!)

    But you are seeing an LC still? Sooooo i will assume you feel confidant in your technique. I still reccommend going to la leche league mtgs/sessions. They are only once a month.

    I nursed at my church. I made sure to wear fashionable wraps or a blanket. But there is a point babies become insanely aware of their surroundings and DONT WANT TO BE BEHIND A COVER. And to that i was just like “screw it” & figured out how to remain concealed and nurse. I usually sat with a group of other mamas who *understood* a babies nursing needs. Honestly, the best change in the world or our micro communities is to be the change you want to see/role model..

    If my church ever said they would take away my right/privilege to attend due to nursing, you bet the higher ups would hear bout it. Thankfully my catholic church is entirely pro mama/baby. The mother ministry is very supportive & strong.

    I hope breastfeeding goes well for you in every aspect you hope that it would. Women CAN nurse in public uncovered and remain modest at the same time without a cover. I did it… The places i did it would impress you. My friends and i made a list just for personal amusement sake:
    On a plane.
    At disney on the pirates of the carribean (my kiddo threw herself for self comfort in the dark passages- otherwise she loves that rides drops! ;-)
    At parks, on the grass & benches.
    Restaurants.
    My car obviously.
    The mall.
    Dressing rooms.
    At botanical gardens.
    Hotels (when we went oot obviously).
    At the beach.
    Friends houses on their couches.

    The only times i isolated myself to nurse was during the phase when babies are distracted by everything and want to SEE the action WHILE they nurse and that just didnt work for me (cuz then i would have let down and drip EVERYWHERE- i disliked when my kiddo latched/unlatched repeatedly just to check out “what that noise was” or “who just walked into/out of the room” hahaha)

    I never mastered nursing while carrying my kiddo in the ergo.

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  15. A boob filled with milk is really heavy, I didn’t support mine e ought in the first few weeks and my child didn’t sufficiently nurse and then didn’t stimulate a supply. It was horrible. Their little mouths can’t hold it and nurse at the same time, even while laying down. It could really help out.

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  16. I’m not so sure breastfeeding equals wonderful mother…

    I feel like there must be more to this story?

    I breastfed and there was never any drama. There are ways of being discreet without covering the child’s face.

    This is like the one cover of Time magazine that had the mom breastfeeding a preschooler. Okay, cool, you breastfeed your preschooler. You don’t need to plaster it everywhere to get your point across. For me that didn’t make me more tolerant it just made me roll my eyes.

    Reply

    Emilia Reply:

    I agree, breastfeeding certainly doesn’t equal wonderful mother. If only it were so simple.

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  17. Bless you Jenna, says the atheist, from her heart.

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  18. Also, I forgot to say in my previous comment, I think your letter was great Jenna. The tone was perfect. I have read a few other letters earlier in the week that were written harshly and I just think that those people seem to be more in the category of wanting to “stick it to the man”. Whether they are or not, that’s how it comes across.

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  19. oh please! Getting released from her YW calling because of breast feeding?? I am super pro breast feeding in public and at church And even I can’t get behind that story. Breast feed discretely -that doesn’t mean covered- wherever you want at church as long as your baby is quiet and it is not a distraction. I think that is the consideration with anything we do at church. My first two children were total opposite nursers- the first being extremely loud! I usually went in the foyer or mothers lounge. The second was quiet and I nursed her wherever I wanted. I’ll do the same with my third unless she is super loud.

    The church is not full of old men trying to demean or take away rights from women- pick a different axe to grind! Most people probably wouldn’t even notice what you were doing or care.

    That being said, your letter was well written and kind, just unnecessary. Kind of like the pants thing. No where does it say that you cannot nurse publicly.

    Reply

    Mungagungadin Reply:

    That would be an acceptable sign, except that there are places where mothers ARE punished and stripped. So, if only there were some way to make it clear that this isn’t supposed to happen, like a book that every bishop should follow….

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  20. I didn’t think that I could love you more, Miss Jenna, but I do. Way to be Mama. I know that I’m just an Internet stranger, but I am very proud of you. Incredible picture, too.

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  21. I didn’t breast feed my first two kids for several reasons. But we’re due with our third in September and I am going to. I cannot imagine trying to use a cover with a three year old, a two year old, and a newborn. Although I will buy one, I dont’ have any faith that it will work for me.
    I imagine two and three year old wanting to hide under it or think it’s funny rip it off of me in the middle of nursing.

    With all of that being said, I believe that modesty is in the eye of the beholder.

    I was at a friends house and she took out her breast to feed her new born son in front of myself, my husband, and at that time only one of my kids. I was secretly mortified and couldn’t look at her…but I realize now that the issue is with ME, not her or what she was doing.

    She had no nipple showing and very little breast, but I swear some place in my mind it was like a stripper pole grew from the floor and her kid was hanging from the nipple with the other breast exposed.

    I had to think about why I was so uncomfortable about what I was seeing and why I was so put off. Almost two years later and my views have totally changed.

    I don’t think it’s the entire LDS church that is opposed to breast feeding (just like I didn’t think it was the entire LDS church that was opposed to women wearing pants) or how a mother does it (cover, no cover, what location)- seems to me that it should be handled on a grass roots level.

    Meaning that woman and those who support her there should be rallying around and meeting with those higher up to promote a more friendly environment.

    I don’t see how this letter is going to help. What seems like a better use of time would be to write a letter that could be passed to this woman giving her support. Your letter doesn’t even mention this woman, how she has impacted you, or how you relate to her. This letter seems like a plea for the entire LDS church system to change when that might not be a need.

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  22. I’m not Mormon, so I can’t speak to anything regarding your church’s policies on breast feeding. I am Catholic, though, and have seen mothers breast feed in our church’s family room without any issues. I CAN speak to the fact that church is there to provide people with spiritual guidance and a sense of shared community. I do not expect them, in any way, shape, or form, to promote my breastfeeding my child, because it is simply not their purview! I have a hard time believing that the story you attached is the full story, as others have mentioned.

    Final note: I read another blog written by a young mother whose child was diagnosed with Fanconi’s anemia, a serious, potentially fatal disease. This child had 3 month NICU hospitalization, with multiple complex surgeries before the age of 1. He was never breastfed, so why is this mother so completely in love and bonded with her child? Because breastfeeding vs bottle feeding does not determine bonding. Our own actions and thoughts determine our level of bonding with our child. I guess what I’m trying to say (politely) is, buck up. Do what’s right for your kid, and the bonding will follow.

    Reply

    Jennifer Reply:

    Why do you have a hard time believing the story? Because it never happened to you? Because your mind rejects stories about abuse of authority? Because it might hurt to think about what happened to this mother?

    So quick to harshly judge a wronged mother.

    Reply

    Patricia Lahtinen Reply:

    I want to reply to your bonding paragraph, Kelly. I would say “Yes, and…” Breastfeeding is different. One sees ones child, or hears ones child makes hunger sounds, and ones body responds almost instantly and involuntarily. I learned another Godly lesson through breastfeeding: I needed this little baby just as much as this little baby needed me. I needed this baby to empty my breasts of its milk, completely and regularly. It kept me physically healthy and emotionally more balanced. I needed to drink more water. I needed to be aware and conscious of the food I fed my own body. My nursing baby helped me to avoid mastitis. Breastfeeding gives the baby water, fat, nutrients, antibodies, and breastfeeding releases oxytocin in the mama giving her a greater sense of well-being and connectedness. Breastfeeding forced me to stop and sit or rest at frequent intervals, to look at my baby, admire my baby, smile at my baby, talk with my baby. Yes, of course bottle feeding also allows for that time to stop, to look, admire, smile, and talk. Yes, of course, breastfeeding mothers can breastfeed while on the go, while Baby is worn, while Mother is teaching, speaking, working, directing music, bearing testimony. Breastfeeding, however, is another form of communication and way of working together. A bottle will not cry out in pain if the baby bites or doesn’t latch properly.

    The Godly lesson is this. God needs us just as much as we need Him. We are His work and His glory.

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  23. I am so glad you have a support system. That was so important for me too. Just a thought about the mother’s lounge. In my ward, there are a few women who have many children whose husbands are working on Sunday and they bring their toddlers and older kids into the mother’s lounge when they have to nurse their baby. It has never been a problem where I live. That was only my experience though, I can’t speak for anyone else. We also have the meetings played over the intercom, so it might be less stressful for you in the lounge rather than feeling the pressure to keep kids quiet in sacrament meeting. I also felt once I had a baby, that was when I got to know other women…and it was all because we chatted in the mother’s lounge. So I hope you don’t worry about bringing your son there with your baby and I hope you don’t feel excluded from meetings either. It might be a win win!

    I didn’t get a chance to read the comments above mine and only briefly the article, but I breastfed my baby in stake conference with Elder Oaks present. No one said a thing and I don’t think anyone noticed either. My baby also goes “mmm, mmm, mmm” really loudly while he nurses. Granted, I had a cover, but I felt like the cover drew more attention to me due to the bright colors and polka dots. It makes me sad that some people have such terrible experiences. Like you, I had not known about or seen many women breastfeed while I was young. Breastfeeding was very foreign to me before I had my baby but now is just a matter of fact. I’ll do it anywhere.

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  24. Amen, sister! I think it’s interesting that people, most often men, are so uncomfortable with breastfeeding. It’s as they don’t want to be reminded that the breasts were not created solely for their pleasure. This is their primary purpose, people!

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  25. Just to point out a few tjings. How do you know it was even a man or men that were complaining? Nowhere in the article did it say that, and if she had a yw calling she most likely wasnt even attending relief society, which the artivle said if they got complaints from relief society again she would get in more trouble…and the post didnt even come frome the source…all things that make me go hmmmm. Who knows maybe she was nursing while teaching a young womens lesson and the girls complained…i probably would to.

    Reply

    Patricia Lahtinen Reply:

    If she were nursing while teaching a Young Women’s lesson, and you were present, tf, why would you complain?

    Reply

    tf Reply:

    because first of all i go to church to feel the spirit and to learn and grow spiritually not to watch someone breastfeed. I don’t care if people do breastfeed, that doesn’t bother me, but I also don’t necessarily sit and stare at them the entire time they are doing it. If I am having a casual conversation with someone while breastfeeding that is one thing, but If I were in a setting where they are supposed to be inviting the spirit and leading a spiritual discussion I would feel like their child would be their main focus and not the task at hand. teaching a lesson/ leading a discussion. I think it would just be a distraction. I mean you have to stop and burp and switch sides, and relatch, and bond, and all the other stuff that comes with breastfeeding that I think it would be hard to be worrying about all of that and teaching the lesson. Plus these girls are teenagers…they are still maturing I can totally see it as a distraction and being uncomfortable for them. There are seasons to everyones life, and maybe for her the yw calling was getting in the way of her being a mother and so they needed to release her. I mean women get released from callings all the time after having babies because some callings are hard with newborns. while yes I am fine with breastfeeding in public, but i also think we need to be considerate towards other people and their feelings too. There needs to be respect both ways, and I think breastfeeding while teaching would not be respecting the audience. Wouldn’t be a little distracting if someone was giving a talk at the pulpit while breastfeeding their child? I think so…and it has nothing to do with sexualizing breasts.

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  26. I can’t help but think that the issues here are really two-fold. Primarily I think it comes down to an issue of respect. I believe that the nursing process, that most basic thing (feeding your child), should be treated with the reverence that it deserves. It is why we have breasts, it is how we have sustained the human race and how we ensure its future.

    I grew up in an Italian American household that treated all things related to nakedness, sex, our bodies, etc. as totally natural. My dad was famous for saying “ya seen two, ya seen ‘em all!” and that was how my brother and I grew up. You can contrast that with my best friend’s upbringing- one where she never saw her parents in any state of undress. Ever. (I can’t imagine!)

    It stands to reason that my upbringing prepared me to see the woman across from me openly breastfeed her child without any embarrassment. My best friend? She’d be mortified. Not because she thinks it’s dirty or sexual, but rather because she wouldn’t know what to do, where to look, it would completely take her out of her comfort zone. If you ask her she’d tell you that she supports a woman’s right to breastfeed. She just doesn’t know how to feel comfortable with someone while it’s happening!

    So who’s feelings should be respected more? The breastfeeding mother or the very uncomfortable person sitting across from her? It’s an easy thing to say that the person uncomfortable needs to lighten up or look the other direction if they don’t like it. That doesn’t encourage dialogue and it doesn’t make it any less likely to be an issue in the future. If anything I think it just adds salt to a festering wound.

    Personally I believe that women should breastfeed where ever and whenever their child is hungry. But I also don’t see why they can’t be *just a little* understanding of those less enlightened. I don’t think that this is a subject with a clear answer. I think it depends on the situation and every situation is different. But trying to be respectful of each other, regardless of which side of the nipple you’re on should be your starting point. In church, or out.

    I mentioned that I thought that the issue was two fold- respect was one part of it, I think the sexualization of our breasts and the potential visual impact of those breasts on our husbands and sons is another thing entirely. Personally I’ve raised my 16 year old son with my dad’s philosophy. I’ll let you know in ten years or so if that was the right thing to do.

    Having said all of that I’d like to say how impressed and proud I am of you Jenna. I’ve been a follower since your Bee days and I’ve loved watching you grow into the woman that are. This picture is fantastic! Congratulations!

    Reply

    Jennifer Reply:

    I appreciated reading your comment!

    You are right that every situation is different. And, that’s why the default really needs to be left up to the mother who is doing the difficult job of trying to care for and feed her infant.

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  27. I really love this post. It’s thoughtful, well written and makes a wonderful point. Making breastfeeding accessible and easy for all women, in all circumstances, is not just supportive of mothers, but an important health issue. Anyone who cares about the health of mothers and babies (and really, society at large) should be not just tolerant but fully supportive of breastfeeding.

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  28. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Amen! Thank you for writing this beautiful and clear post!

    When I was six I had open-heart surgery, which, when I grew up, left a scar across my left breast. It definitely interfered with nursing, but didn’t prevent it. I was so grateful when, at our tour of our birthing clinic, the woman leading the tour passed out business cards for the clinic’s lactation consultants and said “If you’ve had any surgery that may have affected one or both of your breasts, please give us a call.” Having a phone number of a trusted lactation consultant BEFORE I ran into nursing problems was a life saver. Breastfeeding problems occurred during week two, when I returned to graduate school two full days a week. My mother came with me, for those final five weeks, while I finished my degree. I couldn’t have done it without her nor my mother-in-law. While they were both somewhat useless when it came to coaching me on breastfeeding, they were supportive, as was my husband.

    I ran into problems on a Friday night, got engorged, baby was screaming, and I did not know what to do. I called the lactation consultant who coached me by phone that night and saw me the next morning. Thus began three painful weeks of mastitis, nipple infections, thrush in my baby, nursing with pain and blood, lots of tears, pain medication, pumping, and finger nursing with formula. I was determined to make it work. We both healed, my body reconstructed my nipple into a super nursing nipple, and we were better than ever. After five months of supplementing with formula, he was six months old and we introduced solids into his diet and dropped the formula. At that point, I was still nursing on demand and supplementing with solids.

    This precious boy and I nursed together until he was nearly three. I had hoped to tandem nurse him and my daughter, born when he was three years and three months old, but my breasts were just too tender to continue nursing. Weaning him was so sad, for both of us. By that point, he had words, and we discussed it several times, tenderly. I firmly believe it helped him to develop compassion and empathy, and there was no resentment from him when his sister was born nor when she started nursing.

    Nursing my daughter was so much easier, and I was able to breastfeed her exclusively until she began solids at about 7 months, and we continued to nurse until she was nearly three and a half years old.

    I breastfed both babies openly, anywhere we were, including in Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School and Relief Society. I only used the Mother’s Lounge a few times, such as during Stake Conference when so many people showed up and everyone was sitting hip-to-hip and there was no room to nurse comfortably, or when my daughter was a newborn and needed a football hold to latch on properly. It was so much easier and less distracting to respond instantly to my child and nurse where I was than to get up with an increasingly noisy child and leave a meeting.

    I know not every woman feels this way, but my nursing relationship with my children has been the most pleasurable, rewarding and fulfilling part of my life. If I came to Earth for no other purpose than to have nursed my children, then I can die happy knowing I fulfilled my mission. I know there’s a lot more to my life than nursing, and I frequently sorrow that I haven’t been able to have more than two children, but that part of my life is so completely precious to me.

    God bless you, Jenna, and all mothers who feed and take good care of their babies.

    Reply

    Jennifer Reply:

    I loved reading this. It is tender, compassionate, and beautiful!

    Reply

    Carrie Reply:

    I loved reading your story!! Thank you for sharing it!!

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  29. I thought you did a beautiful job posting this blog! I’m sorry for all the criticism from people who are either uncomfortable with their own bodies, or have been sent inappropriate cultural messages that sexualize and objectify a woman’s body to make something as pure as breastfeeding seem dirty or shameful. I congratulate you on your ability to successfully breastfeed your second child and really hope that you find a supportive ward environment!! Thank you for being willing to write this and share your experiences.

    Reply

    Emilia Reply:

    I thought most of the criticism was fair. People can have a different opinion without “being uncomfortable with their own bodies” or buying into the sexualization of breasts. In fact, most of the people replying are talking about their own experiences breastfeeding in church. Why do you have to resort to condescending insults just because people are not automatically agreeing with your opinion?

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  30. I’m in agreement with Carrie (right above me) and sorry for all the criticism you have received on this post.

    Although I am not LDS and can’t speak to that experience, I can say that a negative stigma on breastfeeding – which is the most natural way of providing sustenance for your children – definitely exists.

    For example, while working at a “worldly” company with several women, I witnessed a female co-worker being harrased for pumping milk DISCREETLY and while on her breaks. I will never forget the chorus of “eewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwws” coming from these “women” whenever pumping milk was brought up. Unbelievable.

    Jenna, I know the hard time you had with T1, and could related because I had the same struggles as well. Good for you for persisting with T2, and you deserve a pat on the back for standing up for your convictions amongst your church.

    This verse showed up on my FB feed, and it seems entirely appropriate for this conversation:

    Ephesians 4:29 (NIV): Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    You are really, really bothered by the idea that I would want people to cheer me on when it comes to breastfeeding.

    I’m kind of bothered that you DON’T want to cheer women on for doing it. It’s really hard. For everyone.

    Reply

    tf Reply:

    Breastfeeding is only as hard as we make it, that goes for everything in life. why do you need approval from others, just figure out what works for you and baby, you dont need all other humans as cheerleaders.

    Reply

    schmei Reply:

    Wow… I just wandered back to this post and am astounded at some of the comments.

    tf, breastfeeding is incredibly difficult in the beginning. Even for moms who have it easy, and I think I was one of those people, it’s challenging. I’m the first in line to cheer on a nursing mother who sticks with it through those early weeks/months, especially because I had a team cheering me on when my son was new and I was figuring it all out, and I like to pay that support forward. It’s not about a needy mother begging for approval, it’s about all of us being together in this village, feeding our babies the best way we can, and leaning on each other when we need a little support.

    Reply

    Patricia Lahtinen Reply:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful verse, Sheila. It is exactly what we are called to do.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Your experience at work mirrors what I think we are seeing here. There are no men chiming in to say that they don’t believe this woman’s story, or that they think women need to breastfeed in a certain way. It’s only women! It’s sad to see how we can be our own worst enemy.

    Reply

    Sheila Reply:

    Exactly, Jenna. What’s the point of beating each other down? We need to encourage each other, and especially to new mothers!

    Reply

    schmei Reply:

    Shelia, thanks for sharing that verse.

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  31. Hear! Hear!!

    I’m nursing my 14.5m old to sleep right now. I am always here for you and anyone who needs breastfeeding help or support.

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  32. You are living in Palo Alto which is part of Silicon Valley and people are very progressive here. Please don’t blame the Church for your shortcomings. Your doctor should have explained the ramifications of surgery and the importance of breastfeeding- mine did when I had reconstructive surgery after a lumpectomy. I don’t see you writing an open letter to him/her. Not to mention, as a LDS you might have expected having a child or two and it takes about two seconds to find on the internet that breastfeeding boosts IQ, may reduce childhood cancers and what you may have found important: also reduces the likelihood of adult obesity since you struggle so much with you weight.

    Take some personal responsibility please. I know how hard breastfeeding is and as a young mother was, at first, self-conscious but got over it real quick- dirty looks ANYWHERE be dam*ed. I wonder if this is more about the ability to fob your children off on other people to pursue your own endeavors(sorry but I could never have left my children for weeks at a time for my own personal ego gain). You are a MOTHER now, time to take on the responsibility that entails.

    And I don’t say this just to flame you but sometimes I am shocked at your reasoning/justification of your actions.

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  33. If it’s such a bonding moment then why share it with everybody? Covering up is just considerate when there are people around you who feel awkward with your boob is showing. Yes, young men, young women, and adults can feel weird when they see a part of you that I doubt they ever wanted to see. I believe most church buildings have a women’s lounge for a reason.
    P.S. I know breastfeeding is important for babies, so dont get all offensive.

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  34. did she get kicked out? is there a follow up to this?

    p.s. how did you feel about women praying in conference? i would love to know your conference thoughts.

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  35. Breastfeeding is of course natural and a beautiful part of child rearing. What’s not so natural and beautiful is exposing innocent children to churches. Of any sort. If one’s to raise a child to have an appreciation of nature and the natural world, the very last thing one would want to do, I should think, is to expose that child to the immoral and disgusting practice that is religion itself.

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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