Breastfeeding at Mormon Meetings: Debate Growing

Mothers who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons, are among the most likely groups of American moms to breastfeed, but a debate is growing over the extent to which moms need to “cover up” while feeding their babies.  Peggy Fletcher Stack reports for the Salt Lake Tribune:

Indeed, Utah, with its predominant Mormon faith, has one of the highest percentages of breast-feeding moms in the nation, according to a 2012 report card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 86 percent of children are breast-fed at some point, with 64.4 percent still nursing at 6 months, compared with 47.2 percent nationwide.

In recent years, however, some Mormon moms in and out of the Beehive State have faced criticism, gossip and even reprimands from church leaders for “not completely covering up.”

As a new mother in Provo about three years ago, Heather Moore-Farley got a call from her Relief Society president, asking her to use a blanket or go to the mothers’ lounge in the women’s bathroom to breast-feed to protect others’ sensitivities. Then her bishop suggested Moore-Farley and her husband pray about it. They did and got the same answer: She was doing nothing wrong.

Sometime later, another ward member confronted the couple as they were walking home from church and accused her of “contributing to the pornography problem” and “not keeping [her] covenants.”

Moore-Farley felt hurt and angry, but it didn’t change her mind about breast-feeding. She began to collect stories like hers from other Mormon moms. The couple eventually moved to the Bay Area and had no more trouble nursing subsequent children at church.

Verbal attacks on lactating mothers from many backgrounds, though, have continued — even as proponents have grown more vocal and better organized in defense of their rights.

Image: Breastfeeding mom, via Shutterstock

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  1. by haley

    On March 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Nursing is a beautiful thing and it sounds like it was the accusers problem more than the mother’s. I am also a member of the church and RS is very kind and supportive.

  2. by Dawn

    On March 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    I breastfed my son, as most of my friends did their children. This story makes it sound like the LDS church is scolding people for breastfeeding, which is not the case. If Heather was asked to use a blanket, then I’d be inclined to believe she wasn’t covering up at all. I know there are some people that don’t have a problem with that, but overall it does make most people uncomfortable…not the breastfeeding part, but the seeing your breast part. I think it’s polite to be considerate of other peoples comfort levels. At home, I didn’t cover up. In public, I did. No big deal, the baby gets fed either way.

  3. by ESheen

    On March 7, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Here’s the thing- no matter what you think about what this couple’s church did, public opinion does NOT get to determine what a church’s stance on something is! Just like the news media doesn’t get to decide who the next pope is, etc. That’s the beauty of religious freedom. So frankly, while I’m sorry this couple had a bad experience, it’s very simple. Either cover up (it’s not that hard), or go to a different church. Easy peasy.