Dear Pastor, Jeff, Mike and staff,
After our recent visit with Jeff and Mike we’ve been doing a lot of praying and discussing things between us, as you can imagine. During our meeting we shared how much the church family at has blessed us throughout the beginnings of our marriage, how much we appreciate about the church, the people there, etc and it seemed to us there was some disbelief that given all those things we were still considering leaving. The question was asked repeatedly whether there was anything else bothering us. Rest assured, the breastfeeding issue truly is the only issue on our hearts. There isn’t any other thing acting as the catalyst for such a huge change in our family.
Family. That is the crux of the issue. Family is of the utmost importance to us. We firmly believe that God desires families to worship together, in strong family units. We believe children learn best by observing the adults around them worshiping in spirit and in truth.¹ We know you believe that also; we’ve seen Jeff keep Drew in church with his family many times. We believe we should be allowed to do that with our children also. With ALL our children, regardless of age or the way in which they are fed. Last year our family did not respond appropriately, we know that. We feel like with the birth of our first child we sacrificed our family in some ways for the sake of “keeping the peace”, and not “making waves”. It was wrong of us to do so last year. It would be wrong for us to do so again.
Now we realize at this point you are saying to yourselves, “You can! You are welcome to bring your baby into Sunday School and church services with you.” And yet, when you examine the actual facts you’ll see how this is made so much more difficult for us. Obviously a child who is crying and being disruptive would be taken out if they could not be consoled so as not to disturb others. This is only right. So when our child is hungry and crying our options are feed and quickly quiet him, or take him and out separate our family. Usually this wouldn’t be a problem, yet with our decision to breastfeed and the restrictive policies enacted by this church you have ensured we will be unable to simultaneously follow the feeding recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization² AND fullfill our spiritual need to worship God together.
Both the aforementioned organizations recommend against the introduction of any other form of nipple, including bottle nipples and pacifiers to a breastfeeding child too early to help prevent nipple confusion. Following these guidelines, bottle feeding expressed breastmilk and/or giving the baby a pacifier isn’t even an option for the beginning of a newborn’s life. IF the baby will accept a bottle – some do not.
They also have recommendations to breastfeed your child exclusively for a minimum of six months although, in our experience, Evan nursed exclusively for seven. You can see, for a family who has made this health care decision, nursing is the only option for feeding available to us for one-third to one-half a year! By removing this option you have ensured that any hunger cannot be quickly and easily dealt with but rather must result in the removal of the infant and thus the separation of our family during the very time we most desire to be together. Not to mention that these policies also contradict our civil rights as protected by both state and federal laws.³
So while lip service is given to the ability to keep our family together during church times, the church has set limitations on us which restrict us in such a manner as to make it virtually impossible for us to do so. THAT is why we feel it is time to seek another church family. If our family is not welcome to be together for such a large portion of time that is a pretty clear sign that our family needs to seek what else God may have for us.
We pray you hear the heart behind what we are saying. We understand the traditions of men are difficult to overcome and that the church authorities have felt it necessary to make policies regarding this situation, but we feel there were (and are) better ways of handling it. It makes us sad that while in the church we decry the world’s vulgar view of breasts as only “sex objects”, we have allowed this mindset to so influence our decisions as a church that we are actually adopting this viewpoint. The viewpoint of the world! Breastfeeding is used by God throughout Scripture not only in illustrating His love for us, but also to describe aspects of His character.
By allowing our church policies to put a “shameful” spin on this beautiful, nurturing act, what message are we accidentally sending not only about God’s design, but His very love and character?4 We pray this church will come to the point where we model God’s ideal of discreet breastfeeding and glory in the brilliance of His design rather than implicitly accept the world’s “skewed” viewpoint in our policies and practices.
We would love to see you consider revising your stance on discreet breastfeeding during Sunday School and church activities, as this is a completely natural and God-intended act of motherhood. Please understand that until these avoidable restrictions have been changed, it has become more difficult for us to do what we feel God has called us to do ….raise up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The England Family
1. Deut 31:12 “Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law.”Psalm 78:5 “For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children…”
2. American Academy of Pediatrics full review: http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;100/6/1035 World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/
Pertinent recommendations: “Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger. Newborns should be nursed approximately 8 to 12 times every 24 hours until satiety, usually 10 to 15 minutes on each breast. No supplements (water, glucose water, formula, and so forth) should be given to breastfeeding newborns unless a medical indication exists. Supplements and pacifiers should be avoided whenever possible and, if used at all, only after breastfeeding is well established. Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months after birth.
3. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359 Chapter 165. Breast-FeedingSubchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and PoliciesSec. 165.001. Legislative FindingThe legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-FeedA mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.
4. Isaiah 49:14-15 “Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me; The Lord has forgotten me!” Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.”
The title “El Shaddai” is a depiction of a God of blessing and fruitfulness, usually translated as “Almighty” or “God All Sufficient”. The name is a direct derivative of the Hebrew word “Shadayim” which means “breasts”. God’s design is completely sufficient to fulfill our needs.
Other Scriptures to consider: Joel 2:15-16 “Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants…” This assembly was not considered complete until the nursing infants were included. May our churches come to this mindset.
Matt 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matt 21:15-16 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, `Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself.’?”
Psalm 8:1-2 Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is Your name throughout the earth! You have covered the heavens with Your majesty. Because of Your adversaries, You have established a stronghold from the mouths of children and nursing infants, to silence the enemy and the avenger.