The Mailbag: Should Christian women cover up while breastfeeding?

To my dear brothers in Christ –
This is an opportune time to remind you that this blog is written to, and for, Christian women. Though you are always welcome to “eavesdrop” here, please be advised that this article contains reverent and biblical, yet open, references to female anatomy and sexuality. If that would cause you to stumble in any way, please do not read this article.


It seems like I’m constantly seeing stories in the news and on social media in which breastfeeding women angrily freak out about being asked to cover themselves while nursing their babies. How should Christian women approach this issue? Maybe these women are right to protest? It’s just feeding a baby in the natural way, after all, isn’t it?

Whenever Christians approach an issue like this (or any other), the first thing we need to ask ourselves is, “Who am I?” not “What do I want to do?”. For Christians the answer has to start with, “I am a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am here to represent Him and do what He wants me to do, not what I want to do.”

So, how would Christ want a Christian nursing mother to act and to represent Him in this situation?

Christ wants us to be kind and be at peace with others.
There are hills to die on, such as biblical truth, the gospel, and protecting the lives of others. Personal preferences and habits are not one of those hills.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Matthew 16:24

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Matthew 5:39-41

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

We’re to be gracious and hospitable to others, even putting ourselves out, if necessary, to be kind to them. I have nursed four babies. It is not that big of a deal to throw a burp rag or small blanket over your shoulder and the baby. As an imitator of Christ, why would I not do this small thing as an act of love toward someone who’s uncomfortable enough to ask me to do so? Why would I ever act with hostility or speak unkindly to this person who’s asking me to cover? Does that kind of attitude represent Christ well?

Christ wants us to be set apart from the world.
If the world is acting a certain way, it’s a pretty good bet that Christians should be acting the opposite way.

Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord,
2 Corinthians 6:17a

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Titus 2:11-12

I’ve seen some of the articles and social media posts from women (whom I can only assume by their words and actions are unsaved) who really do “angrily freak out” when asked to cover. If Christian women act the same way the world acts, how is that a testimony to Christ? Does that kind of behavior represent Christ well?

Christ wants us to share the gospel.
One of the reasons Christ wants us to be kind and peaceable to others and set apart from the world is because acting that way grabs the attention of lost people. Godly attitudes and behavior are a rare light shining in the darkness of our world. It is so joltingly unexpected that lost people will often ask in incredulity why we’ve acted that way. And that is our open door to explain why and share the gospel.

but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
1 Peter 3:15 (CSB)

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:12b

Christians are people who put aside our personal rights and endure without offense the slings and arrows hurled at us by the lost in order to reach them with the gospel. If someone asks you to cover and you go off on her, is that going to open a door for you to share the gospel with her? Do you think she would even listen to you after your angry tirade?

Christ wants us to be honest.
In the stories I’ve read about the covering issue, the most common argument I’ve seen for refusing to cover is, “It’s natural! I’m just feeding my baby!”.

Come on. Let’s get real. And biblical.

First, there are plenty of “natural” bodily functions we don’t perform in public for the world to see. We don’t have sex in public. We don’t relieve ourselves or attend to feminine hygiene needs in public. We don’t change clothes in public. We don’t bathe in public. Most of us even avoid burping and passing gas in public. “It’s natural!” isn’t even a logical (never mind biblical) argument for doing something in public. Performing any and all bodily functions in public without shame is what animals do, not people made in the image of God.

Next, feeding a baby with your breast isn’t the same thing as feeding a baby with a bottle or from a spoon. Don’t believe me? When was the last time you saw an article about a woman who was offended by someone asking her to cover up a Dr. Brown’s or a jar of strained peas? Never, that’s when. No reasonable human being is buying the argument that, visually, breast equals bottle, so let’s stop trying to make that happen. The two are different, and that’s OK.

One of the differences is that while bottles and spoons have only one function – transporting food to mouth – breasts are multi-taskers, much like our tongues. We use our tongues for eating, but we also use them for talking. We use our breasts for feeding babies, but they are also a component of our sexuality. And that’s not a bad thing, nor are men wrong or bad for considering breasts to be sexual. That’s the way God created women and men.

rejoice in the wife of your youth…Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
Proverbs 5:18b,19b

Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle…Your stature is like a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its fruit. Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
Song of Solomon 7:3,7-8a

They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosoms handled.
Ezekiel 23:3

Your breasts don’t look any different when you’re feeding a baby than they do when they’re functioning sexually. Whether you intend for them to be sexual or not, breasts are breasts regardless of context. As constant components of sexuality, in order to maintain biblical modesty and avoid being a stumbling block to others, your breasts are for reserved for two sets of eyes only: your husband’s eyes and the eyes of the child you’re currently nursing. And precisely because of that, God instructs us to keep the girls under wraps.

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister.
Ezekiel 23:18

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen,
Revelation 3:18a

and our unpresentable [body] parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.
1 Corinthians 12:23b-24a

likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control,
1 Timothy 2:9a

Outside of the one flesh relationship of marriage, the Bible equates nakedness with shame and clothing and modesty with honor. Does flaunting the nakedness of private body parts more closely align with what the Bible calls shameful or what the Bible calls honorable?

Breastfeeding your baby is a good thing. Biblical modesty is also a good thing. Fortunately, the two are easily compatible. Nursing your baby in public? Don’t put others in the awkward position of having to ask. Cover up.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.