What Does the Bible Say About Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful way for mothers to nourish and bond with their babies. While the Bible does not directly address breastfeeding, there are some key principles we can derive from Scripture about God’s design for and view of this special time between mothers and children. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the Bible’s guidance on breastfeeding through its teachings on marriage, sexuality, modesty, motherhood, and more.


Breastfeeding can be a controversial topic, even among Christians. While public breastfeeding in particular elicits strong opinions on both sides, even the practice of breastfeeding itself is debated in some Christian circles. Some argue that breastfeeding ties a mother to her child in an unhealthy way, while others claim that formula feeding reflects a lack of trust in God’s design. How should Christian mothers think about breastfeeding? What principles can we draw from Scripture as we make decisions about how to feed and care for our babies?

Here are the key takeaways from this Biblical exploration of breastfeeding:

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  • God designed breastfeeding as the ideal way to nurture infants and bond with mothers. It carries many health benefits and meets babies’ nutritional needs.
  • Breastfeeding utilizes women’s bodies according to God’s natural design and purpose. It is not about mere sexuality.
  • Modesty and discretion are called for when nursing in public, but mothers should feel comfortable feeding their babies when necessary.
  • Issues like lactation, nursing frequency, when to wean, and more are matters for each mother to decide for her circumstances.
  • Husbands should support breastfeeding as part of a wife’s important mothering role in the family.
  • Breastfeeding can reflect God’s nurturing nature and the special relationship between Christian mothers and their children.
  • Formula feeding is also a valid option, and mothers should not feel condemned for difficulties with breastfeeding or decisions not to nurse.
  • The principles of love, wisdom, faithfulness to God’s design, and concern for others should guide decisions about breastfeeding.

Let’s now explore these themes in greater detail, examining what Scripture says both explicitly and implicitly about breastfeeding and how it applies to Christian mothers today.

What Does the Bible Say About Breastfeeding?

God Designed Breastfeeding

First and foremost, we can recognize that breastfeeding is God’s design for how mothers should nourish infants. In creation, God provided women with the capacity to produce milk in order to feed the babies they bear. Several verses make reference to breasts in the context of nursing children:

You will be carried on her hip and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you (Isaiah 66:12-13 NKJV).

You will nurse, you will be carried on her hip, and bounced on her knee (Isaiah 66:12 NIV).

But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceasing to fret] (Psalm 131:2 AMP).

These verses portray breastfeeding as the natural and intended way for mothers to care for their infants. By referencing weaning, they assume breastfeeding as the normal start for a child’s nutrition. God created women’s bodies not just for childbearing but also for nourishing those children after birth through breastfeeding. This fulfills His design for how mothers and babies should be bonded and how infants should be fed.

In addition to these verses, we gain insight from the creation order itself. God made women with the biological capacity to breastfeed, including organs specially designed for producing and delivering milk. He could have created babies capable of sustaining themselves without their mothers’ milk, but in His wisdom, God chose to have infants rely fully on their mothers in the beginning. This encourages special nurturing care from mothers, meeting babies’ needs while also deepening the mother-child bond. God’s setup reveals that He views breastfeeding as ideal for infants as well as instrumental in cultivating devoted mother-child relationships.

Furthermore, we know that human breast milk contains the perfect nutritional composition to help babies thrive. Its balance of nutrients, antibodies, and living cells protects babies from infection, reduces allergy risks, and provides easily digestible nutrition. Formula cannot fully replicate these elements. Scripture affirms that God formed babies in the womb and that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13-14). Part of this wonderful design is their need for the milk their mothers produce. God creates human bodies with interdependent systems to encourage nurturing relationships. Breastfeeding relies on this design and provides a great start for babies.

For all these reasons, when we have a choice, Christian mothers can view breastfeeding as the way God designed for them to feed, nourish, and comfort their little ones. It was His plan from creation. Breastfeeding utilizes a mother’s body according to God’s natural purpose. It is not about sexuality, but about using women’s physical capacities to care for babies. Embracing breastfeeding is affirming God’s perfect design.

A Special Opportunity to Bond

Another key point is that breastfeeding facilitates bonding between mother and child. As mentioned, God connects mothers and babies through interdependence, which encourages warm nurturing care from the start. In particular, breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes affectionate mother-child attachment. It is no accident that God made lactation involve this biochemical reaction! By stimulating oxytocin release through breastfeeding, God provides mothers with increased affection for their babies as they meet their needs day after day. This strengthens the maternal bond that will sustain the nurture and training of children over the long haul.

The Bible is clear that one of mothers’ highest callings is the nurture of children:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

[Children] will rise up and call [their mother] blessed (Proverbs 31:28).

To enable mothers to nurture children, God established breastfeeding. The maternal-child bonding facilitated through breastfeeding ensures that mothers are invested in children’s wellbeing over the years. It helps lay a strong foundation for devoted nurture that can train children in God’s ways. For this reason as well, breastfeeding aligns with God’s design and supports a mother’s important calling of training her children.

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

In addition to reflecting God’s creative purpose, we know that breastfeeding provides invaluable health benefits that formula simply cannot replicate. God designed human milk to give babies the nutrients, antibodies, enzymes, and hormones they need for optimal development. For instance, breastmilk…

  • Boosts the immune system, reducing infections and allergies
  • Provides perfect nutrition including vitamins, fat, and protein
  • Enhances brain development and IQ
  • Lowers risk for diabetes, obesity, and cancer later in life
  • Reduces chances of SIDS
  • And more!

Part of living out God’s design is good stewardship of our bodies and our children. Breastfeeding offers a powerful health boost with lifelong effects. Wisely utilizing this provision from God is good stewardship of mothers’ capacities and babies’ wellbeing. As Christian mothers, we need to be faithful to use what God has given us for the flourishing of our children. Breastfeeding is a key way to do that.

A Matter of Modesty and Wisdom

Now, while Scripture affirms the goodness of breastfeeding, it also contains exhortations to modesty that are relevant when nursing infants. Breastfeeding is not supposed to become an opportunity for inappropriate exposure or seduction. Here are some verses about modesty:

Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control (1 Timothy 2:9).

Your breasts were fashioned…[so] do not lay bare your beauty (Ezekiel 16:7-8).

[Mary] wrapped [Jesus] in swaddling cloths (Luke 2:7).

Clearly, God cares about women maintaining modesty and avoiding impropriety in relation to their bodies. So for modern Christian women, the question is how to uphold modesty while breastfeeding. Having a nursing cover, wearing two-layered tops, finding a private space, or pumping milk to bottle feed in public are all ways mothers can retain modesty yet still give their babies breastmilk. With some forethought and discretion, women should feel they can nurse modestly without having to refrain altogether.

That said, mothers must balance modesty with feeding their babies whenever truly necessary, even if an exposed glimpse occasionally occurs. Mothers should not feel ashamed for meeting children’s needs. As one expert explains: “If while breastfeeding, the mother’s body becomes minimally exposed, it is not an occasion of sin, as no one has intended for this to be taken as sexual display.” (From Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, 2006.) Therefore, women can nurse discreetly yet accept that at times brief exposure could happen despite best efforts to avoid it.

In public spaces, mothers must be wise to avoid causing others to stumble through gratuitous nudity. But Christians should also take care not to sexualize breastfeeding. As one passage exhorts:

[Do not] drink water only, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23).

This verse acknowledges the goodness of wine used medicinally. Likewise, though breasts have a sexual purpose, their design for nourishing children is also sanctioned. With prudence, mothers can retain modesty while breastfeeding wherever needed.

Individual Factors to Weigh

When making decisions about breastfeeding, Christian mothers will weigh their individual circumstances and factors involved. Issues like these are a matter for each woman and family to decide for themselves:

  • How long to breastfeed. Any amount is beneficial, while exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months by health organizations. Mothers can pray and seek guidance about when to wean their child onto solids and eventually end nursing altogether.
  • Pumpingmilk versus nursing directly. Pumping allows bottle feeding by dad or others, though direct feeding helps stimulate milk supply and releases bonding hormones. Mothers should factor in their family situation and needs.
  • Breastfeeding frequency. On-demand nursing aids bonding and milk production, but scheduled feedings can help otherwise overwhelmed mothers. Mothers should follow baby’s lead but can structure things some for their sanity.
  • Navigating lactation problems. Issues like low supply can make exclusive nursing difficult. Mothers can still provide some breastmilk yet supplement as needed while seeking advice from lactation consultants and doctors. If fully weaning becomes necessary, mothers should not feel condemn guilty.
  • Covering versus not covering. Women must gauge what feels modest in their community. In some cultures, nursing without a cover is unremarkable while other places require one for discretion. Mothers should aim for modesty while acknowledging cultural views may differ.
  • When and where to nurse in public. Christian mothers should choose locations and circumstances where they feel they can breastfeed while maintaining appropriate discretion. But feeding a hungry baby should not be ruled out just because of location. Bold modesty and humble discretion are needed in navigating public nursing.

In all these areas, wise judgment and faithfulness to biblical principles, not rigid rules, must guide each mother’s choices.

A Husband’s Role

What about fathers and husbands? What role do they play when it comes to breastfeeding? Scripture gives fathers responsibility for loving, caring for, and raising children along with mothers:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . . . In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself (Ephesians 5:25, 28).

While husbands cannot breastfeed themselves, they should support the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child. Husbands provide for and protect the family, including the special nurturing time nursing gives mothers and babies. They give mothers space and comfort to nurse while taking on other household tasks. By affirming breastfeeding, husbands uphold it as part of a wife’s important role in childrearing.

Husbands must also understand the difference between breastfeeding and sexual intimacy in marriage. They should avoid responding to nursing with misplaced arousal, instead viewing it rightly as motherly nurture and care. Yet at other intimate times, breasts remain an important part of sexual pleasure within marriage. Husbands should help their wives maintain modesty in public while delighting in breasts’ marital intimacy in private.

Reflecting God’s Nurturing Nature

As Christians, we can also view breastfeeding as a picture of the nurture and intimacy we receive from God. We can draw several parallels:

  • As mothers instinctively sacrifice to provide breastmilk to their children, God sacrificed Jesus to give us life. Breastfeeding can reflect the nurture we receive through Christ’s life given for us.
  • As babies cuddle close for nourishment, comfort, and protection, Christians cling to God’s presence and care, receiving assurance and protection. Breastfeeding illustrates the security Christians find in God.
  • As breastmilk meets babies’ needs before they can even ask, God provides for His children, knowing what we need even when we do not ask. The responsiveness of breastfeeding shows the depth of God’s watchful provision.
  • As close breastfeeding relationships provide a feeling of oneness between mother and child, Christians spiritually unite with Jesus in a bond of intimacy and love. Breastfeeding mirrors the intimate union between Christ and His church.

Certainly these parallels break down if pressed too far. But in many ways, the nurture and care shown in breastfeeding can point us to God’s love and nourishment of His people. The breastfeeding bond models God’s desire for intimate nurture of His children. For Christian mothers, recognizing this can be a huge encouragement. Even in the midnight hours of responding to a crying baby, they can remember they are displaying God’s heart of compassionate care and provision. Breastfeeding offers a chance for baby and mother to receive and reflect the comfort God Himself gives.

Conclusion: Loving What God Loves

To conclude this survey, while the Bible does not explicitly command or forbid breastfeeding, its principles affirm that God designed it as part of His natural created order. Breastfeeding utilizes women’s God-given capacity to nourish infants. It facilitates special nurturing bonds, highlights our interdependence, provides optimal early nutrition, and models God’s own nurturing nature. At the same time, modesty and wisdom should govern how Christian women navigate public breastfeeding. Individual mothers must weigh their own situations to make prayerful decisions about how to work out biblical principles in their own breastfeeding practice.

Most of all, Christian mothers can embrace breastfeeding as an opportunity to cherish and nurture the children God has given as blessings. They can find joy in using their bodies as God designed to give babies the best start in life. Yet for those who encounter difficulties in breastfeeding or who make informed choices not to breastfeed, God’s grace and understanding is still assured. As Christian mothers seek to raise children in the training of the Lord, decisions about breastfeeding can be part of larger Kingdom convictions to love, protect, and nurture what God loves. His design is good, but even more, God cares about our hearts towards Him. Our decisions reflect our devotion to steward and care for the gifts He has given. By embracing biblical principles of wisdom, faithfulness to God’s creation order, modesty, stewardship, and sacrificial love, mothers can make God-honoring choices about breastfeeding. And they can find encouragement that even in the mundane moments of nursing, God is still at work building bonds of nurture that reflect His eternal love and care.

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