Breastfeeding is a natural part of God’s design for mothers and babies. The Bible has a positive view of breastfeeding and emphasizes the importance of mothers nourishing their children.
Here are some key points about what the Bible says about breastfeeding:
1. Breastfeeding is God’s plan for mothers and babies
The Bible shows that God designed mothers’ bodies to produce milk to feed their babies. When Eve gave birth to Cain, it is implied she nursed him: “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (Genesis 4:1). God created mothers with the ability to nourish new life.
Breastfeeding was the normal way to feed infants in Bible times. The Bible assumes mothers will breastfeed as the natural course of things. For example, when Pharaoh’s daughter finds the infant Moses, she knows he needs a wet nurse: “Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?’” (Exodus 2:7).
Isaiah 49:15 portrays God as a nursing mother: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” God uses the metaphor of a mother breastfeeding to illustrate His intimate care and provision for His people.
2. Breastfeeding demonstrates dependence on God’s provision
The Bible recognizes that both mothers and babies are dependent on God to provide the milk necessary for breastfeeding. Exodus 2 tells how Moses’ mother was paid to nurse her own child – God provided for this mother and baby through the princess of Egypt.
1 Samuel 1 records Hannah praying for a child, vowing to dedicate him to the Lord. When God answers her prayer, she declares: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:27-28). Hannah breastfed Samuel and gave him back to serve the Lord.
These stories reveal breastfeeding as part of trusting God’s help and provision. As Psalm 131:2 says, “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.” Weaning requires faith that God will sustain the child.
3. Breastfeeding illustrates the nurture and care of a loving parent
There are several images in the Bible of a nursing mother tenderly caring for her child. God portrays His compassion and concern for His people with the metaphor of a mother breastfeeding her baby in Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul says, “But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” Here, a nursing mother illustrates the affectionate care Paul and his team gave the new Christians in Thessalonica.
These verses use the nurture of breastfeeding to demonstrate great love and comfort. Breastfeeding requires time and attention from the mother, showing the child they are cherished.
4. Breastfeeding illustrates the partnership between mother and child
Breastfeeding requires an intimate, dependent relationship between mother and child. Several biblical passages use this symbiosis to describe the ideal relationship between God’s people and Himself.
In Numbers 11:12, Moses asks God, “Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, like a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?” Like a nursing baby relies completely on its mother, the Israelites were helpless and could only survive with God’s care.
In Isaiah 60:16, God says to Israel, “You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts. Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Here, Israel is pictured as a breastfed baby, intimately connected to and cared for by God Himself.
These comparisons show the total dependence and closeness illustrated by breastfeeding – an image of how God desires His people to find nourishment and life in relationship with Him.
5. Breastfeeding is used to represent blessing and abundance
In several places, the Bible uses breasts and breastfeeding as images of prosperity, satisfaction, and blessing.
Isaiah 60:16 mentioned above continues, “You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts.” Here, breastfeeding represents the riches Israel will receive from other nations when God restores them.
In Isaiah 28:9, God rebukes people who are like greedy babies: “To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast?” Instead of relying on God, they greedily seek wealth.
In Job 3:12, Job wishes he had died at birth so he could have experienced the blessing of “the breasts that nursed” him. The image represents comforting fullness and satisfaction.
Overall, breastfeeding in the Bible illustrates God’s ideal of intimate nourishment, care, and abundant blessing between parent and child.
6. Breastfeeding bonds mother and child
The Bible recognizes breastfeeding leads to strong emotional bonds between mother and baby. Several verses use this maternal connection to portray God’s passionate love for His people.
In Isaiah 49:15 mentioned earlier, God asks, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” Here God points to the unforgettable bond breastfeeding forms between mother and baby.
Hosea 2:2-3 depicts God’s intense attachment to Israel in terms of a mother-child breastfeeding bond: “Rebuke your mother, rebuke her, for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband…Lest I strip her naked and make her as in the day she was born, and make her like a wilderness, and make her like a parched land, and kill her with thirst.” God yearns for Israel like a mother for her nursling.
These comparisons reveal how the nursing relationship illustrates an inseparable, nurturing connection of love.
7. Breasts represent intimacy and affection between lovers
Although the Bible promotes modesty, in the intimate marital relationship, a wife’s breasts are portrayed as an object of the husband’s love and desire. The Song of Solomon frequently uses poetic imagery about the man enjoying his beloved’s breasts.
In Song of Solomon 7:7-8 the man declares, “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.” Here, the man’s enjoyment of his wife’s body is within marriage.
Song of Solomon 8:1 expresses the woman’s longing for her husband: “Oh that you were like my brother, who nursed at my mother’s breasts! If I found you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me.” She wishes for the freedom to show public affection as with a sibling.
So in the confines of marriage, the Bible portrays a wife’s breasts as representing her intimate connection with her husband.
8. Baring the breast was a sign of judgment or degradation
Although the Bible promotes modesty and self-control, there are times when the Bible references baring a woman’s breast as a sign of judgment or degradation:
– Isaiah 47:2-3 says Babylon will be captured and degraded: “Take the millstones and grind flour, put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers. Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen.”
– Lamentations 4:3 says of Jerusalem: “Even jackals offer the breast; they nurse their young, but the daughter of my people has become cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.” The imagery represents deprivation and disregard for life.
– Ezekiel 23:1-4 uses graphic sexual metaphor to depict Israel and Judah’s unfaithfulness to God. It includes exposing breasts as part of Judah’s punishment.
– Hosea 2:2-3 mentioned above warns Israel God may “strip her naked” in judgment for her spiritual adultery.
So the Bible acknowledges exposing a woman’s breasts could represent her vulnerability and humiliation.
9. Breastfeeding offers health benefits to mother and baby
Although the Bible was written before modern health science, breastfeeding does offer proven medical benefits aligned with Scripture’s positive view of nursing babies.
For babies, breastfeeding provides ideal infant nutrition, boosts the immune system, reduces infections, and builds a strong feeding relationship with the mother.
For mothers, breastfeeding releases oxytocin to help the uterus contract after birth and bond with her baby. It also reduces risks of postpartum hemorrhage, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
So the health advantages of breastfeeding support the Bible’s perspective of this as God’s design for mothers and babies to thrive.
10. The Bible encourages modesty when breastfeeding
Although the Bible presents breastfeeding as good and natural, it also emphasizes the importance of modesty and self-control.
Discretion would have been necessary in Bible times when breastfeeding in public. 1 Timothy 2:9 says women should wear “respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” And 1 Corinthians 12:23 says some body parts are “unpresentable” and treated with “greater modesty.”
So while the Bible promotes breastfeeding, it would also encourage nursing mothers to maintain modesty, seeking privacy when reasonably possible.
In summary, the Bible has an overall positive perspective on breastfeeding. It is portrayed as the natural, God-designed way to nourish infants. Breastfeeding illustrates God’s provision, a mother’s nurture, the bonding relationship between mother and child, intimacy in marriage, and blessing. However, the Bible also acknowledges it can represent degradation when done immodestly. Within appropriate contexts and boundaries, the Bible upholds breastfeeding as beneficial for mothers and babies.