January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

Breastfeeding in church? Pope says yes

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) - Amid the iconic art in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis told mothers that it's acceptable to breastfeed their children in public, even in holy sites like churches.

Children's voices, even when crying, make "the most beautiful choir of all," Francis said during a service in which he baptized 32 children.

"Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry," the Pope said. "If they are hungry, mothers, let them eat, no worries, because here, they are the main focus."

The Sistine Chapel, with its famous frescoes by Michelangelo, is the official chapel of the Apostolic Palace, traditionally the papal residence. Francis, though, lives in the Vatican guesthouse, Casa Santa Marta, saying it better suits his low-key style.

The Pope's remarks echo statements he made to an Italian newspaper in December in which he tied breastfeeding to the problem of global hunger.

At a recent General Audience - or public appearance by the Pope - a young mother sat behind a screen with her crying infant, Francis told La Stampa.

"I said to her: 'Madam, I think the child’s hungry. ... Please give it something to eat!' " the Pope said.

"She was shy and didn’t want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing," he continued. "I wish to say the same to humanity: Give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone."

Emer McCarthy, a journalist at Vatican Radio, told Catholic News Service that she breastfed her daughter discreetly during Sunday's baptism ceremony. "Who would have thought the Pope would be this great proponent?" she said.

Breastfeeding in public, particularly in sacred sites such as churches, remains a sensitive issue for families, as noted by a recent Religion News Service article.

A blog post on "Five Places Moms Need to Breastfeed Discreetly" listed churches as No. 5, following public pools, restaurants, airplanes and sporting events.

"It's wonderful when moms want to bring the kids to church and nurture their faith early on," wrote blogger Mary Fischer. "But a coverup is a necessity with a baby in tow. Do I really have to elaborate here?"

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Church • Ethics • Faith & Health • Food • gender issues • Health • Houses of worship • Mass • Pope Francis • Sacred Spaces • Women

soundoff (1,126 Responses)
  1. 00 00

    deleting, blocking, pretending won't stop the questions and their implications from torturing ur souls. observer, i mean live4him, pretending to address ur issues that i raised by diversion doesn't cut it. u cannot outsmart me

    u r so cute. when u r terrified of my piercing questions, the burst of posting activity always kills me. sorry. i can;t help it

    January 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
    • CherryMama

      So what does this have to do with nursing in church?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Again, if you think that Observer and Live4Him are the same person, you live in an alternate reality of your own making. I suggest a qualified threapist.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
    • Topher

      Bye bye gods...bye bye...

      January 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
  2. Peter

    Some places used to have "mothers' rooms" for such things.

    I don't have a problem so long as the feeding is discreet.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm |
    • igaftr

      if something as natural as a woman feeding her child is that offensive to you, YOU can leave the room to more mature individuals.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • brian

        If something as innocent as having some decorum is so offensive to you, you can leave the room to the more mature adults. Why is it so difficult to accept that not everyone is comfortable watching breastfeeding infants and so heinous to show a little discretion?

        January 13, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
        • Aasa

          Why is anyone watching someone breastfeed?

          January 13, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
    • OTOH

      It's distracting - better than crying, I guess, but then so often the little tykes spit up afterwards and it's GROSS.

      Would you feed your toddler from a baby food jar during services?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
      • igaftr

        The baby food jar does not swell up to the point of pain.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
      • Susan StoHelit

        A child old enough to eat baby food does not need to eat as frequently as a nursing baby does.

        But yes, if I'm expecting a very young child to sit through a service, I'd bring some food for them.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
    • conrad

      Newsflash to all men – breastfeeding is not about you and getting your approval. It happens because it's necessary. Deal with it.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
      • igaftr

        Not all men are immature enough to think there is a problem.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
  3. JFCanton

    I'd think a church pew would be one of the more obvious public places with some privacy.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm |
  4. nik green

    Everything I've read about Pope Francis is positive. I am not a Catholic and not Christian either – but it is wonderful that a leader within the modern Christian faith is following the principles of the man who started that faith. It's no surprise that the world is falling in love with the Pontiff, while the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the US religious right are up in arms against him.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
    • Ben

      He's getting popular enough to be called the Antichrist by people like Limbaugh, which is indeed a compliment. 😉

      January 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm |
      • Margaret Canfield

        Yeah that didn't happen but ok.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
        • Lupine Predator

          Perhaps, but Rush did call him a Marxist. But then, why would anyone listen to Rush?

          January 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
  5. Irrational Exuberance

    I am surprised by this. I'm glad he sad it, just surprised he did.
    To those who say it should or should not be done discretely I understand your positions, but it really isn't what this is about.

    What I take away form this is he is downplaying the importance of a place. He is elevating people above things.

    And that should be recognized.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • Tired of the Cray Cray

      " He is elevating people above things.
      And that should be recognized."

      So the current Pope meets the minimum criteria for having empathy as a human being? and being in such a "exalted" position we should be humbled he doesn't think he's better than us?
      Are you for real?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
      • Anonymous

        Coming from the person who just labeled wonen who breastfeed "white trash", your judgement is skewed.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
      • whaaaaaa

        meets the min criteria for empathy? Just face it, you're a moron

        January 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
      • Irrational Exuberance

        "... we should be humbled he doesn't think he's better than us?"
        I'm very much for real, but what you are doing is very much a straw man.

        I did not say we should be humbled by his position.
        I did not say I consider his job to place him in a elevated position in my consideration.
        I noted that his position elevates people above geography, and his announcement does diverge from conservative views within the church.

        The other thing you might want to consider is how do you elicit conduct which you would see as appropriate? You encourage it when it occurs, if you simply smack somebody no matter what they do all you do is breed confusion and irrationality.

        So on those occasions when he does have his head on straight recognize he has done so.

        January 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm |
  6. Greg

    He makes this non- Catholic smile.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • Pete

      The Dalai Lama can make me smile too, but that still doesn't mean that I believe in reincarnation, or any other Buddhist supernatural belief and more than Christian hooey.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
      • Marissa

        Geez, I bet you're fun at parties.

        January 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
  7. Retta

    Never knew that they had rules on breast feeding while in church, very odd.
    The Pope thinks & feels llike a human being 1st and foremost, not like a man.
    I have 2 children that were breast fed & I was careful , and as modest as I could be, as not to offend, it worked well for me.
    Breast feeding in most parts of the world is not a choice, they must feed their babies anytime, anywhere, to know now that the church is understanding that fact of life FINALLY, is awsome.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • DobJ

      There are no rules. He was just encouraging women to tend to their children rather than himself.

      January 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
    • DobJ

      And I love him too! (It's hard to be a breastfeeding mom but it's a very important job!!)

      January 13, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
  8. BillWogo

    This Pope is really helping the Churchill get into the 21st century, he is in touch with the people. Maybe he can turn around the continuous loss of followers. Bravo Papa !!

    January 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
  9. PeterD

    Have some decency and cover up if you breastfeed in Public. Indian Poor Day Laborers always breastfeed in Public but they have sense to cover up while they breastfeed.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • igaftr

      What makes you think that a woman feeding her child is indecent? Grow up.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Women cover up. Your sense of outrage is ridiculous, as is your random capitalization.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
    • Michael J.

      You're a moron.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
  10. TomGI

    fransis' PR machine getting his name in the media today? Compelling topic?

    January 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • sly

      Tom .. I suspect the Pope wishes he could do a little breast feeding, so I think this is really important news.

      In fact ... if some of these chicks let me breast feed, I might step inside a church for the first time in my life ...

      January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
  11. Fiona

    I'm an ex-Catholic who rejected the Church more than 30 years ago. If this pope had been in place back when I still had faith, I would probably never have walked away from what was then, and has been for decades since, a misogynistic and twisted religion.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • BillWogo

      So so true ! It is so sad it has taken this long to find the right man !!

      January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
    • Tired of the Cray Cray

      "misogynistic and twisted"
      yes, those must be the words that come to mind when one doesn't want to see some white trash woman breastfeeding her kid in a public place.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
      • Anonymous

        That you think women feeding their child are trash, white or otherwise, is telling. Grow up.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm |
      • conrad

        I don't want to shock you, but women of all races breastfeed. It is an instrinsic component of being a mother and has been for countless thousands of years.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • Telengard

      Funny how it's the people that keep you locked down into a religion and not the power of a god.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
      • Fiona

        Absurd statement.

        January 13, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
        • H.S.

          Absolutely NOT an absurd statement. People have been perverting religion since day one.

          January 13, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
    • Pete

      How could a Pope being nice, or not possibly affect your faith in God? What you meant to say was it affects your regard for the Catholic Church as an organization. His being nice doesn't make Christian belief any more true than the present Dalai Lama make Buddhism true, right?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
    • Scooby

      I was away from the church in my teens but I studied on my own and realized the catholic faith is wonderful and beautiful. As a women I am treated with more respect and love then can ever imagine. I hope you find your way home home to the church. What should draw us is the truth of faith in Jesus Christ and not so much the charism of people.

      January 21, 2014 at 1:42 am |
  12. KHS

    I have seen women breastfeed in St. Peter's Basilica years ago under a different pope. So it was allowed even then.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
  13. PeterD

    How Lesbian couple can breastfeed? They can't lactate.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
    • igaftr

      Take a class in biology.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • wombat

      Nonsense. Given the proper additives, you don't even need to be female to lactate.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:04 pm |
    • Celie

      You are kidding, right?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:05 pm |
      • doughnuts

        No, I'm afraid he really is that ignorant.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
  14. sly

    Wow – I am so so so glad I wasn't raised a conservative, so I have to worry about whether the human body is a beautiful thing, or an ugly thing to be hidden.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • CB

      Has nothing to do with being a conservative. Good grief. *eyeroll*

      January 13, 2014 at 1:08 pm |
      • sly

        Um ... by definition the Pope is one of the most conservative people in the world, and religion is the epitome of 'conservative'.

        I am not saying conservative is bad, just that I sure am glad I was raised progressive, open minded, and eager to help change the conservative world.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • scranton

          Sly you are jus slipping in your political pot shots.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:21 pm |
        • sly

          Why would anyone equate the word 'conservative' with politics?

          It is much more appropriately applied to human behaviors and beliefs, and sorry my friend, the Pope and the Vatican are among the most conservative people on earth.

          I am not real sure who they voted for though, if that's what you mean.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • CB

          I was referring to your implication that conservatives, by way of their political affiliation, have issues with the human body and it's beauty. I assure you that being conservative or liberal, has NOTHING to do with that.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
  15. HAL9000 V2.0

    I think Ghandi would have liked this pope.......

    January 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • igaftr

      Did Ghandi like people that continue to cover up child abuse? You may want to rethink that.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:03 pm |
      • doughnuts

        Coming from a country where poor people sold (and still sell) excess daughters, there's no telling what Ghandi may have thought of it.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm |
  16. eric

    I'm sure it's fine to breastfeed as long as it's done in a private room away from other people. Have women been unable to do this before because of some church rule? I don't really see the problem here, it's not like the woman is doing this in a public area where others can see her private parts. Non-issue, move along please.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • igaftr

      Why can't a woman feed her child in public? It is very natural. Only people that are immature about the human body would have an issue with it.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
      • Fiona

        Yes and no. Back in the 1990s, a woman I had the displeasure to know treated feeding her baby as a kind of in-your-face political statement. Nursing for her was an "I dare ya." She brought her baby to work (using her poor secretary as babysitter) and would whip out her udders in front of her clients, who were paying her a few hundred dollars an hour for her counsel. It was professional, rude, and - to use your term - immature.

        Time and place, igaftr. In church is fine, as long as the mother is discreet. In a professional setting, nursing is out of place and just plain rude.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • Fiona

          (Professional should read "unprofessional")

          January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • igaftr

          Once you get past the ridiculous premise that a womans breasts need to be covered at all times, you can understand the natural beauty of the functions of the body. It is YOUR perception of it that is the problem, so it is YOUR thinking that needs to be changed. A woman breast feeding IS EXACTLY the purpose of the breasts, so in that context, there is nothing wrong at ANYTIME. There is nothing immoral about it, but the perception that there is something wrong is just a cultural thing. There are many cultures where breast feeding is out in the open, and no one thinks anything is "wrong".

          January 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
        • musings

          You don't have to "whip out your udders" but if you do, it is not bad if it feeds a child who is whimpering. Taste is in the eye of the beholder. So don't look if you can't take it. There are polite and impolite ways to remain in touch while breastfeeding. Not being banished to some outer room is how to make a woman feel motherhood is valued. Her child will also be treated better.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • Fiona

          Oh, please, "musings" and the other nitwit who replied...I am talking about a professional who dragged her baby around as a statement - at WORK - and purposely nursed the child - without trying to cover anything - in front of people in order to make them uncomfortable. She interrupted meetings with clients in order to nurse, making clients wait while she did so. Completely unprofessional and even childish. She was perfectly happy to leave the child with a sitter (cheapest she could find, of course) when nursing ended. This is what expressing machines are for. Babies do not belong in the office, nor does nursing belong in a professional consultation.

          January 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
      • Kim Jong Un

        Peeing and pooping are natural. Yet we try and be discrete about it. I am not one to run off women who need to breatfeed. But they can be discrete and use covers. We cover our genitals with pants because society deems it appropriate. Blame societal norms on this. Every culture since the existence of man as them. We live here and now.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
        • JWT

          Please remember to put a cover over yourself when you are eating dinner this evening.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:14 pm |
        • igaftr

          Considering the fact that those functions are to eliminate waste and therefore are unsanitary, while breastfeeding is not, you are comparing apples to a freight train, so your point is moot.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • OTOH

          "Please remember to put a cover over yourself when you are eating dinner this evening."

          Maybe some folks should do that! People slurping, smacking, talking with their mouths full and stuff like that is GROSS!

          January 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
        • musings

          Breast milk is not poop. It tastes like vanilla ice cream according to my husband.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
      • JosephS

        Dropping a deuce is also natural. But please shut the door to the bathroom when you go.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:10 pm |
      • Al

        I am ok with public breastfeeding, if masturbation and peeing in public become legal too (it's all about perception).

        January 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
        • igaftr

          comparing those three functions to each other makes an invalid argument. They are completely different things. One is $exual, one is sanitary, and one is feeding.

          Try this and see if they fit the same catagory. go to a public resteraunt...when your food comes, bring it into the restroom, have a seat and start eating.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
    • CB

      You clearly are not understanding. The whole point is that it is fine to breastfeed, IN PUBLIC. Not hidden away in a private room. Personally I wouldn't do this, as I would just be too nervous about exposing my boobs. 🙂 But that's just me. I think it's great that the Pope is accepting of this. Appropriately covering up is neccessary of course.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:12 pm |
    • musings

      This "private room" thing is making of breastfeeding some unnatural and disgusting act. Ever see a Renaissance Madonna? They weren't shy about nurturing a child. In a world in which the breast is merely exploited and unnaturally enhanced for the benefit solely of the male gaze, perhaps we have lost our way and forgotten the meaning of it all.

      My sister, with implants, marched me out of the room when I tried to breastfeed my infant at the table (under a shawl). We were in a Basque restaurant in ranch country. And this is what she said -"No breastfeeding in cow country." Such insanity!
      Viva Pope Francis!

      January 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm |
  17. yaya

    those demonic dresses have nothing to do with the humble teachings of Jesus Christ (Yeshua).

    January 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm |
    • igaftr

      The dresses are demonic?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
    • Jay

      Oh yeah...the same demonic dresses that Christ wore and priests in the old testament wore...yeah..those demonic dresses.....Get away from here satan

      January 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
  18. palintwit

    Oh oh... conservatives aren't going to like that one.

    January 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
    • Angry Hillbilly

      I don't think they've much cared for anything he's done so far.

      January 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm |
  19. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    More from the 24×7 Pope Francis channel.

    He's certainly shaking things up.

    January 13, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
    • Peter

      I thought it was the 24/7 Obama channel?

      Wanna make up your mind?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I was referring to the belief blog.

      Your bias is showing.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Troll is obvious troll.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm |
    • igaftr

      Spam shouting that it is a religion is just shouting a lie.

      The fact that athesim isn't a religion is what makes it true.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.