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. Ken Margo

    A quote from Just The Facts,

    "I feel that breastfeeding in public is a public nuisance and that it should be treated as such."

    Unfortunately F00LS like this exist. Obviously one of those religious whack jobs that lives puritan fantasy world. If women weren't supposed to breast feed, why are they able to? Men have breasts and ni.pples, we can't breast feed. If men tried to breastfeed THAT would be a public nuisance.

    Sometimes when a woman breasfeeds it's not only to quiet her child, but to keep the child's crying from disturbing others. I guarantee the complainers are MEN and REPUBLICANS. These people think being a woman means being a second class citizen. Only brought out to cook, clean or to satisfy their man. Instead of using SELF control and BE RESPECTFUL by looking the other way. They pull out their Taliban/Muslim/Arab card by placing the responsibility on the mother.

    January 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm |
    • Congratulations

      You just equated those who don't want to watch an edible discharge fest with the Taliban. I think you just want to see more cans.

      January 16, 2014 at 12:20 am |
      • Ken Margo

        Congratulations, you figured something out. 🙂 I don't go to church, so I wont see any there. I don't go walking around bugged eye looking for breast feeding women. Actually, I rarely see women breast feeding.

        January 16, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bones McCoy

      Actually, believe it or not, men CAN lactate. Obviously they don't have enough milk to be the primary feeder of the baby, but a large amount of men have the capability to lend a hand as an emergency backup.

      January 29, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  2. Barcs

    This shouldn't even be an issue and it only stems from the American value system, which is still a bit archaic. The purpose of breasts is to feed babies. America has turned breasts into se.xual objects that everyone must be afraid of and hide. It's really a stupid mentality not even remotely based on reality. In a lot of European countries breasts are treated like they should be and not hidden because religious zealots are afraid of them and their impact on men. Bare breasts are often shown in TV commercials and it's normal at the beach when tanning. If you think a woman feeding her child is inappropriate then DON'T LOOK AT IT. Nobody said you have to stare at her breasts because she is feeding. The whole shame in being naked is the biggest farce in the history of the world. If something offends you, you are not required to stare.

    January 15, 2014 at 11:46 am |
    • Stacy

      I absolutely agree!

      January 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
  3. Anthony Crispino

    Now I owe my nephew Toolie some change for watching my neighbor's hubcaps the past few days and for what? – I've gone to all these masses and even confessed into the future and I'm still not seeing this breast feeding frenzy. Did they already fire the canon to make this a Catholic law already or not? Someone help me out here already!

    January 15, 2014 at 11:31 am |
  4. shamgar50

    Better this, than the kind of feeding priest were indulging in, with little boys!

    January 15, 2014 at 10:49 am |
    • Piccolo

      Dude! That only happens because they saw a woman breast feed in public.

      January 27, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
  5. Your take on Pope's take

    While our carefully worded article had you all focusing on the hunger of a little baby, it comes as little surprise to us that not one you focused on the hunger issues of the world which the pope has been drawing your attention to.

    We would not deny that it was not our intention to have your focus diverted from breast feeding, we understand how passionate most of you are when it comes to breasts(oops) breast feeding.

    Now may we all return to focus on the real nature of the message that has been put out by this pope and think about how we can make a difference in the lives of another human being that is not as fortunate as we are. Yes, breasts need our undivided attention but beyond that it is the fight against poverty that actually needs all our focus and energy.

    January 15, 2014 at 9:34 am |


    January 15, 2014 at 2:45 am |
  7. Mom squirts security, shot in AIDS scare in church lobby.


    January 15, 2014 at 1:41 am |
  8. Jesus Christ Son of God

    What the pope also added, but in latin, so it was lost in translation, is that all females aged 18-35 should take off all apparel when entering the lord's house, and they don't have to be a parent. We don't want to discriminate.

    January 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
  9. Just The Facts

    I feel that breastfeeding in public is a public nuisance and that it should be treated as such. I feel a woman should not do so out of respect for others. And to do so in church is even doubly improper. By doing it in church, not only are you dealing with the same issue of being a nuisance to those around you, but you are also dealing with the issue of being a temptation to anyone who is weak. Not temptation for the woman perhaps, but indeed temptation for anyone who may be weak for watching women's breasts – adults and children included. Therefore, a woman should not do it in any public place out of respect for others. And yes there are scriptures which back me up…

    1 Corinthians 8:9 – But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend...

    The above scripture confirms that if you're doing something that is a stumblingblock to others and to those who are weak, then you should NOT do it lest you cause your brother to offend. Meaning you could cause your brother to sin by your actions. For example, when he goes home he could be dreaming about your breasts he saw. Or if you neighbor saw your breasts, he'd be imagining your breasts while having s-ex with his wife. Breastfeeding women should avoid being a stumbling block to others…

    On top of that, we're not a society that living out in the jungle somewhere, where there is no other nourishment available for an infant who might be breast feeding. Instead, simply bring a pacifier to church with you, or bring a small bottle of milk or something, and those things will suffice for your baby until you can get back to the privacy of your own home. But to breastfeed in public and to subject others to the nuisance of your actions, is not only improper – it is also wrong….

    January 14, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
    • Anna

      What the heck is wrong with you?

      January 14, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
    • Eyeroll

      If anyone is turned on by the barest glimpse of breast while breastfeeding, they have larger problems than a Bible verse can cover...stop staring, you ass.
      Breastfeeding isn't the problem, YOU are.
      Women shouldn't have to cease breastfeeding because you, YES YOU, have juvenile ideas about women. Grow the hell up. I am not responsible for your lustful thoughts, YOU ARE.
      Now, go flog yourself.

      January 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm |
      • Dante

        Now go flog yourself. ..lol. simply hilarious.

        January 15, 2014 at 6:09 am |
      • Just The Facts

        Eyeroll… You stated… "I am not responsible for your lustful thoughts, YOU ARE"...

        Wrong. If you are in any way responsible for another person sinning, especially after you've been warned of your behavior, then their sin will become your sin, and it can take your soul to hell. God will not hold you blameless. It's called being a "partaker" of another person's sins…

        Revelations 18:4 – And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues….

        The problem is not with the scriptures. The problem is with you...

        January 15, 2014 at 9:03 am |
        • JWT

          Now that is downright funny.

          What may be a sin to you is not at all a sin to others.

          January 15, 2014 at 9:05 am |
        • durundal

          its so refreshing to come across people with views like yours. Its like going on safari to a time long ago when we first realized that if we affix stones to wood we could make hammers. Still, it saddens me that some people only have the mental capacity to take things literally.

          January 15, 2014 at 9:58 am |
        • Eyeroll

          Wrong. You are responsible for your own schoolboy libido. You, and only you.
          I didn't say that the Scriptures are the problem...but I think your silly interpretation of them are.
          A mother feeding a child isn't a partaker of sin; you creepily gawking at a breastfeeding mother and then blaming her for your performance anxiety later with your brother is. What are you, your brothers keeper?

          I'm not.

          Lmao. If you think breastfeeding is so dirty and sinful, why do you suppose God created woman that way? Get real. You're taking this to a level I highly doubt was ever intended, Elmer.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:12 am |
        • Barcs

          Bahahaha. It's not like she's opening up her shirt and shaking her breasts around in a suggestive manner. She is discreetly opening a small part of her shirt to feed her child. It's not like the whole service will even notice unless they are staring. Staring at a breast isn't a sin, and neither is feeding your child in public. Breasts are beautiful amazing creations. Hiding them is such a dark ages mentality.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:56 am |
        • Just The Facts

          Eyeroll… Wrong. There is only correct interpretation of the scriptures. That is the interpretation which God has. And you can only get that interpretation from a true sent preacher (as he gets his interpretation from God). I got my interpretation from a true sent preacher. So where did your's come from? Answer: The devil. Thus, the interpretation you have is false. Whereas, the interpretation I have is correct. Feel free to disagree all you want. But your disagreement will in no wise change it. I will not waste my time arguing specifics with you. What I've told you is the truth, the gospel truth. And your own personal opinions don't mean a thing. Either you can abide by the scriptures, or you can continue on to hell. Those are your choices...

          Barcs… If a woman is giving a man a b-job in public with a blanket thrown over her, everybody still knows what she is doing despite the blanket. And it's offensive. It is the same way with breastfeeding. Whether it's covered up or not, it is till offensive. There's no reason a woman cannot do that in private. And secondly, before you say staring at a breast is not a sin, maybe you'd better check with God first on that. And you can only do so by asking a true sent preacher. Because your own personal opinion don't mean a thing…

          January 19, 2014 at 1:11 pm |
        • igaftr


          Considering that since the bible came out, it has been the cause or the belief in it has been used to justify murder, wars, the faster spread of disease, attempted genocide, then add in the fact that there are 40,000 vrsions of belief in the "word" ( definitely a symptom of chaos), and considering how many things in the bible are just flat out wrong, it is far more likely that it is the tool of satan...just look at the body count.

          Satan inspired your bible, and you have been tricked by him. The greatest trick satan ever did, was to have the bible written, then convince people (like you ) that god did it.

          Just the fact that you are so ashamed of the body god gave you is an indicator that your god had nothing to do with the bible.
          Then you try to twist reality by comparing breast feeding with $ex?...what kind of per.vert are you anyway?

          January 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
        • Barcs

          You can stare as long as you don't covet. It says it right in the bible. That is on YOU, not the person breastfeeding. Breasts have been turned into se.xual objects, and it has ruined society. How can you possibly say that giving a bj in public is the same as breast feeding? Se.xual urges aren't like hunger. You don't suddenly need to satisfy them or cry in pain. You don't need se.x to survive. The urges can wait until you get home, but a crying hungry baby cannot. Se.x acts in public are detrimental to children. Breast feeding is not a s.ex act, nor should it be treated as such.

          January 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
    • Trinka

      "1 Corinthians 8:9 – But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. 13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend..."

      No. Your religion is infringing upon my liberty.
      I will not stop eating meat because you are offended or a vegetarian.
      I will not stop breastfeeding my child when she is hungry because you cannot control your adolescent libido.

      Get real.

      January 14, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
      • Just The Facts

        Trinka… And what is your liberty worth if it takes you to hell. God has a place for all who refuse to follow the scriptures. It's called hell and the lake of fire and brimstone. And many others like you will be there...

        January 15, 2014 at 8:52 am |
        • igaftr

          You wouldn't know a fact if you saw one...the evidence iss that you think the bible is factual...it is only belief...there is no lake of fire, that is absurd.

          You'll never get into Valhalla with an at!tude like that, and you will be re-incarnated as a dung beetle for your arrogance.

          January 15, 2014 at 9:32 am |
        • Trinka

          Oh, baloney. I'm going to hell because I breastfed my kid and ate meat in front of you?
          When God made women with breasts for that purpose, and Jesus helped feed the masses with fish?
          You're a hoot.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:35 am |
        • Just The Facts

          Trinka… No, if you end up in hell it's because you chose to disobey God and to disobey the scriptures. And there is no scripture in the bible giving you the right to breastfeed in public. And just because God created women with breasts, so what? That still doesn't give a woman the right to do it in public. God gave man a private part too, did he not? Yet, he still doesn't want man walking around displaying it in public…

          January 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
        • igaftr

          It never says in the bible that women should NOT breast feed openly either.

          Why are you obsessed with $ex? Men do not have ANYTHING that provides a child sustenence...what you refer to is used for $ex and elimination of waste, so not even the same subject at all.

          By your line of thinking, we should all be wearing soomething that hides every aspect of our bodies.

          I feel so sorry for you that you have so much shame on your body....pitiful, really.

          January 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
    • SunnyHuny1

      You're an idiot. First of all, it's not like women everywhere are whipping out their breasts to feed their child, either in public or in a church. In fact, most women that I know, including myself, use a cover and very discreetly nurse their child–you wouldn't even know what was going on unless you were staring. And an exclusively breastfed child is just that, EXCLUSIVELY breastfed and no amount of pacifiers or bottles (which some babies refuse to take) is going to satiate them. Clearly you don't have a child. Breastfeeding is a public nuisance? How DARE you–you're the public nuisance.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
      • Just The Facts

        SunnyHuny1… I don't care how much you cover yourself up, your very act is still a nuisance. If a man walks around with a visible hard on, it may be covered up by cloth but everybody still knows he has a hard on, do they not. And they're still affected by it. Likewise, you can cover up all you want, but people still know you're breastfeeding, therefore, you are a nuisance.

        Secondly, you're so-called "exclusively breastfed child" is your own choice and own decision. What makes your child better than everyone else's where they cannot uses a pacifier. You say some children refuse to accept a pacifier. If you train them to accept one, they will. Furthermore, if you personally want your child to be "exclusively breastfed" then feel free to get up and leave service when you need to breastfeed them. Either that, or both you and your child can stay at home. But do not subject the rest of the congregation to your own nuisance behavior…

        January 15, 2014 at 8:41 am |
        • Eyeroll

          Is it a nuisance or is it sinful? Hint: neither.

          You can't control yourself, Monk? Get some therapy for that. Seems you find sin in the most innocuous places, and you can't stop from being a creeper. Get help before you're arrested and placed on some register.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:17 am |
        • King of Darkness

          Too funny. So now walking around with a hard on is just as bad as breastfeeding? Really? One shows se.xual arousal and the other is for feeding a child. It's unreal how primitive and utterly nonsensical some people are. Does this breast feeding REALLY affect your life, THAT MUCH? Are you telling me that seeing a woman breastfeeding is going to turn you into a se.xual deviant? I just don't get it. It's a natural act, all mammals do the same.

          January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
        • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

          Does is hurt to be as self-serving and uninformed as YOU are?
          Do you work hard at being so ignorant or does that just come naturally, for you?

          January 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • MacSmiley

      "On the contrary, we became gentle in your midst, as when a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children." — The Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:7

      January 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm |
      • Just The Facts

        2 Thessalonians 2-7 (King James) – But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children...

        Try reading a real bible next time. That scripture doesn't say a thing about breastfeeding. Thus it is irrelevant. But since you love quoting scriptures so much, try following 1 Corinthians 8:9...

        January 15, 2014 at 8:48 am |
        • Eyeroll

          What the hell do you think a nursing mother tending to her children means? Please don't say "well, the kids are obviously sick." Nope.
          If it didn't mean breastfeeding, it wouldn't have been written with the word 'nursing'.

          What chapter and verse mentions breastfeeding, specifically, is a sin?

          You're just trying to back up your revulsion at breasts by picking verses of the Bible you think may back you up.

          You're rather dotty, aren't you?

          January 15, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • breastfeeding mama

      Sorry, "just the facts", but YOU are the NUISANCE!!!

      January 15, 2014 at 12:15 am |
      • Just The Facts

        I'm a nuisance only to those who disagree with God...

        January 15, 2014 at 8:54 am |
        • Eyeroll

          Chapter and verse where breastfeeding is termed a sin. Go.

          January 15, 2014 at 11:26 am |
    • myweightinwords

      So...you never eat in public? What if I think that's a nuisance?

      You know what? I think hair is sexy and it causes me to lust, so you're going to need to shave your head so that I'm not tempted to sin. And, honestly, anyone having more money than me makes me covet, so you need to just give all of yours away.

      Do you see how ridiculous that is?

      It's an infant. They don't always get hungry at a specific time. Most breastfeeding mothers I've ever seen can actually feed their baby without much of anyone even noticing. When they have to get up and go to some special room or what have you, everyone notices.

      January 15, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • Barcs

      Should we also ban zoos, since animals often do it and also breastfeed their young?

      January 15, 2014 at 11:57 am |
    • aldewacs2

      People praying in public makes me really uncomfortable.
      Will you all please stop that?

      January 15, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
  10. Josh Mason

    Apparently he is cool with molesting boys as well.

    January 14, 2014 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Phil Ward

    Bravo to Pope Francis for his support of a healthy start for newborns and toddlers.

    Breast milk helps to protect the child against infections and build up the child's immune system.

    It is unfortunate that we have become breast obsessed in the wrong way and women are demonized for
    doing what comes natural following childbirth.

    I like this Pope and I hope he is around for awhile.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
  12. Reality # 2

    Francis' needs to concentrate on his dioceses going bankrupt from pedophile cases and not inane restrictions in his houses of worthless worship.

    January 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm |
    • guest

      you asked me to give references about the Jesuits in an other post. I can't do that today because I'm too busy, but I will make a special post soon and will reference it to you.

      January 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
  13. Science Works

    No need to worry L4H

    The Big Story – someday they might be able to breastfeed their babies in public !
    Swedish doctors transplant wombs into 9 women
    — Jan. 13, 2014 1:12 PM EST


    January 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
  14. Dot

    @No Evidence:
    "Could this be any more unprofound?"

    It wasn't meant as a profound statement; it was meant as an agreement to feed the baby when the baby is hungry.

    January 14, 2014 at 11:54 am |
  15. Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge

    Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    I think there is some Real progress being made by Pope Francis as in this story where he encouraged a lady to breastfeed her crying hungry baby in the Sistine Chapel!

    January 14, 2014 at 11:33 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      what sort of progress are you referring to? being human?

      January 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
  16. Live4Him

    @igaftr : What you propose is unsanitary [urinating in public vs. breast feeding in public] since it is for the elimination of waste

    This is obviously a common misconception among those on this forum. However, it is very rare for diseases to be spread through human urine to another human.

    January 14, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • Alias

      As I said below, breathing is also a normal bodily function.
      Your attempt to treat all bodily functions the same fails logic 101.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:31 am |
      • Dot

        "This is obviously a common misconception among those on this forum."

        January 14, 2014 at 11:41 am |
      • True but not discussed

        Breathing spreads disease too.

        January 15, 2014 at 5:34 am |
    • ME II

      Is that why no one recommends washing your hands after using the restroom? /sarcasm

      That's ridiculous.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:39 am |
      • Dot

        Thank you.

        January 14, 2014 at 11:42 am |
    • Dot

      Do you stare at someone who is urinating in public? If not, why would you stare at a mother breastfeeding her child?

      Not that the two are remotely similar.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:39 am |
      • I see

        I'd stare at both, but only the peeing person would be funny later.

        January 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
    • igaftr

      not a misconception at all, except for from you ( bis surprise there).

      Urine when it leaves the kidneys is actually sterile, and actually safe to drink, but if you leave urine alone, it will quickly grow bacteria, and the bacteria that will develop is harmful to humans, so in effect, I can urinate, create a puddle. in less that 24 hours, that puddle IS hazardous to humans. Also considering the number of people who need to urinate is 100%, and the number of people who need to breast feed in minute, your argument is once again, without merit.

      The two functiona are comopletely seperate. what's next comparing jealosy to a Buick?

      January 14, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • Saraswati

      Rare, but by no means unheard of and almost always avoidable. Aside from anything else, urine frequently contains varying amounts of blood due to a wide range of kidney problems, many of which are fairly non-symptomatic. Not all of these will be neutralized in by the urine.

      January 14, 2014 at 11:44 am |
  17. Heal the world

    Everybody conveniently forgot the message the pope was sending the world. He was basically telling people they should feed the poor, instead everybody has latched onto a women's "breast".

    Go feed the poor, people!!!

    January 14, 2014 at 11:14 am |
    • Papa Frances

      Look, feeding the poor is not as se-xy as breast feeding a baby. 😉

      January 14, 2014 at 11:16 am |
      • Papa Frances

        FEED THE POOR!

        January 14, 2014 at 11:21 am |
    • Robertson


      January 14, 2014 at 11:19 am |
    • Alias

      It seems to me that te catholics and christians are having a bigger problem with this than the atheists.
      Is there irony hiding there somewhere???

      January 14, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • Saraswati

      Feeding the poor has not on a global scale reduced the rate of starvation and suffering. If you want to do that you need to promote business and the very birth control practices the pope argues against. This is the tough reality that those looking for easy answers don't want to face.

      January 14, 2014 at 12:20 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.