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January 13th, 2014
12:00 PM ET

Breastfeeding in church? Pope says yes

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

(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. Name

    But only if you brought enough for everyone.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
  2. Craig

    Once again we "discover" that this Pope is so down to earth that he understands both the real world and real people. I'm not Catholic, but this guy is such a breath of fresh air...for all of us.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
  3. Richard F. Kessler

    "Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them.
    But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matt 19:14, see also Like 18:16-17.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  4. JAG

    I always found it a paradox that in a world that celebrates the female body in terms of its design for male pleasure, so many see breastfeeding as a no-no.
    Feeding a child is the primary purpose for these glands and male pleasure is a mere by-product. So get over it.
    Amazing that the Pope is the enlightened one here.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • kiskak

      I agree. Feeding a child is one of the most natural, beautiful things around. Why it ever became improper in church is beyond me. Apparently this pope agrees.
      As for the people who think its shameful or wrong, I think I'll stick with the Pope's opinion.
      I am really liking this Pope. Too bad the same can't be said of his followers.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:53 pm |
    • jed clampett

      They are also for the pleasure of the person with the breasts. Believe me, I know.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  5. Beth

    I really like this new pope, but the relatively new tradition of baptizing babies confuses me. What sins do we think an infant has committed that needs washing away? If you believe in all this stuff, that's fine and it makes sense then for adults who choose to participate, but babies?!? The sin of drooling too much? The sin of coveting thy neighbor's lactating wife?

    January 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • Code

      The practice of baptizing infants isn't new, it's been around for several decades now.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
      • igaftr

        Then you'd figure they don't need the practice anymore.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
      • Aida

        Catholic Christians have been around for more than 2,000 years, so it's not a matter of baptism being around for "decades".

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

          I think you need to check your history. Christianity itself is less than 2000 years old and Catholicism began around 107 AD so by my mathematical calculations Catholicism is approximately 1,906 years old. LESS than 2000, not MORE than.

          January 13, 2014 at 10:10 pm |
    • Anonymous

      The RCC was baptizing babies long before the Reformation, and Therefire, the beginnings of Protestantism.
      It was done because the infant mortality rate was so high, and the faithful wanted to make sure their little ones wouldn't be denied a place in Heaven if they passed.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
    • Ake

      This is called Christianity. If a child is born in a christian family, he should get baptized and receive the holy spirit. If however the parents are pagan or different religion, the kid will decide later to be a Christian by receiving Jesus as a saviour!

      January 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
      • JWT

        Being born into a christian family and then being baptized as a child does not make a child a christian.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
        • Aida

          You're right. Baptizing a child initiates the child into the Christian religion (I'm a Catholic Christian). It takes nurturing the child's faith by living the life and teaching him about Our Lord.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:18 pm |
      • ukechick

        If a child is born to Pagans I would certainly hope the child would NOT decide at a future date to be a christian.

        January 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm |
        • Aida

          I'm a Catholic, and a catechist (for those who don't know, a catechist is a lay person who prepares children for the sacraments). Baptism is the first Sacrament of Initiation (meaning to have the person initiated into the Faith). Baptizing children is nothing new. As Catholics we are obliged to do the following:

          1. Pass on the Catholic faith to the child;
          2. Have the child baptized. Why? Because we believe in original sin. God told Adam and Eve to eat of any fruit in the Garden of Eden, but of one tree they were not to eat: The Tree of Life. Along comes the devil and tells them they will be like God where they to eat of that Tree. Eve did, convinced Adam. God made us perfect, but at that instance by their disobedience, we were deprived of His presence. This is is what we call original sin and, which in the waters of baptism, is erased. That, however, does not excuse us from trying to be "...perfect as your Father is perfect" as Jesus teaches us to be, "Father" being God;
          .3. Nurture the child's faith by making sure he receives all the sacraments.

          In terms of baptism, did not Christ say, "Let the little children come to me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven?"

          God bless.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:02 pm |
      • nelson jones

        Ake:

        Can anyone supporting infant baptism tell me where in the Bible, Book, Chapter and Verse, it is stated that Baptism was purely meant to be or exclusively done to babies.

        January 14, 2014 at 8:27 am |
    • mike

      Baptism is done to wash away original sin, best guess is because it is a sin to initiate coitus in order to procreate. So the child must suffer for the parents original act. Nice way to begin a new life...

      January 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
      • Aida

        Mike, original sin has nothing to do with the act of procreation. In fact, to paraphrase Jesus, did he not say that a man must leave his parents and, that when he takes a wife, he and they are one? What's dirty in that saying, by the way?

        Incredible how people can interpret eating the apple as sin. Apples are delicious, and have nothing to do with Adam and Eve. I can't use this forum to give you a full explanation, but perhaps you can just type "Catholic Religion: Original Sin" and you'll get the fuller explanation.

        January 13, 2014 at 8:07 pm |
        • G to the T

          "Apple" – no apples Eden. More likely a fig if anything (hint – that's where they got the leaves).

          January 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
  6. vatoloke

    My chuch has a sound-proof nursing room in the back corner with the mass piped in and one-way glass so mom can still partake in the mass. What's the problem?

    January 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
    • Beth

      The problem is you are isolating these mothers and making them feel like they can't be a part of regular service. They have to be hidden away from sight in a separate room. You seriously don't see the problem with that?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
      • jskiss005

        Excuse me, some of us are uncomfortable with doing it in public. I never felt comfortable just whipping it out in public. It is a private thing between a mother and a child. Im not oppose to mother breastfeeding babies in public, as long as you cover it. Even as a woman I do not want to see other women's breasts.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm |
        • weenadelic

          It is not a private thing at all... it's as natural as anything else. It is the feeling that has been impressed upon you that makes you self concious. If you would rather be isolated, then stay home, go to the car, go outside, whatever makes you happy. Don't though think you have the right to decide for everyone else that they shouldn't be able to do it either. Stop being scared of your own body!

          January 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
        • mart

          You will see more breast at the beach and its in a bikini than you will a mother breast feeding, do feel bikini should be banned as well

          January 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
      • weenadelic

        Well said Beth... these folks are so repressed, they don't even recognize it anymore.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
      • Chris

        If they are whipping out the teet to feed their child maybe the child is not ready to be carted around to church.

        Keep the kid at home and keep the mother at home.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
        • SunnyHuny1

          Idiocy. So much idiocy here.... It's not "carting the kid around", it's exposing a child to the Church and Christ. Neither the child nor the mother should be excluding from the Church or Mass because of this situation.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • Momof4

          Yes, even when I was religious I would never have taken my babies to church.

          One year-olds get hungry too. Are you going to break out the mashed carrots and peas for them in church?!

          January 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
        • jed clampett

          Momof4,
          Some mothers breast feed their children until age 6.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
      • Chris

        Beth – if the mother needs to feed a child with breastfeeding they are not part of the service. be serious. If the child can;t go 1 hour without being fed, they are not ready to go to church.

        Just wait until someone breastfeeds at church and they scream because someone is looking at them or it is caught on camera because the service us being recorded.

        The last thing I want to see is some saggy lady feeding her bubbleheaded spawn because she is so irresponsible as to bring her child to a public place so she can be an exhibitionist.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
        • Jesse Christ

          In America, female breasts are used to sell everything from cars to aftershave and beer 24/7 on TV. But feeding a child is sick exhibitionism? OK to be a mysogynist, but please do it at home in a closed room where nobody can see you.

          January 14, 2014 at 12:37 am |
  7. laquisha

    Oh Mr Potato Head...you need some chapstick from kissen so much left wing oddball butt. You and your Yugo need to head to Africa and take on all the Christian killers and all the Christian Churches burned in the Middle East

    January 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
  8. annier

    Left the church years ago. Now, for sure, it's NEVER getting a second chance! One hour? One stinking hour? One lousy hour you can't manage your schedule to feed your kid at home?

    January 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • NotYoDaddy

      After all, you wouldn't want your God to see what he created would you.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
    • Scholar

      Babies pick the time of their need, and mothers must respond to that need.
      It is a matter of Nature and nurture together, and the Pope is an arbiter of things for the Church, and he has said it is a good thing to breast feed in church when the baby is hungry. Go argue with the Pope over his stance.
      May you yourself be blessed with a baby and with choosing to breast feed it and see how then your opinion may be.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • laquisha

      Im with you ..you cant feed your infant before you go...or at least put it in a bottle? Is this the Amazon River Basin of Yanomani Tribe?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
      • Ricky

        Breastfeeding is like giving your baby a bottle, but more natural. Plus, some babies just won't go for the bottle when they are used to breastfeeding. I don't understand why people would get offended by it. To insinuate that somehow breastfeeding is primitive is just stupid (and primitive). We are living in the year 2014, not the 1950's USA.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm |
      • H.S.

        So mothers shouldn't breasfeed their children because YOU don't want to see it?

        (1) YOU don't get to decide what people can and cannot do. Get over yourself. You're not that important.

        (2) If you don't like seeing it, DON'T LOOK.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
        • Aida

          The problem is not on the mother feeding the child, but on the lust of the beholder. Because of that alone, I believe it should be done modestly.

          I have two granchidlren, and both were breastfed. When my daughter-in-law came to visit she always fed the babies in our bedroom. Not that we required her to do so, but that she felt it was the modest thing to do. She followed the same routine with anyone she visited, not just us.

          Aida

          January 13, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
    • Ricky

      What is wrong with breastfeeding? It's a natural thing, if you don't like it, look away. Babies don't understand schedules and they cry when they are hungry. Why make them wait?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
      • igaftr

        Also, the crying of a baby is one of the stimuli for milk production, so once the child starts to cry, it can get very uncomfortable for the mother very quickly.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • Imma

      This comment makes me so angry. Obviously you aren't a mother and if you are, I feel sorry for your children. When someone makes a comment that implies that their children shouldn't "interfere" with their activities, it is incredibly pathetic. Babies need to eat when they are hungry, not on your schedule. Often times infants just need to be consoled and nursing is what they need. How can you possibly blame the Church for supporting that is intented by design.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • SunnyHuny1

      Are you honestly that much of an idiot? Have you ever had a child before? A baby eats when it wants to eat, especially in the newborn-4 month old range. They're not on a schedule nor should they be at that age. A baby can eat and not be hungry until a whole 2 hours later or s/he can eat and be hungry 15 min later. They're hungry when they're hungry. And why should a breastfeeding mother be restricted from feeding their child during Mass? It can be done very discreetly. It's natural and beautiful and something that God intended.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
      • SunnyHuny1

        And "put it in a bottle?" Really? Do you even know what that involves? A mother can either nurse her child for (let's say) 20 min OR she can buy an expensive pump, pump for 20 min to bring milk to church, put it in a bottle and then have to pump again for another 20 min so she can relieve the pressure from a nursing session that she missed so that YOU'RE comfortable in Church. No, thanks. I'd rather just feed my baby in Church. Get over it.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:56 pm |
    • Jesse Christ

      Bodies aren't dirty, minds are. You might want to look into your own heart and see what the source of shame is for your own body. Nursing a child is not the same as sitting naked in the parlor.

      January 14, 2014 at 12:47 am |
  9. cacique

    What a Pope!!
    He is as natural as they may come. Breastfeeding a baby seen as it is exactly: breastfeeding a baby who just does not know about anything else other than she is hungry and wants her milk now. Little baby does not know about your hang-ups or what you think is proper and for sure he would not care, he wants to be fed right now.
    Why would a mother have to leave the religious service just to feed her baby? Right where she is sitting listening to the sermon is good enough and she knows that a little mantilla will make her baby more comfortable and cozy.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  10. haddock

    You go, Pope. The most inspiring man in the world today. By a lot.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm |
    • JAG

      Wow.
      This is turning out to be a really cool Pope.
      As a former Catholic, I still have lots of issues with the Church and its views surrounding family planning and women. But I have to say, this guy is a breath of fresh air.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:41 pm |
    • sly

      No religious folk will ever make my top 100 inspirational people around the world, but to each his own.

      I generally don't pay much attention to what Pope's say – kinda up there with following the President of Thailand's latest quotes.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
  11. eceryday-ordinary guy

    I'm all for breastfeeding but can't you plan your feeding times around the one hour you go to church, or for that matter, when you're out in public? This sounds a whole lot more like "I'm a mother, look at me" then anything else. When I have to take a leak, I don't just flop it out and aim for the nearest tree...I locate and use the nearest restroom.

    Peeing is just as natural and breastfeeding

    January 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
    • Celie

      You equate feeding an infant with taking a leak? Oh, ok.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
      • everyday-ordinary guy

        no – I equate one natural human action with another. I thought that was obvious.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
        • Eric

          Guess what– those babies are peeing right during the middle of the sermon too. I'll bet at least one of those babies took a dump right during the POPE's SERMON.

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

        I bet he eats in the bathroom as well. Since the two are so closely related .

        January 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
      • James Currie

        It sounds to me as he is comparing himself to an infant. I think it's great that the pope is encouraging children in church and letting mother's feed their kids in public. I really have never understood the problem with breastfeeding in public.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:32 pm |
    • Eazzyy

      eceryday-ordinary guy, are you directing your question to toddlers that are still sucking breast milk?

      January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
      • everyday-ordinary guy

        all breastfeeding...

        before the jump up to the high horse, I personally have zero problem with breastfeeding but I just feel, like with a lot of other things, the debate is getting out of hand.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:45 pm |
        • Eazzyy

          So tell us then, how are you going to make babies want to eat at the time of your own desire? Are you going to force-feed them when they are not hungry and don't want to eat or you are going to starve them when they are hungry and crying for food?

          January 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm |
        • everyday-ordinary guy

          so you're telling me that a baby will starve in one hour if they are not fed? Not sure if you have you're facts straight with that one.

          January 13, 2014 at 1:54 pm |
        • eazzyyy

          You must be a baby still, no point in wasting my time arguing with you.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
    • dude

      never had children? scared to see a breast? babies don't plan their feeding time.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm |
      • everyday-ordinary guy

        wow...words to live by there.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm |
    • Nightlyt

      You, are kidding, right? Because the breasts have been made only object for pleasure by "ordinary" guys, that is all they can see. They are made to feed and nurture, first and foremost. If it makes YOU feel uncomfortable, maybe you need to check your ideas.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:43 pm |
      • everyday-ordinary guy

        if you read my above reply you would know that not to be true. Apparently you did not so I will repeat...

        I personally have zero issue with breastfeeding but I fell, liek with a lot of other things, the breastfeeding debate is getting way out of hand.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • SBrown35CT

      Probably the most ignorant statement I have ever read on CCN... and that is saying something

      January 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm |
      • everyday-ordinary guy

        really? that's the most ignorant thing you've read on CNN? Is this because it goes against your ideas? Sound logic and an excellent reply to the debate.

        January 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
        • SBrown35CT

          The ignorant part of your statement was: "When I have to take a leak, I don't just flop it out and aim for the nearest tree...I locate and use the nearest restroom." You can tell YOU never had children and YOU have no idea what you are talking about because it's clearly all about YOU. You really think that mothers and fathers can predict/control when their baby will be hungry? The simple fact that you have an issue with a mother feeding her child the way that "everyday-ordinary"(yes pun intended) mother were designed to feed them shows your ignorance and lack of maturity. Why can't you just mind your business and go to to church??

          January 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • ArgentTree

      Wait... you're trolling here, aren't you. Heh... Good one.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm |
    • unowhoitsme

      Even though you put a baby on a feed schedule, the baby sometimes wants to eat when "it's not time" to eat. Using a blanket to cover her breasts, a mother can modestly feed her child in church, so she doesn't offend any of the perverts that are sitting in church.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:48 pm |
    • Samantha

      Infants already do that during mass... theyre wearing a diaper.

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

      I'm a man, and I guess I understand where you're coming from, but I'm also a father, and your point is meaningless when a baby decides it's hungry and starts screaming its head off. Trust me, you can't hesitate when that happens, whether it means you are quickly getting some formula ready or getting the baby in position for breast feeding. You can't always control when the baby is hungry. Sometimes they wake up early, or late, or don't eat well in the morning, and that throws the whole schedule off. It's not the same as going to the bathroom. If the Pope is cool with it, so am I.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
    • Aida

      Yikes. Must you be so graphic?

      January 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
  12. Latuf Tak

    I don't get it, what's the big deal? Mother's milk is the purest, most nourishing, and ultimate gift to a child. IMHO, big pharma/food industry (e.g., dry baby milk producers, charging $50/can) colluded with the fake Jesus-freaks to make breastfeeding in public a moral issue. Not only children have developed problems with their gum line formation (suckling on an artificial bottle), but there are long term obesity issues. It's hard to believe that this is still up for debate in this century.

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

      I agree; there is nothing morally wrong with breastfeeding in public, especially since that is what God intended when He designed woman. (If that's what one believes.)

      January 13, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
  13. Frank Terrent

    The people that think that breast feeding is offensive are perverted deviants

    January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
  14. Sunflower

    here we go....pope again.......I guess CNN is not getting enough of Pope..

    January 13, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
  15. A dose of reality

    Even the POPE likes to see boobies!!!

    January 13, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
  16. cribbooky

    Sit, stand, kneel, squirt.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
  17. svscnn

    I'm an agnostic, but I love this guy!

    Wonder how long before he's called the "antichrist" and burned at the stake?

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

      Tune in Limbaugh and find out!

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

        CQTM (chuckled quietly to myself).

        January 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm |
    • cedar rapids

      you already have some conservatives slamming him, which is funny when most people making comments about the pope are saying stuff like they are pleased to finally have someone acting like a true christian.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm |
  18. doughnuts

    If it will shut up that fussy crting baby, then I'm all for it.

    And who doesn't like bare boobs?!

    January 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
  19. CherryMama

    When I was nursing, I had this great cover, that allowed me to look down, but covered my whole front. So I could still nurse, and nobody saw any of my goods.

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

      jip.

      January 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm |
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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.