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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. DCP

    Jesus was breast feed. I dare say that Mary most likely feed him in public as well.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
  2. Thomas

    No surprise - of course the Argentine Papa says it's okay for women to breastfeed in church! Anyone been to Buenos Aires lately? Breastfeeding children in public is as natural as smoking a cigarette or chatting on your phone in public.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
    • Reasonable Descent

      Of course, because it is natural.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
      • Thomas

        I agree completely that it's natural - unfortunately, here in the United States, it is not always viewed as such ;-(

        January 13, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
        • magicalpig

          I'd go a step further and suggest that breastfeeding is considerably *more* natural than smoking a cigarette or using a phone.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Lynn

          Natural yes. My main issue with public breastfeeding is some moms expect a waiting room full of people to stare at the floor the whole time. I have seen many people get screamed at because someone who didn't even noticed a mother was breastfeeding glanced around the room. I'm just fine with mothers breastfeeding but if you are going to do it in public you have to be comfortable with the fact that there are other people around you. If you can't handle it then do it in private.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:36 pm |
    • JWT

      Which is as it should be.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:24 pm |
    • Mimi

      I agree in my country too. No one look twice at a women breast feedin her child. It is natural.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  3. JC

    The guy has never been laid. He just wants see some boobies.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:18 pm |
    • carlos

      He was a bouncer in a bar before he became a priest. How do you know he never got laid?

      January 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • Menicy

      His life before he became a priest is unknown to you. So for all you know, he may have seen plenty in his lifetime.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
  4. Jim

    Why not? What is so bad about breastfeeding?

    January 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • Chris

      Nom, nom, nom

      January 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm |
  5. sidony

    I love this pope! But why is everyone so averse to just covering up while breastfeeding? Our societal norm is to wear clothing and not expose the female breast, so it's merely respectful of that societal norm. And I say this as a woman! I think a lot of women just want to cause controversy and create attention for themselves. I have a lot more respect for those who just use a modest covering while feeding their child. I mean, how hard is that?

    January 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • JWT

      Not all children will accept being covered. And that can make it very hot. It's up to the mom to know what the child needs in that respect. The rest of the world can learn to accept it.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Sometimes a cover works – sometimes it doesn't – babies won't always accept it, it can be hard with newborns to get a proper latch, and there's always the time when you are transitioning. I used a cover when it worked, but when it doesn't – I'm feeding my baby, you don't have to look – why would you be rude and look at something that you don't like to look at.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
  6. Josh

    I am not against breastfeeding, but I think the keyword here is "discreetly". An appropriate apron, wrap, or shall, should be the rule.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Baby gets better feast than dad. He gets a shot of wine and a wafer.

    😦 😦 ................... 😦

    January 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
  8. Finally

    ...a reason to go to church now lol

    January 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  9. Say What?

    the Pope says ok, but I'm not going to sit next to a woman breast feed her 8 yr old. Breast feeding in public is wrong

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

      If a woman is breastfeeding a child when its old enough to eat food, there is a whole other set of problems at play. 🙂

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

      I'm sure he's referring ot BABIES...not 8 year olds

      January 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm |
    • Michael

      your an idiot then. what afraid you will get excited??

      January 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
    • Dan

      Breast feeding an 8 year old? Yeah strange. But there is nothing wrong with breast feeding in public as long as they're covered for the most part. It's natural, grow up.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • Joe

      Breastfeed an 8 year old? How much of an idiot can you be?

      January 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  10. Dorothy

    This guy is really nice and understands real life.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
  11. That's What Jesus Would Do

    Conservatives will try to pass a law against it.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:07 pm |
  12. Dev

    II am not a christian but I love what this pope is doing. He looks so much in touch with humanity.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:04 pm |
  13. Jason Young Guy

    It's not that it is wrong to breast feed in public, it's just that is a very awkward moment for others around them especially men when it takes place, or for me anyways. It seems that it is such a personal necessity that is understandable why, but not so much why in public, or that it can't wait until a private moment between the mother and child.

    I think it's not the actual feeding itself that bothers most in public, but the actual ability to see the mother's breast which is common nature for the body to be covered in public, hence why we wears clothes, and that aspect of it feels very awkward and uncomfortable. I'm not a woman, but I would feel utterly uncomfortable exposing my breast in the slightest to feed my child, but that's me.

    Some mother's say, "well look away or don't watch," but in actuality it's such a distraction and awkwardness that it distracts the person(s) from focusing on what's before them, as Church in this case. It's just common, human nature to look, as well as, normal human reflexes to look out of first curiosity, and then feel very uncomfortable and try not to look knowing consciously in your mind what is taking place.

    For the most part, it doesn't bother many people, but I guess it's all about how the mother does it and conceals her breast to the best of her ability. In my opinion.

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

      well if you must look once get your jollys and move on

      January 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm |
    • Happy Atheist

      "which is common nature for the body to be covered in public"

      There is nothing natural about wearing clothes.

      Just like so many humans apparently need some threat of heII or promise of heaven to behave civily to eachother, they also need their vision of bare skinned blocked by fabric so they don't go into mad raging r a p i n g sprees of new mothers. Apparently humans have almost zero self control, or so the religions would have you believe. Strange how in African tribes and South American tribes who wear little to no clothing they don't seem to have those problems...

      If a religious zealot feels their faith or morality being challenged by something they see their answer is not to work on building tronger faith, their answer is to throw a sheet over whatever tempts them. Sadly there are not enough sheets in the world to cover over every temptation so you might think about working on yourselves instead.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
  14. Observer

    The Pope is doing everything he can to increase church attendance.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
  15. Atheists want to to sacrifice the virgin bride of Christ.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ # # 🙂 # # $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    January 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
    • Steven Gold

      "Some will cry because they are uncomfortable or because they are hungry,"
      Feeling a little peckish myself.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:08 pm |
  16. Rivethead

    OMG! All this progress and egalitarianism in the church will surely destroy xtianity. Clearly this new pope it's some kind of criminally insane monster. It's almost as if he lives in the 21st century. How dreadful.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm |
  17. 00 00

    austin, lie4him, chad, meredith s., peter o'toole, did u no that our pharisees lie?

    never new i had a fan in anonymous

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

      Define "fan".

      January 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm |
  18. Ken

    Pope Francis is the best Pope in modern history and possibly the best since Saint Peter began the Church.

    January 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm |
  19. 00 00

    i repeat. i don't no how i do it. do u?

    not one pharisee loved him. all lied live4him!

    January 13, 2014 at 1:54 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.