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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. ME II

    "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!

    Surely he wasn't suggesting that young mothers breastfeed just anyone... or was he?

    January 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
    • snomannn

      That was supposed to be a c"clever" response ? Of course that is not what the Pope meant, but then you knew that already.....and so did everyone else. If a woman is uncomfortable nursing her child in public the church should find a way to accommodate her.

      I'm quite sure the Pope"s remarks were aimed at the wicked evil doers in Africa in particular. The terrorist dictators with child armies that keep food aid from reaching the people who need it. The Pope is correct, there is enough food to feed all the people in the world. Perhaps the Pope needs to be more clear, for those like you, that it is the evil doers keeping the food from the people...........start naming names Your Holiness, for God's sake.

      January 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        Yes, because an evil dictator committing atrocities and crimes against humanity gives a crap what your Poop says...

        January 13, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
        • neoritter

          Well that might be because poop generally doesn't talk. Though I have to say, if one's poop did talk, I'd assume they'd give a crap. Because obviously, something is up if your poop is talking to you.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
  2. Shelia

    Stop staring at looking at a breastfeeding mom its amazing that feeding a human-being would be so awkward. Thank god we have laws protecting mothers and their infants rights..

    January 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
    • Barry G

      The Apostle Paul wrote: "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted."
      .

      January 13, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
  3. outspoken91

    I love this man. I am not even catholic. But I can truly say that I can see Christ through the Pope.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
  4. DaTrufHurts

    Harsd to believe this is even news. I have seen people breastfeeding in church regularly. Not sure why Il Paopa had to weigh in on it...

    January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
  5. Lex

    What's right is so obvious, that this should even be newsworthy. This is the 21st century.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
  6. Jason Rogers

    If breast feeding is to be okay in public, and to be okay in a church (which I am fine with, as it is the most useful thing a church is for), then mothers should have absolutely no problem with people looking at them while they do it. I am not saying it is okay to sit there and stare at a mother breastfeeding, but I hate this idea that everyone else has to somehow ignore or pretend it isn't happening which is often the case.
    I mean a mother gets upset because someone happens to look at her while breastfeeding, which does happen. Then I would say the mother should not be selfish and share the milk with anyone else who might want some. Either that, or get over your discomfort with people looking at you while you breastfeed. People have eyes and they are allowed to use them.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm |
  7. Melissa

    As a mother who breastfed all three of my children, I absolutely do not agree with doing it in public. It's a private and intimate opportunity for me and my child to have bonded. That is not be shared with anyone else, IMO. I am all for a mother breastfeeding her baby discreetly, but for those who assume that there's nothing wrong with whipping out a breast to feed her child anywhere she wants, that I find just rude and patronizing to anyone around her. People will claim there is nothing wrong with breasts, as they are a natural source of nutrition. I bet you don't say that when your husbands are looking at Playboy.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
    • Freud bonded with the other woman.

      ^^^^^^ 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 ^^^^^^

      January 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
    • Thinker...

      I don't see how that demonstrates there is something wrong with them though. And to be honest that sort thing only really matters because we choose to let it. In tribes where nud.ity is common no one really pays much attention to it. The only reason our bodies are such a big deal is because there are great piles of money to be made from body shame and promoting our insecurities.

      January 13, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
    • PrincessBride

      So did you never leave the house until your kids were weaned? There's nothing wrong with feeding a baby when the baby is hungry, regardless of where you are. I fed my kids everywhere. I was always discreet and had a nursing top or blanket to keep things private. I felt it was important to breastfeed my kids, but also important to continue to have a life and to get out and be around others. Sure, you can bottle-feed when you're not home, but the milk is going to come in anyway, which can lead to other problems..... I can't see why breastfeeding should force Moms to be behind closed doors.

      January 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
  8. me

    pole smoking should be allowed for all women too..

    January 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
  9. JL

    I can't believe anyone is offended by a mother breastfeeding in church. Feel free to enter adulthood at anytime, America.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
  10. Chuck

    Interesting that some people I have met think a woman breastfeeding a baby is unfit to be seen, but an AK47 is beautiful. Just saying.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  11. MSW

    Sure it's natural, just like taking a crap but I don't want to see that either.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • ME II

      Unlike taking a crap, however, breastfeeding isn't dirty in a literal sense.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
      • MSW

        How do you know? Have you inspected all breast feeding mom's breasts?

        January 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
    • jimbo913

      Nice how you equate nourishing an infant to taking a poo.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
      • jimbo913

        Also, I bet others are forced to watch you eat on a daily basis (assuming you aren't a shut-in).

        January 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
        • MSW

          Of course but not from mom's breast in church silly

          January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
        • Thinker...

          MSW: The funny thing is no one is forcing you to watch anything. If you don't want to see it, look elsewhere. Particularly in a church setting where you should be looking at the speaker/choir/book rather than at the other attendees.

          January 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
      • MSW

        It is the natural result of eating.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
    • Thinker...

      That is a forced comparison if ever I have heard one.

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

      I dont want to see you eat either in public maybe you should eat with a blanket over your head or in a dirty restroom

      January 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
  12. Corey

    Women weren't allowed to do this before? Nice religion.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • austinandjustin

      Neither I nor my family are Catholic so I can't comment on what happened before in mass. But I do know that my grandfather once told me that when he was growing up around the 20s and 30s, it was natural for mothers to breastfeed their children in church. Nobody thought anything about it. It was later when it changed to something to be hid from view.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
      • Thinker...

        It happened because baby formula made it no longer necessary. Women stopped doing it almost entirely for decades. That meant no one was used to it anymore when we discovered that nursing is typically better for the child than formula and women started nursing again. It also meant that there were few around to offer any advice about it so lots of insecurity developed. That and our country is both terrified of and obsessed with female ni.pples for some reason.

        January 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
  13. Dyslexic doG

    if god created adam first, then why did he give him ni.pples?

    January 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
    • Thinker...

      Hah! That is a good one actually.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Male is XY. Female is XX. Get it now? He was first.

        @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@ 🙂 🙂 @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

        January 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
        • Bets

          What an ignorant response. Answer the question.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
        • Thinker...

          Is that an attempt at really dry sarcasm? I hope so because it made no sense otherwise.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • Thinker...

          Sorry, that was not directed at you Bets.

          January 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
        • Bride in the potter's hand. Get it now?

          +
          +
          *+*+ 🙂

          January 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
        • Thinker...

          No, but that could be because the images attached are blocked for me so I can't see them.

          January 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • Johnny

      Because he knew way ahead of time how funny that scene in Meet the Parents would be?

      January 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
    • ME II

      ... or a belly button, or a penis for that matter

      January 13, 2014 at 2:41 pm |
  14. sergo jean

    It's "ok" but they need rooms. I do know that it is solemn mockery before God to baptize little children. We shall preach Repentance and Baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin. Parents must repent and be baptized. Little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world.

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

      Nope. Marginalizing women because they are serving the function God intended is silly.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
    • Orlando

      Baptism isn't even necessary, so who cares when it's done?

      January 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm |
  15. Honey Badger Don't Care

    I have no problem if a woman wants to flop her boobs out in public. She just shouldn't get upset when I look.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  16. Susan StoHelit

    If you believe in god, then you believe he created women's breasts for this purpose. All this unnatural garbage about bottles and covers (not all babies will eat under a cover), isolation – you're going against god's plan, what is natural and normal. Baby cries, mother feeds it. That's all there is to it.

    It's how god set it up, how nature set it up, and what science says is best for mother and baby – when all 3 of those are agreeing, what kind of egomaniac do you have to be to think that your choice to be uncomfortable about it matters at all?

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

      He also supposedly set up our excretory system–you got any problem with people excreting in public?

      January 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
      • Thinker...

        Other than it is rather unsanitary? That is the only reason it isn't done today (and it is a good one). It really is just a part of life and we are only disgusted by it because we are taught to be (and because we don't smell it enough to get used to it.)

        January 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
    • phoenix1920

      ummm . . . creating babies in the natural way is also how God intended, nature intended, and what science says is best. The argument is whether whether those acts should be in public or private. We engage in lots of natural acts that are done privately, including burping or passing gas.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
      • Momof4

        Yeah, moms have to burp the baby after feeding and the child often spits up, sometimes explosively. Natural, sure, but... ugh! And if you are sitting next to them or behind them, I dare you to not notice and be affected.

        January 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm |
      • PrincessBride

        So even bottle-fed babies should be fed in private so their burping does not disturb others?

        January 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
        • Orlando

          In places where you're expected to be quiet and not distract others, like church or a musical performance, say, then I'd have to say yes. Otherwise, no.

          January 13, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • Momof4

          I agree, Orlando.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
  17. Rebbeca

    I totally disagree here I don't and most people don't want to see a women breastfeeding her baby anywhere! Most of all while I am in an expensive restaurant where i think kids should be banned from already!

    January 13, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Ah, you poor fragile flower, of course everything you dislike should be removed from your sight lest your fragile eyes be offended.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
    • DB Cooper

      If your eye offends you, then pluck it out.

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

        Thanks!!!

        January 13, 2014 at 2:35 pm |
    • Bollucks

      Since you're fragile and so easily offended, you should not venture outside your home.

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

      Well, Bex, you're going to make someone a shitty mom.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
    • H.S.

      How do you know what "most people" want? Did you take a poll?

      Don't pretend you can speak for others. You have enough to worry about with yourself.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:10 pm |
  18. Bollucks

    Why anyone would be offended or "disgusted" at the sight of a woman breastfeeding a child in public is beyond me. It's not indecent. It's not something that should be "confined to a private area away from public view." Are people really so insecure with themselves they can't handle a breast? Children who see a woman breastfeeding aren't going to be harmed. Good lord, the US is overwrought with whimpering idi0t$ afraid of their own shadow.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:27 pm |
    • Rebbeca

      I am neither offended or disgusted by this I just don't want to see it. There is a time and place for all things. If you are going to bring a hungry baby to a public place and have no choice than cover yourself up. We went to a show in NYC there is a women with a 3yr old standing in front of her under her shirt sucking on her breast...Really? Give me a break!!!!

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

        Give me a break? How about this? The rest of the world's women shouldn't have to hide their breastfeeding from you just because you don't like it. Why don't you just stay indoors? Problem solved – you'll be protected inside your own little sanctuary.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:38 pm |
      • Futurewizard

        There no restriction on time or place for a woman to feed her crying infant. if an infant is hungry, and mother is breastfeeding, it should be done right there. The relationship is between child and mother, everyone else walk away.

        January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm |
      • Shelia

        and I don't want to see you eat in public so go home and eat at your house...

        January 13, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
  19. Jenny

    Reading through some of these responses really makes me wonder why people have an issue with nursing? news flash – that's what boobs are for! I think you can feed your baby in a respective way ( using a cover up) but this is what we were made to do.. Feed our babies from our boobies. Not chemicals out of a can. People that don't have children just don't understand. Nursing is part of life – deal with it. Do you realize how you make a mother feel when she is trying to feed her baby in public and YOU get upset?? We don't really have a choice and you can either pick listening to a screaming hungry baby or have to see a woman with a blanket over her chest feeding her infant. There are so many other things in life that we have to see that are more offensive, I just don't get why nursing an infant would be thought of as inappropriate.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
    • Anonymous

      And for all of them to eschew it when it's exactly what God intended...lmao.

      January 13, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • Thinker...

      I figure that here in the US at least it is so 'horrible' because it is loving and caring rather than violent and objectifying. We seem to really have our priorities twisted around here.

      January 13, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
    • jed clampett

      Boobbies are for more than just breast feeding. They are an errogenous area for both men and women. Just as a penis has more than one purpose. In addition, I have no problem with breast feeding in public just remember that they do have other purpose.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
  20. Jason Rogers

    I would prefer it to be a private thing if possible. Despite it being natural, it is also a personal relationship between the offspring and the mother. It doesn't need to be seen by other people in public and can safely be done in a private manner. Would I support a law banning it from the public square? No. Despite the kind of disgust and objection I have to it, I personally believe it to be up to the mothers to make such a decision for there young, and not I or anyone else. So long as it doesn't cause any harm to anyone, which I do not see how it would other then a distraction. I would however hope that mothers take into consideration the feelings of others, and unless it is a emergency situation where the offspring need nourishment right away, that the mother find a private spot to feed it. Like I said, should we be making laws against it? Absolutely not.

    January 13, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mimi

      It is just feeding a baby nothing more.

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

      Exactly, other ppl should not see it, however, mother should feed her hungry infant. it's not for you to see....

      January 13, 2014 at 2:52 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.