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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. Chaiah

    I'm not Catholic, but I love this pope.

    January 13, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
    • Twist

      I agree. The fact that he doesn't spit the typical Christian acid from his mouth is quite refreshing. I'm more impressed with the fact that he uses the historical space of the Sistine Chapel to conduct everyday church business.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm |
  2. Pope Bubba

    He'll be declared a saint one day because of this...

    January 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      isn't it automatic that popes become saints?

      They wait a few years then convince some religious nut to come forward and claim they were healed when the pope prayed for them and "hey presto" we have a new saint.
      and the catholics say "oooh" and "aaaahhhh" and believe.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
      • JessMa

        No, not all popes have been made saints.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
      • Pope Bubba

        The miracle of the breast feeding mom.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
      • ME II

        I don't know, getting people to like the Pope, these days almost seems miraculous.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
  3. Dizzyd

    Lawrence – true on all counts
    oneSTARman – true
    Thinker... – that's right, he was making a point about people going hungry when there's enough food to feed everyone (and evil gov'ts keep it from them) – and yet it turns into a discussion of boobies. Speaking of which, I wonder about simply having a special section of pews in the back for parents of nursing babies to sit. That way anyone who wants to see would have to turn their head to look (which you shouldn't be doing in church anyways. Pay attention!)
    Bootyfunk – I admit I wondered about that too, but here's my thought on it. I think that 1. He wanted to see how much she wanted this and how much she believed, and 2. Maybe He was reflecting how ppl of that time and area would usually treat her but by showing how much faith she had by coming to Him, that God's grace and love was open to even the 'undesirables'.
    Hope that makes sense.
    Alan – amen! Beautifully said, brother!

    January 13, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
  4. joan

    It's possible to have a blanket over your shoulder to cover yourself while breastfeeding. It's no big deal.

    January 13, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
  5. Ctrygrl

    Isn't this man incredible!!!

    January 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
  6. JJ

    I think this is all a new way to get young boys to come to church. I know when I was a boy and saw a breast all plopped out there, I was in a trance.

    January 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm |
  7. momto8

    I always take the baby to the restroom and feed in there at church. For baptism, I bring a bottle of pumped milk.
    I am not comfortable breastfeeding in public. I breastfeed until the child is about 2, but not in public. It's embarrassing for a woman to do that!

    January 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • Dash

      It's embarrassing for you.
      It isn't so for many.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      You only speak for yourself here. Not all women find that feeding their child naturally is embarrassing, nor should they. There are ways to do it and still be dignified.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
    • Cynthia

      I don't understand how women can breastfeed in restrooms-the smelliest, germiest places! Think what goes into the air when someone flushes a toilet. Think what the mother has touched from the people who don't was their hands! Ugh!

      January 13, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
    • ProudAtheist

      If it's embarassing for YOU, don't do it. Don't assume it's embarassing for EVERYONE.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
      • Divdar

        Sure is a lot of hate over someone's opinion.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
        • Pope Bubba

          I don't think you understand what "hate" mean.

          January 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
    • ME II

      @momto8,
      Do whatever is comfortable for you.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
  8. cebundy

    What a wonderful man! He is truly bringing real faith back to the Catholic church.

    January 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • JJ

      Oh...gush...gush...isn't he just the best!. I breathlessly await his next super human act.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        then come on back to the CNN Belief blog ... they do a pope story every day.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm |
  9. mohammad goldstein

    this pope is dope

    January 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
    • joan

      Go back to your cell.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
  10. mohammad goldstein

    this pop is dope

    January 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • jc

      cool name bro.

      January 13, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
  11. StormyWeather

    This pope is honestly the best thing to happen to Catholicism in a long time. The religion isn't exactly famous for its progressiveness, but he is dragging people kicking and screaming to a more reasonable place that focuses less on politics and more on love and compassion.

    The pope's comments aren't about mom politics; it's about children being important, and their basic human needs being important, and having compassion.

    January 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah, i agree with many of the nice, if ambiguous, things he's said.
      but whthumbs up to breast feeding in church.
      at has the pope actually done?
      he hasn't changed church doctrine or dogma.
      he hasn't actually done... anything.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
  12. sly

    It's so fun watching people of the same 'flock' turning on each other and eating each other for lunch.

    Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hari Krishna's – y'all are all the same, yet you somehow get your panties all in a bun about each other and kill each other over your fantasy books. It's hilarious.

    Kinda like watching the Republicans – they are all the same, yet you get the TeaBillie White Men getting all bent out of shape over their Obese comrades.

    Gotta love it – pure entertainment. "my god is this this this ...." "no- that's my god, yours is this this this" "I know you are but what am I"

    January 13, 2014 at 4:37 pm |
  13. Joe

    At least one should honor one's own mother, who must have struggled to breastfeed these 'scholarly and eminent' guys, while they were infants, especially in embarrassing public places; ignoring the 'peeping eyes' and focusing on her motherhood.

    January 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
  14. Don Lee

    Best. Pope. Ever.

    January 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
    • lroy

      Well, what did you expect? The kid's hungry, what's the mom going to say, "Excuze I've got to feed her"? I guess they do not have breast pumps or bottles for just this purpose. I was thinking, what if the diaper needs changing, you gonna do that too?

      January 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
      • Really

        not everyone uses a bottle. Some babies don't take to bottles.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
      • Dash

        Shrug. Then don't go to Mass.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
  15. Juan

    I do not understand some people's problem with breastfeeding. It is a natural part of life which for the past hundreds of thousands of years was the only way to survive. It was not until very recent history that there has been an alternative (formula). What do people have against it? Are they secretly upset or something because they did not do it and so do not want people to think that they did not make the right choice or something?

    January 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
    • Keeper

      I have no problem with mothers breastfeeding their children in public. But there is a little thing that is being trodden on called decency. My wife wore one of those "hooter hiders" and it worked quite well. I see no reason why a woman should not utilize something to cover up.

      I guess it's the same as how guys don't show up to church in a tank top showing off their armpits.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:42 pm |
      • Dash

        Women do behave modestly when breastfeeding. I have yet to see a woman who hasn't.

        If someone insists on staring, they are the one who is behaving wrongly and immodestly.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Not all women cover up. Not everyone who stares is a perv. The grandmother, for instance, might "stare." You live your life in generalities, don't you?

          January 13, 2014 at 4:52 pm |
        • Dash

          No. But it seems you have a problem with the way I express myself. Too bad.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Cpt. Obvious

          Your behavior hardly affects me at all, but it affects you quite a bit. Good luck to you.

          January 13, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
        • Dash

          My behavior?

          Lol. Yeah, okay.

          January 13, 2014 at 5:07 pm |
        • Observer

          So you admit that you STARE at breastfeeding women, Captain??

          January 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
    • lroy

      Well, I was never breast fed, so there you are.

      January 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
      • Really

        Makes sense. Breast fed babies tend to have higher IQs.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:48 pm |
      • Science Works

        How can you be breast fed when the catholic church does not like birth control – if mom is popping them out every year for the first 6 kids say it is tough to get a breast ?

        January 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • StormyWeather

          Breastfeeding suppresses fertility for the first year or two of a baby's life – not 100%, but to a large degree. So it helps to space children in a way that is healthy for the mother (and the kids).

          January 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
        • Science Works

          and the church loved the 50's and 60's when bottle feeding was vogue !

          January 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
  16. jsdrt0616

    More challenges for the ridiculous Pope:

    Explain clearly, at the light of Science, every and each one of the fundamental items of the myth called Roman catholic Christianity.

    Give a good definition of "God".

    ec etc

    January 13, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
  17. jsdrt0616

    Hey pope, refute the ideas at the sites that are finded by

    google: brief clear proof

    google: The Story of Jesus was fabricated

    January 13, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • Bruce Wayne

      "finded"? You're poor grammar is showing...sorry that you can't properly troll

      January 13, 2014 at 4:35 pm |
      • italiangerry

        YOUR poor grammar, not YOU'RE. Your correction has an error. Funny.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
      • Larry

        It's YOUR, not YOU'RE. Geesh.

        January 13, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
      • sly

        Oh stop pretending: We know you and jsdrt are simply running an ad for the new "Dumb and Dumber" movie coming out.

        January 13, 2014 at 5:07 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.