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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. Ken Margo

    Lets be honest. Looks have a lot to do with it. If the mother looks Sophia Vergara, no problem. On the other hand if she looks like Jabba the hut. Even I'd have a problem with that 🙂

    January 13, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
    • charlie

      So an ugly woman deemed by you cannot feed her crying child but a hot woman can? Dude, come on.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        I was being sarcastic (notice the smiley face) Lets be truthfull. Good looks are an advantage. He probably thought the woman was unattractive. Just trying to be real. It doesn't make a difference to me one way or another. I have children. My wife breastfed. She just positioned herself to be as discreet as possible when she couldn't cover up.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:12 pm |
    • merckx111

      Bonehead

      January 13, 2014 at 7:13 pm |
  2. EB

    It is a nice start for the Pope to say what he said. It will encourage me to go to Mass and stay there, and I imagine other mothers will feel the same. Personally, I would still wear a nursing cover, but it is mostly because I do not want to be a distraction and I do not want to show that part of my body. If it is socially unacceptable to show your breast in church/restaurants/public places, the cover is an easy fix. I do not see the problem. If you want to change what is considered socially acceptable, consider that it will take time and baby steps (haha). Otherwise, you are probably a distraction. Being a distraction is sometimes really important, but church or a fine dining establishment may not be the kindest place to push the envelope.

    January 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
    • truth exists because we face it

      to see the boobs?

      January 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
  3. saggyroy

    "...because here, they [the children] are the main focus," he said. No kiddin' Pope!

    January 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
  4. Dr Phil

    You Americans are so prude! What's wrong with a mother feeding her baby in church? If it's done discreetly under a shawl, no one will even notice.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
    • Evolutionist

      It's not prudishness it's just a vain hope that we've come farther than we have.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
  5. Jocelyn Michelle

    This pope is the coolest pope ever. He actually lives what he preaches. It's an amazing thing to see. I never thought I'd say I was proud to be raised Catholic, but I just did. May Pope Francis live a long and healthy life.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
    • truth exists because we face it

      yeah,, I saw a priest sucking on hos boob

      January 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
  6. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Breasts are intended for feeding babies. Get over it.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      I've found more uses for them 🙂

      January 13, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
      • Ah

        no doubt.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
  7. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I guess the word "breast" diverted attention from the most remarkable thing the pope said: "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." This pope seems to call for redistribution of wealth. Sounds good to me.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
    • Jim

      The Pope said we have enough to feed the world. How do you figure "redistribution of wealth" from that? I'm not very religious nor know the Bible well, but don't forgot about feeding fish to someone, you've fed them for a day. Teach them how to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime. Why on earth should someone else be forced to give up what they made, just to give it to someone else. Socialism is certainly know answer. Philanthropy, in many different ways (not just handouts) can certainly help.

      January 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
      • visitor

        Give people something to eat! - seems pretty clear. You might not agree nor be aware (or care for that matter which is your choice) but that is exactly Christ's teachings.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        The pope said: "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."

        Teach someone to fish? Let's make sure they are not starving before we set about teaching them anything.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
    • sugar

      Indeed. I never thought I'd love the pope but this one seems to have a better, more realistic picture of the world at large. It's refreshing. It makes me hopeful.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
  8. Over crowded planet

    Stop breeding. Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 13, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You first.

      January 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
      • Over crowded planet

        Done. Number of total partners 46, number of children zero.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          If you're gay, that doesn't count.

          January 13, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
        • Over crowded planet

          If I was counting gay flings I'd have given a higher number.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:01 pm |
        • Over crowded planet

          Also let me add, number of children conceived also zero, and yes I may have holes in the knees of my favorite pair of jeans but you know what the earth is a little happier.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          If you can back it up. You ain't braggin!

          January 13, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          Damn. I don't even think I've met 46 people.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:08 pm |
        • Over crowded planet

          Picture two people a year for fifteen years and you are up to thirty. I'm old now. But I was young once. There are all sorts of things you an do, bilateral oophorectomy for one thing, works like a charm, or hysterectomy, or vasectomy, or even trifecta birth control methods (why settle on just one). The point is, it can be done.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          I know it can be done. We need to make it easier for people. Ex. free birth control, education just to name two. We need to be more honest about the costs and difficulties of having children. I have two kids, and think the world of them. That doesn't mean it's always been a bed of roses.

          January 13, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
  9. Unfair

    Passing gas is natural too, you don't do it in an elevator.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
    • Jocelyn Michelle

      Really? I happen to spend a good deal of time in elevators and what you're saying is not true. People do pass gas in elevators – not polite people, but it has been done. Also, passing gas is not life-giving, like breast milk is. This society is so hung up on naked breasts that they find breastfeeding repulsive, when in fact it is the most natural thing for a baby and mother. So get over your hangups and move into the 21st century.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
      • Evolutionist

        Funny that the 21st century looks so very much like the 3rd century.

        January 13, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
    • Jim Landis

      Who "Lets off" in an elevator? Michelle Bachmann-she gassed a whole elavotor full of people.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:46 pm |
      • Misanthrope

        Maybe now, my fellow humans you know why I (chokes) "love" you all so very much.

        January 13, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
  10. Here's a stupid question

    Why bring an infant to church in the first place?

    January 13, 2014 at 6:49 pm |
    • Jesus Christ Son of God

      It's part of the brain-washing. The entire family is drinking the kool-aid. Anything else breeds variance, and they want compliance, the church that is.

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

      Unlike a bar, it's family time.

      January 13, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
    • truth exists because we face it

      wait till the kid turns 3, the parents will probably tell they they are all sinners,, reduce the victim as muslim terrorist do.

      Then they'll scare the kid with hell, a place where they will get painful third degree burns with ugly monsters that will eat them.

      child abuse taught early among this group

      January 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm |
  11. SteveInMN

    Mass attendance by young males skyrockets; details at 11.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:45 pm |
  12. fred hallman

    I really have to change tmy batteries..."Roman"

    January 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm |
  13. fred hallman

    He's my Bubba not my Papa, but Hallelujah anyway!

    A universally catholic very un-Roan Christian and I approve this message.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm |
  14. Jesus Christ Son of God

    What is news here is that people have to have someone tell them what they can and cannot do. The church is a dictatorship which pays no taxes.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
  15. CC2NSA

    I like this Pope very much. His Papacy is as if watching a child grow up. It is as if people are listening to every word, seeing which direction he takes next.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
  16. Mara Tam

    What a no brainer! Nurse the baby discreetly, don't let your boob hang out, and all is fine. If others are bothered, it's their problem.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
    • Maleficent

      The key is "discreet" – too many women aren't.

      January 13, 2014 at 6:33 pm |
      • visitor

        liar

        January 13, 2014 at 6:44 pm |
      • ukechick

        Really? Women are blatantly whipping out their breasts to feed their babies? I call BS on that.
        Women always nurse discreetly. Heck, if the baby is nursing, the boob is covered by the baby.
        Here's a thought: stop gawking.

        January 13, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
        • Unfair

          What if a dude wants to discretely pee on a stop sign, he's covered himself with his hand right? Don't stare at him.

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

          Too funny! Bare breasts in strip clubs are fine, but on a wholesome nursing mother? Oh no! Look away!

          January 13, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
        • visitor

          No kidding. The baby is pressed right up against the body. What do they think we are? Cows?

          January 13, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
        • Jocelyn Michelle

          Excellent response!

          January 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Dis you ask her if she could cover up? Did you complain to management?

        January 13, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
    • Jim

      And if the mom isn't covered up? Is that my problem, too? Because urinating is just as natural as eating, does that mean I can do it wherever and whenever I want?

      January 13, 2014 at 7:01 pm |
      • Ken Margo

        Let me make sure I understand you. You're comaring pi.ss.ing to breastfeeding?

        January 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
        • Ken Margo

          I meant comparing

          January 13, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
  17. M.E.

    Well, if you believe god created people, that means he created breasts and it was his idea to have them be baby food delivery devices. Therefore it's sensible to think he'd be OK with women using something he gave them as he intended. Sure, breastfeeding in a quiet private place is ideal, but infants don't tend to pick opportune moments to get hungry and they're not adults, they can't just sit quietly till they find an acceptable moment to eat like we do. I think the pope is absolutely right on this one, as he seems to be with many things. As an objective non-believing outsider, I see where he's coming from.

    January 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
    • truth exists because we face it

      it's adult food too

      January 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
  18. Mr John

    Is it ok for a grown man to ask his gf/wife to breast feed him in church?

    January 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      A grown man is different from an infant. If you could simply tell your infant to wait until you get home, then you got a point.

      January 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
  19. D

    Still better than walking naked in the locker room!!!!

    January 13, 2014 at 6:20 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.