Is this appropriate?

I’m probably treading thin ice here, but something happened (again!) in church this weekend, and I’ve just got to expound.

A young woman with an infant proceeded to drape herself and the wee one in a quilt, then breastfed the babe.

In church. During Communion. Seated in the front of the congregation, where everybody going to Communion had to pass by her.

Does that bother anybody else, or am I just odd?

Now, before you go all righteous on me, let me remind you I’m a mom. And as such, I realize babies don’t necessarily feed on a time clock.

But it’s not like she didn’t have other options. She could have:

  • fed the baby before church
  • sat at the back or upstairs, away from curious eyes
  • gone to the bathroom — with its locking door and comfy chair
  • excused herself to the privacy of her own car
  • brought a bottle and fed the infant without attracting undue attention

And before you protest that “breastfeeding is natural,” may I remind you that so is sex, but we don’t want to see you making out with your special someone in the church pews!

Just because something is natural doesn’t give you license to do it in church.

Injecting insulin is natural to those who have diabetes, but we don’t want to see it in the middle of services. Eating is natural, but don’t bring a five-course meal to a house of worship and dig in while the rest of us watch.

Anyway, after the feeding, this mom proceeded to straighten herself out, pulling and tugging on her clothing as she jostled the babe, tossed aside her hiding quilt, and yanked up her sagging blue jeans.

All without a hint of embarrassment. (Too bad she missed the blush on the face of the man seated behind her).

Some of us go to church to worship. But when people cause distractions and seem oblivious to them, I see why folks say they get more of a spiritual experience communing in nature.

Yes, the human body is beautiful. So’s my dog, but you don’t see me whipping him out in the middle of Mass!

Your thoughts, friends??

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23 thoughts on “Is this appropriate?

  1. The congregations I’ve been involved with always have had a room for infants as well as a nursery for the restless toddlers. That seems like the best solution.

    • Yes, it does, Linda. Our churches used to have what were called “cry rooms,” where fussy toddlers, new babies, and small kids could go with their parents. They could see and hear the services, but the congregation didn’t really hear them. Then somebody decided that was segregating an entire section of the church family, so the rooms were eliminated. Obviously, that didn’t help matters!

  2. Debbie, I have to agree with you and several of your other readers. I think it’s perfectly okay as long as it’s done with discretion. I don’t think breastfeeding in the middle of church is a place to do it though. I’m sure there are areas where a mother can go to be more private.

    Great post topic, my friend. And it’s one that I’ve heard many women discuss.

    Have a super week!
    X

    • Thanks, Ron. It’s not the act of breastfeeding that’s at issue here; rather, it’s her choice of location. A regular Catholic Mass lasts — tops — one hour (and this one was finished in 45 minutes). I’m not talking about special occasion services like Easter Vigil or Christmas Midnight Mass. It would appear to me that one hour isn’t too long for a baby to go without nursing, especially if the mother is vigilant about feeding him/her before and after. Same thing goes with restroom visits. I don’t want to appear judgmental. I just want the same right to worship in peace that I offer others.

      I appreciate a man’s point of view here, dear!!

  3. Yep. It’s appropriate. Pope Francis supports breastfeeding in the Sistine Chapel and everywhere else (http://time.com/3662983/pope-francis-breastfeeding/ ) Obviously, it does not make him blush. This was a young women with a new baby who came it to church, Making it anywhere with a new baby is hard in the beginning. Perhaps she needed the support of the congregation for any number of reasons. In time, she will learn to adjust her clothes, use a small blanket and no one will be any the wiser. Until then she should just do the best she can and forget about everyone else. I completely support women breastfeeding their babies wherever they feel it is appropriate. And I don’t have any problem with a woman who pulls a bottle out of her diaper bag to pop into her babies mouth or hands a toddler a package of goldfish to munch on.
    I stopped going to church because people got so whipped up over issues like this. My god was smiling on that young mom and baby.
    Thanks for writing about an issue I am passionate about but I hope not overbearing about….

    • I support your right to your opinion, Katybeth, and I thank you for sharing it. I have no intention of debating the merits of breastfeeding; rather, I’m referring to this mom’s choice of location. I still maintain there were other options for her. And, with Mass only lasting 45 minutes, she should have fed the infant beforehand, or left a bit early to feed afterward. That’s what the other young moms do, and we have plenty of them. Then again, I was never the person who wanted to call undue attention to myself! I’m not sure we can uphold Pope Francis when he gives an opinion that we like and crucify him when he says something we don’t, though.

  4. It sounds like she was trying to use discretion by placing a quilt over herself and the baby. Most churches have a place for mothers to nurse or comfort their babies, however I don’t think anyone should be made to feel badly when they are coming to church. I believe God meets us where we are at. Not sure if I’m reading into it or not, but you mentioned she was wearing jeans. Did that bother you? I think it’s more important for people to be able to come to worship as they are rather than be judged for not being as others deem acceptable. This was an issue at the church I used to attend. Many of the elder members took exception to teenagers wearing jeans and flip flops. I was thrilled they came. Many families were lost due to a few complaining about such petty issues. I find screaming children (when their is a nursery available) to be more of a distraction than nursing babies or small children quietly playing electronic games or coloring.

    • Yes, you’re reading something into it that I didn’t say, Suzi. I don’t care what she had on. Most people attending that particular church at that particular time slot wear jeans. I had jeans on myself, so of course it didn’t bother me one bit! Nor do flip-flops, but I draw the line at see-through tops or shorts that one can’t sit in without exposing everything!

      I’m not trying to be judgmental and I’m sorry if it came across to you as such. I merely wanted to indicate that things have changed and not necessarily for the better. Young moms (or old ones, for that matter) who want to breastfeed in church need to band together and ask the priest for a discrete place in which to do so, if that’s important to them. Otherwise, I say they should feed baby before services start and then again afterward, but not in the middle of Mass.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. I think she could have used more discretion. Fine to be in jeans. Fine to have to breastfeed your baby. But grace and courtesy would be to have sat somewhere else if she knew the baby would need to be fed during the service. I don’t think I would have sat up front. When my kids were little – I always chose a spot where I could make an unobtrusive exit if there behavior warranted it – trying to be respectful of other’s coming to worship. If she was making a stance – not the place to do it. If it were my daughter (who is a mother) I’d advise her the same way.

    • Thank you, Barb. This is very insightful and well-said. Mass doesn’t last that long — less than an hour — and even if this were a newborn (which she wasn’t), she wouldn’t need to feed during that time period if the mom had planned ahead. Even feeding on demand is generally every 1.5 to 3 hours.

      Nor was this the mom’s first rodeo (she had a young boy, too, so she obviously knew her way around little ones). Personally, I, too, wondered if she wasn’t trying to “make a stance” since she’s the only one of the many moms with wee ones who regularly chooses to feed in church.

  6. *laughs* Personally, I know if I was the fellow next to her (or behind her) I would have felt out of place, and a bit embarrassed, really! At least, I think so. I agree with you completely as usual, Debbie. Except…I wish you would bring Dallas out more often!

    • Professor, thanks for making me laugh! You know, you throw provocative things out there, then hide and watch much better than I do! Guess I never realized how feisty some people get over this topic. Ouch! Lesson learned and filed away. Again, thanks for stopping by (I checked with Domer, and he said much the same thing you did!)

  7. I remember nursing my infant son in a Nordstrom’s cafe many years ago. The place was pretty empty, just a couple sitting clear on the other side of the room. Still the cafe’s manager came over and asked me not to. Said people complained. What people? Only couple there were sitting with their backs to me. He was the one who was feeling uncomfortable. Well, his words had such an effect on me, I felt crushed, humiliated and defeated. He made me feel ashamed of something so natural. But nursing is a like giving the gift of life to your child. And nursing mothers have been fighting for that right for decades. I went to the Nordstrom manager the next day. He apologized and gave me a generous gift certificate as a token for the inconvenience and anguish it caused me at the time. He also disciplined the cafe manager.

    We don’t know what happened in this case and why the mother in your church was unable to wait or go somewhere else. But I know that in my case, I had no choice. That cafe is where I’d been sitting when my son suddenly woke up hungry. His cries told me I didn’t have time to race to the bathroom to feed him. Maybe it was something similar for this mom. Maybe she felt bad that she had to do it there, but she felt she had no choice. Maybe a little compassion and understanding is needed. It’s embarrassing enough to have to do it in public, and I also know what’s it’s like to have the wrath of the community turn on you. So I will never judge a woman who is breastfeeding anywhere, even in a house of worship. Perhaps instead, I’d celebrate the fact that she came to church, when so few do these days, and brought her child, setting an example for her child on what is important to her and what she values. Just a thought. :)

    • Monica, I’m sorry you went through such a hurtful experience, but this was way different. The baby was sleeping peacefully when the parents woke her up to nurse. That tells me she wasn’t feeding on demand but on a schedule. And if on a schedule, she could have been fed at a more appropriate (read: less distracting) time than the middle of church services.

      I politely disagree, too, that we should be grateful when people come to church at all, then set up shop as if they’re in their own home. There are standards of conduct particular to each denomination (and each church). And because there’s so much variety available, if a person isn’t comfortable in one, he can choose another. But thanks for offering your thoughts and experiences!

  8. I don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, there probably weren’t any rules broken and she did cover up, so I don’t know that she did anything wrong per se. But on the other hand, yes it is distracting, so it could be seen as inconsiderate to others. It can be hard to not notice the distraction. I had issues breastfeeding, so it only lasted a couple weeks… and I never left the house during that time because I was terrified of having to breastfeed in public. There simply wasn’t a blanket big enough to make me comfortable with it :)

    • Breastfeeding is a personal choice, and I refuse to judge a woman who does or doesn’t. Still, I believe this particular woman could have used better judgment in where she chose to nurse. She woke this infant up from sleep to feed her — that astonishes me because I always think one should let sleeping puppies and babies be! I’d say it’s a sign of the times IF other young moms were doing the same thing, but she’s the only one. Either she’s a trailblazer or is trying to make a statement. Thanks for stopping by, Janna!

  9. I think the young mom should have made an attempt to be more discreet. You’d have to live under a rock to be unaware that people have differing opinions on breastfeeding in public. I’m not generally bothered by it, but I think doing so in the middle of mass is going a bit too far. And it’s not like places don’t make accommodations for breastfeeding moms. Our office has a designated lactation room. And as you said, in church, there are several options for finding privacy. I think it was pretty disrespectful of her not to at least make an attempt to go somewhere more private.

    • Thanks, Terri, I needed to hear this! I didn’t want to get into a drawn-out discussion over the merits of breastfeeding; I merely expressed my opinion that the front of church during the middle of Mass isn’t the best location for it. Golly, you’d have thought I was chastising the woman for doing it at all. Glad you understood my intention! There isn’t anything wrong with breastfeeding, but it’s NOT a spectator sport!

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