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In Theory: Thoughts on nursing babies in the church

January 10, 2014

American mothers are choosing to breast-feed their babies in increasing numbers, with about 77% of infants being breast-fed at some point. Public breast-feeding is becoming more socially acceptable — but does that include church?

“Breasts were made to feed a baby,” says Misti Ryan, who's described as “a devout Christian lactation consultant in Texas” in an interview on She believes babies should be allowed to be nursed — modestly — in church if the mother wants or needs to.

Pope Francis has hit the headlines with his pro-breast-feeding comment to a young mother at a recent audience: “I said to her: madam, I think the child’s hungry. 'Yes, it’s probably time…' she replied. 'Please give it something to eat!' I said.”


And a group of Mormon women have formed Latter-Day Lactivism to make breast-feeding an accepted practice in congregations.

Advocates of breast-feeding acknowledge that the practice can draw disapproval. Blogger Mary Fischer says, “The last thing I want to do is be listening to a sermon and look over and see boobs. If you need to do it, fine. Just make sure you have a cover-up.”

Q: What are your feelings about mothers who want to breast-feed in church? 

The Mormon church encourages nursing. And given that our services are family oriented, it is quite common to have infants in the chapel.

Most mothers choose to use rooms set aside for the purpose, although this isn’t required. When meetings are underway, audio is provided in these areas. I’m not aware of breast-feeding having been a problem in any of the congregations I have belonged to, nor is my wife, who nursed our seven children.

Having said that, I agree that young mothers deserve consideration and sympathy as they tend to infants in public places. I understand very well the stress they are under. So it’s disheartening to read that the faith of some women has been damaged over breast-feeding. I sincerely hope members are reaching out to them with compassion.

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