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Breast wishes: Please don’t feed that kid during church

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I find Pope Francis to be a refreshing wind of change in the Catholic Church and agree with many of the changes he has planned for the coming years, but I have to disagree with his recent assessment on breast-feeding during mass.

According to a recent article in Church Leaders, the pontiff encouraged women to breast-feed in sacred places.

My response is, “What in heck are you talking about, Papa?”

I don’t mind a woman breast-feeding, after all it is a natural and beautiful occurrence — but there is a time and place for it.

And in church isn’t one of those times or places. Natural it might be, but so is peeing, and you don’t do that when you kneel in the pew.

If you want your child to have breast milk, and you know you are going out for the day, you can express your milk at home, put it in a bottle, and have it ready to nurse your little one at the first sign of hunger. If an emergency should arise and you don’t have a bottle prepared, then have the common courtesy to pick yourself up and move to a more secluded area.

Feeding an infant is a very natural part of life, but so is burping, passing wind, and other bodily eliminations, and you don’t see a whole bunch of that going on in church, do you? Or for that matter, in restaurants, movie theaters, or public locations?

Look, I’m not unsympathetic to motherhood. I’m a mother myself. I took my daughter to many places, including Sunday mass, when she was an infant. But I made sure she was either fed before we left, or, if she did fuss, I excused myself and walked to the crying room. If the church didn’t have a crying room, I went to the back where we would not be a disturbance to the other parishioners.

It is a simple concept really — called respect and courtesy.

Call me old-fashioned, but I just don’t think that whipping out your breast in the middle of mass or in any other public forum is the right thing to do, no matter how natural it all is.

Not for Nuthin™, before all you natural breast-feeding zealots jump down my throat, but I feel the same way about changing a baby’s diapers and all those other natural human functions we do. There is a time for every natural function under heaven, just not during mass. I say, let us keep those natural moments private, shall we?

Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.

Joanna DelBuono writes about national issues every Wednesday on E-mail her at
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Reader Feedback

Another great column. BRAVO!
Jan. 15, 2014, 7:28 am
Katharina Landgraf says:
2 words: Maria Lactans - just Google it!
In other words:WWJD = breastfeed!
Jan. 15, 2014, 7:59 am
You've got to be kidding. Take a good look at some of the paintings and tell me that you are OK with a lactating woman squirting breast milk into the mouth of a priest in church. Times have changed and what was acceptable two thousand years ago may not be today. That last line goes in both directions. What may be NOT acceptable two thousand years ago may be the norm at present. Either way there are certain distracting activities that should be done in private.
Jan. 15, 2014, 3:05 pm
Pope's Friend from Bay Ridge says:
Joanna - afraid not. What is wrong with a mother discreetly feeding her child during Mass? There is nothing wrong with His Holiness. He does not judge and neither should we. He wants to welcome all and so should his flock.
Jan. 15, 2014, 11:24 pm
IBCLC from Canada says:
What a ridiculous piece of nonsense. Comparing breastfeeding to urinating is completely insane - it is much better compared to FEEDING! If you would feed your baby from a bottle in a church, then there is NO REASON EVER to not feed your baby from your breast!
Jan. 16, 2014, 3:06 pm
Linda from Sheepshead Bay says:
I could not disagree more with this column! For anyone, especially a woman, to want to deny a mother from feeding their child in any way shape or form is disappointing and, frankly, dispicable. A mother should be able to nurse her child anywhere she wants. To tell her to pump and bottle feed her child is insensitive and horribly ignorant. Please educate yourself on the harm of bottle feeding an exclusively breast fed child. Exclusively breast feeding a child is nothing to be ashamed of and should be viewed as a normal occurrence. It's awful that we even have to have a discussion about it. There is nothing indecent about nursing a child. By telling a mother to not do so in the public eye makes it sound like she's doing something obscene instead of something that is so normal even Jesus and Mother Mary did it. As a mother who nursed their child for over two years, I firmly believe that nursing needs to be normalized. No one should make a woman feel like an outcast in society because she's choosing to feed her child the most natural food known to man.

Furthermore, likening nursing to passing gas and burping is incredibly offensive to nursing mothers and their children. Really, Joanna, you've never heard someone burp in church?

To sum this up, if a mother breast feeding their child makes YOU feel uncomfortable feel free to not watch that mother nurse her child. The problem here is you, not the nursing mothe and child.

Disappointed and disgusted with you, Joanna DelBuono!
Jan. 17, 2014, 7:50 pm
Lisa from San Diego says:
Well. Then Lady, I shall let my son scream in your ear for milk and dig in your shirt. Stay home and suck it lady, I wish upon you the pain in the ass that is pumping milk. poop and pee are not for eating and are unsanitary, breast milk can cure cancer, put that in your pipe and smoke it
Jan. 18, 2014, 11:41 am
Another Friend from Brooklyn says:
I might agree with you ladies if your husbands stopped gawking at me when I nurse. Even when my baby and my breast is fully covered your men are sneaking a peek. I will continue to do my feeding in private.
Thank you Ms. Delbuono.
Jan. 18, 2014, 11:44 am
Zulma says:
* You disagree with breast-feeding during mass, but you are not the pope, God, or knowledgable on breast feeding?
* It is a reporters professional responsibility to not just provide their opinion but to provide a professional knowledgable opinion based on research and on facts.
* Unfortunately your opinion now may impact those that are uniformed on the benefits of breastfeeding on demand and not do what is right for their baby but in order to not offend someone like you.
* God gave women breasts and intended them for breastfeeding. Don't judge women who use what God blessed them with for the right reasons.
* Some women do not pump because if you breastfeed on demand, you have a happier baby and with the most nutritional value.
* The baby gets most nutritional value from direct feeding from breast, and the milk is warm, perfect temperature and with most nutrition for them. The moment you pump and store the milk begins losing its nutrition as it slowly decomposes hence why you throw it out if it has been left out or in the fridge or frozen for certain number of days. Have you researched this ?
* I do not pump and would gladly breastfeed in public to meet the demands of my baby whose needs are more important to me than what others uninformed opinions are knowing that I am doing what God intended me to do and knowing that I am providing my baby the best nutrition.
* I don't judge women who pump, don't breastfeed since it is a choice we each make, but do disagree with professionals like you who state their opinion/perspective misinforming the public as if what they say is correct and all should see it their way.
* it is a hungry baby and a mom meeting her babies needs on demand, creating a bond between mother and daughter, a relationship, and trust.
* in other countries moms breastfeed with no judgement in public
* breastfeeding is coming back in America after a time period where money making companies promoting formula convinced the public that formula was better. Have you researched and wrote about this?
* I made the choice to breastfeed on demand, no bottles or pacifiers to ensure my child gets the most nutritional benefit.
You chose to breastfeed privately. It is a choice we all make and all choices have pros and cons. Don't judge, humiliate, offend those that make a different choice than you or have a different perspective than you.
* You compare nursing to eliminating toxins and waste from your body. Nursing nourishes a hungry baby while burps, and waste eliminates toxins from the body.
* Their are also laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location for a reason. Your opinion/perspective goes against the law. Have you researched this?
*I am surprised the allowed you to post such information and it didn't cost you your job this is almost as offensive as a racist comment.
Jan. 18, 2014, 11:47 am
Pepper from California says:
Why is this still a discussion? You should be ashamed of yourself miss. Perhaps the pope wants mothers to feel welcome in his churches and their children too. They are the future of his church. The time and place to feed a hungry child, is wherever you are and whenever twy are hungry. Go to church some more and love thy neighbor and help her out, but not by telling her to go home or away from you. Thank her for helping to keep her child healthy and fed and raising her children up in Christ.
Jan. 18, 2014, 1:19 pm
Grace says:
Wow, ignorance. Did you breastfeed your children? I know very well that even if I breastfed my child before entering church, a hungry baby is a hungry baby, and will scream his head off if he isn't fed, and is truer the younger they are. So why is it ok to bottle feed a baby in a place like church where we talk about love and acceptance, and not ok to naturally feed a baby at breast? And for the record, feeding a child IS NOT the same as changing a diaper. I would not change my baby's diaper in a pew, and the need to change my baby's diaper vs the need to eat are completely different. I am so lucky that there are breastfeeding women at my church, and that the members have never shamed me, in a place that is home to us. The Pope is spot on, and if you read the bible, there are quite a few references to breastfeeding, my favorite one about how nursing your child is similar to the love He has for you. Nothing will make you want to nurse your child in church more than hearing that reading! I hope these comments change the stigma of breastfeedingn in your mind. It is not dirty or comparable to going to the bathroom. We do not eat or drink our feces or urine. Breasts were made for feeding children, and not for others to judge. It is SO much worse hearing these kinds of reactions from women, who should really be supporting all mothers.
Jan. 18, 2014, 1:52 pm
TS from Northern VA says:
I don't get what the problem is. Do you not eat the body of Christ and drink the blood of Christ at church? So it's okay for those who have had their first communion to eat at church- but anyone younger than a second grader should starve? How very unchristian of you.

How about if YOU have a problem with public breastfeeding, YOU stay home and catch the mass on public access. If you're worried about men leering at you while you nurse, buy a nursing cover or bring a blanket. On the flip side, it's not my job to babysit your husband, and if you can't keep his eye from wandering at CHURCH of all places, why don't you leave him home, too.

Ms. DelBuono, you are a very judgmental person. I'm glad I don't go to your church.
Jan. 18, 2014, 1:58 pm
Michelle from Santa Rosa, CA says:
I do not go to church, but I do believe that every woman on this planet should feel safe and secure where ever they may be to breast feed their child with out any humuliation, or shame. My children absolutely would not drink from a bottle it was not even an option, and trust me I tried. So if they were hungry they got a boob! I didn't care where I was. There is absolutely NOTHING the same about feeding a child and burping, farting, urinating or deficating. I'm so incredibly fed up with ignorant, people like you comparing the two. Last time I checked people don't eat their meals in a bathroom stall, so nor will my children. All it takes is a simple blanket or nursing cover, and there is nothing to see.
Why don't you go to church and pray over your inability to support your fellow woman, and your ignorant, intollerant attitude toward exactly what fed your savior!
Jan. 18, 2014, 4:16 pm
EA from CA says:
I completely agree with everything you are saying! Maybe it is old fashion, however women just need to be respectful of others around you. Manners people. Also church is an HOUR, if you can't plan your day and feed before/after you need to get your child on a schedule ASAP.
Jan. 18, 2014, 9:19 pm
Nursing mother from San Diego says:
I am disappointed that I'm not welcome in your church (while you are present, at least) since my baby will not take a bottle. Should I just apologize in my prayers for my absence? Will you be taking responsibility for my failure to attend, since i and other mothers will need to remain home and miss services to avoid offending your sensibilities? Please advise so that I can continue to defer to your judgment.
Jan. 19, 2014, 1:27 am
Karen Mcgratty IBCLC from Midwood says:
Everyone can have and express an opinion however nys public law states a mother can breastfeed openly anywhere she has a right to be and it is illegal to ask her to stop, cover up or move to another area. Enough said.
Jan. 19, 2014, 10:09 am
Hovawart from Grass Valley says:
Really, JoAnna? Have you started a petition to turn off the portable oxygen bottles for those who are at the stage of life to need them? Does their breathing in church offend your delicate sensibilities also? Let's stop being silly, shall we? I am certain the presence of Spirit in a breastfeeding child and mother please God mightily--your thoughts, not so much, in this instance. But there is always room to grow in the Spirit. I'm looking forward to hearing you address the same topic, when you are wiser and kinder, but one hopes, not too much older.
Jan. 23, 2014, 9:25 pm
M.E. from NY says:
To: Another Friend from Brooklyn
Men look for the same reason woman look. It is emotionally pleasing. There is nothing sexual about it.
Jan. 26, 2014, 12:20 pm
DD from FL says:
Totally agree! Great article. What has happened to courtesy and respect for others?!
Jan. 12, 2015, 3:07 am

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