BY Amanda Connelly | August 17 2018 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Pope’s breastfeeding at Mass comments backed in Scotland

Growing momentum in call to change attitudes towards mothers feeding infants

Pope Francis’ call for women not to be afraid to feed their infants at Mass has been backed in Scotland, amid appeals for a change in attitudes towards breastfeeding.

As a Catholic secondary in Ayrshire signed up to become a ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ school, a Glasgow Sister and a Catholic MSP have appealed to churches to welcome new mothers and set an example to the rest of society.

The Church in Scotland meanwhile highlighted the Pope’s message to new mothers. “All Catholic parishes aim to foster a welcoming environment for families with young children,” a spokesperson said.

“Pope Francis has called breastfeeding a ‘language of love’ and encouraged women not to be afraid to feed their infants at Mass or in public spaces.”

Earlier this month, pupils and staff at St Matthew’s Academy in Saltcoats received a certificate as a breastfeeding-friendly school, after taking part in sessions delivered by NHS Ayrshire and Arran and the Breastfeeding Network’s infant feeding staff members.

Community infant feeding nurse Elizabeth Smith led the team that worked with the school.

“NHS Ayrshire and Arran has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Scotland,” she said.

“There is an embedded formula feeding culture that needs to be changed.

“Young people may never see breastfeeding, and although part of the curriculum, some may never get to hear much information about it.”

The team worked with more than 1,000 youngsters from St Matthew’s Academy and Glencairn Nursery and Primary School, Stevenston.

100 per cent of the pupils had more positive responses towards breastfeeding following the sessions.

Ms Smith said they intended to roll the scheme out to other schools across Ayrshire, adding that the scheme aims to remove any barriers to breastfeeding, such as ‘issues with confidence and public acceptance when breastfeeding in public.’


‘Nothing shameful’

Sr Roseann Reddy from the Sisters of the Gospel of Life, said the scheme was ‘fantastic,’ and added that it is ‘absolutely’ important that churches become breastfeeding-friendly too.

“Anything that encourages breastfeeding is great in my book,” she said.

“I think it’s a ridiculous measure of our society that people go about half-naked half the time, and yet are embarrassed to see somebody breastfeeding; it’s the most natural thing in the world, good for mums and good for babies, and we should do everything we can to support it.”

She added that there is ‘nothing shameful’ in breastfeeding, and mothers should not feel uncomfortable feeding their infants in church.

“Our bodies were designed by God; there’s nothing shameful in the breastfeeding of a child,” she said.

“Obviously you have to be sensitive about it; you have to kind of bear in mind the people that feel slightly uncomfortable about it, but I think the one thing we should do is not make the mothers feel uncomfortable.

“They should be happy to breastfeed and they should be encouraged to breastfeed.

“They’re doing something designed by God, for the good of their children and the good of themselves.”


Political backing 

The call also received political backing from Catholic MSP Elaine Smith.

The Central Scotland MSP, who introduced a private members bill in parliament on breastfeeding, said she was ‘delighted’ to hear that St Matthew’s had been recognised as breastfeeding-friendly, adding that she hoped places of worship would ‘set an example for society’ by also welcoming breastfeeding.

“It’s vitally important to see a big increase in the breastfeeding rates in Scotland for the health and wellbeing of babies and also mums,” she said.

“To achieve this, breastfeeding must become more visible in society and not only supported but also celebrated.

“It is normal nurturing maternal behaviour and feeding hungry babies with their own ‘designer’ food should be the norm in our society. It’s even more important in areas of higher deprivation where the rates are extremely low.

“Our children should learn about [breastfeeding] benefits in school at as early an age as possible and more visibility of breastfeeding and education will help to break down barriers and negative attitudes.

“ I would like to think that places of worship would welcome breastfeeding mothers and babies and set an example for society by also becoming breastfeeding-friendly and encouraging families to attend services.”

Breastfeeding mothers have had the public backing of Pope Francis, who earlier this year voiced his support for mothers nursing their infants, telling them they were welcome to breastfeed their babies during a Baptism at the Sistine Chapel.

The Pope, while Baptising 34 infants at the Vatican in January, told mothers they should not be afraid to feed a hungry child there.

“Babies have their own dialect,” the Pope said. “If one starts to cry, the others will follow, like in an orchestra.

“If they start a concert [by crying], or if they are uncomfortable or too warm or don’t feel at ease or are hungry… breastfeed them, don’t be afraid, feed them, because this too is the language of love.”




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