Mother of a nursling, and reception of Holy Communion?


Okay, I have emailed my pastor about this and have received no response for weeks, despite his acknowledgement that he received the email. So I can only assume he is too busy or he does not know what to tell me. So I will ask here.

Does there exist any guideline on reception of Holy Communion by a nursing mother who is unable to be present for much of the Mass, due to needing to nurse a baby?

Ever since my youngest was born, I have been struggling to be able to get to Mass and remain in the church. I am able to get all my other little ones fed and dressed and my husband drives all of us to church on time. But by the time I get there, the baby is hungry again and needs to be fed. So I send the other children in with their father, and I either remain outside in the car to nurse the baby, or I go in to stand in the bathroom for nursing. Many times, I am unable to enter the church and sit down until the end of the Liturgy of the Word. I may or may not hear the Gospel or the homily.

I have been told that if I do not arrive before the reading of the Gospel, even if it is because of nursing the baby, that I must not receive, or I am in danger of committing desecration of the Eucharist. So, despite the fact that I did receive one Sunday before I knew about that horrible sin, I now refrain from receiving Holy Communion most Sundays, because I cannot get inside the church in time. I know that, as a parent of an infant, I may have as an excuse from my Sunday obligation the care of my infant, but I am actually making it TO church, and want to participate as fully as I am able. And sometimes, I feel sad and starved about not being able to receive Jesus when I have worked so hard to get us all there (I know, I am a melodramatic martyr, I should just probably not receive and put a smile on my face and suck it up).

Am I understanding these things rightly? Was I told correctly? Are there any pastoral guidelines for this particular circumstance?

I do know that this period of time in my life will pass, and probably quicker than I anticipate, but I just need some clear answers on what to do when I get to Mass, so that I can make informed and virtuous decisions about participation. Thank you!


This is by no means based on anything but my own personal opinion, but I cannot imagine that you should not receive communion just because you are in the car nursing a baby throughout most of mass. The sheer effort alone that you are making is admirable and I’m sure Jesus would want you to receive.

Also, under normal circumstances, I believe we are only REQUIRED to be present for the consecration.


The “show up before the reading of the Gospel” is the unofficial rule of thumb for Mass satisfying your Sunday obligation, not for reception of the Eucharist. As far as I know, there is no written rule as to when you need to be there in order to receive Communion. Perhaps that is why your priest has not gotten back to you.

I am just going to toss this out there as something to consider, and I do not in any way intend to imply judgment on the way you are doing things. My wife always just nursed the kids right there in the pew. She had one of those little nursing blankets to use for privacy. But she just stayed right there with us the whole time. And trust me, my wife used to panic at the idea of nursing in public (or in front of anyone besides me). But somehow at Mass it didn’t seem so bad to her.


My understanding is this: You can receive Communion at any time up to two times a day, the last time during Mass, if you are in a state of Grace. So at Daily Mass people wander in at any time and our priest gives them Communion. I would think that having to nurse a baby would dispense you from your Sunday obligation so therefore you should still be eligible to take Communion.

How about you go to Confession (with the baby?) and ask the priest? :wink: Your priest should have the answer not somebody in the congregation. I have tried to confess things the priest didn’t consider a sin. :stuck_out_tongue:

Also I have seen some women nurse their baby in the nave covering things with a shawl. My understanding is that we are suppose to be attending the majority of Mass to meet our Sunday Obligation unless we have a reason to not be there–such as nursing a baby.


There are two issues:

  1. Reception of communion
  2. Sunday precept (to participate in Mass on the Lord’s day)

To receive communion, you must not be conscious of grave sin since your last confession. Communion is only tied to participation in Mass if you are intending to receive communion for the second time on the same day. If you are receiving for the first time and you are a practicing Catholic with no grave sin on your conscience since your last confession, you may receive communion regardless of having been there for the rest of the Mass or not. Of course, it is not preferable to go in and out at a Mass, but apparently you have a good reason for doing that.

Not participating in Mass on the Lord’s day is a sin if you could do it but don’t. If you are sick in bed, or there is 10 ft of snow and you can’t make it (or in this case, because of having to nurse your child), then you are not committing a sin by not participating in Mass.

I hope this helps.


Very nicely and succinctly put. That sounds like the right answer to me.


Looking for the deja vu emoticon…


I asked this question earlier in the day, before you gave me the answer with the references to canon law. This thread could just stop right here, because I got the answer I needed. I only just now happened to see that people had been replying. I had decided to start my own thread, after posting a comment in ExGratia’s thread this morning.

Thanks everyone! Aemcpa gave me the answer I needed earlier this morning.


Even if you miss the Mass readings you can read them in them in the book, while nursing. :slight_smile:

May God Bless you richly as you care for your precious baby!


:smiley: Glad to see other posters agree with me.


There is no reason to absent yourself from Mass simply because you have a nursing infant. Sit in the last pew and nurse the child as needed. If people are offended by this, it is their problem; not yours.
If there is any question concerning the propriety of nursing in such a situation, please remember that there is an ancient church in Rome which has a mural of Mary nursing the infant Jesus. It’s quite a famous work.

Reb Levi


Sit in whatever pew you want, as far as I’m concerned.


I can’t do that, unfortunately. We do not have pews, just liitle chairs. People behind me would be able to see the side of my breast. I have tried to nurse in Mass before, and cannot do it discreetly there.
But thanks for being encouraging. It is like a breath of fresh air. Most mothers around here do not nurse at all, or only for a few weeks. Sometimes it is tough.


I am not a nursing mother so I can’t tell you all of the particulars but I have seen in our parish women nursing babies covering the works with a shawl. We have chairs, not pews. I am sorry your community isn’t supportive. I would even suggest trying the cry room if you have one and it isn’t full of teenagers texting. :wink:


Thank you for posting this.


And this! Thank you…frankly, I see nothing wrong with walking in the communion procession while nursing. I am sorry that our society has sexualized breasts to the point that feeding a child is an issue.


I have gone to Communion nursing…its not so big a deal as long as you are modest (it just looks like baby is sleeping). Of course, I have the advantage of people being distracted by twins:

“Oh! Look at the sweet baby!” (as they see husband processing)

“Oh! They have two!! Twins!!” (as they see me!)


If you are not comfortable then that is understandable. But I would suggest, that if you would like an option to nurse during mass to go with an up/down shirt combo and a cover, no one will see anything! You wear a nursing tank as a bottom layer and then a pull over shirt as an upper layer. By lifting UP the pull over shirt, and unsnapping and pulling DOWN the nursing tank you can nurse while exposing the tiniest amount of skin (since the shirt covers the top of your breast and the tank keeps your back/belly/ underside of the breast covered. If you put a nursing cover on top of that, you will be very well covered! This is how I nursed a lot, since I was shy in public.

Congrats on your little one, and hang in there with the breast feeding…Its hard, but very worthwhile! Great job Mama!


I agree. Breastfeed in church. That is what breasts are for. And well done for breastfeeding. It’s very sad that so many mothers don’t.


I’ve nursed three kids so far and will be starting the process again in a few months. Here are my thoughts:
-Is there anyway your family can temporarily sit in the last row of little chairs so no one would be on your side or behind you?
-There are some great tutorials for how to make nursing covers (a friend made me one and I had her make it extra long and wide for wiggly babies) and nursing shawls. Practice befor going out.
-grab a missal and keep up with the readings as best as you can. God knows you are trying and making an effort to be there and be present but he also gave you this child to take care of. I’ve missed lots of Mass time due to nursing, diaper changes, cleaning up massive blowouts and spit up messes in the bathroom, but it really is doing the Lord’s work.
Keep up the good work breast feeding! “I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” Corporal Act of Mercy every time!

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