Limerick 'breastfeeding-friendly' church joins calling for greater understanding of breastfeeding in public places

Fr Seamus Enright, Redemptorists Limerick, Hannah Holly, 12 weeks old, Anne Holly from Dooradoyle, Co. Limerick and Mo Foley Walsh, WeÕre Breastfeeding Friendly Limerick at Mount St Alphonsus Church Limerick. Photo: Oisin McHugh, True Media

By David Raleigh

Ireland’s “first official breastfeeding-friendly church” has joined a calling for greater understanding of breastfeeding in public places.

Fr Seamus Enright, Rector of the Redemptorist ‘Fathers’ at Mount St Alphonsus Church, proudly announced they have signed up to a pioneering initiative, ‘We’re Breastfeeding Friendly Limerick’, run by Limerick City & County Council and Healthy Ireland.

It aims to normalise breastfeeding in public places as well as improving the health and wellbeing of breastfeeding mothers, babies and their families.

Those who sign up must fulfil certain criteria, including that breastfeeding must be acceptable in all areas of their premises open to the public.

“The Council approached us to know would we be interested in signing up to the initiative, and we decided immediately that we would. We always operate on the basis that everybody is welcome at Mount St Alphonsus, so this was an opportunity to widen the net of welcome,” Fr Enright explained.

Personally, he is “very supportive of it”.

“It's the most normal activity in the world. There are wonderful Early-Renaissance paintings of Mary breastfeeding Jesus… it was obviously how Jesus was born and brought up.”

“So, if Mary breastfed Jesus, it just shows how ordinary and normal his life was, and it just shows how ordinary and normal a part of life (breastfeeding) is.”

The public response has been “very positive”.

“As I walked up and down the street today, people were stopping me to tell me how pleased they were about it,” Fr Enright said.

“Older women have been telling me how embarrassing (and) how difficult it was (in the past) and how you’d feel people would frown if they saw you breastfeeding a child.”

“So, they are really happy that there is a new generation of mothers now are being given the freedom they need to bring up their children, the way they want, and to feed them when they want, and when they need to.”

Asked if breastfeeding during mass was acceptable to him during mass, Fr Enright replied: “Yes, it’s acceptable in the church at any stage; It is, of course.”

“I can understand how some people might be uncomfortable because it is not something people are familiar with, but I would just ask people to be a little bit tolerant and patient”.

“And, then I think, gradually, people will get used to it.”

Fr Enright said he presumed breastfeeding has previously taken place in Mount St Alphonsus, "but now we are officially the first church to sign up" to the campaign.

"Limerick city is pioneering this, so, officially we are the first breastfeeding friendly church".

Thirty-eight premises, including coffee shops, menswear stores, sports clubs, and St Alphonsus Church, have signed up to the initiative since it was launched last month.

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