Raising your children in your faith can be a significant part of parenting for you. Bringing a baby, with all the noise and mess an infant can create, to a house of worship can be tougher to figure out. As a parent who’s been there, here’s your strategy to attend a service with young kids.
Find the Right House of Worship
You might already belong to a church, temple, mosque, or other house of worship you find meaningful. If you’re currently searching for a place to worship, keep family in mind. Do you see other parents with small kids around? If your baby is one of many, it’s a sign that this congregation is used to accommodating babies’ needs.
Scope Out the Space
Many houses of worship have designated spaces where parents can soothe a fussy baby. Look near the doors for an usher or another volunteer who can answer questions, and ask about a “cry room” or nursery space. Sometimes a room is positioned so you can still hear and see the service. Other times, volunteer or paid staff might be available to watch young children for all or part of the service.
Just because other families send their babies and toddlers to a nursery doesn’t mean you can’t keep your child with you during worship. Asking around can give you a sense of what other parents typically do and help you plan for a mid-sermon crying fit.
Make a Feeding Plan
Even parents who are usually comfortable breastfeeding in public may feel awkward doing so in a house of worship. Breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and not sexual, but some religious denominations and individual opinions set standards for female “modesty” that can make nursing challenging.
In my church, I’ve identified a secluded spot near the main worship space. If my baby is hungry, I take her there to feed. Other times, I’ve brought a bottle of expressed breast milk. Once, I happened to notice another mother latch her baby to breastfeed during the service, and I was impressed by how quick and discreet she was.
You know your house of worship and your baby best. For some, nursing without a cover in the worship space is perfectly natural and comfortable. For others, nursing with a cover works better. In other cases, excusing yourself to breastfeed may be the easiest way for you to focus and relax.
Leave Toys at Home
Your first impulse might be to pack tons of snacks and toys to keep your baby occupied through a worship service. I get the urge to avoid crying at all costs, but this plan can backfire. Here’s why:
- Noisy toys or rattles can disrupt the service, too.
- Even quiet toys risk making other kids jealous (and more likely to act up), or even distract adults from focusing on the service.
- Snacks are prone to spills, and bringing outside food into a worship space can come across disrespectful.
Babies cry sometimes, and generally people understand that. Adults are the ones we expect to be respectful during a religious service, so bringing a lot of food and entertainment can come across as rude.
Instead, try doing this:
- Limit toys to one special object: One comfort object or “lovey” reads differently than an arsenal of toys.
- Engage your baby in the service: Sing, greet other worshippers, hold the baby where she can see.
- Practice keeping quiet: Rocking and shushing can signal babies that this isn’t noisemaking time. Plus, it shows other people around you that you’re trying, which can help everyone be more patient and understanding.
- Keep standards reasonable: Again, babies cry sometimes! You’re not obligated to keep a baby perfectly silent for an hour or more. Plan to excuse yourself if prolonged crying becomes disruptive, but don’t beat yourself up over a little baby noise.
Getting comfortable worshipping with little ones can take some practice as you figure out what works best. Teaching your children about the beliefs you hold close to your heart is a sweet and worthwhile piece of parenting, so make a plan, and then relax and enjoy your time together.