It is the prerogative of every Bishop and Relief Society President to ensure that all parents caring for young children in their ward have the opportunity to partake of the Sacrament each week.
Sunday mornings in the life of a young family are often hectic and chaotic, between getting everyone fed, bathed, dressed and out the door on time. That chaos is compounded if one parent is away at early meetings, leaving the other parent alone to help the family get ready. Single parents who wish to attend church with their children face this difficulty every week. Since it's not always possible to feed the baby right before leaving for church amid the hustle, many parents scoot right onto the pew, sing the opening hymn, listen to the announcements, and just as the administration of the Sacrament begins, baby reminds everyone that she's hungry now. For breastfeeding mothers, this presents a challenge no matter what she does. Some mothers prefer to stay on the pew with their families and feed the baby without leaving the Sacrament service, running the risk that members or leaders will criticize her for doing so. Other mothers feel more comfortable excusing themselves from the meeting to feed the baby in the mother’s room, but that can cause commotion during the reverent time of the meeting, or leave the other children on the pew without a parent. For the mothers who prefer the privacy of the Mother’s room, many women report that they miss partaking of the Sacrament almost every week, for months at a time, with each new baby.
When Jesus Christ visited the people of the Americas, he blessed and passed the emblems of the Sacrament to the multitude. This multitude included women and children. The only instruction he gave about who should be denied the sacrament are those who are deemed unworthy.
As women nurture and feed their children during church meetings, to be forgotten or passed over during the Sacrament ordinance can feel discouraging and sad. Even worse, to be denied the Sacrament due to location or circumstance, as though unworthy, can cause a mother to regret coming to church that day. Parenting young babies can feel tiring and isolating, and mothers need all the support they can get when it comes to nourishing their spiritual well-being, including taking the Sacrament and renewing their covenants, in fellowship with other saints at church.
Bishops and Relief Society presidents are in a unique position to make inclusive accommodations for mothers who feed babies during Sacrament meeting. They can encourage her to stay in the chapel with her family and nurse the baby on the pew and ensure that she knows she's welcome to do so. For mothers who prefer to nurse in private, leaders can be aware of who has stepped out with a baby during the meeting to keep track of which women are at risk for missing the Sacrament that day.
There are many creative solutions for ensuring that all women in the Mother’s room are able to partake of the Sacrament. When the deacons bring the Sacrament trays through the lobby of the building, a young woman or Relief Society sister could wait outside the door of the Mother’s room and pass the tray to the women inside, just as how women and children pass the trays down the pew to others between the deacons. A priest and deacon could provide a “second Sacrament” service to mothers who missed it in a classroom following Sacrament meeting, in a similar way to taking the Sacrament to housebound members in their homes.
Remembering the Savior Jesus Christ and renewing their covenants by partaking of the emblems of the Sacrament will enhance the spiritual lives of women at church. Bishops and Relief Society Presidents should talk to the parents in their ward about how to make them feel cared for and remembered, and consider a variety of strategies for helping all parents of babies have the chance to partake of the Sacrament each week.