Monday, June 30, 2014

Worshipping with Your Baby

My husband pastors a small church with a lot of older members. When babies, toddlers or children come, everyone is delighted. Nobody is bothered by the sound of a little one in the service. In fact, some folks say that it brings joy to their hearts because they recognize that children are the future of the church.

Over the years I have nursed my babies in a wide variety of churches. I always wore them in a sling and made sure that I was dressed so that I could breastfeed discreetly. I've never had anyone say anything unkind about it or suggest that I leave a service. However, there have been times when we have taken advantage of the loving care provided by our church nursery. Busy toddlers were happier there, and Mama could worship better...especially since she didn't have Daddy sitting beside her to help with the kids (Sunday is often his busiest work day!)

I recently asked a group of mothers on the Facebook page for The Creator's Guide to Infant Feeding this question: "Does your baby go into worship with you, or do you use the church nursery? Why?" The responses offered a terrific cross-section of perspectives.

Baby Goes to the Nursery

About half of the moms said that the nursery was their place of choice for baby. One mom said, "Nursery! They have (gone there) since they were 6-8 weeks old. They get such a bond with the sweet ladies that take care of them. There's no way I could deny that!" She even went on to fondly tag one of those sweet ladies in her post.

Another mother responded, "While baby was little and sleepy enough to sleep through most of the service he was with me. After he was old enough to crawl he was just too active. so to the nursery! And our church assigns a number. If your baby is crying/needs you, you get called out. And there's a nursing room." 

A third mother had a hybrid approach: "We keep them with us while they are little and quiet, then when they start wanting to play and talk they go to he nursery (1 1/2 to 3ish), then back with us to learn to worship/sit around age 3."

Finally one mother expressed her conflicting feelings this way: "He has only been to nursery twice. Need to try again because it's distracting keeping him in service. He doesn't do well with strangers, so it gives me anxiety to leave him."  

Baby Stays With Mom

However, several of the mothers said they prefer to keep baby in the service with them. One mother said, "We go on Saturday nights so my husband can go, too, and there is no nursery. We both also agree that they need to be in the service with us to learn how to grow in the church. Besides, how can I nurse on demand if I'm away from baby?"

A mother whose church is meeting in a non-traditional setting had this to say: "(Baby stays) with me. At our current church, we meet at a bank in a large room so it's a different church setting than a typical one. My 7 month old will sit in my lap playing, then when we sing in the hallway, I'll let her play on a blanket on the floor so she can move around." 

Another mother explained her reasoning a little more in-depth: "I'm in love with the idea of family integrated worship so they stay with us. We homechurch so all of the families' kids are in service. The Bible says to know those who labor among you, and usually we didn't know people working in the nurseries. At one church they wouldn't call me when the baby would cry his eyes out, although I asked the director of the area and workers in the class to call me if he cried for me at all. They would just hold him and try to comfort him while he was screaming. I finally went back there one day and saw him screaming and never took him back. Best decision I ever made. That was baby #4, and we haven't put our kids in class since; we are on #8."

You're the Expert

from http://keeshavia.blogspot.com/
It really all boils down to mom's comfort level, the climate of the church, and personal preference. Every mother and baby is different, so what works for one family may not work for another. And each congregation is different, as well. The bottom line is that within the body of Christ, we need to recognize that parenting is NOT a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. 

Godly parents cross the spectrum from devotees to Dr. Sears to Gary Ezzo followers. The most important thing to ask ourselves is, "Are we raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?" Some parents may have greater emphasis on nurture, while others may have greater emphasis on admonition. Ideally, we want to give our children both. Strong doses of nurture in the earliest months of life lay a solid foundation for a lifelong relationship of trust between mother and child! This is not to say that babies can't be nurtured by loving nursery workers. They can! However, if you have young mothers in your congregation who feel led to keep their babies with them in the service, then it is a good thing to do all you can to make those families feel as comfortable as possible!

What has your experience been? What advice can you offer other families? I would LOVE your input on this conversation!

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