McDougall United Church has become the first church in the city to be designated as breastfeeding-friendly by the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton.

Mothers are now officially allowed to breastfeed their children whenever they want inside the building.

Christina Bellsmith is the reverend at McDougall United Church.

In other churches, Bellsmith said, breastfeeding mothers have been asked to cover up or move to a more private room.

“We just don’t think that’s natural or right. They should feel safe.”

“Mothers should be free to be able to do this in public any place but that's not the case,” she added. “So I think it's important that mothers that come to McDougall know that. That they're not going to be embarrassed by being asked to cover up or go somewhere else.“

And Bellsmith said it's good timing because there are some new mothers and pregnant women in the congregation.

She said a sign has been put on the church's door to make it clear women are welcome to breastfeed in the church.

“I hope it will make them feel welcome. They’ll see the sign … and feel that they are welcome here to breastfeed their child.”

Given McDougall’s precedent, breastfeeding advocates are now optimistic other churches will soon follow suit.

“When you have a church like McDougall show leadership, I think we will quickly see a number of other churches and businesses and other public places follow,” said Jodine Chase, who sits on the board of the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton.

Alberta is in the midst of a baby boom right now, she added, with about 25,000 babies being born annually in Edmonton alone.

Health authorities recommend mothers breastfeed exclusively until their baby is at least six months old, said Chase.