“Go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus”
Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the baptism of Jesus, on Sunday Pope Francis used the occasion to offer a little clarity on the issue of women breastfeeding in public. In short, he’s got no problem with it and states that mothers are welcome to do so whenever the need arises.
It seems that the commons may have been off-script, as he didn’t touch the issue until a chorus of crying babies in the congregation became audible to him. Rather than ignoring the issue, he did his best to suggest comforting the children, then spoke offhand about breastfeeding. An outlet called Vatican Radio covered the event, stating:
As the sounds of crying grew louder, the Pope joked that the concert had begun. The babies are crying, he said, because they are in an unfamiliar place, or because they had to get up early, or sometimes simply because they hear another child crying. Jesus did just the same, Pope Francis said, adding that he liked to think of Our Lord's first sermon as his crying in the stable. And if your children are crying because they are hungry, the Pope told the mothers present, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus.
While his public remarks were unexpected, he’s weighed in on the issue before, making it clear that the church will issue no decree that inconveniences or shames a mother trying to feed her children. Two years ago, at this very same ceremony, he baptized children, then let it be known that if they were crying due to hunger, their mothers should not hesitate to feed them.
Unsurprisingly, his comments have been praised by Christians and non-Christians alike:
One would hope that the Pope’s decree would trickle down to churches at the local level, but recent stories suggest that women have been asked to breastfeed elsewhere during church services in the United States. Hopefully, Pope Francis’ willingness to double down on his stance will do more to spread the message that there’s nothing wrong with a mom feeding her child the way God intended.