Breastfeeding is hard work, and too often mothers are shamed for feeding their children in public spaces, from restaurants to airplanes to places of worship. However, the pope himself wants to make breastfeeding in church a little easier. At a baptism on Sunday, Pope Francis invited mothers to breastfeed their infants, using a simple argument: Mary breastfed her son, too.
In a ceremony honoring the baptism of Jesus, Pope Francis baptized 28 babies in the Sistine Chapel on January 8. As usually happens with babies, a number of them started crying during the proceedings. According to Vatican Radio, “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 then suggested that some of the babies might need a snack. Agence France-Presse (via the Guardian) reports that he told the congregation, “The ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry. That’s the way it is. You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus.”
At least one woman took Pope Francis up on his offer, and nursed her baby in the Sistine Chapel, according to the Associated Press.
Pope Francis, known for being more progressive on a number of social issues than previous popes, has encouraged women to breastfeed in church before. For example, he invited women to breastfeed their babies during the same baptism ceremony in 2014, and The Washington Post points out that in a 2013 interview, the pope recalled a situation in which a young mother was attending a general audience. “She was shy and didn’t want to breast-feed in public, while the pope was passing,” he told an Italian reporter. “I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.”