Pope Francis Wants Mothers to Do This in Public

January 9th 2017

Mike Rothschild

During a baptism at the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, Pope Francis continued to advocate for mothers to freely breastfeed their children during services - even in one of the most important places in Catholicism.

When faced with an audience of wailing 28 infants during a ceremony to commemorate the baptism of Jesus, Francis joked that "the concert had begun," according to NPR. Then speaking of the infant Jesus crying in the manger, he remarked that this might have been his first sermon. He mused that the children could be crying because they were in an unfamiliar place, or simply because they heard other children. He then urged their mothers to nurse them if they were hungry, saying "and if your children are crying because they are hungry, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus."

Francis has upended the traditionalist world of Catholicism in a number of visible ways, but his consistent support for public breastfeeding is a more subtle one.

At the same ceremony in 2015, he deviated from his prepared remarks when he told the mothers of 33 infants "you mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don’t worry."

And in an interview in 2013 with a Vatican newspaper, he spoke of an audience where he met a mother too shy to nurse in front of him and urged the mother to feed the baby. He remarked that it was a message he wished to pass on to the world - give hungry people food.

Catholics and Catholic-thinkers seem to be divided on the issue of breastfeeding in church, with some prescribing a religiosity to the process, while others believe mothers need to be more discreet. But it's clear that the leader of the Church believes it to be a natural part of motherhood, and will likely continue to normalize it.