Here’s some shocking news: Babies get hungry when they’re out in public. Sometimes, they even get hungry when they’re (*gasp!*) in a church. And while some would urge mothers to step out of mass and into a tiny bathroom stall to feed their children, Pope Francis is down with women breastfeeding right there in their pews — even in the Sistine Chapel.
According to CNN, Pope Francis reminded parishioners of his progressive (and totally natural) stance while gathered for an annual baptism ceremony at the Sistine Chapel last Sunday.
“We will now continue the ceremony; and if they start doing the ‘concert,’ it’s because they’re not comfortable,” Francis told the congregation. The “concert” he’s referring to here is when babies start to cry in a seemingly orchestrated fashion. “Babies have their own dialect. If one starts to cry, the others will follow, like in an orchestra,” the pope explained.
So, what happens when the cry-concert starts in church? Well, “either they’re too hot or they’re not comfortable or they’re hungry,” Francis told the congregation. “If they’re hungry, breastfeed them, without fear, feed them, because that’s a language of love.”
Yeah, he’s not like a regular pope; he’s a cool pope. Especially since this isn’t the first time he’s mentioned that women can and should publicly breastfeed in the Sistine Chapel. In fact, he encouraged breastfeeding during last year’s baptism ceremony and even likened the practice to how the “Virgin Mary nursed Jesus.”
The pope’s comments come during a time in which women are still shamed for breastfeeding in public places or even for posting breastfeeding photos online, despite all of the heavily researched and documented evidence indicating that breastfeeding is not only natural but also incredibly beneficial for both mother and baby. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that breastfeeding bolsters an infant’s immune system while promoting both healthy weight and cognitive development. And women who breastfeed may reduce their risk for diabetes and cancers such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Got that yet? Breastfeeding is healthy and normal. But above all, fed is best, and it’s totally up to the mother how she decides to feed her newborn, be it breastfeeding or pumping or formula or all of the above. That freedom of choice, without judgment or humiliation, should also extend to when and where women choose to feed their babies.
By giving his stamp of approval on breastfeeding in church, Pope Francis is making it safer for moms and babies everywhere who are merely doing what they need to do to survive. We can only hope his stance will resonate with others who may be stuck living in the Old Testament.