"If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here."
Pope Francis I has been delighting people with his unconventional take on being the Earthly leader of the Catholic Church. But what caught our ear at BalanceofFood.com is that women should be encouraged to breastfeed their children in church, even in the Sistine Chapel.
Pope Francis I had recently come out in favor of breastfeeding in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
In a story of a young mother who attended his weekly Papal General Audience, the pope said, "She was shy and didn't want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing. I wish to say the same to humanity: give people something to eat!"
Breastfeeding in public has slowly become an accepted practice, even in the United States. The fear of the female nipple and/or people's discomfort over being in the same space with a breastfeeding mother has made breastfeeding less prevalent in society.
Women who simply want to help feed their children, and wanting to do so with dignity, now have someone very powerful in their corner.
Yes, we appreciate the irony of the head of the Catholic Church saying this, given how backwards the church is toward women. Yet the Catholic Church is very pro-Mary, who almost certainly breastfed Jesus. That might be an image that some Catholics struggle with, but that reality over 2000 years ago is reflected today in the women sitting in the Sistine Chapel listening to the Pope while feeding their children.
Religions tend to frown on nudity, yet the natural God-given utility of the female breast encourages feeding whenever the child is hungry. Pope Francis I's take doesn't mean breastfeeding falls under papal infallibility, but breastfeeding does have his blessing.
Even with laws that grant women the right to breastfeed in public, nosy, rude people will "ahem" to get you to notice their outrage or come right out and say how they feel. If you are in that position, or you are rising up to defend a mother in that scenario, you can now say, "if it's good enough for the pope, it's good enough for me, too."
If breastfeeding does bother you, no one says you have to look. And if you're listening to the pope in the Sistine Chapel, and you see a woman breastfeeding and you feel uncomfortable, you can always look at the ceiling. Plenty to see up there.