4 times Papa Francis broke down the stigma of public breastfeeding

A list of everything the Pope has said about mothers breastfeeding in public, including: “The first sermon of Jesus in the stable was his crying.”

Pope Francis blesses a baby as he arrives for his general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican, October 2016. Vincenzo Pinto | AFP

Breastfeeding in public is strangely still a contentious issue, with moms left feeling awkward and embarrassed as they try to discreetly deal with their crying babies—and let’s face it: a famished newborn is on a mission and needs to be dealt with immediately! Or the crying will just get louder.

So when Pope Francis encouraged nursing in church last week, hungry babies were cheering all over the world and moms were looking forward to much quieter Masses in the future. Pope Francis just gets it. We need to support each other and family values wherever we are. But this is not the first time he has publicly encouraged breastfeeding. Over the last few years the pope has had a few things to say on the matter that bear remembering and bookmarking.

MORE TO READ: 11 thoughts every nursing mom has while breastfeeding in church

Sistine Chapel, January 8, 2016

Upon hearing a crying baby, the Pope said: “Since 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.” He went on to describe the Mass, which had involved the baptizing of 28 babies, as a “concert”. He added: “I would like to think that the first sermon of Jesus in the stable was his crying,”

We adore: How the pope reminds us of the very human nature of Jesus and his mother, Mary. How lovely that Pope Francis points out what is sacred and beautiful in babies crying. (And with that attitude, wouldn’t he be the perfect babysitter?!)

Sistine Chapel, January 2015

This time, while baptizing 33 babies, Pope Francis went off-script to consider his audience. Deviating from his prepared homily, he said: “You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don’t worry.” His previous “give them milk,” but had been updated to “breastfeed.” It’s just one word but it is a word of encouragement. He went on to ask the congregation to think of the poor mothers around the world, “too many, unfortunately, who can’t give food to their children.”

We adore: The Pope reminds us that nursing our babies is, in fact, a privilege.

Interview, La Stampa, December 14, 2013

In an interview given just before his first Christmas as pontiff, Pope Francis wanted to address the hunger and suffering in the world. “There are so many children that cry because they are hungry … the other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few months old. The child was crying its eyes out as I came past. The mother was caressing it. I said to her: Madam, I think the child’s hungry. “Yes, it’s probably time,” she replied. “Please give it something to eat!” I said.

We adore: The pontiff reinforces the message that there are many places where there is no easy solution to hunger. But if we are able to feed our hungry infants, and they are crying to be fed in public … there is an easy solution. We should feed them. “Give food to those who are hungry,” applies to the babies at our breasts, too.

MORE TO READ: Why is pumping milk in the worplace still such a dilemma?

Buenos Aries, Argentina, March 24, 2005

Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Although he didn’t actually speak out in his support of breastfeeding on this date, in a photo as Archbishop of Argentina, Francis kissed the foot of a tiny babe in arms, while another baby was being nursed by his mom just a foot away. By treating the situation with normalcy, Pope Francis acknowledges that breastfeeding is simply a beautiful, and precious, thing to do—something we don’t need to hide.

We adore: The tenderness of the pope as he picks up the little foot and gives it a kiss.

Thank you, Pope Francis. A little encouragement for tired moms trying to do their best and feed their children goes a very long way!

Cerith Gardiner
Cerith Gardiner

Cerith Gardiner was born in London and has been living in Paris for 14 years. She spends her time working as an English consultant, acting as taxi driver to her four children, and wondering if she’ll ever be as stylish as the French.

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