In an interview with La Stompa, Pope Francis was asked about the state of hungry children in the world. In response, he suggested that people should recycle food and be less wasteful, and then told a story that was both a reminder of the resources we have, and a declaration that breastfeeding mothers shouldn't be ashamed to feed their babies when they're hungry. He explained:
At the Wednesday General Audience the other day there was a young mother behind one of the barriers with a baby that was just a few month s 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. 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!
Not everyone necessarily shares the Pope's breastfeeding philosophy.
These and others who believe they are somehow enforcing notions of "modesty" are actually acting against tradition, however. The cultural shift to breasts as sexual objects is a recent one, and for centuries the image of Mary breastfeeding was considered sacred by believers. According to the Religion News Service, "the breast-feeding Mary was shown in every possible context, and “lactation miracles” and “milk shrines” proliferated across the Christian world."
Blogger Denene Milner is not a Catholic, but as a former breastfeeding mother, she was relieved to the hear TIME's "Man Of The Year" supports breastfeeding moms.
"Honestly, I wish there was this level of deep thinking in my own Baptist church when my daughters were babies and I was breastfeeding," she wrote. "On Sundays when I knew I’d be sitting in a church pew, I’d go out of my way to feed my daughters just before we walked in so that their bellies would be full for a good part of the service, and then I’d be all anxious when they’d start fidgeting."
Although one could argue that the Pope's statement was just explaining world hunger -- not breastfeeding liberation -- it does appear that all he wants is for babies to get fed. And he doesn't care where. Judging by this photo taken last March, breastfeeding doesn't look like it's bothering His Holiness one bit.
(hat tip: Motherlode)