Having grown up in one of the most progressive generations, there is no question in my mind whether or not breastfeeding should be acceptable in public places. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural processes in the world and women have the right to feed their children regardless of their location. Society, however, still continuously struggles to accept public displays of breastfeeding, leaving mothers fearful of judgement while their babies cry in hunger. Should they choose to feed, judging eyes stare, as if a mother can control where they are when their child grows hungry.
Recently, however, progress has been made, especially in communities perhaps considered to be less progressive than others. This progress is, in part, due to a specific leader: Pope Francis. Utilizing his influential and international presence, Pope Francis has advocated for public and accepted breastfeeding multiple times now. In December of 2016, Pope Francis made a formal statement that women should breastfeed in public. Reinforcing his opinion on the matter, during a recent baptismal ceremony taking place in the Sistine Chapel itself, Pope Francis made a statement to the mother’s of the congregation to feel free to breastfeed during the service.
“You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breast-feed them, don’t worry.” Preach, Pope Francis, preach.
The importance of his words cannot be overstated. The Pope’s worldwide presence enables his words to reach communities across the globe, influencing members of the Catholic Church and nonmembers alike. More importantly though, his words are reaching out to the religious communities that have remained conservative in morals and ideals; especially when it comes to public breastfeeding. Seeing a leader work to enforce acceptance of this controversial topic is absolutely inspiring. Not to mention the location he made the statement from, the Sistine Chapel remains one of the most holy places of worship. If breastfeeding is wholesome and acceptable within the Chapel’s walls, it should be well accepted outside of them.
Here’s my standpoint, if one of the oldest and most religious leaders not only accepts but advocates for public breastfeeding, shouldn’t we all? Granted, Pope Francis is possibly the most liberal leader the Catholic Church has ever seen, his reasoning makes sense for even the most conservative citizens. Pope Francis reminds his congregation that even Jesus got hungry as a baby and when he did, Mary would feed him.
While I’m not religious I can’t help but to admire the truth in the statement. When a child is hungry a mother has the right to feed them, regardless of the circumstances of the situation. For every person who still can’t seem to accept public breastfeeding, what would you have preferred your mother to do when you were a hungry baby in public: let you cry in pain or simply feed you?
It’s time to get over the fear of the natural process between mother and child. A breast is a breast; nothing more. I commend Pope Francis for advocating public breastfeeding and helping to break down the sexualized stigma of breasts. So the next time you see a woman breastfeeding in public, smile in knowing such a wholesome and natural process is taking place, and that women everywhere are gaining the confidence to feed their children thanks to progressive leaders such as Pope Francis.