Pope Francis encouraged women to breastfeed their babies if they were hungry during the two-hour long annual baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel on Sunday.
"Babies have their own dialect," he added. "If one starts to cry the others will follow, like in an orchestra."
He said that if the babies were "starting a concert" of crying because they were hungry, mothers should "go ahead and feed them," for this too is a "language of love".
This isn’t the first time the Pope has encouraged breastfeeding in the Sistine Chapel. He made similar comments last year during the ceremony. He said mothers should feed their children as “Mary breastfed Jesus”.
“Since the ceremony is a little long, someone’s crying because he’s hungry,” the Pope said in Italian, after hearing a crying baby. “That’s the way it is. You mothers, go ahead and breastfeed, without fear. Just like the Virgin Mary nursed Jesus.”
He has been consistently encouraging of public breastfeeding, as far back as 2013 when he encouraged a woman to feed her child at one of his papal audiences at the Vatican.
The Church and breastfeeding
While some think that Pope Francis’encouragement of breastfeeding is radical, others say that his stance may not be as radical. Naomi DeAnda, who teaches religious studies at the University of Dayton, says that the Catholic church traditionally had images of breast milk. These have been silenced in the last couple of years.
In fact, historically in Bethlehem, there was a place called the Milk Grotto where Mary first nursed Jesus. It has become a site for pilgrimage for new mothers and for women trying to conceive.
But in churches elsewhere, mothers are even asked to leave the service if they are seen breastfeeding.
Women are still criticised for breastfeeding in public. Let's hope these measures increase breastfeeding's acceptance.
Picture Credit: KHOU.com