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Society and Culture

Pope Francis to Women: It’s Okay to Breastfeed in Church

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At a Sistine Chapel mass on Sunday, Pope Francis baptized 28 babies. Understandably, this took a while, and as some of the babies in the chapel started crying, the pope encouraged mothers to breastfeed and not be scared of judgment. Acknowledging the crying babies, he joked that the concert had begun and that Jesus did the same when he was born. “And if your children are crying because they are hungry, then go ahead and feed them, just as Mary breastfed Jesus,” he added.

The pope did something similar at the same event two years ago, when as many as 33 babies were baptized. To many women, this was an encouraging and welcome act of empathy.

And for some women in other countries, this wasn’t news or controversial at all.

Pope Francis has gained a reputation as a modern and empathic pope with some controversial opinions. He tries to behave like a “normal guy,” by paying his own bills at hotels, joking around with his cardinals, and staying in a two-room apartment instead of the papal palace. But even though he is the head of the Catholic Church and his words should be recognized, there are many examples of women in America facing discrimination for attempting to breastfeed in a church.

Mary Kate Dempsey was nursing her baby in a church in Michigan when an usher asked her to leave because her behavior was “inappropriate.” Another woman had the same experience in Georgia. And parenting blogger Mary Fischer listed the church as one place where moms need to be discreet with their breastfeeding. She suggests covering the breast—and with that, the baby—with a piece of cloth, which many babies hate.

It is clear that both the church and our society have a long way to go until breastfeeding is seen as a completely natural part of everyday life. But the pope’s words hopefully go a long way.

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at EVonZeipel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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