Pope Francis, Breastfeeding, and Breaking with Catholic Tradition

We now know the answer to a question no one in the entire world was asking: What does the bishop of Rome think about breastfeeding in public?

Our Lady of La Leche, Pray for Us!

Sometimes it’s fairly easy to predict how a certain anecdote or even a certain phrase from Pope Francis will get reported by the media. Not surprisingly, the secular media’s reporting often reveals more about the media, than it does about the Pope. Put “Pope Francis” and “Breastfeeding” in the same news item and all bets are off.

First, the set-up. In a recent interview with La Stampa, Pope Francis spoke about child hunger and told the following story in that context:

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 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. 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! That woman had milk to give to her child; we have enough food in the world to feed everyone.

The Holy Father’s remarks garnered more than a little attention, often with troll-baity headlines like “Pope Francis’ Stance on Public Breastfeeding Might Surprise You,” or “Pope Francis backs public breastfeeding! And that makes him traditional…

But my favorite part about this whole story has to be this penetrating bit of reportage from the New York Daily News:

“Time’s Person of the Year appears to have broken with staunch Catholic tradition by encouraging the feeding of newborns whenever it’s needed.”

Let’s just say the New York Daily News needs to update the software on their Pope Francis News Story Generator Bot.

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Categories:Family Pope Francis Poverty Uncategorized

15 thoughts on “Pope Francis, Breastfeeding, and Breaking with Catholic Tradition

  1. ML says:

    This should be a non issue. Most any woman with a baby should own a simple shawl to cover up. its not an expensive item, but if price is a problem, I suppose charities or a kindly neighbor should provide, just as they would other essential baby items. Covering ourselves in public is not only a matter of charity to our neighbors, but of simple human dignity, and as such, women are the ones to benefit.

    1. Slats says:

      This is the correct answer to Ben’s rather dim post.

  2. Ben Warren says:

    Breast feeding in public is awful and women who do it should be deeply ashamed! Public exposure is always a disgrace unless there was some kind of violence involved.

    1. Jack Mason says:

      “Public exposure?” A woman is feeding her baby; nothing more and nothing less.

  3. Nan says:

    Do you also condone breastfeeding until age 6? In public?

    1. Xenophon says:

      What on earth are you talking about, and to whom?

  4. Jack Mason says:

    Is there actually a Catholic “stance” of not breast feeding in public?

    1. Bioethicist says:

      No

  5. Maryellen Schroeder says:

    Breastfeeding is not stupid at all. Being a mother who’s breastfed her own children, I would like to say that any outcry against breastfeeding in public is actually a reflection of our sex-infatuated society. Breasts were made for a specific purpose, and our weird society has made them into mere decorative ornaments. It’s ok to show off one’s hooters in a dress taped on for a red carpet event, but it’s not okay to comfort and feed a nursing baby, the act of which usually shows no skin at all as the child’s head covers it all up. A breastfeeding mother is a prime example of the wonder of God’s creation, and of how relationships between humans should be–caring for each other and sharing of ourselves using the gifts God has given us. Not all choose to breastfeed, and not all can, but it’s a wonderful, beautiful way to love and nurture one’s child.

  6. Janet O'Connor says:

    How in the world can you be talking about a stupid thing about breastfeeding when the FFI continues to be persecuted and Raymond Burke gets dumped from the Congregation of Bishops . Oh that’s right Burke still has other important positions in the Church so we don’t have to worry about it. All we have to do is keep pretending everything in Rome is find and Donald Wuerl will do just find.

    1. Bioethicist says:

      Janet,

      My 7 month old son sure doesn’t think breastfeeding is stupid.

      The challenges of breastfeeding in public are real for many women. I didn’t realize it until I became a mother myself. The strange looks, the lack of eye contact, the statements like “you know, we have ladies room for that” etc… make nursing moms feel awkward and embarrassed, as though they are doing something wrong by feeding their infants. The benefits of breastfeeding are tremendous (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html?sid=d582dce1-38a8-453d-af92-05881dc0a5d7), but the barriers to breastfeeding effectively are many.

      I used to think that women should try to cover up when they breastfeed in public for modesty’s sake. Then, I realized that many babies don’t like to eat under a blanket (would you?) or even refuse to eat under a blanket. Babies have a right to eat. We have a responsibility to be more grown-up about it.

      Anything we can do to support and encourage breastfeeding moms will have a public health benefit in the long run.

      Thanks, Pope Francis, for leading the way.

    2. GREG SMITH says:

      Janet … You may think breastfeeding is stupid, however I assure you my 11 month old granddaughter disagrees :-)

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