I saw this snippet of a recent interview with Pope Francis on Jimmy Akin’s post:
“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.”
My, how I love Pope Francis. You can read the whole interview here. I am a huge supporter of public breastfeeding. I hate that women are made to feel uncomfortable about feeding their kids. I remember how difficult it was, as a first time mom, to feed my baby in public (or anywhere for that matter because of various breastfeeding problems) when certain friends had made negative comments about the propriety of breastfeeding in public.
At this point, after nursing three kids, I feel confident nursing most anywhere and I am more than grateful for popes who encourage women in their vocation of motherhood by supporting breastfeeding (Bl. Pope John Paul II and others spoke out about the gift of breastfeeding, too. Pope Francis is not the first.) I’m grateful for a faith that honors my body and the amazing design God created for a mother to feed her child, just as the Church nourishes her children with the grace of Our Lord. And according to the tradition of Christian art, Our Lady was hardly squeamish about nursing and there’s even a gorgeous shrine dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, FL.
But write about public nursing on the internet and brace yourself for the comments. Share something about breastfeeding on social media and people you haven’t spoken to since high school come out of the woodwork for a Facebook brawl. I am honestly sick and tired of hearing about how nursing mothers need to go out of their way to accommodate people who feel uncomfortable around breastfeeding. Can we, for once, stop complicating the matter and obsessing over whether women should have to leave Mass to nurse, at what age a toddler should stop getting nursed in public, whether nursing covers are necessary, and on and on and on? Because there are bigger fish to fry. Can it be simple, like it is for Pope Francis: Please give your hungry child something to eat!?
I’m not saying that matters of propriety can’t be discussed or should not be considered at all. It’s just that the needs of a hungry child are vastly more important. I’m sorry if it makes Random Guy in Mass uncomfortable when I feed my baby, but a hungry child’s need for her mother’s milk comes before his misplaced notions of propriety. What should we care about? We should care that a women is trying to care for her child, a child who is completely dependent on her mother for nourishment. We should care that mothers are empowered and encouraged to nurse their babies, whether it’s at the mall or at a papal audience. The big picture is that if a child is hungry, whether because a women is too shy to feed her because of a culture that makes breastfeeding taboo, or because a child is a victim of widespread hunger, we should care deeply and be called to action. Can we see beyond a culture that sexualizes something as innocent as feeding a baby and look toward a more important and heartbreaking truth: there are hungry children in the world (and in your town!) who need our help?
Let’s focus on what’s important. How can I encourage mothers? How can I seek out ways to sacrifice and help a hungry child in our community or across the world? (And I’m asking myself here because I get very comfortable with my well-fed family and forget that tonight across town and across the world other mothers faced the heartache of sending their children to bed hungry.)
Here’s what Pope Francis said in the interview:
“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. If we work with humanitarian organisations and are able to agree all together not to waste food, sending it instead to those who need it, we could do so much to help solve the problem of hunger in the world. I would like to repeat to humanity what I said to that mother: give food to those who are hungry! May the hope and tenderness of the Christmas of the Lord shake off our indifference.”
(photo of Baby Lucy by Jade Pierce Photography)