14/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Pope Francis Encourages Public Breastfeeding

A child takes off Pope Francis' white zucchetto, or skullcap, during a meeting with children and volunteers of the Santa Marta Vatican Institute, at the Vatican, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

While public breastfeeding is frowned upon in Italy, Pope Francis seems to be breaking from tradition by encouraging it. When the Pope encountered one young mother with a crying, hungry baby in her arms, he encouraged her to feed her child right there and then.

"She was shy and didn't want to breastfeed in public, while the Pope was passing," the Pope says in an interview with Andrea Tornielli of La Stampa. "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."

While many in that moment would have expected someone to suggest removing themselves from the crowd to breastfeed, the Pope saw no shame in feeding the child on the spot. "There are so many children that cry because they are hungry," he notes. "'Please give it something to eat!' I said."

Unsurprisingly, this hasn't been the only occasion where Pope Francis has been unfazed by the idea of breastfeeding. The Pope has been photographed kissing the toes of an infant while another mother breastfed her baby only a few inches away.

While the Pope can't quite be labelled a lactivist from these incidents alone, there are two possible reasons behind his accepting attitude. The first is that he was brought up in Argentina where public breastfeeding is commonly seen. The second is that the Pope is really being quite traditional. David Gibson, a reporter for the Religon News Service, pointed out that "the virgin's nursing breast, the lactating virgin, was the primary symbol of God's love for humanity."

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