Leia nursing

Leia nursing

Monday, September 5, 2016

What Nursing Mothers Can Learn from Saint Mother Teresa

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When I was newly married, I wanted to become a Lay Missionary of Charity.  I was inspired by Mother Teresa and her sisters' charism and love for the poorest of the poor.  I even corresponded for a short time with one of Mother Teresa's US  sisters.  However, I had a difficult time finding a spiritual director who understood how a married woman could make the promises of obedience, chastity, poverty, and special dedication to the poor.  Then, I found myself excitedly expecting a baby about the time of the next Lay Missionaries of Charity retreat on the east coast.  I wouldn't be able to attend so close to my due date or with a nursing baby in tow.  God seemed to be leading somewhere else.  I kept searching and three years later, I heard about the Holy Family Institute which seemed a better fit for me.  

Even since making perpetual vows in the Holy Family Institute, I still love Saint Mother Teresa.  After asking others online about their favorite book on Mother Teresa, I realized that I am sort of a Mother Teresa groupie in a way :)

What can nursing mothers learn from Saint Mother Teresa?  Well, it turns out, more than you would think.  

She valued silence.  In order to hear the whisper of God's voice in our hearts, we need at least a little bit of time away from the noise of our busy households and the noise of the internet, TV, and society.  Eucharistic adoration is a great way to find that silence.  You can even bring a nursing baby to an adoration hour!  Another lifesaver for me has been an hour or two at the local coffee shop or library twice a week.  When I had a nursing baby, I took him/her with me.  Sometimes I bring a more secular book or magazine, but often I bring a spiritual book and a notebook.  I get so many insights that I do not seem to get when at home taking care of my family.  However, even if you simply cannot leave the house to find silence, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle suggests the following in her book, Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship:

"A mother can find silence even within the noise of her household - in the busyness of caring for her children, folding laundry, cooking a meal, or washing dishes - when she looks inward and offers her heart to God.  I am not suggesting she become oblivious to what she is doing, especially when caring for children.  This is a different kind of silence.  While folding a load of laundry, cooking her family's dinner, or nursing a baby, a mother can become meditative, raising her heart to God and thanking Him for the privilege of serving Him as she serves her family within her vocation of motherhood."

Saint Mother Teresa also recommended and lived simplicity.  I have always been attracted to simplicity.  It is difficult to put simplicity fully into practice with children, though.  Ecological breastfeeding definitely simplified the early days of caring for my babies.  All I needed was a king sized bed (we bed shared in a queen for several years, too), a stroller and baby carrier (many moms carry their babies primarily in slings or front packs - I did, too, sometimes - but I also enjoyed having a stroller), a car seat, and some baby clothes and diapers.  That sure simplified the baby gear we needed!  Now that my kids are older, simplification is something I always strive for but never seem to fully reach!  I have a feeling, our school aged kids would not be too happy if we converted our houses into a Missionaries of Charity convent!  So how can we simplify?  By going through our cupboards, the kids' toys, our closets to see what we actually use and donating/selling the rest.  When I go to a store, I try to think about if I really need an item or if I already have something similar.  Membership in the Holy Family Institute has simplified my spiritual life.  Even in homeschooling, I seek out simplicity by focusing on the basics and all the fun things the kids want to learn about.  Donna-Marie also suggests simple words and gestures can touch people more than we will ever know and this includes our family members!  It can be easy to say something positive to a stranger but very difficult to say something positive to our child who has been trying our nerves all day!

Saint Mother Teresa emphasized service.  Mothers serve 24/7!  However, maybe you have the tendency - like I do sometimes - to not serve as cheerfully as you should?  I am trying to work on that aspect as I type this post!  Mother Teresa also taught that we need to serve our families first before going out into the community.  I have trouble with this one, too, occasionally and then I wear myself out trying to serve everyone!  Also, we need to serve ourselves by creating the necessary downtime to refresh our bodies, minds and souls.

Another part of the Missionaries of Charity spirituality is love.  Motherhood and nursing babies is all about love!  No explanation needed!

Prayer and faith are more aspects of her spirituality.  Most families pray and attend the sacraments and Mass together.  I would guess that most moms have private prayer time, too.  I, personally, like devotionals.  That is one reason I added a little devotional section to my book, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers.  I like to pray in the shower, because it is one of the few quiet times I have.  However, there is usually at least one child who needs me "urgently" when I am showering and getting dressed for the day.  You do what you can do.   The important thing is to find your best times to pray in the midst of you loving and serving your family, practicing your sacramental life, and attempting to live simply and find silence in the the center of all the chaos.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Benefits of Breastfeeding



     In our world today, society SEEMS to emphasize the importance of children and the importance of motherhood, but the emphasis in the mainstream society is on the materialistic aspects of these things - having the right THINGS, the right daycare, the right equipment, etc.  However in the Church, we recognize the importance of the human person, and also the way in which God’s creation, when understood rightly, supports the optimal development - physical, mental, psychological, emotional and spiritual - of each person. 
      Research not only shows that breastfeeding has many benefits to babies, but also that there are risks to not breastfeeding.  Non-breastfed babies are at increased risk of developing the following: dental and vision problems, allergies, Crohn's disease, leukemia, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, ear infections, severe diarrhea, obesity, ulcerative colitis, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), osteoporosis, necrotizing enterocolitis, lower IQ, and heart disease (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.135).  Breastfeeding has a profound effect on your baby’s health!
      Breast milk is a living fluid, so it changes its chemical proportions in response to different circumstances.  If your baby is born prematurely, the proportions of protein and fat will change to accommodate a not-yet-full-term baby.  Also, if you develop an illness, your body makes antibodies against that particular virus or bacteria, and those wonderful antibodies are then transferred to the baby via breast milk to protect your little one.  When a toddler is still nursing but nursing less often than a younger baby, your milk compensates by increasing its concentration of immunities to continue protecting your toddler.  In addition, the type of fats in your diet influences the types of fats present in your milk, so increasing your omega-3 fatty acid consumption is good for both of you.  Breast milk is a great way for your baby to experience the different flavors of foods you eat.  Breast milk is more than “just” milk!
      Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies, but there are also great benefits for mothers as well.  God’s plan always works for the good of all involved in a relationship.  So when He designed breastfeeding to benefit babies, of course, He didn’t leave mothers out!  Breastfeeding reduces your risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and metabolic syndrome.  If you have insulin dependent diabetes, you may find you will need less insulin while breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding helps protect against high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and fractures, too (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p. 135).  One of the focuses of this book, ecological breastfeeding, can extend your amenorrhea (no periods) and postpartum infertility naturally for months - and sometimes years - which can give you and baby more time to bond and give you more time to adjust to your new addition. 
      In addition, breastfeeding helps your uterus return to its original size sooner and with less risk of postpartum hemorrhage. Because you burn approximately 500 more calories per day when nursing than when not pregnant or nursing, you are more likely to return to your pre-pregnancy weight.  The hormones produced during breastfeeding - prolactin and oxytocin - not only help your body make milk but also help you relax.  The time you spend nursing your baby helps you bond and feel close to your baby.  Breastfeeding is good for you both physically and emotionally.   
      Breastfeeding is also great for your pocketbook, for the environment and for the sanity of the mother since there is no need to prepare formula or wash bottles.  Breast milk is free.  Because many women experience amenorrhea for several months or years while breastfeeding, there is less waste from feminine hygiene products.  The diapers of exclusively breastfed babies smell more pleasant than diapers of babies not breastfeeding (good for your home environment!).  Breastfeeding makes night time parenting easier and traveling easier on mom, dad and baby because breast milk is readily available.     
      As Catholics, we believe that there is more to life than just our physical existence.  Just as breastfeeding has many great physical benefits for the baby and mother, it also provides wonderful spiritual benefits as well.  Mothering your baby at the breast helps your baby experience the unconditional love of Jesus in a very tangible way.  You are your baby’s first glimpse of God.  When you nurse him in the middle of the night, you are showing your baby that God will always take care of him.  When you respond to his cries and put him to your breast, you are not only nourishing him physically but sharing God’s comfort. 
      There are spiritual benefits for you, too.  God gives you special graces through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and through your vocation of motherhood (whether it be by birth or adoption) to follow God’s will for you in this time of your life.  Just as on some days you might not get a long shower or enough sleep, on other days God will want you to put up your feet, sip a glass of cold water, and enjoy some quiet time in His presence while nursing your sweet baby!    

Friday, June 10, 2016

Growing in Holiness through Breastfeeding and Mothering

I had one of those Godfidences recently - those moments some people call coincidences but we know God is trying to get our attention.  A friend told me in the midst of a conversation that she thinks the truly holy people are those who do not make others feel uncomfortable in their presence or worried that they are being judged.  Holy people really are not thinking harshly of you but looking at you with eyes of love even as you admit your weaknesses.  Jesus was like this.  No matter who he encountered - the tax collectors, the woman caught in adultery, even Peter who denied him - he did not condemn them, but loved them, forgave them, and told them not to sin anymore.  People felt comfortable in Jesus' presence and came from miles away to meet Him.

Then yesterday morning, the daily devotion in one of my books was about seeing Christ in others.  It dawned on me that that was what I needed to strive for.  This involves all of my relationships - those with my children, my spouse, other family members, and those I meet each day.

Seeing Christ in others applies to our children, even our nurslings.  I remember those sleepless nights when the baby wanted to nurse again and he had soaked his diaper.  I sometimes felt frustrated about needing to get out of bed to change his clothes instead of just latching him on and going back to sleep.  I, of course, knew how sweet and innocent the baby was and how it was my utmost privilege to be his mother.  I also knew how wonderful cosleeping was!  However, in the middle of the night, I was still tired and grouchy and had a difficult time seeing the beauty of it all.

But that is what Jesus is asking of us, right?  To see the best in others, to see Him in others.  This applies when our nurslings need nourishment and comfort at the most inopportune times.  It applies when our older children are not being very nice to us or each other.  It applies when our kids are just being kids and make messes. Sometimes other family members do not understand or agree with how
we breastfeed our children or our parenting philosophy and are unkind to us.  We still need to look past those situations and comments and see Christ's light in them.

Breastfeeding and natural mothering have helped me grow into a holier person than I used to be.  When I had my first child,  I was not a very patient person.  Now, after nursing and taking care of several more children, I find myself more patient and understanding than when I had just one!  Yes, part of it was all the practice(!), but breastfeeding plays an important role in growing a loving mother, in my humble opinion.  It teaches us to focus on what really matters in the moment, how to die to ourselves, and how to follow the lead of the child.  It teaches us to follow our mothering instincts, and all the hormones associated with breastfeeding help us relax and enjoy the present moment.  Even though I do not have a nursing baby or toddler right now, all my years of breastfeeding are still growing me.  And, of course, my children will always enjoy the physical and emotional benefits even
though they are no longer nursing.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Increasing Your Milk Supply through Ecological Breastfeeding

Practicing Ecological Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to increase your milk supply!

By nursing on demand day and night, your milk production is continually being stimulated and your baby receives nourishment regularly.  Babies naturally nurse often, partially because their stomachs are only able to hold a small amount at a time and because breastmilk is easily digestible.  If you think about it, breastfeeding 'round the clock - as often as baby needs - closely resembles the womb environment where your baby received continual nourishment, warmth and love.

Offering the breast to comfort your baby and avoiding pacifiers not only stimulates your supply, but is probably your baby's favorite way to be soothed and to fall asleep.

By sharing sleep with your baby in a safe environment - for naps and at night - your breasts know to keep making milk and you get needed rest for taking care of your little one.  Plus, you actually get more sleep on average than moms who use formula, and your baby has a reduced risk of SIDS.

By keeping close to your baby and avoiding separation, you will always be available to nurse your baby when he needs it.  This is especially important if you are trying to increase your milk supply.  Take a breastfeeding vacation: spend some skin to skin time with your little one in bed or simply at home, snuggle him and let him nurse to his heart's delight!

If after following the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, your milk supply is still not as abundant as it should be, here are some other things you can try:

-  Be sure you are taking good care of yourself - drinking to thirst, eating enough and getting enough rest.
-  Let your baby nurse as long as he wants on the first breast and then offer the other breast.
-  Pump after a few of your nursing sessions.  Continue pumping for 2-5 minutes after you see the last drop of milk.
-  Eat foods containing oatmeal, brown rice, and barley.
-  Do breast compressions when the milk flow slows down.
-  Try galactagogues such as fenugreek, nursing mother's tea, blessed thistle, and goat's rue.  Contact your doctor, local lactation consultant or Dr. Hale's InfantRisk Center for galactagogue safety information.

 For more information about the benefits of bed sharing and cosleeping, go to Dr. McKenna's site.

For more information about low milk supply, go to Kellymom and Diana West and Lisa Marasco's website.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

CNML at the 2016 Breastfeeding Taskforce Conference in Albuquerque, NM

This year the CNML table was well visited at the annual Breastfeeding Taskforce Conference on March 4.  I was in a higher traffic area right outside the doors of the room where the talks were presented.  

Three copies of The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor, 2 copies of Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers, 2 copies of Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, and 1 copy of Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing were taken in exchange for donations.  Speaking of donations, CNML was gifted $80!  Thirteen one decade rosaries, several medals, and several holy cards, business cards, brochures were taken.  

Next year I plan to bring NFP brochures because 3 different women asked about natural family planning.  

One woman who is an LLL leader and an RN from Texas always visits the CNML table every year.  This time she gave me a one decade rosary her brother made me with one of the Our Lady of La Leche medals I give out.  I thought that was so sweet and thoughtful of her!  She also promoted my table the whole day by giving other conference attendees medals and holy cards from my table and bringing them over to meet me!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No Regrets

As my and my husband's 20th wedding anniversary approaches, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my married life which has been almost my entire adult life also.  My husband and I married young - at age 20 - while we were both still in college.  We couldn't even legally buy alcohol! I was seven months pregnant during my first bachelor degree graduation ceremony, and my husband received his master's degree at the same time.  It was memorable graduating together!  We decided right away that I would stay home with our children, so I could practice ecological breastfeeding.

I don't know if you have been following the story of Joey Feek, member of the country music duo, Joey+Rory.  Joey found out that she had stage 4 ovarian cancer soon after the birth of their daughter (Rory and Joey are also married).  Just the other day, Joey said her last words before slipping into a last deep sleep.  She isn't expected to live more than a few days.  One thing she said really struck a chord with me: “I have no regrets… I can honestly say, that I have done everything I wanted to do and lived the life I always wanted to live”. Could I say the same about myself if this was my last week on earth?  

This started me thinking about some of the things I regret.  I regret not having been a gentler parent with first child when he was younger (he was a very challenging child and still is).  However, we currently have a pretty good relationship, so things have changed for the better.  I regret all those times over the years when I have been less than present (mentally and emotionally) with my kids. I try to work on that every day.  I regret those times when I have acted less than Christian.  Confession is good for that one!  I could come up with many more examples but then.....

I realized it might be more productive to think about my life in a more general way and to think of those things of which I have no regrets.   In addition to marrying the love of my life, breastfeeding is
without doubt at the top of my no regrets list!  The first week after my first son was born was
extremely rocky.  He was not latching properly and was losing weight.  However, my local LLL leader, a local lactation consultant, and my patient doctor helped me do the one thing I wanted to do most as a new mom - breastfeed my baby! I empathize with all those moms who are struggling with breastfeeding.  If I can help you in any way, please email catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com.

I will never regret having a big family and staying home with my children.  When my husband was in grad school and working on his post-doctorate, money wasn't very plentiful, so I feel blessed that I was able to keep staying home with my first two children at that time.

I also do not regret my faith in God.  Sure, I have doubts occasionally.  I would think many faithful Catholics do.  However, my relationship with Jesus helped me through difficult times in the past and continues to do so.

As I approach the second 20 years of my married and adult life, I am challenging myself to live the
life I want, without regrets.  I also challenge you to do the same. I would love to hear about your no regrets life and how you make it happen - please leave a comment.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Need some mothering encouragement?

Recently, I was in need of some mothering enouragement.  Even women who have been mothers for more than a decade and a half sometimes need refreshment!  As I mentioned in my last post, I went on a one day personal retreat and reread an entire book in addition to shopping and attending Mass.  The book is called Grace Cafe: Serving up Recipes for Faitthful Mothering, and it is by author, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle.

This was the perfect book to remind me of how important my vocation as a mother is and how being a stay-at-home mom is a worthy profession.  I live in a small town where most people work at the local lab.  Thousands of employees at the lab hold Ph.D.s, and many of them are women.  I do know  many stay-at-home moms, but sometimes I wonder if what I do is as worthy as what the employees at the lab do.

In her book, Donna-Marie reminded me that I am first of all called to holiness - we all are irregardless of our career or vocation.  However, mothers have an extra special role to play in society - shaping little people into loving, compassionate adults destined for heaven.  Such a high calling with or without an outside career!  She reminded me to savor all those little moments, because they really do fly by!  One day I will forget about the overwhelmingness I experienced at times and will miss my little ones and possibly even the chaos!

If you are looking for a spiritual read in particular, this book talks about how we are called to be prayerful - even mothers - and this does not necessarily mean spending long hours in the chapel.  Mothers can make all their duties a prayer, all the times we focus on our children as a prayer.  Donna-Marie suggests different ways to teach our children to pray and how to weave our Catholic faith into our daily lives.   She also shares personal stories of her relationship with Mother Teresa and  discusses the Church's support of mothering and at-home mothering.

In terms of the nitty gritty of mothering, she emphasizes the importance of looking for God in the present moment and enjoying each moment - the late night feedings, the laundry, the 'round the clock nursings.  Donna-Marie even briefly mentions ecological breastfeeding as a great way to space babies and to bond with our children.  I also really liked that she wrote that mothering does not end once our children leave the nest; it is just different.  We will always be connected to our children.  Even science confirms this - children's cells were found in their mothers' brains.  How amazing!  I can eternally revel in the knowledge that I will always be a mother to my precious children!

If you have just a few minutes each day or possibly a bigger chunk of time to read it in its entirety, I promise that you will not be disappointed with Grace Cafe, and your appreciation of the awesomeness of the mothering profession will increase :)