Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Feast of Mary, Mother of God are all special feast days that celebrate the gift of Jesus, yes, but also motherhood and family life. Christmas welcomes Jesus as a baby into our world. The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the ordinariness and holiness of the Holy Family. The Feast of Mary, Mother of God celebrates the honor we give to Mary, as Mother of our Savior.
I was pregnant during the Christmases of 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2011. Each of those Christmases and other ones, too, I listened to the song, "Breath of Heaven" sung by Amy Grant and cried, of course! Many times I was in the throes of morning sickness or feeling anxious about the upcoming birth. Other times I felt joyful while thinking about my unborn baby. I think Mary felt some of those emotions, too, during her pregnancy with Jesus. Then many more Christmases I nursed a baby or toddler - during the night, on Christmas morning as my older children opened their gifts, and in between cooking dinner. Mary most likely nursed Jesus well into toddlerhood, too, in the midst of her everyday life. Can you imagine nursing the Son Of God? What must that have been like?
I especially enjoy the Feast of the Holy Family, because my family is so important to me, and because I am a member of the Holy Family Institute. Jesus, Mary and Joseph inspire me to try to be more patient and more emotionally present to my family, to play more with my kids, and to just be myself - the person God created me to be. The Holy Family experienced difficult times - fear, needing to flee to a strange country, town gossip - just like we do, but they trusted God would take care of them even when they were afraid. They lived ordinary lives. Mary breastfed baby Jesus, helped him learn to walk and talk, taught him to pray and most likely home educated him, because there were no local schools at that time (an inspiring fact for you homeschoolers!). Mary also snuggled Jesus close, kissed and hugged him, and probably sang him to sleep. All the same things we do with our kids!
Mary was a gentle mother to Jesus and desires to lead us to her Son through our vocation of motherhood. I feel my relationship with Jesus and breastfeeding my children taught me gentleness. It is difficult to stay angry with your toddler while he is nursing to sleep in your arms! All those years waking up multiple times per night to nurse a baby really teach you gentleness, too. If you are nursing your first baby, just know that as your baby gets older and if you have other children in the future, your love, patience and gentleness will grow. Ask Mary to help you be the mother Jesus wants you to be.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
"Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him" (Matthew 2:11
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus shared a special closeness with each other. Research has shown that those first few years of life lay the foundation for the child's worldview and even their relationship with their parents. Breastfeeding can definitely help with that and it also encourages the mom and baby to stay in close proximity to each other. All those times of nursing are continually being added to your baby's emotional tank. Is it time for another deposit?
An idea for living out your faith:
Visit a new mother or possibly a nursing home resident that may be feeling lonely and isolated. Bring your baby along. Everyone loves a cooing, smiley baby!
(Excerpt from Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers)
Sunday, December 18, 2016
It may pleasantly surprise you that the Catholic Church has a long-standing tradition in support of breastfeeding. The Church, first of all, follows natural law. What could be more natural and in tune with God’s plan for humans than feeding your baby the milk your own body produces? Ecological breastfeeding, too, follows natural law. You follow your baby’s needs for milk and comfort using the body God gave you as a gift. You are then a gift to your child. The infertility that results is nature’s design and another gift to you.
As I write this, there is a heated debate taking place on a popular Catholic internet site. They are discussing whether or not breastfeeding can be done in a selfish manner due to its natural benefit of infertility. My personal opinion is “no.” You can’t force your baby to nurse if he doesn’t want to. Even if you wake him in the middle of the night to nurse in the hopes of extending your own natural infertility, he will only nurse if he needs it. On a personal note, I have bedshared with all my children, and they woke naturally one to several times per night until around age two without any help from me. Also, in the over ten years I have been involved with supporting nursing mothers, no one has mentioned that they wake their baby to nurse during the night (except for maybe a sleepy newborn baby in the first week of life)! On the contrary, moms usually accept this phase of life and all it entails or try different techniques to get their babies to sleep through the night. Then there is also the situation of many women who would love to have another baby but are unable to conceive because they are breastfeeding.
In terms of support from popes and bishops, Pope Gregory the Great, Pope Benedict XIV, Pope Pius XII, and (Saint) Pope John Paul II all showed support of breastfeeding. The two latter popes publicly spoke to mothers about its importance (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p. 32-34). The current pope, Pope Francis, has been especially supportive of breastfeeding moms. On Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of twelve pregnant and nursing moms - one mom was actively nursing her baby during the actual washing of feet! On another occasion, he encouraged mothers to nurse their hungry babies during a baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel. At least two bishops also advocated for breastfeeding - Bishop James T. McHugh and Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo. (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p.36-37). As you can see, the Magisterium wholeheartedly supports nursing moms and babies.
Several priests actively promote breastfeeding in their own unique ways. Father Virtue wrote a chapter on breastfeeding in his doctoral dissertation, Mother and Infant. Father Timothy Sauppe created a Madonna chapel and developed a rosary of five mysteries in honor of Mary’s breastfeeding relationship with Jesus which was granted an imprimatur (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p. 38-40). I am sure there are countless other Church leaders who are doing a wonderful job supporting nursing mothers.
Christian artwork often portrays Mary breastfeeding Jesus, sometimes with her breast exposed. Scripture mentions breastfeeding no less than 12 times, and weaning is often mentioned as taking place at the end of the second or third year of life.
The Catholic Church honors two souls in heaven as patron saints of breastfeeding. St. Giles is one of the official patron saints of breastfeeding mothers. He was a hermit in Southern France in the late 600s - early 700s who reportedly sustained himself for several years only on the milk of a hind. His feast day is September 1. In addition, the diocese of St. Augustine, FL celebrates the feast of Our Lady of La Leche on Oct. 11. Our Lady of La Leche is the patron saint of nursing mothers and women who want to become pregnant. There is a shrine in the city of St. Augustine dedicated to Mary in this role. Breastfeeding is so important, it has two patron saints, including the Blessed Mother!
(excerpt from book, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers by Gina Peterson)
NFP International has some great links to what different popes have said about breastfeeding.
Also, here is a link to a story about Pope Francis encouraging mothers to nurse their babies in the Sistine Chapel.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
We are excited to announce our partnership with the Guiding Star Project! If you have never heard of Guiding Star or do not know much about it, let me introduce them.
The Guiding Star Project is made up of centers around the country that support women and families in holistic and life-affirming ways. The centers provide natural family planning, holistic fertility care and care for birthing women, breastfeeding support, and care for family life. They follow Natural Law and promote a New Feminism that upholds the beauty and dignity of women while respecting all life.
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
First of all, no matter what type of birth you end up having - natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean - you will most likely be able to breastfeed your baby. Even after a difficult or traumatic childbirth, breastfeeding can bring about a wonderful experience of healing and bonding with a newborn, most of the time quickly and effectively. The vast majority - experts say ninety-five percent - of women are physically capable of breastfeeding. That is good news and part of God's design to keep the human race going. That being said, nursing at the breast can be more challenging or delayed in certain circumstances. However, with education and support from other nursing moms, a trained breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant, breastfeeding will most likely become easier and a natural part of your life as a mother. Breastfeeding is the natural continuation of the cycle that begins with pregnancy and birth.
Two easy ways to increase your chances of having the best birth and early breastfeeding experience as possible are to attend childbirth classes and to read a good childbirth book. Childbirth classes taught independent of hospitals tend to have more information on natural birthing techniques and how to avoid unnecessary interventions. Nursing mother group meetings at your church and breastfeeding support meetings in your community are good places to obtain recommendations for both childbirth books and classes.
Husbands can be great labor coaches. However, many women like having the support of another woman who has given birth herself, such as a friend or mother, in addition to their spouses. There are also labor doulas who have specialized training in supporting and encouraging women in labor. Doulas have been shown in the research evidence to improve mothers’ birth experiences and facilitate un-medicated labors and breastfeeding (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.22-23). A parish nursing mothers group or a childbirth or breastfeeding class is a good place to ask about local doulas.
It is ideal if the mother can avoid IV fluids during labor and birth. Sometimes too much fluid can cause breast engorgement which makes latching more difficult. Also, certain medications can make babies sleepy at birth. Striving for as un-medicated a birth as possible will help ensure an awake baby, ready to breastfeed.
The first hour after birth is a very special time for bonding and getting baby to the breast before he takes his first long nap. Baths and other post-birth activities can wait until after the first nursing. Hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible in the first hour, and continue lots of loving and holding in the early days postpartum. An un-medicated baby placed on his mother's abdomen soon after birth is actually able to crawl towards the breast and latch on without assistance! There are many unseen hormonal bonding elements going on to help baby get off to a good start with breastfeeding - a beautiful design!
If you do need a cesarean, you can still breastfeed your baby! The key is to try different breastfeeding positions that allow you and your baby to nurse successfully and comfortably while staying away from your incision. Some possibilities: sitting upright with a pillow over your lap to protect your incision, the clutch hold (which is described in more detail in the “Latch and Position” section), and the side-lying position (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.191).
Last but not least, writing a birth plan and giving a copy to all birth attendants is another good idea. It is best to let everyone involved in your birth know that you plan to breastfeed and that you do not want your baby to have artificial nipples, bottles, water or formula unless medically necessary. A positive birth experience is always a help to getting breastfeeding off to a good start!
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Preparing to Breastfeed
Mothers today are faced with so many sources of information: doctors’ advice, books, magazines, websites, Facebook pages, the experiences of friends and relatives! One of the first steps in preparing to breastfeed is to read about breastfeeding from reliable sources. Two excellent internet sites are www.catholicbreastfeeding.blogspot.com and www.askdrears.com. The former offers an online support community via Yahoo groups and Facebook which can be invaluable if you live in a rural area or just do not know many nursing mothers. The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (2013) by Dr. William Sears, Martha Sears, Dr. Robert Sears, and Dr. James Sears is a very good, comprehensive book about breastfeeding, baby care, and attachment parenting. The authors are Catholic and even discuss the benefits of breastfeeding for spacing babies!
Besides reading quality Internet sites and books, locating a good breastfeeding support network before your baby is born is another important step. Even though you can read a lot about breastfeeding, you really cannot learn it solely through reading a book. Speaking to mothers in person about their real life experiences is an excellent way to learn.
There are different options depending on what type of support you are seeking. If someone has started a nursing mothers group in your parish, you can fellowship, pray and discuss breastfeeding, natural family planning, Catholic motherhood, and gentle parenting with other like-minded Catholic women at their functions. If there isn’t currently a group at your church, consider starting one yourself. There are resources on the CNML website that will assist you.
If you are looking for more specific information on breastfeeding management, you can attend breastfeeding support meetings in your community during and after pregnancy. They are usually led by a trained breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant.
If you find yourself facing complex breastfeeding issues, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) can work one on one with you to troubleshoot the problems and to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals. IBCLCs, as other health care professionals, normally charge for their services. However, most mothers will tell you that the fee is well worth it! Also, don’t forget about finding a breastfeeding friendly health care provider with whom you feel comfortable. Ask friends and family for recommendations and consider interviewing your top choices.
Last but not least, husbands are some of the best supporters of breastfeeding, so keep him involved in all the reading and classes you take.
In terms of practicalities, many nursing moms find nursing bras indispensable. You'll want to pick a bra that is comfortable, not too tight and big enough to allow for an increase in breast size when your milk comes in. Breast size can increase even one whole cup size after the baby is born and your milk comes in! Sometimes underwire bras can contribute to plugged ducts so picking a bra without underwire would be best if possible. Many maternity stores have staff that can assist you in finding the best fitting bra.
Breasts and nipples of all sizes are perfectly suited to breastfeed successfully! However, some types, such as inverted nipples, can make breastfeeding a little more challenging in the beginning. If you think you have inverted nipples, you may consider asking your health care provider to confirm. If you have inverted nipples, you can still nurse your baby! You may just need a little extra help with latch after your baby is born. Some women have found success using a nipple everter during pregnancy or after their baby is born to drawn an inverted nipple out.
There is no need to do anything to prepare your breasts for breastfeeding. The good news is that pregnancy itself prepares a woman’s body perfectly well for breastfeeding. You can be confident that just as your body knows how to grow your baby perfectly according to God’s plan, your breasts know how to grow and prepare to nurture your baby soon after birth!
(Excerpt from the book, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers)