Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Spirituality for Nursing Moms

I wanted to share some ideas on how to incorporate prayer into your busy life as a mom.

Nursing moms can try to pray a one decade rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Jesus Prayer or just conversational prayer with God while nursing their baby to sleep in the evening.   This is a good time for prayer especially while nursing older babies and toddlers to sleep since they tend to want to nurse for long stretches at bedtime (at least mine always did).  The Catholic Nursing Mothers League mails out nursing mom gift bags with a handmade one decade rosary, Theotokos Chaplet card and Divine Mercy card that can be used for prayer.  Just send me an email if you would like one.  We mail them out as gifts.

Another time to fit in prayer is while driving or while showering.  You can read one of the Scripture readings of the day and a meditation piece from Word Among Us or just use a moms’ devotional and then talk to God while in the shower.

I have set aside a few hours per week for the last several years as a time to go out by myself and rejuvenate myself.  When I had a nursing baby who was too young to be separated from me, I would take him or her along with me.  Occasionally, if he or she was napping, I could even stop in for a short visit with the Blessed Sacrament.  I have also taken all of my babies and toddlers to confession with me at times.

Many years ago now, I joined the Holy Family Institute.  A few things that attracted me to this Catholic secular institute were its focus on sanctifying family life, the Gospels, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Family as one of its patrons, and also the fact that I could join and participate without needing to live near an established group.  Also, their annual retreat is very welcoming to nursing babies and children of all ages.  The Holy Family Institute has its own prayer book, a quarterly magazine, monthly CDs (that can be accessed online if you are not a fan of CD players), and now monthly webinars on different spiritual topics.  If you would like more info, you are more than welcome to email me.

The Shrine in St. Augustine, FL has just reinstated its confraternity devoted to Our Lady of La Leche if you are interested.

Maybe you need some inspiration from a Catholic author about motherhood?  Some of the ones I have enjoyed are: Handbook for Catholic MomsBreastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood ( the Catholic Nursing Mother’s League also mails this out as a gift), MomnipotentDivine Mercy for Moms, and Embracing Motherhood among others.

Just taking little steps to connect with God is all God asks of you in this time of life.  He knows and understands how overwhelming life can be when you have a little one at home.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

How Catholic Nursing Mothers are Saving the Environment

There was a very recent editorial in the Breastfeeding Medicine Journal that showed that breastfeeding cuts carbon emissions in several ways: fewer cows needed (cow’s milk is used in the manufacture of powdered formula), less waste in the landfills from formula cans and bottle supplies, and less energy usage needed (no need to heat up water when preparing formula).  The reduction in carbon emissions is equivalent to 50,000+ fewer cars on the road just in the UK if mothers breastfeed instead of use formula! (1) (2)

I want to add a few more items to the reduced environmental impact list.  If a mother ecologically breastfeeds, she uses quite a few less feminine hygiene type products over her lifetime.  The average ecological breastfeeding mother has between 9-15 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea.  Let’s choose 12 months as the median point.  Say she has 3 children - so 9 months times 3 for the pregnancy amenorrhea and 12 times 3 for the lactational amenorrhea.  That is a total of 63 months or 5.25 years of not needing feminine hygiene products.  If she has more children and longer stretches of amenorrhea, the number of months goes up even more!

By breastfeeding, there is no waste or carbon emissions from formula feeding.  By practicing ecological breastfeeding, in particular, she does need pacifiers or possibly even a crib if she cosleeps (a bassinet on the floor works well when baby naps during the day).  She might save all her kids’ clothes and hand them down to the next kid which uses less resources.  Her family carpools so less pollution created from cars (when I lived in CA, the carpool lane only required 2 people in a car so even a mom with one child would qualify!).  If she uses elimination communication with her babies or cloth diapers, there are less diapers in the landfill (however, cloth diapers do need soap, water and energy to wash them).  Many couples with children actually use less square footage than average even if their homes seem bigger.  I personally live in a 2000 square foot house and have 5 children.  According to the book, The Minimalist Home, the average square footage per person in the US is 832.  My family’s is 286!  There are only a few countries on the list in the book with less average square footage per person than my family’s numbers.  I bet many of you have similar numbers!  If the mother models taking care of the environment in her home, then the next generation learns to live lightly on the planet.  Don’t worry if you do not do everything or agree with everything on the above list.  Simply breastfeeding has one of the biggest impacts!  I just wanted to throw out some other ideas.

If a Catholic mother practices NFP after her cycles return, she may need a few charting item such as paper charts (not necessarily, though, now with apps), a thermometer and test sticks (it depends on which NFP method she practices).  However, she will not be putting hormones into the environment by taking the Pill.

Breastfeeding moms, keep on saving the environmental by snuggling and nursing your babies!

(1) editorial from Breastfeeding Medicine Journal
(2) NFPI blog

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Breastfeeding a Baby with a Cleft Lip and/or Cleft Palate

My goal for this article is to provide a basic summary about breastfeeding with cleft lips and cleft palates and to share some links for further information and help.

Cleft lips/palates are birth defects that occur during pregnancy where the sides of the upper lip/roof of the mouth do not grow together properly.  They tend to run in families, but there is also evidence that certain environmental factors may contribute.  Thankfully, cleft lips and palates are correctable by surgery.  Babies with cleft lips can usually breastfeed immediately after corrective surgery, and babies with cleft palates can usually nurse 1 day after surgery. (1)

What about in the mean time before a baby has surgery; will he or she be able to breastfeed? The size and type of cleft influences how much suction can be created while breastfeeding.  A baby with just a cleft lip will be most likely able to breastfeed successfully, because he or she can still create the suction and negative pressure necessary to nurse effectively.  (1) Actually, many babies find breastfeeding with a cleft lip easier than drinking from a bottle.  (2) However, cleft palates do make breastfeeding very challenging.  Babies with this sort of issue may not be able to breastfeed successfully.  Working with a lactation consultant experienced is this area is invaluable for both types of clefts but especially cleft palates.  Nevertheless, attempting to breast a baby with a cleft lip or palate is important, because breastmilk contains a lot of anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent respiratory and ear infections.  Babies with clefts who formula feed tend to have more of these kinds of infections.  (1) If a baby is unable to nurse at the breast, giving breastmilk in a syringe, spoon, cup or bottle is the next best choice. (2)

For those babies with a cleft lip, particular nursing positions may help things go more smoothly.  One possibility is to hold baby so the "cleft lip is oriented towards the top of the breast." Also, using the cross cradle hold when nursing on the right breast and the football hold when nursing on the left breast may help with breastfeeding success.  If a baby has a bilateral cleft lip (on both sides), "the face on straddle position may be more effective than all other breastfeeding positions." (2) 

If a baby has a cleft palate only or a cleft palate and a cleft lip, a semi-upright position is best to avoid regurgitation of breastmilk and to avoid breastmilk going into the eustachian tubes in the ears.  Also, "a football style/twin position may be more effective than a cross cradle position."  Other helpful strategies include positioning the breast towards the part of the palate with the most intact bone, positioning the breast downward so the nipple is not pushed into the cleft, and supporting babies chin and/or the breast while nursing. Another unusual idea is to manually express right into the baby's mouth! (2)

Friday, October 11, 2019

October 11 Feast of Our Lady of La Leche and My Daughter's Weaning Story

Since today is the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche, I thought a new post about her was in order!

As you may know from some of my other posts, I have 5 children whom I nursed for a total of about 15-16 years.  Breastfeeding was a very big part of my life for so many years and was part of my identity as a mother.  When my youngest was about 3.75 years old, she still nursed daily - usually before bed and sometimes during the day.  One evening when I was nursing her, she only nursed for maybe 30 seconds and then stopped and just wanted to snuggle.  I did not have a let-down in that short amount of time, so she didn't take any milk.  Then the next day, she did the same.  And the next day.  And the next day.  I soon realized that this was to become her new routine - dry nursing.  About a week later, I was thinking about the situation and realized that the last day she consumed any of my milk was Oct. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of La Leche!  Because I was getting older, I did not think I would probably have more children after my daughter.  Plus my oldest had a lot of health problems.  Some may say this was just a coincidence, but I believe it was a little bitty gift from Heaven to help me through the weaning of my last child!

My daughter dry nursed for quite a few months.  Then over the summer when she was 4 years old, we were visiting with ome other moms at our local Nature Center.  My daughter asked to nurse while we were there, but due to her age and size, I felt uncomfortable and told her "later."  That was the very last time she asked to nurse.  It has been quite a while since I have thought about her weaning, and I still need a box of Kleenex even today while reminiscing.

(Wikimedia commons)

Now on to a more cheerful topic...Our Lady of La Leche, the patron saint of a good birth and breastfeeding!  Who could be a better role model for nursing moms than the mother of Jesus!  According to Jewish tradition, she most likely nursed Jesus for 3 years.

There are several organizations devoted to her - the Catholic Nursing Mothers League (that's us!); the Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in St. Augustine, FL; and the Santa Fe Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche in High Springs, FL.  I thought there was also a group from the Philippines that had a website, but I couldn't find it when doing an internet search.  It looks like the Shrine in St. Augustine has done a nice job updating their website.  I highly recommend visiting it!  They have the story behind the Shrine on their website.  Also, they recently reinstated their confraternity dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche.  They have an online form you can fill out if interested.

Also, Fr. Sauppe wrote a whole set of mysteries and a modified "Hail Mary" prayer based on the breastfeeding and weaning of baby Jesus.  Another fun fact: technically, Our Lady of La Leche was the inspiration for the secular breastfeeding organization, La Leche League.

If you know of any other organizations or websites devoted to Our Lady of La Leche, please let me know!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Rose from St. Therese by CNML Board Member Andrea Nease

(Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been having many “God-incidences” lately that have brought me back to a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, and her parents- St. Zelie and St. Louis. 

Several years ago I was struggling with one of my children. I happened to read that St. Therese was herself a difficult child. I asked for her intercession with my child. Soon after, I discovered a tablecloth that originally came from my husband’s grandmother. My guardian angel must have guided my hands because it was almost lost and had been hidden and forgotten from a move, and there was really no  logical reason I should have discovered it. After finding it, I learned about how St. Therese has been known to give roses as signs, and on top of it learned my husband’s grandmother was very devoted to St. Therese of Lisieux. 

This sparked a particular interest in this saint and her family for me. A few years ago I read the book “The Story of a Family” by Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat. 

Here is a link to the book if you’d like to purchase it: The Story of a Family: The Home of St. Therese of Lisieux 

My intention for reading this book was to learn specifically how St. Zelie and St. Louis raised their children, at least one of which became a saint, so I could gather wisdom in rearing my own children. While I found what I was looking for, I also discovered so much more, including wonderfully insightful letters written by St. Zelie regarding nursing. 

I had not expected to find much on that subject since I was already aware she was unable to nurse some of her children after reading this blog below, but knew nothing beyond that. 

In honor of St. Therese’s Feast day this month, I wanted to share some quotes from Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat’s book. 

On choosing a wet nurse: 

“When Marie-Helene arrived on October 13, 1864, her mother was no longer able to enjoy the pleasure- which she had so highly appreciated- of partly nursing her herself. Her health gave out at times, and the first symptoms of the malady that was to carry her to her grave were soon to show themselves. She had to put the child out to nurse- a cruelly perplexing problem! In this matter her husband was particularly exacting. In his opinion, when choosing nurses their moral character ought to be the subject of as strict enquirer as the condition of their physical health. Is not the soul of every infant like an extremely sensitive plate, which the first touches mark indelibly for life?” (1)

And another example:

“I am expecting my little angel every day, and I am very perplexed, for I have not yet found a nurse. I have seen several, but they are only very moderately suitable, and my husband could not make up his mind to take any of them. It is not a question of money, but because we are afraid of introducing unsatisfactory persons into our home...If God would grant me the favor of being able to nurse my child, it would be only a pleasure to rear her. For my part, I am madly fond of children. I was born to have them, but it will soon be time to finish with that. I shall be forty-one on the 23rd of this month; it is old enough to be a grandmother!” (2)

In a letter to her sister-in-law dated February 12, 1870, St. Zelie wrote this about using a wet nurse:

“I am rejoicing that next August we shall each have a little son; at least I hope so. But, girl or boy, we must accept gratefully what the good God gives us, for He knows better than we what is best for us. What troubles me is the thought of having once more to put the child out to nurse. It is so difficult to find good persons. I should also like to have the nurse here at home, but it is impossible. I have already enough in the house. After all, I think how God will help me. He well knows that it is not laziness that prevents me from nursing my children, for I am not afraid of trouble.” (3)

And a final example regarding St. Therese:

“But my baby has gone away. It is very sad to have brought up a child for two months and then be compelled to entrust her to the care of strangers. It consoles me to know God so wills it, since I have done my utmost to nurse her myself. So I have nothing with which to reproach myself on that score. I should have preferred to keep the nurse in the house, and so would my husband; he did not want the others, but he was very willing to accept this one, for he knows that she is an excellent woman. “ (4)

On the importance of the woman’s place in the home:

“On her part, Mme. Martin steadily carried on her lace-making business. In her case, as in that of her workers, who brought their “pieces” every Thursday, it was a domestic industry, perfectly compatible with family duties. Otherwise, she would not have undertaken it, for she held that a mother’s place is always in the home, and that, if the mother bird flies off, there is no longer either nest or nestlings.” (5)

On the power of prayer for our children:

“The symptoms of ill-health increased: continual palpitations, intestinal inflammation. Then came running eczema, which spread all over her body and reduced her to a pitiable condition. 

From Mans, help came in the shape of a novena to the seer of Paray-le-Monial, then recently beatified. And at the end of the nine days- thanks to the Blessed Margaret-Mary and Sister Marie Dosithee!- Leonie, who had hitherto been unable to stand on her feet, was ‘running about like a little rabbit’ and ‘incredibly agile.’ “ (6)

Like so many of us, she struggled with a bit of inner “Martha.”

I love this quote which was from a letter written to her brother dated February 14, 1868. Aren’t her worries so relatable as a mother? 
“When I set up my business in Point d’Alencon, I made myself ill over it; now I am much more sensible. I worry over it much less, and resign myself to all the tiresome things that happen or may happen. I tell myself that God allows it to work out this, and then think no more about it.” (7)

On the demands of motherhood, she wrote to her daughters Marie and Celine about Therese on June 25th, 1874: 

“The poor little mite will not leave me; she is continually at my side, and loves to follow me about, especially to the garden. When I am not there, she refuses to remain without me, and cries so that they are obliged to bring her to me. I am very glad she is so fond of me, but it is inconvenient sometimes.” (8)

On Zelie’s Sainthood:

Her former servant, Louise Marais, has this to say about St. Zelie’s holiness in a letter written to the Carmel of Lisieux in 1923:

“In my sharp sufferings, I invoke my little Therese and, at the same time, her good and holy mother; for if little Therese is a saint, in my opinion, her mother is one also, and a great one. She was solely tried during her life and she accepted all with resignation l. And then- how she could sacrifice herself! For herself anything was always good enough, but for others it was quite another matter...I would be too long if I told you of all her goodness and submission to the will of God.” (9)
(1) Piat, Fr. Stephane-Joseph. The Story of A Family: The Home of St. Therese, The Little Flower, Translated by A Benedictine of Stanbrook Abbey, Manila, Sinag-Tala Publishers, Inc., 1994, “A Vocation To Homemaking.” Page 38. 

(2) IBID., “The Little Flower of the Family.”, 90-91.

(3) IBID., “The House Amid the Storm.”, 69.

(4) IBID., “The Little Flower of the Family.”, 95.

(5) IBID.,  “The Greatness of Family Life and its Service.”, 50. 

(6) IBID., 53. 

(7) IBID., “The House and its Storm.”, 85.

(8) IBID., “The Little Flower of the Family.”, 101. 

(9) IBID., “A Mother’s Calvary.”, 192. 

Written by Andrea Nease
CNML Board Member

Monday, September 9, 2019

Breastfeeding While Pregnant

In most cases, it is safe to continue breastfeed your baby or toddler while pregnant.  If you have a history of miscarriage or preterm labor (labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy), then many lactation consultants and health care providers will recommend weaning your nursling. However, several experts on miscarriage and preterm labor say that there has been no connection found between breastfeeding during pregnancy and miscarriage/preterm labor.  If you are experiencing pregnancy complications or bleeding, please discuss it with your health care provider.

If you generally eat well, you should be able to successfully nourish your unborn baby, your nursing child and yourself.  Here is a webpage which lots of good info about nutrition.  If you are anemic, vegan or on a special diet, concentrate on getting enough calories and supplement any nutrients that may be lacking in your diet.

At some point in your pregnancy, your milk supply may decrease.  This sometimes happens around the 3 months mark but it may happen earlier or later.  Increased nursing frequency will not bring your supply back as it would if you were not pregnant.  If your nursling is younger than 1 year, you may need to supplement.  Many nurslings adapt to the decrease just fine and keep on nursing.

I did want to mention breastfeeding agitation/aversion.  I have personally experienced a mild version of this while nursing 4 of my children during pregnancy.  Some women experience it so intensely, it is similar to D-MER (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex). Some ideas for mild symptoms: reduce the length of nursing sessions, use childbirth breathing techniques, use some sort of distraction.

(1) Breastfeeding while Pregnant - Ask Dr. Sears
(2) Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing: The Official FAQ - Kellymom
(3) The Official FAQ: Nursing During Pregnancy - Kellymom (CNML Leaders: really nice one sheet summary to give out to nursing moms you meet or to give out at CNML meetings!)

Recommended Book on the topic:
Adventures in Tandem Nursing by Hillary Flower

Monday, September 2, 2019

Motherhood is important and valuable

Children need their mothers' presence, especially in the first three years of life.  With or without breastfeeding, motherhood is an important and valuable way in which women live in accordance with their nature as persons created in God's image.

I think this principle beautifully sums up what CNML believes about motherhood.  Now that my youngest is no longer nursing and my children are getting older, I sometimes wonder if my vocation as a mother is as important or valuable.  When I had nurslings and little ones, it seemed more clear to me that my vocation was essential.  My milk was literally sustaining my child's life!  My presence in the home was crucial for my children's safety and well being.  But now my fourth oldest son is legally able to stay home by himself!  How did that happen? BTW, we have not told him that.  He is a homebody and often likes to stay home.  It will be our little secret :)

These past few weeks, my eyes have been opened to the importance of what I currently do in my home.  This happened only after feeling completely overwhelmed by once again taking on too many outside activities.  I truly believe that most mothers need interests besides motherhood, but everything in moderation, right?  I think I crossed that line.  

I think I previously shared that I have a daughter after having 4 sons.  We so much wanted a little girl, and we finally were blessed with one!  One of my first thoughts when I realized I was in too deep is, "What am I doing?  I have this beautiful little girl and after waiting for her for 12 years, I am filling up my time with too many other things."

When you have older kids, mothering does not end!  You are still just as much needed but just in different ways.  It might mean driving your son to his boy scout meeting and volunteering with him to help him finish his service hours towards the next rank.  It might mean talking to your college age son on the phone 5 times a week for an hour at a time!  My son and I are close (what a blessing!) and this is what actually happens on a weekly basis in my home!  It might mean playing a board game with your daughter and doing her hair.  It might mean baking your son's favorite baked good because his siblings finished the last batch and he's upset or talking with your son about his hamsters and guinea pigs and playing with them.  It might mean giving your teenager some space while still being available for him when he needs you.

Everything you do for your family is a gift!  It could be preparing and serving nutritious food, sewing doll clothes for your daughter's doll, organizing your home, or homeschooling your children.  Each of us has unique talents that benefit our families greatly!  I am rereading a favorite book of mine, Perfectly Yourself, by Catholic author Matthew Kelly.  If you are not sure of your special talents, you might consider reading it.  You can get it for free from Dynamic Catholic.

Remember, fellow moms, that if your child is a newborn, a breastfeeding toddler, a 5 year old ready to start kindergarten or even a 20 year old grown man, you are important and valuable!