Leia nursing

Leia nursing

Saturday, November 19, 2016

CNML's Partnership with the Guiding Star Project

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.

As you can see, the philosophy of the Guiding Star Project fits in nicely with our principles here at the Catholic Nursing Mothers League.  There is even a CNML group currently meeting at the Guiding Star Tampa center!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Childbirth and Breastfeeding

     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

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!

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.