Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Holy Family Institute Retreat

Starting today, Holy Family Institute members and interested Catholics from around the country are converging on the Our Lady of Lebanon shrine in Youngstown, Ohio for the annual triduum retreat.  As a member, I have personally attended several times and very much enjoy praying, socializing and learning more about Pauline spirituality with the other members and guests.  However, one aspect of the retreat is unique - NURSING MOTHERS AND BABIES ARE WELCOME IN ALL PORTIONS OF THE RETREAT. There is an enclosed vestibule area at the front of the chapel with a speaker for when babies and toddlers get fussy, and the outside grounds are gorgeous this time of year for strolling and playing with children.  Plus, there is food almost always available when nursing moms and children need a snack.

If you are interested in learning more about the Holy Family Institute, go to: or send me an email.

Gina Peterson
Perpetually Professed member of the Holy Family Institute since Sept. 2009

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Celiac Awareness Day and Breastfeeding

It is Celiac Awareness Day.   This is one issue close to my heart, because I have a child with celiac.

 What is Celiac disease?  It involves an autoimmune reaction due to the presence of gluten in the small intestine.  Those with celiac cannot eat wheat, barley, rye or oats (some people can have limited amounts of oats) (1). 

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2002 found that by introducing gluten containing foods in the child's diet while still breastfeeding reduces his or her chances of celiac disease (2). A meta-analysis, which compares and contrasts several studies of the same topic,  published in 2005 in Archives of Childhood Disease showed a 52% reduction in gluten sensitivity when gluten containing cereal is begun during the breastfeeding period (3).  Scientists theorize that antibodies in breast milk diminish the body's immune response to the gluten.

Practically speaking, the AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.  Then studies suggest offering gluten containing foods at six months while continuing to breastfeed.  If you continue breastfeeding for at least one month past introduction of gluten containing foods, the likelihood of celiac will be reduced further into early childhood (4). Of course, the AAP recommends continued breastfeeding at least until one year of age and longer if mutually desired.  UNICEF and WHO suggest at least two years of continued breastfeeding and longer if mutually desired.

What if your baby or toddler has celiac disease?  Can you still breastfeed?  Yes!  You will need to follow a gluten free diet, however, while still breastfeeding.  Also, it is best to continue breastfeeding at least one month past the introduction of solids.  If there is a family history of the disease, mothers should nurse exclusively for at least 5-6 months, because some women are carriers of the disease but do not actually have the disease themselves.

(1)  What Happens With Celiac Disease
(2) Breastfeeding protects against celiac disease.
(3) Breastfeeding may protect against Celiac disease
(4) Breastfeeding with Celiac Disease

Written by Gina M. Peterson, BS, IBCLC

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saint Giles, Patron Saint of Breastfeeding and Nursing Mothers

Today, Sept. 1, is the feast of St. Giles, patron saint of breastfeeding and nursing mothers.  The story goes that St. Giles became a hermit in Southern France in the late 600s - early 700s and reportedly sustained himself for several years only on the milk of a hind.

Although St. Giles seems like an unusual choice, having a patron saint of breastfeeding does demonstate the Church's advocacy of breastfeeding.  Popes Gregory the Great, Benedict XIV, Pius XII, and Pope John Paul II all supported breastfeeding, some even publicly addressing mothers or meeting with scientists.  Bishop James T. McHugh introduced the Pope at the 1995 Vatican breastfeeding conference.  I am impressed that there was such a conference, aren't you?  The Sisters of Life also promote breastfeeding in their work with pregnant and new mothers.  Fr. Virtue wrote a chapter on breastfeeding in his Ph.D. dissertation.  Fr. Sauppe designed a chapel and composed mysteries of the rosary devoted to the childhood and breastfeeding of baby Jesus (Kippley, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood). The latest development, in case you haven't heard, is the Church's announcement that the diocese of St. Augustine will now celebrate 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.  Just as the scientific community touts the physical and emotional advantages of breastfeeding, the Catholic Church also understands these benefits plus the added spiritual dimension of nursing one's child.