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.