Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Breastfeeding Stories Wanted for Book

I plan to soon self publish my first book entitled Encouragement for the Catholic Nursing Mother.  I am including personal stories from moms about breastfeeding, ecological breastfeeding, and breastfeeding and the Catholic faith.  If you would like to contribute, please email me at  I would love to include your story!  Plus you will help inspire a  mother to continue breastfeeding; what a gift!  I hope to hear from you soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


My father died on Nov. 30, 2012.  Although we hadn't been as close as I would liked, these past two years we have been probably the closest we have ever been.  I am grateful for those special visits and phone calls.  He spoke such sweet words to me.  I needed to hear those words.

Fathers are also very important to the mom-baby breastfeeding relationship.  Dad has a unique role to play - supporter of the mother.  He is so essential to the breastfeeding relationship that the Catholic Nursing Mothers League acknowledges his importance in its principles.  I know that some new dads feel left out at first, because mom is breastfeeding.  However, in addition to supporting the mom physically, emotionally and spiritually, he can change diapers, give baths, burb, rock baby to sleep, play with baby and carry baby in a sling.  If mom needs assistance from a lactation consultant, he can be the go between so mom can rest.  He can pray for mom and baby.  Dad can be there for lots of hugs and kisses and talking if mom feels overwhelmed or is experiencing the baby blues.

Dads are special and very much needed!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

An Ecological Breastfeeding Mother's Gratefulness List

1.  Sweet baby smiles after baby is finished nursing
2.  An older baby's glee right before you nurse her
3.  Warm milk that is just the right temperature and has all the best nutrients
4.  The hormones, oxytocin and prolactin, which help make milk, facilitate let down and RELAX the nursing mom and sometimes help put her to sleep :)
5.  No cost food for baby
6.  Middle of the night snuggles with a nursing baby
7.  Months or even years of natural infertility due to breastfeeding
8.  Breastfeeding's help with postpartum weight loss
9.  An easy way to tame a toddler's temper tantrum
10. Taking part in God's plan for mom and baby
11. Time to sit down and rest during a busy day
12. Not needing all sorts of bottles and supplies to go out for the day
13. Decreased risk of breast cancer in the mom
14. Decreased risk of all sorts of health concerns in the baby such as leukemia, diabetes, ear infections, Crohn's disease, obesity, and celiac disease just to name a few
15. Sweeter smelling dirty diapers
16. Reduced risk of orthodontia in baby later on
17. Being able to follow the example of Mary nursing Jesus
18. That special bond that breastfeeding fosters between mom and baby
19. A few extra IQ points in baby
20. Being able to delegate dinner making duties to someone else for a time on Thanksgiving when baby needs to nurse :)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

NFP Resources for Nursing Mothers

At some point, either while still breastfeeding or after weaning, a woman's fertility will return.  At first, she may just have patches of mucus days if she had previously been dry or she may start experiencing patches of more fertile type mucus against the background of continuous, tacky or sticky type mucus.  After prayer and discussion, a couple may decide they should practice natural family planning to postpone pregnancy.

There are several NFP methods, fortunately, from which couples can choose.  The most ecological breastfeeding friendly option is the sympto-thermal method taught through NFP International.  The sympto-thermal method involves the use of the mucus sign, the temperature sign and also checking the cervix if desired.  The most recent scientific study on the sympto-thermal method determined its effectiveness to be 99.6% in postponing pregnancy if used according to the rules.  NFP International includes ecological breastfeeding as part of the total NFP package and they are the discoverers, if you will, of ecological breastfeeding.  Here is a link:

Another less known NFP method that some women have found helpful is the Marquette Method. This form of NFP observes the mucus sign and uses a fertility monitor to track fertility.  Here is a link to their fertility monitor instruction page for breastfeeding mothers:

There are several mucus only methods available.  The advantage of the Creighton Model is that women with continuous peak type mucus can chart successfully.  Peak type mucus is the kind one usually experiences close to ovulation, so you can see why this can potentially make charting difficult.  Here is a link to their site:

Written by Gina M. Peterson, BS IBCLC

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Breastfeeding in an Emergency

Many people are suffering and displaced due to the hurricane on the east coast of the United States.  Here are some good links about what to do in the event of a natural disaster or emergency:

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee's Statement on Infant/Child Feeding in Emergencies

La Leche League's Resources for Breastfeeding in Emergencies

ILCA's Breastfeeding in Emergencies

AAP's Infant Nutrition During a Disaster

Our Lady of La Leche, please intercede for nursing mothers and all families in the path of Hurricane Sandy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Mom on a Mission to Promote Type 1 Diabetes Awareness

Now that one of my children has had type 1 diabetes for a year and a half, I sometimes wonder if I should volunteer with one of the diabetes organizations.  However, my heart belongs to breastfeeding encouragement and support :) I do have a nine month old daughter and so the following information is as much for my readers as for me and my daughter, who is slightly more at risk for type 1 diabetes due to having a brother with the disease.

Although I breastfed my son for three years and he still was diagnosed with diabetes, the research shows that breastfeeding does reduce the chances your children will get this disease.  Here is a review study from Sept. 2012 that concluded that a short duration of breastfeeding or a total lack of breastfeeding is a risk factor for type 1 diabetes:

Some studies implicate a connection between early introduction of cow's milk to a baby and the development of type 1 diabetes while others do not.  However, The AAP does recommend waiting until one year of age before introducing cow's milk.  La Leche League International also recommends waiting until one year to introduce all dairy products.  Those first months after the introduction of solids at 6+ months are really just a time of trying out new tastes and textures.  Breastfeeding still remains the main source of nutrition for the first year.

Consumption of gluten containing foods before three months of age has also been shown to increase the risk of type 1 diabetes:

I am on a mission (should I choose to accept it - and I do!) to encourage breastfeeding women and to educate about ways to reduce type 1 diabetes incidence in my baby daughter and in other children.

Stay tuned...Breastfeeding and the Mother Who has Type 1 Diabetes

Written by Gina Peterson, BS, IBCLC

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Loss of a Baby

A friend of mine, whose baby was born still nine years ago, mentioned the other day that October is Stillbirth Awareness Month.  I know my friend misses her little boy dearly, especially around the anniversary of his entrance into the world.  How devastating it must be to excitedly await the birth of a child and then discover that the baby died in utero.  As Catholics we believe in eternal life and look forward to the day we will see God and hopefully see loved ones.  However, the grief of this type of situation can make it difficult to focus on that.  I have never experienced stillbirth, myself, but I am hoping that by writing a blog about the topic, I might bring a little bit of comfort and support to those who have experienced the death of a baby.  I also want to provide information on how women can reduce the likelihood of stillbirth.

The first time I remember thinking about stillbirth was when an attendee of my first La Leche League group lost her baby.  I attended the funeral service with my first baby son.  I remember how the mother was wearing a dress and still had her early postpartum shape.  She was grateful that I was there, but it was such a sad funeral :( I can't even begin to imagine what losing a baby was like for her.  I think you have to experience it first hand to really understand.

What to do when your milk supply comes in
After birth, a woman's body will produce milk with or without a baby nursing.  The milk supply will be depressed and will eventually stop altogether if no breastfeeding is taking place.  However, a woman's breasts will still fill up with milk and may become engorged.  Some possible ways to reduce engorgement include applying green cabbage leaves every few hours continuously, applying ice packs or frozen vegetable to the breasts to reduce swelling, and hand expressing/pumping just enough to soften the breasts.  Also, consuming sage and peppermint have been known to reduce the milk supply.

If you have lost a baby and feel God is calling you to help others, you could consider pumping some of your milk and donating it to a milk bank.  There are many babies who could really thrive on your milk.  Here is a story of one woman who chose to do just this when her baby died:

Ways to support someone who has lost a baby
Tell her you care about her.  Hug her (if you think she would appreciate that).  Listen to her story and how she is feeling.  Bring her a meal.  Just be a good friend. 

Resources/Comfort for those who have lost a child
Angel Babies Love

After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman's Companion to Healing and Hope

Sue Elvis' grief book

Elizabeth Ministry

Lactation After the Loss of a Baby

Ways to prevent stillbirth
One of the easiest ways to reduce the likelihood of stillbirth is to do kick counts while pregnant.  Get to know your own unborn baby's particular kick and movement routine and if there is a concerning change, call your healthcare provider.  Even if your doctor or midwife feels everything is fine, insist on further testing or investigation if your intuition is telling you there is something wrong.  A mother knows her baby best :) Here is a link with information about preventing stillbirth:
Legislation related to stillbirth

Written by Gina M. Peterson, BS, IBCLC

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.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Starting a Nursing Mothers Ministry

The Catholic Nursing Mothers League recently posted a document called "Resource Guide for Starting a Nursing Mothers Ministry" at its website   It is a 30 page PDF file with ideas for leading nursing mothers meetings, book discussions and even an ecological breastfeeding class.

Who can download the guide?
Anyone is welcome to register at the website and download the resource guide.  All I ask is that you copy it in its entirety with the copyright logo, date and Catholic Nursing Mothers League name at the bottom of each page.

Do I need to implement the ideas in the guide as is or can I pick and choose what I like?
You can use all of the information in the guide or choose some and add your own ideas.  I wrote the guide especially for those who want a plan to follow.  The book discussion questions can be printed out and given to those women who join your discussion sessions.  If women/couples want a copy of the ecological breastfeeding class curriculum, you are very welcome to print and distribute it.

Will my nursing mothers ministry become part of or be under the umbrella of CNML?
Your nursing mothers ministry will be its own unique ministry.  CNML simply provides online encouragement to nursing mothers and guidance to those who want to start ministries in their own parishes.  CNML wants to assist you in any way we can through website links, online fellowship, downloadable materials, and even prayer items for yourself or for the mothers in your ministry.

If I am an IBCLC or breastfeeding counselor, can I provide breastfeeding management assistance at my nursing mother meetings?
The resource guide was designed to help you encourage nursing mothers only, not to provide breastfeeding management advice.  However, if you have a breastfeeding certification and would like to provide more extensive help to moms at your meetings, please follow the scope of practice from your particular organization and look to them about insurance issues.

Can I mention CNML at my meetings or tell others from where I received the resource guide?
Of course!  Please promote us as much as you can!

If you have any other questions about the resource guide or about starting a nursing mothers ministry in your parish, please email me at

Executive Director of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

We are about to begin World Breastfeeding week tomorrow, August 1 through August 7.

This year's theme is celebrating the tenth anniversary of the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy put in place to help eradicate malnutrition around the world, something close to my heart and probably yours too, through promoting and supporting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond.  

I find it fascinating that breastfeeding impacts so many areas of our lives.  Recently, I saw video clips on PBS of starving children in third world countries.  Those poor children were on my mind on and off throughout the next days.  I kept brainstorming about what I can do to help them.  My boys are already involved with scouts, and their big community service project is the local food drive a few times per year.  Then, there is a ministry at my church that prepares sandwiches for the homeless.  I am considering bringing it up with my family to see if they might like to help.  It conveniently takes place during our coffee and donuts fellowship hour just once per month so hopefully the lure of a special treat will be the deal breaker :) 

Then, the easiest actions you and I can take are to keep breastfeeding our babies and encouraging those around us to do the same!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

As a tribute to my own mother, here is a limerick poem I wrote about her when I was a young girl:


My mom has enjoyed her mums
Because hundreds are there sums

She watches them day and night
Under the sun, not under a light

Now my mom has green thumbs

The innocence and beauty of children!  Jesus especially loved little children.  When His disciples regarded them as nuisances, He encouraged the children to come closer and sit with Him.  Sometimes our society thinks of children like Jesus' disciples did.  Sometimes our society thinks of breastfeeding as other than beautiful and nourishing to a child's body and soul, especially babies over the age of one.  I hope we can change these perceptions.  

Children are like chrysanthemums.  They start out as tiny seeds that need to be delicately handled and watered (nursed).  Even after they begin blooming (become toddlers), they still need warmth from the sun (their mother) and nourishment (breastfeeding).  If we follow God's plan for gardening (raising children), they will grow into vibrant, fragrant flowers.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Mother's List of Clever After-Church Comebacks

As Catholics, we are called to be pro-life not just till birth, but from fertilization to natural death. Do comments on a child/ baby’s presence being unwanted, or a child’s ‘bad’ behavior, or- horror of horrors- a mother’s fourth/ fifth/ sixth/ tenth pregnancy fit in with our call to build up the Culture of Life?

Definitely not.

The saddest place for a mother to receive critical comments is in Church, or by Church officials. But it happens. Many Catholics believe that their own ‘right’ to peace and quiet supersedes a child’s right to be present and partake of the Liturgy of the Church. But this is not so. Imagine if you will an elderly individual, or a handicapped individual who makes strange or loud noises during a liturgical service (public rosary, Stations of the Cross, Mass) due to handicap or senility. Now, imagine a priest or layperson approaching that person’s caregiver after Mass and making comments on how he/ she couldn’t control his or her patient during the service. That wouldn’t be ok. It would be rude and inappropriate. We as a people generally recognize the rights of those with handicaps or other inabilities to control impulses to participate in the life of the Church.

(Worst and strangest is when mothers receive looks and comments simply because her child/ children are present, regardless of their ‘good’ behavior. Or when she is made to feel uncomfortable if her child is discreetly nursing in, say, a church pew because the other lay person/ sister/ priest is uncomfortable with God’s design for the sustenance of our species….)

It may be distracting to our prayer, but most people aren’t fuming the whole Mass over how an elderly person/ handicapped person has no right to be ‘ruining’ the service.

But when it comes to babies and children, who as baptized members of the People of God have JUST AS MUCH RIGHT AS ANYONE TO BE PRESENT AT THE LITURGY, many Catholics, including priests, sisters, and lay ministers, have a breakdown in reasonable thinking. They simply think, that child is ‘misbehaving’ (when in fact, that child is just behaving in a child-like way) and ought to be ‘disciplined’ or ‘made to behave’. Because, let’s face it, sometimes our children just can’t sit through Mass. Or they think that a mother is being obscene by nursing in the church, when this is emphatically not the case.

Many families believe that the best and quickest way to teach appropriate Mass behavior is to take the child regularly. (Individuals who have problems with discreet nursing in church, well, there is no quick fix for this sad aberration in our culture.)

The bottom line is only parents can make those decisions; it is not the right of others to decide how a parent should parent. Let me ask you, does it build up the Culture of Life to make parents feel bad over something their child did in Mass?

I say no. Making children feel unwelcome via comments to their parents breaks down the Culture of Life. So when I get a comment on this subject, I feel I am doing what St. Paul says ‘correcting in fraternal charity.’ And the comment can be given in a gentle tone of voice, “Father/ Sister/ friend, that comment makes me feel unwelcome. We are called to be prolife not just till birth. Being prolife also means being pro-child. Babies turn into children, who turn in to adults. Life needs to be supported at every stage by our community.” Now, if you actually make this speech, I guarantee you that you will NEVER be bothered by callous comments from that person again, and you will likely save other parents from such comments, too. That person will likely fumble and mumble, blush, and get away as quickly as possible.

Some other charitable responses to comments on children’s or babies’ behavior, or just their PRESENCE if it is unwanted:

“We are pro-life till birth, and after birth, too. Why ask parents to be open to life and then imply they ought to leave their (babies/ children) at home?”

“If babies and children are welcomed and appreciated at Church functions, maybe they will grow up to be teens and young adults who feel at home in the Church.”

Are unwelcoming comments towards parents and their babies and children a major factor in many mothers’ reluctance to embrace the mother-baby togetherness required to make eco-breastfeeding work? I think so.

Every person has God-given rights. And one can learn to assert those rights in a gentle but firm, Christian and charitable way. When a mother has his or her feelings hurt by wayward comments, often she just keeps her words to herself. This is fine if that’s how she feels comfortable. But many of us moms have been practicing mother-baby (and then mother-child) togetherness for years and years- decades even- and we get tired of people being rude to us, and some of us feel that by making ‘clever’ but thoughtful, and never rude, responses, that we are really serving parentkind by letting others know that It is not ok, not Christian, to be rude about children, those precious flowers of God’s love.

Maureen Armendariz writes regularly at

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reflections on This Past Lent from an Ecologically Breastfeeding Mother

This Lent for me was revelatory... I was being healed of self-righteousness which started very well with Ash Wednesday having chocolate and cappucinos. I definitely felt God's grace rather than being proud of any moral effort on my part at starting a Lentan fast.... it was one of those days that was stressful so fasting went out the window!.

Then the whole of Lent I felt this brokenness and a kind of taunting just like Jesus in the desert, this voice in my head saying that if everything is all about God's grace then why eco-breastfeed?...sure won't God fix it all in the end and give back the years the locusts have eaten just like He had with me? (as I wasn't eco-breastfed and I feel so blessed now because of His Grace.)

Of course I kept going... breastfeeding my daughter as normal and being the best mother I could be each day, failing and succeeding, failing and succeeding... but having this darkness taunting me...

Eventually the first evening of Holy Week it occurred to me to share my thoughts with my husband, knowing intuitively that he would  most likely know how to answer me with the  truth and he hit it right back at me, just like David slinging the pebble at Goliath's forehead.

"Sure isn't faith without works dead honey?" he said. "That's it, of course!" I said. So Yes it is all about grace, but when you are given the grace to have your ears opened and  it dawns on you that eco-breastfeeding is God's amazing, beautiful, awesome plan for mothers and babies and you realise how it affects all of civilisation, then you just go wow! How can you NOT follow His plan? 

What kept ringing in my ears Holy Week was
"Blessed are we (eco-bf mothers and all forms akin to that) that hear the Word of God (God's plan for motherhood) and keep it (try by God's grace to be the mother God is calling us to be)" is worth all the challenges and ups and downs. May we continue to pray for each other in this adventure of nursing and post-nursing motherhood.

Love in Christ

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I know it has been quite a while since I have posted but I have an excuse - honest! I have been happily nursing a brand new baby girl for the past 5 weeks.

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics published their latest policy statement on breastfeeding, "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk." In the document, it says, "...continued breastfeeding leads to increased child spacing secondary to lactational amenorrhea." The AAP also still recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for a year or longer. The policy statement promotes skin to skin contact soon after birth and throughout the postpartum period and having mom and baby sleep in close proximity to each other. The AAP suggest 8-12 breastfeeds per 24 hours and no supplements for newborn infants unless medically advised.

The Catholic Nursing Mother League happily supports these recommendations! Actually, all the above points are beneficial for keeping up a good milk supply, for mom and baby bonding, and for natural child spacing. They are part of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding.