Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Summary of the Seven Standards by Judith

Last time we discussed the seventh standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby. This week we will recap on all seven standards of ecological breastfeeding.

Firstly the definition of ecological breastfeeding: " it is the form of nursing in which the mother fulfills her baby's needs for frequent suckling and her full-time presence and in which the child's frequent suckling postpones the return of the mother's fertility".  (see The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley)

The Seven Standards are as follows:

1.Breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months.

2. Pacify your baby at your breasts.

3. Don't use bottles or pacifiers.

4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.

5. Sleep with your baby for a daily nap feeding.

6. Nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules

7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.

It must be noted that as mothers we should never hinder our babies from developing and weaning if that is what is best for the baby. For example, if a baby or toddler is taking well to solids, we should not restrict this activity in order to fulfil a selfish need to stay in amenorrhea.

Personally speaking I have found that some days my daughter will eat all around her, and other days she just wants my breastmilk. I trust her to know what she needs. A while ago for example, with her molar teeth coming up, she sometimes nursed both for comfort and nutrition and it made me so happy to see her in less pain as a result of nursing.

Another benefit of continuing to nurse my toddler is that if she gets sick (which rarely happens-- she has only had two 24- hour tummy bugs, thank God, since she was born) but when she was off her food, I knew my breastmilk was giving her antibodies, hydration and comfort. What a gift!

Until another time, I would encourage you to look up Kippley's website  and/or for information and support. God bless, Judith!

Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 2 years and more of breastfeeding amenorrhea.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% effective in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Seventh Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding

After looking last time at the sixth standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules, we will discuss the seventh standard.

The seventh standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding is to avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby. I made a mistake or two in this regard not long after my baby was born. I really wanted to get out for some food shopping, and I thought I would be much quicker going on my own. I was also a little perfectionist, not just giving my husband a list of things to really wouldn't have mattered if he had gotten the "wrong"  brand of food! Anyway, I nursed my little girl to sleep, put her in the moses basket and off I went leaving her in the care of her daddy. Put the situation into context: both of us first time parents and baby wakens. Well, daddy doesn't have what mommy has, I get stuck in traffic on the way home, and needless to say I arrived back to find the two of them a little traumatized! It is funny looking back, and I don't think my baby suffered any long- term consequences, but on a regular basis it wouldn't have been a good idea particularly at that young age.

With regard to natural child spacing, the evidence also shows that following this standard increases the likelihood of a longer period of amenorrhea. Again the studies are available in chapter seven of The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley.  I might add that many of the health benefits of breastfeeding are dose-related, so the frequent nursing of eco-breastfeeding helps to maximize these benefits.

I am conscious as I write this that for some women it is necessary that they work outside the home. Many women keep up the nursing relationship by nursing during the night, just before they leave for work and when they come home in the evening.

Even for mothers who can and do choose the mother-baby togetherness route, it is tiring at times. However, that is where our Catholic faith is a wonderful resource, in fact THE resource from which all our activity stems. We can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4;13). He gives grace for each moment of the day.

Until next time, I would encourage you to look up Kippley's website  and/or for information and support. God bless Judith!

Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 25 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea to date.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% effective in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding

 Last time we looked at the fifth standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.

This time we are discussing the sixth standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to nurse frequently day and night and avoid schedules. This standard put me at ease completely because I hate strict routines! I was self-employed for a long time before I became pregnant and I loved the variety in my schedule.

My baby wanted to nurse often in the beginning,  and it was so much easier for me to let her do so rather than listen to her cry for me just because it wasn't exactly 3 or 4 hours since she previously nursed. Also nursing frequently helped me to establish and maintain a successful breastfeeding relationship. It has also helped me to remain in amenorrhea because frequent suckling is associated with delayed ovulation. Frequent suckling can vary from one mother-baby relationship to another, anywhere from every half hour to every 2 hours. It is unique to each mother-baby relationship and changes over time. There are some fascinating studies in Chapter 6 of The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley that show the relationship between frequent suckling and delayed ovulation.

I will describe one study of New Guinea people who did not practice contraception or abortion. The babies stayed in close proximity to their mothers day and night, and were frequent sucklers -- every half hour to begin with and then the suckling frequency decreased very slowly as solids were introduced. The average weaning age was 3 and the average birth interval was 44 months with an average family size of 4.3 children. To me that makes sense. To me that is an example of how God has designed the mother- baby relationship, whereby mothers are not burnt out by having children in close succession, and also they are not taking any synthetic contraceptives that harm their body.

Lastly there are some women whose babies are just not frequent sucklers. Sometimes a mother can still remain in amenorrhea because their bodies are sensitive to any breastfeeding. Other mothers can learn Systematic Natural Family Planning if their cycles come back and they have serious reasons for avoiding pregnancy.

Next time we will examine the seventh and final standard of ecological breastfeeding. In the meantime you can look up Kippley's website  and/or for more information and support. God bless, Judith!

Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 24.5 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea to date.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% effective in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Judith's Essay on the FIFTH Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding

 Last time I talked about the fourth standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to sleep with your baby for night feedings following all the safety guidelines recommended on the links at and websites.

This week we will talk about the fifth standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.

I have to say I fall short on this one sometimes, partly because I can get away with not sleeping during the day and still remain in amenorrhea. However, I do get LOADS of rest as I go to bed early with my daughter, anytime from 8pm to 10.30pm, depending on both of our moods.

If I know I am going to be up later, for example for a special dinner with my husband or relatives,  I make sure I am well rested by lying down for half an hour with my toddler while she breastfeeds.

I will share an experience I had where I got some "blood" spotting when my baby was 4-5 months of age. I had taken a long walk and had not eaten straight afterwards; in addition more time than normal had passed since I had last nursed my baby. The next morning I spotted some blood and I knew it was a similar experience to what Sheila describes in her book when a mother overdoes it in some way or when a mother feels pre-menstrual.

I did what Sheila suggests in Chapter 5 of her book, The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding  which was to rest more, lying down with my daughter suckling on me and taking a nap. I felt my body going back to that more relaxed breastfeeding state the very next day and I have had no spotting since.    

Some women's bodies are different and they need to do the daily-nap feeding very regularly in order to remain in amenorrhea. If you are one of those women and you want the child spacing effect of ecological breastfeeding, I recommend reading Chapter 5 of Sheila's book above and following that standard. That chapter also gives advice on how to nap if you have more than one child.

Next time we will look at the sixth standard of ecological breastfeeding. As always you can look up Kippley's website  and/or for resources and online support. God bless, Judith!

Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and  at the time of writing this column for the Open Door Newsletter at,  I had experienced 18 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea. No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% in avoiding pregnancy.  I have now over 2 years of breastfeeding amenorrhea  and have gently  started to reduce my daily nursings .  For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fourth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding

 Last week I talked about the third standard of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is NOT to use bottles and pacifiers. The fourth standard is to sleep with your baby for night feedings following all the safety guidelines recommended on the LINKS AT and websites.

Rather than go into the ample precautions that are on the internet with regard to sleeping with your baby, I will share our experience of sleeping with our baby and how we have made it safe.

We kept the blankets away from our baby's upper body and just made sure she was warm enough with her own clothes.

We kept the pillows away from her head.

We had a cot attached to the bed, and the crack between it and the bed was filled in with material so that on one side, she could roll on to the cot mattress, and if I had her between me and her daddy, he would protect her the other side. He is like a rock (he barely seems to budge for the night!)

I tie my long hair back with a bobbin so it doesn't go near her face.

As she got bigger, we invested in a king size bed. Toddlers like to do gymnastics sometimes!

Neither my hubby nor I smoke or drink; it would not be safe for babies to sleep with someone who had smoker's breath or had even a few drinks on them. It would be much wiser in that situation to sleep separately.

The advantages for us have been numerous.

There is never any argument about who is going to get up in the middle of the night to nurse our baby, and as a breastfeeding mother I am never deprived of my sleep!

Both my husband and I love to wake up with our baby smiling, gurgling and now chatting happily to herself beside us!

We still get our own time together as a couple, as we can always put her into her car seat (or Moses basket when she was younger) when she falls asleep.

When she is teething, breastfeeding is such a comfort to her; I can count on one hand when she woke in the middle of the night and breastfeeding didn't console her.

Sleeping with your baby has been known to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as touch triggers the baby's respiratory system. Please read Chapter 4 of Sheila Kippley's book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding if you would like to learn more on this.

Lastly, I have heard of mothers who find it difficult to sleep while breastfeeding.    However ,even being able to rest lying down is helpful to a tired mother.

In my next column we will look at the fifth standard of ecological breastfeeding. Until then, you can look up Kippley's website  and/or for resources and online support. God bless, Judith!

Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and  at the time of writing this column for the Open Door Newsletter at,  I had experienced 18 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea. I have now almost 2 years of breastfeeding amenorrhea to date.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Judith's essay on the THIRD Standard of Eco-breastfeeding

Hi again! Last time I talked about the second standard in ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to pacify your baby at your breast. The third standard is to NOT use bottles and pacifiers. Of course some babies are sick and the only way they can be fed is via the mother's expressed milk through a tube when they are born. But there are wonderful examples on the La Leche League website of how, with perseverance and God's grace, premature infants learn to suckle at their mother's breast and don't, or won't with time, need to use bottles or tubes.

Some mothers have to work, but there are many ways to keep up the breastfeeding relationship by, for example, working part-time, close to home whereby there is very little need to express milk as mothers can get to see their child/children at lunchtime. Fortunately I am able to be a full-time homemaker at the moment so I can be there for my daughter. I have never had to use a bottle yet, thank God.  The advantage of not using a bottle is that you know how your baby is by having him or her close to you at regular intervals to be nursed. Society says that you should get a young baby to learn how to take a bottle so you are not 'tied down', but it doesn't really work because mothers are going to worry even if they leave their baby with someone else!  There are always other ways for mommy to take a break. I love to swim, for example, so what I used to do, was take my baby's godmother or my husband to the pool, nurse my baby to sleep before I hopped in and nurse her afterwards if she woke up. She is now older and eating solids so I can leave her for two or three hours with her daddy or my parents- in- law, and she is not stressed during that period.

Sometimes people think you might "spoil" a child by offering the breast whenever the baby wants, but Sheila Kippley has an excellent article among others at on the importance of breastfeeding rather than bottle feeding. A baby cannot be spoiled at such a young age. One sees the effect of not being held enough in Romanian orphanages where babies rock themselves constantly due to the high levels of cortisol released from not being held.  Being breastfed regularly, ensures the mother-baby contact necessary for good brain development. Obviously if the mother makes a conscious effort to be the main bottle giver when breastfeeding doesn't work for her, and she holds her baby often, this is extremely beneficial for the child.

If mothers need to express milk because they are working for longer periods away from their baby and they are thinking of natural child spacing, it is recommended that you pump one breast at a time at a slower rate so that the pumping resembles that of your nursing baby. This will increase your chances of remaining in amenorrhea for a longer time period.

At one point I expressed enough milk to freeze in case of an emergency where I might be in an accident or wasn't able to nurse her. However, I did only one expression a day so that it would not upset the milk supply or take up too much of my time.

As always if you would like to do you your own research on the Seven Standards of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding, please go to Kippley's website  and search for their books and materials.  You can also look up where you can join the Catholic Nursing Mothers League for online support. Until next time, when we will discuss the fourth standard of ecological breastfeeding, slan go foill!


Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 23 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea to date.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% effective in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Second Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding by Judith

Hi again! Last week I talked about the first standard in ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding which is to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months.  The second standard that we will discuss this week is pacify your baby at your breast. This not only meets your baby’s emotional needs for bonding and comfort, it also provides those hormonal surges that are needed to maintain amenorrhea.

As La Leche League often explains, using a pacifier can interfere with the supply needed to fulfill the baby’s nutritional requirements. Generally speaking, the more your baby suckles at your breast the more milk is released and your body will naturally regulate the required amount of milk your baby needs without supplementation. If you are using a pacifier too often, your baby will most likely not suckle enough, and you could end up with problems of an inadequate milk supply. There have been times at the beginning of my nursing relationship with my baby when we were in the car, she wouldn’t stop crying and we could not stop so I would use a soother, but these incidents were few and far between. Generally I would nurse her before we left and/ or we would pull up somewhere if she woke looking for me.

There are really so many substitutes on the market for mother love, but really and truly it is so much better for baby to be close to you. I wasn’t breastfed and I definitely feel I missed out in some ways on both the nurturing aspect and the health aspect of breastfeeding as I suffered with separation anxiety, ear infections and stomach allergies; although, to qualify, some people will have ailments,eg celiac disease, despite being breastfed, and my now deceased mother has blessed me abundantly from heaven... She wasn’t perfect and neither am I!

Until next time then, when we will discuss the third standard of ecological breastfeeding  slan go foill!
In the meantime if you would like to do you your own research on the Seven Standards of ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding please go to the Kippley’s website  and search for their books and materials.  You can also look up where you can join the Catholic Nursing Mothers League for online support.


Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 21 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea to date.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

First Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding by Judith

Last time I talked about ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding and the distinction between it and other modes of breastfeeding.  The Seven Standards are maternal behaviours associated with breastfeeding infertility.  As defined in Sheila Kippley's book The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor  ECOLOGICAL breastfeeding  is  "a form of nursing in which the mother fulfils her baby's needs for frequent suckling and her full-time presence and in which the child's frequent suckling postpones the return of the mother's fertility."

There are seven standards to follow and the first is to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Exclusive breastfeeding is when you give only your milk to your baby directly from your breast for the first six months. Most babies need frequent suckling day and night. A mother who breastfeeds only for nutrition may not be satisfying her baby's emotional needs.

Exclusive breastfeeding is 98-99% effective in postponing pregnancy when three conditions are met.

The baby has not reached 6 months of age.

Mother has had no menstrual bleeding after the 56th day postpartum.

The breastfeeding needs to be truly "exclusive" breastfeeding.

If your baby turns 6 months, or you have menstrual bleeding after 8 weeks postpartum, or you are no longer giving your baby anything but your milk, the effectiveness of the exclusive breastfeeding rule no longer applies. This rule is known as the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM); it has been heavily researched and La Leche League has taught it since the Sixties. Also according to research which can be found in The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, you can ignore any vaginal bleeding in the first 8 weeks, if you are truly "exclusively" breastfeeding .

However exclusive breastfeeding is only one part of the seven standard equation in ECOLOGICAL BREASTFEEDING used to postpone the mother's fertility and which simultaneously also meets the baby's emotional and nutritional needs at the breast.

From personal experience it is so worth the effort to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. For me personally I had difficulties for the first month or two in learning to breastfeed comfortably, but once I got into a rhythm it was wonderful. We had no bottles of milk to heat and could travel easily anywhere...even on a plane to London where my daughter could suckle as the plane took off and so alleviate her ears from popping!

If you would like to learn more about this first standard of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, or you would like to look up the scientific research behind it, please  go to Kippley's website  and search "breastfeeding infertility research."  You can also look up where you can join the Catholic Nursing Mothers League for online support.

Next time we will look at the second standard of ecological breastfeeding so until then slan go foill!


Disclaimer: I am a breastfeeding mother who has used the Seven Standards and experienced 21 months of breastfeeding amenorrhea.  No claim is made that ecological breastfeeding is 100% in avoiding pregnancy.   For health issues, see a competent health professional.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Catholic Nursing Mothers League and Ecological Breastfeeding

Catholic Nursing Mother League and Ecological Breastfeeding
Hello there! My name is Judith Dunne and I am a breastfeeding mother to my almost 21-month- old daughter. I live in Ireland and love being a part of CNML. I promoted their work, along with the work of John and Sheila Kippley,last February at a Divine Mercy Conference in Dublin. While there, the editor from “The Open Door”, a weekly parish newsletter based in Maynooth, not far from Dublin, asked me if I would be interested in writing a column on CNML and Ecological Breastfeeding, and I have been doing that weekly since. The blogs to follow are an adaptation from my weekly columns. See
I discovered CNML quite by accident at a conference in Knock while pregnant with my baby daughter. My husband and I were staying at a B & B, and I met a lovely mother who had a few children with her. She recommended to me the author “Sheila Kippley” and that I would find one of her books in the Guadalupe Centre. I found her book there called “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood”.
I was very keen to breastfeed my soon- to- be- born baby,and in this book it was mentioned – and this  is what intrigued me – that there are “Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding” that anyone can follow regardless of religion or belief system and that are beneficial to both mother and baby. This is what I propose to discuss over the next few months in this column. Ecological Breastfeeding is a type of breastfeeding that can give a more extended amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods) than other modes of breastfeeding. So it can be used as a natural form of child spacing as well as giving all the other nutritional, emotional and psychological benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby, such as increasing the bond between mother and baby through the love   hormone oxytocin, and prolactin,and decreasing the mother’s risk of developing different cancers, particularly breast cancer.
The scientific research in relation to amenorrhea is available most specifically in Sheila Kippley’s book  “The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding-The Frequency Factor”. Her other book  “Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing” is also excellent in the “how to” approach of everyday living as a breastfeeding mother and the different scenarios in which you might find yourself.  I highly recommend both books, and you can also look up more details at Until next time when I will discuss the first standard of ecological breastfeeding, slan gofoill (bye for now)!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kids at Mass

Kids at Mass
By Andrea Nease

Anyone who has ever taken children to Mass knows how distracting they can be. Taking children to Mass is a hotly debated topic. I venture to guess most people reading this have a similar opinion as my husband and I: A moderate level of noise/movement is acceptable, but if things get to a certain point, we take our children to a separate area so they aren’t a distraction to other parishioners.

We have two boys: DS1, who is almost 4 years old, and DS2 who is 20 months old. DS1 is usually great at Mass, but DS2 can be a handful, which is expected at his age. He’s in a stage that is full of curiosity and exploration and energy. So, DS2 is difficult at Mass and can be an instigator for playful behavior for DS1. DS2 knows what church is all about. As soon as we walk in the building, he often gets a huge frown on his face and starts to cry, because he knows he’s not going to be able to roam free and be loud.

Since this stage is most likely going to last for a while, I’ve come to expect that I’m not going to be able to pay much attention at Mass. I try and read the readings before or after, or my husband and I will give each other a summary based on who was able to pay attention at the time. I know we’re doing the best we can and that going to Mass, and modeling this for our children, is the most important thing. However, it’s still frustrating not being able to pay close attention, and honestly I can be a little resentful. 

This past Saturday we went to evening Mass, and I missed almost everything. I heard the first reading and the rest of the time I spent with one or both of the boys outside the congregation. Since this is a common occurrence lately, I wasn’t too surprised, but I kept thinking to myself how I was getting NOTHING out of the Mass. I couldn’t hear the readings, I couldn’t hear the homily. I wasn’t going to be able to take anything away and reflect on it and grow spiritually. 

At one point I was with DS1 in a little prayer room off to the side of the church. I figured I should do something productive while I was there with him, so I told him we were going to pray the rosary. I let him go up and pick out two rosaries for us to use that were laying on the pews. He sat next to me, and I started teaching him what the beads were for and how to count them, and started praying out loud. He prayed with me, willingly and happily, up to the eighth Hail Mary. I was surprised he prayed that much, but at that point he said “I’m getting tired of this.” I then asked him if he was ready to be quiet and sit still and go back with Dad, and he said yes. I took him back but it wasn’t long before DS2 started acting up, which caused DS1 to as well, and back out we all went. This time, I showed the kids the holy water and how you’re supposed to do the sign of the cross once you touch it. I pointed out an embellishment on the railing of the stairs that had three circles and explained to DS1 how it represented the Trinity, one for God, one for Jesus, and one for the Holy Spirit. DS1 took it all in and was eager to learn these things, very engaged. 

During this time, I realized that the boys and I had gotten A LOT out of Mass, even if it wasn’t what I had been expecting. The biggest lesson I took away was how I need to spend more time teaching the kids the Catholic faith. I’ve slacked off recently and put other things first, when it should be my top priority. DS1 probably learned more during that Mass about the faith than he has any other. I always try to point things out during the Mass to the boys, but I think it really made a difference with them being able to touch objects as I was talking, since we normally can’t when we’re in the congregation. So, the next time you have to leave the pews with your children at Mass, do not despair. God can still work through you and with you and give you exactly what you need.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kangaroo Care

Kangaroo care for premature babies really is amazing!  Something so natural and easy making such a difference is just mind boggling to me in the face of all the technological breakthroughs of our time period.  If you are not familiar with this practice, it just refers to a mother or father holding their baby skin to skin for long periods of time.

The research shows that kangaroo care "substantially reduces neonatal mortality amongst preterm babies." (1) It actually raises the infant's body temperature more efficiently than an incubator.  Plus baby's oxygen level and breathing rate are more stable and regular.  Another important consequence is a better milk production and greater likelihood of breastfeeding well when mom does kangaroo care with baby.  Research also shows this practice helps make baby's immune system stronger.  Snuggling with baby in this manner helps mom and baby heal from some of the trauma associated with premature birth. (2)

(2) The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (2010) pg. 344

By Gina M. Peterson

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Feed My Sheep

Feed My Sheep
By Andrea Nease

I grew up in the south, the Bible belt. I went to a myriad of churches growing up, mostly Baptist, with some Pentecostal and non-denominational mixed it.

In my teenage years I fell very much in love…with a very devout Catholic. This wonderful man made it clear that he would never marry a non-Catholic. Lacking maturity, and having a more relativistic view on religion, I agreed to become Catholic (just to get married). I went through the RCIA classes, and was confirmed in Easter of ’07. We were married that December.

Through the entire process, I never really believed much of what the Catholic Church taught, aside from the basics we had in common. My husband’s reverence for the Eucharist is amazing, and this subject was commonly talked about when religion came up in conversation. There were many things I was out-right opposed to. One item in particular was infant baptism. However, the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist did not bother me, although I was really indifferent about the whole thing. “So what if it’s Jesus’ body? It doesn’t matter to me if it is or isn’t. You say it is? Okay, fine,” I thought.

Then we had kids, and I started to take things a little more seriously. I really wanted to do right by my kids. My husband wanted to baptize our infant son, and this bothered me. During that time, we made a compromise that our son would be baptized as an infant, but we were not going to circumcise him. My husband got what he wanted, I got what I wanted, and my son….well, baptism certainly wasn’t going to hurt him, even if it wasn’t “real”.

Adjusting to motherhood was difficult for me. I was extremely exhausted, had never changed a diaper in my life, had no support or family close to me, and had a very unhappy baby, which I now know would be defined as “high needs.” We had some problems with breastfeeding in the beginning, but because of my innate stubbornness given to me by God (and also to my first child), we stuck with it. I truly did not enjoy breastfeeding at all. I looked forward to when I could wean at the 1 year-mark. I was pressured by pediatricians to minimize my son’s nursing sessions early on, and let him cry-it-out so I could actually get some sleep (which didn’t work, by the way). During these times, I was always encouraged to wean whenever I expressed hardships with nursing by family and my husband alike, but we persevered.
When my son Stanlee was 8 months old, we started cosleeping because I just couldn’t take being a walking zombie anymore. I nursed him back to sleep at night when he woke, which was frequently, but I still tried to limit his nursing during the day. My periods came back at this time, even though I was still nursing every 3-4 hours during the day and at least every 2 hours at night.

When Stanlee was 12 months old, I slowly started introducing goat’s milk in a sippy cup to start the weaning process. My son didn’t really care for that, so I started researching how to wean on the internet. On accident, I stumbled across a Christian article that talked about what the Bible had to say about weaning. I learned that the Bible referenced nursing a three year old, and this surprised me. I then started researching nursing older children, and found out that it’s natural and healthier. I also started reading comments about “nursing on demand”, and how women nursed their babies whenever the baby wanted, and didn’t count feedings or watch the clock.

I decided to continue nursing and let my son self-wean. He was right at the age where he started to point to express his needs, and started pointing at my chest when he wanted to nurse. This was a turning point for us, because before I never really knew what his cries meant. This was a clear indication he wanted to nurse. God magically put all the pieces together, right at the same time, to help me understand.

The same day I read that article, which was the same day my son started pointing at my chest to nurse, I started nursing him on demand. He never sucked his thumb from that moment forward. He had been sucking it since he was 3 months old (around the time I started trying to stretch out his feedings). I instantly knew that I had failed him. I hadn’t nursed him when he needed me- I had left him to himself to take care of his sucking needs. Of course it wasn’t intentional; I was just an uneducated mother trying to figure things out by myself. Looking back, I wish I could have changed many things with my first child. But I am so grateful God gave me Stanlee first. Stanlee is exactly the baby I needed to teach me some valuable lessons. Had I been given a less intense, easier going baby the first time around, I probably would have weaned at one year or earlier, and missed out on some great lessons.

I was barely getting the hang of things when I found out I was pregnant with our second child, Isaiah, when Stanlee was 19 months old. Stanlee had just gone through a random nursing strike (during the day time) for a couple weeks. I thought he was self-weaning. Wrong. He was back to nursing 24/7 after those couple weeks. I’m not sure if my cycles before this were anovulatory or not, but I think it’s possible the nursing strike caused my fertility to really return and conceive again. I had started practicing ecological breastfeeding with Stanlee from 12 months old on; it may have kept my fertility at bay until the nursing strike.

Anyway, the anticipation of a new child brought unresolved religious issues back to the surface. Would we do infant baptism again? I still wasn’t comfortable, but knew it was non-negotiable for my husband. I needed answers. Not only on this issue, but others we disagreed on. We couldn’t both be right.  I spent several months digging deep, researching, and trying to find the right answers.

Long story short (and sparing you the details of some shouting matches between my husband and I), I recognized the authority of the Catholic Church and had a major conversion. I stopped going up to receive the Eucharist because I hadn’t gone to confession (not even before I was confirmed). With 2 years of nursing under my belt at that time, I knew what a major sacrifice giving your body to another person is.
I finally “got” the Eucharist.

I don’t just symbolically feed my babies at the breast. It is my actual body, in direct contact with my child’s body. This gift of my body helps grow and nurture life according to God’s will, not mine. In the Eucharist, I also have a real, tangible, physical relationship with Him. It took me a long time to appreciate nursing, but I finally got there. Once I stopped withholding myself from my baby, and nursed him whenever he needed, I saw how much happier he was. He cried less and started growing better physically and developmentally. His growth had slowed when I had used CIO methods and restricted his nursing to a schedule. Over time, he started trusting me more. Nothing really changed, except I put myself in my son’s shoes, and realized how important nursing was to him. How happy it made him. How much he needed it. How it helped him grow. Nursing was still difficult from my end and a sacrifice, but it was worth it to see him happy, and to see how it benefitted him. Now we had lots of giggling, playing, and bonding at the breast instead of a countdown for him to get off of me.

Knowing how difficult it can be to nurse a child, and how difficult it can be nursing two children as I am tandem nursing both my boys now, it blows my mind how Jesus sacrifices His own body for millions with the Eucharist. Willingly. I complain about nursing, and His sacrifice puts me to shame and keeps me humble. I’m not indifferent about receiving Holy Communion anymore. I AM NOT WORTHY.

I look forward to going to Mass, so I can be “nursed” by Jesus through the Holy Eucharist. I need Him. There are times I need to go to Confession before I can receive. Confession still terrifies me so unfortunately I tend to put it off. Whenever I am in a Eucharist “drought”, everything seems to go wrong and have a horrible snowball effect. When I’m able to receive the Eucharist, I can see His grace working in my life. Helping me grow spiritually, just as nursing my children helps them grow. The Eucharist brings me a sense of peace, as nursing my children helps them calm down and feel safe and secure in my arms.

When children go through a growth spurt, they increase their nursing. When we need to increase the graces we receive, and grow more spiritually, receiving the Eucharist more frequently can help us with our “growth spurt”. I would love to be able to go to daily Mass, but it has been a struggle just to keep myself going every Sunday after years of only going when it suited me.

It’s really hard to put into words what the Eucharist does for you. People outside the faith struggle to understand it and question why it’s so important to us Catholics. Actually, even some Catholics themselves don’t understand the Eucharist well or “get it”. Those of us who know are drawn to it. Crave it. We look forward to when we can get it again.

In the same way, our little children need to nurse “just because” and can’t always explain to us why they need to nurse. Sometimes I get frustrated with how often my children want to nurse. I’ve asked my oldest several times in the past WHY he wants to nurse. Is he hungry? Is he thirsty? Is he sad? Does he miss me? Is he tired? I go on and on, but never figure out why he wants to nurse most of the time. My son can’t explain it either, but nursing just brings him peace and satisfies him. Sometimes we don’t even know consciously we need it, but once we receive it, things have changed. Nursing can make a screaming toddler turn into a sweet, giggly, happy child. Mom too, for that matter! Sometimes our children are so upset and overwhelmed with their emotions, it is simply a job too big for them to handle on their own. In these times, our nurslings look to Mom to be there to help them. After I’ve thought about my sins, and how I need to be more holy, and I’m walking up for communion, all that is going through my head is “I can’t do this by myself, Lord. I need Your help. I need You. Help me!” Jesus is there for us, and comforts us, just as a nursing mother comforts her child.

I often see young mothers my age, who do not nurse their children, really struggle with dealing with their little ones. Now, parenting is never easy for parents, and some children are more difficult than others. Nursing mothers do not have perfect children by any means, nor are they perfect parents. However, nursing mothers have a wonderful blessing and an extra tool in their toolbox they can use to parent their children through the nursing relationship. Before I nursed my oldest on demand, he was always upset and I was constantly trying to do things or find objects that would make him happy all day long. Car rides, walking, rocking, singing to him, toys, strollers, food, snacks, drinks, cuddling, reading, etc, etc. Nothing really helped him until I started meeting his nursing needs. Of course there are children who are easier to pacify than others, but still there is something special about nursing that sets it apart from any other “trick”, that provides something special none of those other things can. I’ve witnessed when children have lost their pacifiers and become hysterical and the mother is unable to console her child. I’m so glad I cannot misplace my breasts. Now that my oldest is almost 4 years old, I can’t imagine getting through the toddler years and tantrums without having the option to nurse! In a similar way, if I did not go to a Catholic Church, and was not able to receive Communion, no matter what church I went to, it would not be able to give me the comfort the Eucharist can provide. I still may hear a good sermon and have good fellowship, but it is lacking and incomplete.

During Mass tonight, I tried to think of some more similarities between nursing and the Eucharist. We usually sit in the back, so it can be a slow walk up to the front, which seems to last forever. It reminded me of how nursing babies have to work a little harder to make our milk let down, instead of it flowing freely from a bottle. Even if you sit up front and don’t have a long wait in line, we still have to work and do our part by making sure we are worthy to receive and go to Confession if needed beforehand, which can be a lot of work, and showing up to Mass. We have to cooperate with God and do our part.

Once I get to the priest, I focus all my attention on the Body of Christ, and feel relief and peace as soon as I receive the Body. This reminds me of my nurslings too. My boys can be quite active and distracted at the breast at times, but they are always focused on me the moment my milk lets down and they start swallowing, even if they start wiggling and playing after the let-down has subsided. They usually look up at me, into my eyes. This reminds me of when the priest is consecrating the Body and Blood and raising it up for His children to see. At that moment, we look up to Jesus, the Shepherd feeding His sheep. Jesus and His bride (the Church) feed us, the lost sheep. But nursing mothers everywhere feed His sheep, too, in the home- the domestic church. They prepare His children to receive God’s message by providing trust and love which helps them grow in Christ.

Most mothers reading this will know the natural age of weaning is 2-7 years. In reality they never really wean, as usually soon after they wean from the breast they reach the age of reason and commonly partake in their first Communion. In Hebrews 5:12-14 we read about how it’s necessary for us to learn the basics (the milk) before we can learn the meatier truths of the faith (the solid food). Mothers everywhere have an incredibly important job in nursing their babies and building a solid foundation so their children (God’s children) can grow, be holy, and be part of the Body of Christ. Nursing mothers are reminded during the Eucharist that their hard work and sacrifice they make are not in vain.

Now, I understand and listen when my husband excitedly talks about the Eucharist, and he better understands why nursing is so important now that we can see the similarities between the two. I am happy to report my husband no longer recommends me to wean when the going gets tough with nursing. He also says I never have to worry about someone saying something to me if I’m nursing in public because he will “take care of it”. I also half-joke with him that he is under strict orders to practice male lactation in the event of my death. Strangely, he doesn’t confidently say he’ll take care of that one!

Sunday, March 31, 2013


We are conducting a survey to find out how the Catholic Nursing Mothers League can more effectively minister to nursing mothers and those you would like to start a nursing mothers ministry.  If you haven't done so already, please take a moment and complete our five minute online survey.

Thank you for your help!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Chance Meeting with Dr. Miriam Labbok

My infant daughter and I were invited to a simple dinner and short breastfeeding presentation in my hometown, right down the street from me.  After socializing with the other attendees, which included two local pediatricians, the conversation turned to breastfeeding.  Dr. Labbok mentioned that she became interested in breastfeeding, partly due to its role in child spacing.  Then I realized who she was - the developer of the Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM)!  We then discussed Sheila Kippley's work on ecological breastfeeding and formed an immediate kinship.  Anytime the discussion or the later presentation turned to child spacing, Dr. Labbok would mention ecological breastfeeding and nod in my direction.  At the conclusion of the evening, Dr. Labbok suggested we keep in touch.  I feel so honored to have met Dr. Labbok and to receive mentorship and friendship from Sheila Kippley for the Catholic Nursing Mothers League (CNML)!

Ecological breastfeeding has been such a big part of my adult life.  Ministering to nursing moms through CNML is such a blessing to me and will allow me to stay connected with the ecological breastfeeding lifestyle even when I am no longer nursing a baby.  Natural mothering doesn't stop once my baby weans.  Its gentleness and similarity to the teachings of Jesus will continue to influence me as a mother, woman and Catholic for years to come.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Images of Mary Nursing baby Jesus

In our current time period and location in the world, breastfeeding in public is sometimes discouraged due to the possibility of exposing too much skin.  However, isn't this due, at least partially, to the sexualization of a woman's breasts?  In places and time periods where breastfeeding is a normal part of life, no one bats an eye at a woman nursing a baby in public.  Even in some Middle Eastern countries where many women cover from head to toe, breastfeeding in public is accepted and routine.  Some people even disagree with the displaying of beautiful paintings of the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus, because it seems immodest.

What does the Catholic Church say about the topic?  According to the official Vatican newspaper, the Vatican has been requesting the restoration of images depicting Mary breastfeeding Jesus since 2008.  Father Enrico dal Covolo, a professor of classic and Christian literature at the Pontifical Salesian University had this to say on the topic: "The Virgin Mary who nurses her son Jesus is one of the most eloquent signs that the word of God truly and undoubtedly became flesh". 

I did a quick web search and found a number of sites extolling the beauty of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus.  There is a nine picture slideshow on  ; paintings from Rembrandt and Da Vinci are included in the mix.  WND Faith has a copy of the beautiful painting "Virgin of the Green Cushion" by Solario and an article about how "the lactating virgin was the primary symbol of God's love."  This ties in nicely with the book, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood.Flickr has a painting from the Florence Cathedral Museum.  Peaceful Parenting has several more images of Mary nursing Jesus.  I even found picture of Mary nursing Jesus as a toddler.

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you think paintings and sculptures of Mary nursing Jesus should be more commonplace in churches?  Please leave a comment and let's have a friendly discussion :)

Written by Gina Peterson

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Breast Milk and Bacteria in the Gut

Recently there have been more and more research studies on the importance of certain types of bacteria in breast milk and in a baby's gut, so I thought I'd post some info on the topic.

As you probably know, we need certain types of bacteria in our intestines in order to stay healthy.  Some types cause serious illness.  Other types like acidophilus help keep us healthy.  Pick up a container of yogurt and you can see all the "good" bacteria it claims to contain.
What is the best environment for colonizing a baby's gut with beneficial bacteria?
One study in Pediatrics in 2006 concluded that the "most important determinants of the gut microbiotic composition in infants were the mode of delivery, type of infant feeding, gestational age, infant hospitalization, and antibiotic use by the infant."  Full term babies born vaginally at home and exclusively breastfed contained the largest amounts of beneficial bacteria in their guts (1).  Therefore taking care of one's self while pregnant to increase the chances of a full term baby, birthing at home if possible and breastfeeding exclusively will all increase your baby's odds of having a gut filled with lots of "good" bacteria.

What types of bacteria are found in breast milk and what are their benefits?
Bifidobacteria is one type found naturally in breast milk.  It assists 
the intestines in tolerating the harmful bacteria (and possibly also gluten) and
avoiding inflammation.  Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli help with digestion 
(2).  Staphylococci, lactic acid bacteria, propionibacteria, and Gram-
positive bacteria are other types found in breast milk.  Exposure to varied 
types of bacteria help the body fight off diarrheal and respiratory diseases, 
reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity, and help the immune system mature 
properly (3).

Written by Gina Peterson, BS, IBCLC

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ovarian cancer risk

This month Australian researchers conducted a case control study in China about the relationship between ovarian cancer risk and breastfeeding.   The study showed "significant dose response relations" for both "prolonged breastfeeding" and "number of children."  According to the data, those who breastfeed for 31 months or more decrease their risk significantly compared to those that breastfeed for 10 months or less.  Also, those who breastfeed 3 or more children decrease their risk of ovarian risk significantly compared to those who breastfeed 1 child.   Other studies show similar results.

It is the reduction in ovulations that seems to provide the protection against ovarian cancer.  Also, the more ovulation is reduced by pregnancy and breastfeeding, the greater the effect.  The nice thing about having children and breastfeeding is that you are not introducing unnatural chemicals or hormones that can harm a woman and/or her unborn baby if she would become pregnant.  God instilled a natural way to reduce cancer right into a woman's body.  I guess having children and practicing ecological breastfeeding are good for women's health after all :)

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Originally I was planning on writing this particular post about new research in breastfeeding, but I decided that that should wait until next week.  Lent begins Wednesday so the topics of fasting, almsgiving, prayer and sacrifice are on my mind.  I want to honestly share my thoughts on this topic in the hopes of encouraging other mothers who feel like they fall short in this area, too.

I used to really not look forward to Lent.  First of all, it seems to show up so quickly after Advent and Christmas, and I am just not ready for it.  Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the year, because my birthday is so close to it.  Oftentimes, my birthday even falls on the third Sunday of Advent, and I get excited about wearing a pink dress or top.  Pink is my favorite color (those of you who have requested items for your nursing mothers ministries probably noticed the pink one decade mother rosaries in your package).  Secondly, I realized that I compare myself to others' families in terms of sacrifices.  I often would strive for doing larger sacrifices (for me) and then by week two or three, I would not be able to keep them up any longer.  I would feel like a failure.  Plus, I do not think my kids would cheerfully go along with what some other families do for Lent;  I don't want them to find their faith a burden.  Lastly,  I was always unsure if I was required to fast on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday due to either being pregnant or nursing for the last 14 years.

After some reflection it occurred to me that I should stop comparing myself to others and follow St. Therese's philosophy of doing small things with great love.  This is what I proposed to my two oldest sons that we do for Lent this year: give up dessert on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent (in addition to meat).  Then on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the kids will fast from media and I will fast from the internet.  I suggested the kids make a donation to a charity during Lent, especially since it has been a while since they last did.  Also, I personally, plan to catch up on all the literature and CDs I receive monthly as a member of the Holy Family Institute.  This plan seems like a good fit for me and my family.

Then I just wanted to mention that EWTN ( says the following about exceptions to the Lenten fast and abstinence rule:

"Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment,  manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline."

Last Lent, I really thought I should try to fast on Good Friday although I was nursing a 2-3 month old baby.  However, when I am nursing, I tend to have a high metabolism and I need a lot of food.  I actually didn't follow the exact guidelines of what the Church says about fasting, but I did eat less.  However, in addition to nursing such a young baby, I had recently learned that my dad's cancer had spread.  The evening of Good Friday, I did not feel well.  I was anxious and light headed.  I even had my husband take me to Urgent Care.  I am hoping that by posting this information, I can prevent other pregnant and nursing moms from having an experience like mine.

What special things are you and your family doing for Lent?  Please tell me about it in the comment section.  And remember, even small things count in God's eyes!

By Gina Peterson   

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Breastfeeding during the flu

My family is finally getting over the flu after two weeks.  One by one, everyone got hit.  My husband and I were the sickest.  I can't remember the last time I was this sick, and I used to get strep yearly.  Also, I always have morning sickness during pregnancy.  The baby seems to have gotten the lightest case (thank you, breastfeeding!); her fever is gone and I haven't heard her cough yet.  At one point before she came down with it but after I was already sick, I was sure that she must be stealing all of my own body's immunities (of course, that wasn't really true)!

Over all the years that I have been breastfeeding children, I would say that nursing really is the easiest way to feed a hungry baby, put a baby or toddler to sleep, and calm down a distraught toddler.  However, when I am sick and the baby is sick, breastfeeding becomes much more of a sacrifice.  Co-sleeping is usually so easy and it is still easier than not, but it sure is difficult to get back your strength when the baby wakes every hour.  There was this great balancing act going on between me - drinking copious amounts of water to not get dehydrated more - and my daughter nursing constantly and hopefully getting a good milk supply.  However, how can I deny her my breast when it fills her tummy and is so comforting to her?

Thank goodness life is STARTING to feel more normal again.  I look forward to returning to my usual home routine and even to shuttling kids around to extra-curricular activities!  Life seems so much sweeter after the crises are over.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The One Year Mark

I just realized that it has been a few weeks since I posted on the CNML blog.  My goal is to post once per week.  If you, my readers, have any suggestions for blog posts or if you would like to submit a post, drop me a line at :)

My baby daughter just turned one year old a week ago.  Even though she is not my first baby,  there is something about that one year mark that brings me relief and a sense of accomplishment.  I feel relieved, because she did not succumb to SIDS or contract a serious illness like RSV.  I try repeatedly to follow the Scripture verse, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  However, I am weak in this area and still worry from time to time.  

There is also a sense of relief that I made it through early babyhood and all that entails!  She is crawling and standing now.  She can share a lot of what our family eats each day.  She is really growing up.  I am not so much on call anymore.  Of course, it is a little bittersweet, too; babyhood is such a unique time of life.  However, we should try to enjoy all the stages of our children's lives.  Of course, that can be tough when the 4 year old is having his second melt down of the day!

I feel a sense of accomplishment that I birthed a baby and nursed her for a whole year!  Our first year nursing went relatively smoothly, and I look forward to our continued breastfeeding relationship.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Breastfeeding Mother's New Year's Resolutions

1.  I will rest when baby is sleeping.
2.  I will drink to thirst.
3.  I will eat when I am hungry and try to eat healthfully.  However, I realize that a perfect diet is not necessary for me to breastfeed my baby.
4.  If a friend offers to make me a meal or to wash and dry some laundry for me, I will say "YES!"
5.  I will let many of the non-urgent household chores go for a while and just work on on or two manageable jobs each day.
6.  If I need breastfeeding help, I will call a volunteer breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant right away.  She will be happy to help me.
7.  I will watch my baby, not the clock in terms of how often to nurse her.
8.  I will listen to my mothering instincts and remember that I am the expert on my baby.
9.  I will join the CNMLchat yahoo group for friendship, encouragement and spiritual support from other like minded Catholic nursing mothers.
10.  I will email for a new mother goodie bag.
11.  I will peruse the CNML website for ideas about nursing in church, what the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding are, and internet links about cosleeping, the Holy Family Institute, NFP while nursing, La Leche League, and the Our Lady of La Leche shrine.
12.  Last, but not least, I will enjoy my baby :)