Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Does a Mother Need to Breastfeed to be Considered Thoroughly Catholic?

Because this is a sensitive topic, I composed most if it before the Blessed Sacrament during Eucharistic adoration.  This post is my response to a letter I received a few days ago.

Breastfeeding is part of God's design for His children.  During pregnancy, a woman begins to produce colostrum and some are even able to express a bit of it.  Then after birth, a woman's body produces colostrum and then gradually mature milk (in most cases). If this were not the case, the human race would have died out long ago.  The manufacturing of suitable breast milk substitutes is a modern phenomenon.  Formula is a godsend for women who are unable to produce a full milk supply or even a partial supply and for those rare situations when breastfeeding is contraindicated or unavailable.

Several popes, including Saint Pope John Paul II publicly supported breastfeeding during their papacies.  Pope Francis I continues to support breastfeeding during this current papacy.  Also, several bishops and parish priests have publicly supported breastfeeding over the years including Fr. Sauppe with his Theotokos chaplet that he so beautifully composed and the Madonna chapel that he designed.

But is breastfeeding a moral duty?  Fr. Virtue makes this case in his dissertation, Mother and Infant. He states that "...maternal breastfeeding is the norm of nature to ensure good mothering and optimum development of the child, and hence a serious moral obligation of mothers."  What is meant by "serious moral obligation?" What Fr. Virtue means is that breastfeeding should not be trivially avoided, not that it is sinful to not breastfeed.  I believe that is the key here - breastfeeding is so important that the decision to breastfeed or not breastfeed should be researched, discussed and prayed about. Most pregnant couples attend a series of at least four childbirth class sessions, read birth and parenting books,  and spend time researching which car seat is best.  Shouldn't they seriously discern whether or not to breastfeed?

That being said, there are so many variables involved in whether or not a mother successfully breastfeeds her baby.  Support is a big factor.  Without support, many women give up.  That is one reason, the Catholic Nursing Mothers League was founded - to support and encourage Catholic women who breastfeed and to help parishes realize the importance of it.  Pam Pilch talks about these breastfeeding subgroups in her article at  Various breastfeeding challenges that come up can also affect the success of the breastfeeding relationship especially when healthcare providers give out outdated info or readily suggest substituting formula.  I, personally, had a doctor suggest that I stop breastfeeding my three month old baby, so I could take his first choice antibiotic (it turned out I really didn't need it).  When I objected, he gave me his second choice which was compatible with breastfeeding.  What if I was an inexperienced mother and had followed his initial advice?  In addition, some parenting practices can often help or hinder the duration of breastfeeding.  Also, those moms who need to work outside the house to provide for their families might face resistance from employers when wanting to pump during their legally mandated break times even though many states have laws protecting the right to pump. Then there is the situation of a woman who was previously abused and breastfeeding is just mentally and emotionally excruciating for her.  We can never really know what is in someone else's heart or really understand what they have experienced in one's life.

Breastfeeding is best for mom and baby.  It is what God intended for nourishing babies.  Science and the Church both agree.  Not only is it ideal but it is something you do not want want to miss out on!  I will treasure all those years I breastfed my children for the rest of my life!  If you, my dear reader, were unable to breastfeed your baby due to circumstances outside your control, know that you did your best and take some time right now to snuggle and love that little baby of yours!  Also know that even if you were unable to breastfeed one baby, does not automatically mean you will definitely be unable to breastfeed another baby (depending on the situation).

I, personally, do not believe one has to breastfeed to be thoroughly Catholic, because this issue is not
totally black and white like mentioned above.  However, I do think all Catholic mothers should research, discuss, and pray about the decision to breastfeed and not choose artificial breast milk substitutes for trivial reasons.  Your baby deserves the best!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is an especially difficult situation, because a new mom is not getting enough sleep and needing to be "on call" for her baby yet she cannot ignore the depressive feelings and thoughts she is having.  She might feel guilty about needing time to care for herself or feel guilty for her negative feelings and thoughts at such a joyful time of life.  However, postpartum depression is an illness that needs to be treated, so it is important to get help - contact your health care provider.  If you are feeling depressed, please do not feel guilty or embarrassed!  The transition from pregnancy to postpartum involves major hormonal changes.  Remember - a baby grew inside of you, entered the world and now you are nourishing him with your milk.  Adjusting to the first or even the tenth baby takes time.

A mom suffering from postpartum depression needs to be aware of what treatments are compatible with breastfeeding.  The good news is that breastfeeding reduces the likelihood a woman will have postpartum depression.  According to Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, there are a number of home treatments moms can incorporate into their lifestyle as a starting point before pursuing medication.  These home treatments may be all that are needed or they can be used in conjunction with medication prescribed by a healthcare provider.  Home treatments include: breastfeeding, exercise, omega 3 fatty acids, St. John's Wort, and cognitive therapy. Consult your healthcare provider before consuming omega 3 fatty acids and St. John's Wort, as they may not be appropriate taken with certain medications and/or in certain health situations.  Breastfeeding and exercise help reduce maternal stress and help with mood.  The other treatments listed, in addition to anti-depressant medication, decrease depression due to their anti-inflammatory effect.  If you ever a question about using a particular medication while breastfeeding, LactMed and Dr. Hale's InfantRisk Center are great resources.  Also, hormonal and thyroid issues sometimes exhibit as depression, so consider asking your health care provider about tests for these.

In addition to home treatment and possibly medication, a Catholic mother can pray for Saint Dymphna's intercession.  She is the patron saint of those suffering from nervous disorders or mental illness.  Also, some mothers find the rosary soothing, because of its chant-like quality.  Here are two book ideas that might provide comfort and practical help: Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach and  Catholic Guide to Depression

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Snapshot (in words) of a CNML meeting

Have you ever thought of combining your passion for breastfeeding with your love of your Catholic faith? Here is a snapshot of what might happen at a CNML meeting.  It is a true account based on conversation at two CNML meetings:

The four or five mothers arrive and sign in.  Everyone chats a bit and then introduces themselves and their children.  The CNML leader reads the CNML disclaimer and official statement and begins with a discussion starter from the CNML Resource Guide or simply waits for the discussion to enfold.

One mom who is pregnant tells everyone that she just weaned her son a few weeks ago and feels sad knowing this is the end of their breastfeeding relationship.  The CNML leader offers ideas for ways to "snuggle" with him, empathizes with her, and comments that since her son weaned so easily - without tears - that he must have been ready.  Another mother cheerfully notes that soon she will have a new baby to nurse :)

One of the mothers mentions that her baby has been spitting up excessively and she believes it is due to a dairy allergy.  She changed her diet and the baby's symptoms have improved.  Another mom asks what her baby's symptoms are and the CNML leader agrees that those are possible signs of food allergy listed in The Baby Book by the Sears family.

A mother asks if she should be giving her baby a certain amount of liquids and possibly cow's milk now that he is one year old and only nurses a few times per day.  The CNML leader lets her know that she will look it up and then sends her a link to an informative online article on the dietary needs of breastfeeding toddlers.

 CNML leader and the mothers discuss how wonderful a king sized bed is for cosleeping and that it is a great in investment.

One mother, who has spaced her family primarily through breastfeeding, asks where she can learn NFP.  The CNML leader offers her a brochure for the parish NFP instructor and shows her NFP International's manual.  Another mother says that her periods returned much sooner than expected even though she was exclusively breastfeeding.  However, her son did start sleeping through the night fairly early on.  The CNML leader describes the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding and gives her a copy of Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing.

A mother shares the story of losing her baby just an hour after birth.  She inspires all the mothers with her great faith in God and faith that her sweet baby is in Jesus' loving arms right now.

One mother mentions how her friend would love to nurse her newborn baby but she has inverted
nipples.  The CNML leader reads from a breastfeeding book about how pumping will help keep up her supply until she receives assistance from a lactation consultant.  Also the book describes how to make a home made nipple everter.  The leader gives the mom her business card to give to her friend, because she is also a volunteer lactation consultant.

A mother asks if there is a certain style of parenting that is uniquely Catholic. The CNML leader recommends the book, Parenting with Grace, by the Popcaks.

At the close of the meeting, the CNML leader hands out gift bags with one decade rosaries and other
items, and the mothers pray a decade of the rosary together.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Prayer Ideas for the Breastfeeding Mother

St. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing." However, breastfeeding mothers often feel like they have little energy left for prayer after nursing the baby for the tenth time or enduring the tantrum of a toddler.  I have seen it suggested in books that one could set the morning alarm a half hour earlier to allow for a quiet prayer/devotional time with Jesus.  But what if you are NOT a morning person or the baby is teething and you got less sleep than your body needs?

I want to mention just a few simple ideas for spending time with God that moms might like to
incorporate into their days.

The morning offering is a good prayer at the start of the day or even later in the day (if you forget or have your prayer time later in the day such as when baby is nursing to sleep for a nap, for example) because it dedicates all of your daily activities to Jesus.  There is also a Pauline version which I like a lot.

Invocations are another great way for mothers to stay connected to God even if they do not have time to stop for two seconds!  An invocation is just a short little one sentence prayer you offer up in the midst of trying to soothe a fussy baby or while getting dinner ready with a preschooler attached to your leg!  You can find invocations online on various Catholic websites or you can pray your own.

Praying one decade of the rosary is a mother-sized way of taking part in this special devotion.  Fr. Sauppe's Theotokos chaplet, which includes the "Five Mysteries of the Maternity of Mary," offers a  unique perspective on the rosary for nursing moms.  The mysteries focus specifically on the early years of Jesus' childhood including while he was in Mary's womb and his breastfeeding relationship with Mary.  A good time to pray one decade of the rosary is when nursing your baby, taking a shower, or even driving to an older child's sports practice.  Also, many little children can handle praying one
decade at prayer time much more easily than five.  CNML hand makes one decade rosaries as part of its ministry.  If you would like one, drop me a line at catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com.

If you would like more ideas for enhancing your spiritual life while breastfeeding, see the CNML manual, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A New Path

Wow!  I didn't realize that an entire month has gone by since I last posted.  I hope to have more time now to blog for CNML.  Readers, if there are any topics related to breastfeeding, motherhood or Catholicism that you would like me to write about, please drop me a line!  Also, I am happy to post blog entires that YOU write.

Today I want to blog about something personal to me but still related to breastfeeding.  This week, I made the decision to retire from La Leche League (LLL) leadership.  It was a difficult choice for me to make.  I have been attending LLL meetings for more than 15 years and have been a Leader for over 12 years.  Up until recently, meetings have reengerized and inspired me.  I would often come home from them ready to face whatever challenges came my way.  LLL's mothering concepts helped shape the person I am and the mother I am.

Several things contributed to my retirement.  My local meeting has not been well attended lately.  Also, I have been helping with another ministry at my church and the needs have increased.  Also, I want to get my local CNML group off the ground.  However, probably the main reason is LLL's changing philosophy.  That, is at least, what started me thinking about leaving LLL.  

When I first read about the newest policy change, I was more stunned than anything.  However, I felt it would not apply to me and my local group.  Then one night in adoration, this strange thought popped into my head: retire and concentrate on breastfeeding support in other ways.  I pondered the idea for a while and even packed up all my LLL items.  But then I couldn't do it.  I wasn't sure if I was really hearing the voice of God in this.  I again decided that LLL was the place for me.  I kept leading meetings and helped man an LLL table at my town's health fair.  Then again during adoration, I started having thoughts of retirement from LLL and concentrating on CNML.  This time I really felt like God was trying to get through to me.

I know many wonderful women who have decided to continue volunteering with LLL.  I have not felt that God would be unhappy with me, necessarily, for staying with LLL but that I am called to another path now.  It is still hard and scary!  LLL was such an important part of my life for so long.  I am hoping we, in the CNML community, can build that same type of comraderie and have it be even stronger, since it is based on our Faith.

Have you formed a CNML group in your parish yet?  It is super easy!  There is a suggested Resource Guide at the CNML website that you are free to print it out and use as you like.  Check back occasionally because I am always trying to improve it!  I had my first local CNML meeting last week and FIVE ladies attended!  It was so nice to talk about breastfeeding within the context of my Catholic Faith.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Breastfeeding is like Heaven

A friend on one of the CNML groups posted that her son asked if he will get to nurse in heaven.  Then another friend mentioned that for a child, breastfeeding might be the closest feeling to heaven he has while on earth.   This is so true!  What is heaven?  It is often described as "being in the presence of God." So if a child feels safe, feels loved and valued unconditionally, feels joy and happiness while nursing - this is heaven to him.  Even Scripture compares God's love of His people to a mother compassionately nursing and caring for her children.

This brings back memories of my children as babies.  When I had a newborn he would often nurse, fall off the breast with milk dripping down his chin and a smile on his face, and appear to be in a very deep sleep.  He had his "nursies" and his Mommy holding him.  It was heaven for him.  Even if chores or other responsibilities called to me, I couldn't help just basking in the sweetness of my baby.  I didn't want to put him down just yet. It was heaven for me, too.

Fast forward to my toddler daughter.  She still doesn't talk much yet, but one of the few signs she knows is the one for "milk" - my milk.  When she wants "nursies" or is in the room when I am getting dressed in the morning, there is such excitement on her face!  There are times when nursing a toddler AGAIN is inconvenient or even annoying, but the joy I give my daughter when I breastfeed her makes up for all of that.  Her toddler frustrations melt away.  Her "boo-boos" are magically healed.  She is ready to face the world again.  Breastfeeding is heaven for her.  I want her to know the love of Jesus and to feel joy, and I know that breastfeeding is one way to show her those.  Therefore I desire to keep nursing her when she asks because I have the privilege of sharing a little bit of heaven with her through breastfeeding.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Eucharistic Adoration (the Visit)

    In the Pauline family (including the Holy Family Institute), Eucharistic Adoration is affectionately called "the Visit," because it is a special time of sharing and visiting between two friends - the adorer and the Eucharistic Jesus.  When my daughter was a baby, I usually took her with me on my nights out by myself because she still nursed often and was not ready to be away from me for too long at one time.  If she fell asleep in the car, I sometimes took out her infant carrier and snapped it into the stroller and went into the adoration chapel.  Usually she slept for a little while so I had some time to "visit" with Jesus.  Other times, she woke up and I nursed her right in the chapel.  How Jesus must enjoy seeing moms nursing their babies!  If your parish has Eucharistic adoration, consider signing up for an hour. My parish has perpetual adoration and there are a few hours with no adorers due to a decrease in volunteers (they have substitutes that fill in).  If your parish is experiencing a similar situation, having an hour all to yourself may be the ideal solution for caring for and nursing a young baby.  Plus, I would imagine that both you and baby get special graces during your "visit."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Do Small Things with Great Love

Sometimes being a stay at home mother of a nursing baby or toddler can feel wonderful and rewarding.  On other days, you might wonder if what you are doing matters.  Yes, it does!

As you know, breast milk is helping to build your child's physical body.  Breastfeeding on demand and being sensitive to your baby's needs is contributing to his emotional health and helping him learn to trust.  In terms of spirituality, breastfeeding can be thought of as part of Saint Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.  The breastfeeding relationship is beautifully described in this way in Sheila Kippley's book, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, and in Andrea's personal reflection entitled Feed My Sheep. Also, the book, Parenting with Grace discusses breastfeeding in this context.

When Mother Teresa said, "Do small things with great love," I truly believe she was thinking of mothers and other ministers of ordinary life.  You do not need to be on the mission field in another country to be Christ to others and to make a difference.  Even St. Therese of Lisieux did her "mission" work from her convent and now she is considered a great Doctor of the Church.  Striving to respond as lovingly as possible to your family, friends and neighbors is one way nursing mothers "do small things with great love." By nursing your baby and preparing meals and snacks for your toddler, you are feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, two of the Corporal Works of Mercy.  When you get up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child, you are visiting the sick.  By forgiving your children and husband when they hurt your feelings, you are practicing the Spiritual Work of Mercy that says to forgive offenses willingly.  Also, being gentle with yourself when you make mistakes is following the second part of the Great Commandment: love your neighbor as YOURSELF.  By praying with and for your children, you are praying for the living and dead which is a Spiritual Work of Mercy.  As you can see, family life is filled to the brew with ways to "do small things with great love" and ways to live out the Gospel.

But what about the atrocities occurring around the world this day?  What can mothers do?  By breastfeeding and raising your child(ren) in a loving Catholic home, you are responding to the violence in the world in your own unique way in this season of your life.  You are growing compassionate and faith-filled children who will one day be adults out in the world.  You, as a mom, matter and are changing the world "one diaper at a time!"

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned

When a woman loses a baby, there is understandably a time of grief that can last weeks, months or even years.  However, there is a less talked about type of sadness or grief that a woman might experience - when breastfeeding doesn't go as planned.  Although most women are able to breastfeed, there are a few women who cannot seem to bring in a full milk supply, have strong reactions during a nursing session such as in Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, or who have to take medications or undergo chemotherapy when they had planned to be breastfeeding.  As with all those who have lost children, my heart also goes out to you who are unable to breastfeed exclusively or at all.

Just the other day after hearing that a woman I know will probably not be able to breastfeed exclusively, I felt a wave of empathy for her and became teary eyed.  Although I am sure she is thrilled to have a beautiful baby, I would imagine that she feels sad, wonders why she cannot seem to produce more milk for her nursling, and is mourning the loss of a dream.  Breastfeeding my own children has been such a major part of my life for so many years now.  It so special, and I want all women to have the experience of holding their little baby's hand while nursing or seeing the joy in a toddler's face when they catch a glimpse of their "nursies."

If you are unable to nurse exclusively, remember that every drop of breast milk you give to your sweet baby is liquid gold and will benefit him! Your baby is blessed to have you as his mother - that is something I find myself saying to nursing moms that I help and it is so true!  Hold your baby in your arms while you feed him.  Savor the times during the day when you do nurse him.  Formula is like medicine; there are even some lactation consultants that suggest it be kept with the medicines on the maternity ward.  Just like sometimes you need an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, formula is for those times when extra nursing sessions, pumping, possibly consuming herbal supplements and foods like oatmeal, and breast compressions do not increase your supply at all or enough.  What a blessing it is to live at a time when we have access to this type of "medicine" so your baby can thrive.  Remember that even if you are only able to provide just a small percentage of your baby's milk needs through breastfeeding, you are still a breastfeeding mom and you are doing a great job!

To those who desire to breastfeed but are unable to or for those for whom breastfeeding is contraindicated...this is another situation where "medicine" is in order, just more of it.  Just like a type 1 diabetic who can no longer produce any insulin on her own needs to take regular shots or use an insulin pump, your baby requires the live saving medicine called formula.  Be gentle with yourself!  Hold your baby in a nursing position while feeding him.  Be sensitive to his needs and snuggle him often.  You are doing your best and God knows what is your heart - wanting the best for your child!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

World Breastfeeding Week - A Rarely Mentioned Benefit of Breastfeeding

It is World Breastfeeding Week and the many wonderful people who promote and support breastfeeding are discussing all the numerous physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding. However you might not hear too much about the spiritual benefits of breastfeeding. What are they? In the book, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers, it says this:

"As Catholics, we believe that there is more to life than just our physical existence.  Just as breastfeeding has many great physical benefits for the baby and mother, it also provides wonderful spiritual benefits as well.  Mothering your baby at the breast helps your baby experience the unconditional love of Jesus in a very tangible way.  You are your baby's first glimpse of God.  When you nurse him int he middle of the night, you are showing your baby that God will always take care of him.  When you respond to his cries and put him to your breast, you are not only nourishing him physically but sharing God's comfort.

There are spiritual benefits for you, too.  God gives you special graces through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony and through your vocation of motherhood (whether it be by birth or adoption) to follow God's will in this time of your life.  Just as on some days you might not get a long shower or enough sleep, on other days God will want you to put up your feet, sip a glass of cold water, and enjoy some quiet time in His presence while nursing your sweet baby."

Here are some links related to the spiritual benefits of breastfeeding:

Nursing Mothers' Reflections on the Beatitudes

Scriptural Mothering

Feed My Sheep

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NFP Awareness Week - Ecological Breastfeeding

It is Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week 2014.  Did you know that Ecological Breastfeeding is a form of Natural Family Planning?  We all know how wonderful breastfeeding is for mother and baby; there are hundreds of benefits!  However, the child spacing effects of ecological breastfeeding are great, too!

So what exactly is ecological breastfeeding and how is it different from the way many women breastfeed?  It is a lifestyle of breastfeeding and mothering that tend to contribute to months or years of natural infertility.  It involves nursing frequently - day and night, giving baby only breastmilk at the breast for about the first six months, avoiding pacifiers and bottles, comforting baby at the breast, sleeping with baby for a daily nap feeding and at night following safe cosleeping guidelines, and avoiding schedules and separation from baby.  Statistically speaking...."70% of ecologically breastfeeding mothers experience their first menstruation between 9 and 20 months postpartum," according to Sheila Kippley of NFP International.

The above-mentioned Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding are all fine and dandy, but have any real women successfully spaced their families through this special lifestyle of breastfeeding and mothering?  YES they have! Here are some of the personal success stories:

"I had 7 months, 13 months and 9 months. Basically, I was infertile until the day they started solids and would have my period approx 12 days later. Although with this pregnancy (pregnancy #4) I wasn't able to get pregnant until I fully weaned my son at about age 2 1/2. I got pregnant less than a month later with my next ovulation. I got pregnant with #3 while I was nursing #2, when she was around 20 months of age and nursed until about week 23 of the pregnancy. I only had 3 periods between when my fertility resumed at 13 months of age and getting pregnant at 20 months, she was my truest "ecological" nurser and very intense at it."

"With my first 3, my fertility returned at 15 months postpartum. I would nurse them to sleep, lay them in their crib and then get them when they woke the first time, then they would sleep with me in our bed the rest of the night. With my 4th, I didn't use a crib and she slept with me all night long and my fertility didn't return until 20 months. With my 5th, I wore him in slings a lot more and also didn't use a crib, we are at 24 months with no return of fertility yet!"

"I just successfully charted the return of my fertility 3 years and 2 months since my last period."

"I had a late return to fertility at 25 months due to breastfeeding (even with returning to work)..."

"I've gotten my cycle back right around the two year mark with each of my 3."

"I have five children and have had between 21 and 30+ months of infertility with each one due to
breastfeeding.  I am currently still in amenorrhea - thus the 30+ months I just listed."

"With my second I used Eco-breastfeeding fully until he was one year old.  And then we did everything but the nap. My cycles returned at 21 months postpartum."

"My breastfeeding infertility was 12 months,14 months, 17 months and 15 months."

"Ecological breastfeeding has felt like nothing more than a style of mothering that came naturally to me. I take my babies with me everywhere till about one year old, I don't bother with any pacifiers or bottles, nursing provides all of their calories till they very gradually start eating solids at their lead (which has been around 10 months), and we cosleep till at least a year and a half. I have felt so satisfied that parenting this way that warms my heart has, as a natural consequence designed into our bodies by God, given me lactational amenorrhea for 15 months, 18 months, 12 months, and 16 months after my four babies thus far."

"In my case with a low milk supply, I used a supplementer for a year with formula at the breast and still got one year of no cycles!  Other babies were 12-14 months with no cycles."

"I have 4 children and practiced ecological breastfeeding with all.  I had 19 month, 16 months, 12 months and 3 months of infertility.  For my last child, it was a shock to have my cycle return so early as I nursed him the same as the others.  I later realized it was probably a thyroid issue that caused my cycle to return – what a drag!  Ecological breastfeeding and the related infertility is such a gift!  So thankful I learned of it from Sheila’s book, which I read back when my first baby was just a few months old."

"My breastfeeding infertility has been 14 months long with 4 children in a row! I am nursing my fifth child but because I slept like a rock a few nights and she didn't ask to nurse those nights my cycle is showing signs of trying to return at 3 months old. The last two weeks though she bumped up the night nursing and I'm noticing it starting to be suppressed again."

"27 months, 24 months, 19 months, 21 months, 24 months.  Frequency is the key.  And I found (by pure accident, b/c I didn't know Eco breastfeeding even existed when I started) that nap-nursing & sleep-nursing (letting baby suckle for his whole nap (whether I napped or stayed awake reading/typing/etc. didn't seem to matter) & both of us sleeping while he nursed on and off all night) was one of the biggest keys to frequency...I believe that attempting every principle of Eco breastfeeding you can is worthwhile even if you don't get the very extended lactational amenorrhea, because doing whatever you can is still good for baby and still good for you, physically, especially."

"With my first 4 babies, I worked part time, but breastfed and pumped milk on the two days a week that I worked. We followed all the other guidelines for eco breast feeding. My fertility returned at 6 months, 5, 2, and 5 months. I was home with my last two babies and fertility returned at 8 months after each.  It is a very delicate thing. After my third baby, I returned to work two months after he was born, and I got my period the next day. With my youngest who is now 8 months, I attended a birth as a doula, so was gone for about 10 hours, my period returned within a week of that day."

For encouragement in the ecological breastfeeding lifestyle, go to:

NFP International blog posts about ecological breastfeeding

CNML blog posts about ecological breastfeeding

Natural Mothering

Chronicles of a Catholic Nursing Mother

Info about ecological breastfeeding at the CNML website

CNML yahoo group

CNML Facebook group

CNML Facebook page

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Breastfeeding while Homeschooling

There are a number of breastfeeding mothers who are also homeschooling their children.  I thought a post on this topic would be helpful for those feeling overwhelmed.  Here are some words of wisdom from Catholic homeschoolers:

1) Consider carrying baby in a sling or baby carrier while he is sleeping or nursing to free up your hands to help the older children with their learning activities.

2) Keep a pillow on the couch with you so you can be more comfortably nursing a baby or toddler while reading to your older children or so you can prop up the baby while you help older kids with their activities.

3) Your baby will be small for such a short time in the whole scheme of things so a lot of learning will be centered on caring for your new little one in the beginning.  As the baby gets older, you will become more adept at nursing him at the kitchen table or while sitting on the floor amidst the older kids and a bunch of books  :) Also, consider alternative places for learning like your bed!

4) Consider having the older kids help you with the baby when you are assisting another child with homeschool activities.  Also, DVDs, Netflix, computers, audiobooks,art supplies, etc. are all great ways for the older kids to learn when you are actively taking care of the baby or nursing him.

5) Be gentle on yourself if you and your children do not get everything done in a day that you had planned.  A lot of moms who have just had a baby take a few months or more off of more structured learning activities to recover, rest and enjoy their new babies.  Your older children are still learning some of the most important lessons of life - how to take care of and love a baby and how to take care of you!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Breastfeeding in a Large Family

There has been some discussion on the CNML yahoo group about how to nurse a baby or toddler on demand while taking care of several other children and a home.  I am still working on this, myself, but I would like to share some of the ideas that have worked for my family of seven and also some of the wisdom from the mothers on the CNMLchat yahoo group.

1. First, be gentle on yourself!  If you have a newborn, take lots of time for rest and for recovery from  childbirth.  Do not feel like you you need to keep your house in the same state as before the baby was born.  Do not be afraid to ask a friend or your husband to do specific tasks like throw a load of laundry into the washing machine or empty the dishwasher.

2.  In today's society, many mothers and families do not live near extended family such as grandparents and aunts and uncles.  Because of this change in dynamic, mothers need to find creative ways to get things done.  Some mothers hire a teen babysitter to play with their children or to hold the new baby, while they do a little bit of cleaning or cooking.  Teens will work for lower pay than an adult and will really enjoy entertaining younger children because they are kids themselves :) If you have the funds, consider hiring someone to clean your house even once a month.  A lot of moms like the FlyLady website.  Even if you do not follow her program to a tee, she is great at encouraging you to make baby step type changes.  Her philosophy is that even a household task done imperfectly still blesses your family!  Her book, Sink Reflections is very encouraging and a great one to have on hand.

3. You might consider having your house toddler proofed in such a way that when your baby needs to nurse, you do not need to worry about him or her getting into something dangerous.  For example, have locks on the back yard gates and keep doors closed with door knob covers to keep toddlers out of older children's' rooms. Also, keep a basket full of special toys, books and CDs for your toddler for use solely during baby's nursing time.  A lot of moms have a quiet time during the afternoon when the baby takes a nursing nap (Fifth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) and the toddler also takes a nap.  Older children play quietly or read during that time.

4. Many moms find slings or baby carriers useful for attending to baby's need for closeness to mom and sometimes to help them fall asleep.  This way you can more easily hold your baby and still attend to an older child or a household task.  My favorite sling is the Maya Wrap, but there are literally dozens and dozens of different baby carriers and sling types out there.  Here is an article that discusses the many benefits of carrying your baby in a sling, wrap or baby carrier.

5. Sleep with your baby at night (Fourth Standard of Ecological Breastfeeding) using safe cosleeping habits.  In many cases, cosleeping at night makes for more sleep for mom.

6.  At the beginning of each day, pray and think about what the most important tasks are that need to get accomplished.  Take care of those at the first opportunity.  Also, give your older children age appropriate chores to complete around the house.  Some moms find a morning chore time works well, especially if everyone takes part - that way the children see you doing chores too.  Some moms have a more structured approach and assign certain chores to certain days.  The book, Large Family Logistics, has helped some moms cope with the challenges of a big family;  I have not personally read this book but I have heard that it is a good read.

7.  I have also found the "minimalist" type philosophy helpful in helping me declutter my house.  The idea is not to get rid of all your possessions, but to simply keep only what you love.  I would have to say that in terms of kids' clothing, I do not follow this approach.  I store all my children's outgrown clothes in bins labeled with the size and now that we have a little girl - by gender.  When I do come up with a bag of items we no longer need or love, I put them directly into my car and stop at the second hand store within a few days.  Actually, one advantage of breastfeeding your baby (as opposed to formula feeding) is that there is less likelihood of permanent stains left on clothes from him spitting up, so you can pass more clothes down to your later children.  This saves you money and is better for the environment.  Also, when considering buying a new item, think if you really need it or will it be useful or enjoyable in the long term. If you think about it, this approach is a very Catholic.  We are called to be good stewards of our possessions and to share with the needy.  Here is a book I really enjoyed on this topic: Clutter-Free with Kids.

8.  Remember that the baby and toddler times are short-lived.  Take time to cuddle your baby and play with your toddler.  Sometimes the vacuuming just needs to wait :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Would you like to start a CNML group?

Would you like to start a CNML group in your parish?  The CNML Board is assessing which direction to take CNML, so we are accepting all women who would like to start a group.  All we ask is that you:

give us your name and contact info for the CNML website and blog

agree to and sign and date the CNML faith statement and email it to CNML

agree to read the CNML disclaimer at the start of each meeting and have it listed at the top of your sign in sheet

sign and date the CNML disclaimer and official statement and CNML leader policy and email to CNML

agree to communicate regularly with CNML about your group meetings

You are welcome to use the Resource Guide for Starting a CNML GroupBreastfeeding and Catholic MotherhoodBreastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers as resources for running your group.

Here is the CNML disclaimer and official statement:

Disclaimer and Official Statement of CNML
(to be read at the start of each CNML meeting, book discussion session, and ecologicalbreastfeeding class and also listed at the top of your sign in sheet for each CNML function)
The Catholic Nursing Mothers League (CNML) does not train or accredit breastfeeding counselors or insure its group leaders.  Any info obtained through a CNML leader or group should be verified with a health care provider or other appropriate licensed professional and does not constitute medical, legal or professional advice.  CNML is not responsible or liable for any info shared in a group or in any communication with its group leader.  The role of a CNML leader is to share personal experience and resources she has found helpful in her personal experience and to facilitate the sharing of info, experiences and support by mothers attending the group.

(If you have a breastfeeding credential, add this as the next paragraph of the disclaimer in addition to more detailed info about your particular credential and insurance:)  Sometimes a CNML group will be facilitated or led by an individual who holds a professional credential related to health care or breastfeeding (MD, RN, CNM, CPM, IBCLC, certified breastfeeding counselor, certified childbirth educator, etc).  If she offers any info or support that is within the scope of her credential, she does so on her own authority and under the coverage of her own liability or malpractice insurance.  CNML does not endorse any specific credential, and individuals attending CNML meetings or communicating with CNML leaders rely on the professional advice offered entirely at their own risk.

About the Catholic Nursing Mothers League: The organization was founded in April 2006 for three purposes: 1) to provide opportunities for Catholic mothers to receive encouragement from experienced nursing mothers; 2) to enjoy the fellowship of other nursing mothers; and 3) to discuss breastfeeding, ecological breastfeeding, and mothering in the context of their Catholic faith.  The League groups also hope to reach out to parishes and communities to educate their members about the long-standing Church teaching in support of breastfeeding as well as its many physical and maternal benefits.

 CNML Leader Policy

CNML leaders may share 1) personal breastfeeding experiences, 2) info they have obtained about breastfeeding from a reliable source (if they are able to identify the source on request), and 3) experiences other mothers have shared with them, in the course of leading CNML meetings and communicating directly with mothers (and others).

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should CNML leaders give medical advice, including but not limited to, advice about the safety of particular drugs while nursing (prescription or non-prescription), herbs, supplements or other substances, advice about whether a baby's weight gain is sufficient, or whether a baby should receive supplemental formula.  Any advice that could affect a baby or a mother's health should be referred to an appropriate health care provider.  The same policy applies to legal or other types of professional advice.

A CNML leader may share info (not give advice) in the following ways, using these verbal or written formulations:

1) personal experience - if you have personal experience with a breastfeeding question or concern, share your experience prefaced by "in my own experience, I found that..."

2) info you have read - if you have read or heard info you feel would be helpful ( from a reliable source), share it prefaced by "my information is that..." and be able to state where you found the info. You may consider having a breastfeeding book handy in case you want to read info from it when a question comes up.  Some possibilities: The Baby Book (updated and revised edition 2013) by The Sears family; Sheila Kippley's three breastfeeding books: Breastfeeding and Catholic MotherhoodBreastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, and The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency FactorGetting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers by Gina Peterson)

3) Info you have learned from other mothers sharing their experiences - if you have encountered other mothers who have dealt with the same issue, share it prefaced with "I know some other mothers who have found that..." Or "many mothers find..." Be careful not to share confidential info. If you are sharing another mother's experience, be careful to protect her identity and privacy.  Share in a generic way, as in "I once knew a mother who found that..."

NEVER give advice, ie. never tell a mother "you should do X" or " You should not do X."  CNML leaders are only authorized to share info they have read or heard from reliable sources (if they can identify the source) and personal experience or the experiences of other mothers shared with them.

Questions related to weight gain, formula supplementation, medications, or possible health problems of baby or mother - even if they seem trivial - should ALWAYS be referred to a health care provider.  Questions related to divorce, custody, or other legal matters should always be referred to a lawyer.  Questions related to postpartum depression or other mental health issue can be shared and discussed in the manner described above but should also be referred to a health care provider or mental health provider.

If CNML leaders limit their sharing to personal experience, info obtained from reliable (and Identifiable) sources, and the experiences of other mothers they have known (while protecting confidentiality and privacy), they should not exceed the limits of CNML as a Catholic ministry/support group  which does not accredit and insure breastfeeding counselors.

If you are a credentialed professional, you will need to draft your own disclaimer form describing your scope of practice and stating whether or not you are insured.  In the CNML forum, you may act within the scope of your credential as long as you are doing do on a volunteer basis (not using CNML for profit-making purposes) and as long as you made the full CNML disclaimer, as well as your individual informed disclosure document available to all who are in contact with you through CNML.

Here is the CNML faith statement: 

Statement of Faith of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League, Inc.

· The Catholic Nursing Mothers League acknowledges that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and the League assents to all that the Church authentically teaches through the Magisterium.

· The teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are accepted by CNML as authoritative.

· In particular, the Catholic Nursing Mothers League assents to the following specific teachings that bear on our work as supporters of breastfeeding mothers:
1. We respect the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.  We oppose all forms of abortion, both surgical and via abortafacient devices and drugs.
2. We believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and that children are the supreme gift of marriage.  We believe that married couples are called to be generous in the service of life and to exercise responsible parenthood.
3. We reject all unnatural forms of birth control, and we reject as contrary to God’s plan all means of seeking conception in which technological interventions are substituted for the marriage act. We accept the morality of natural means of birth regulation for couples with a serious reason to space their children.

Thanks for your interest!

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Catholic Nursing Mothers League is having a book give away!  If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment in the comment section before June 9, 2014.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What is the Catholic Nursing Mothers League?

The mission of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League is to encourage mothers in breastfeeding and in natural mothering within the Catholic faith.  We are 100% faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church, particularly with regards to sanctity of life and sanctity of marriage.

Our ministry provides a website, this blog, a Yahoo group, a Facebook group, a Facebook page, complimentary copies of Sheila Kippley's three breastfeeding books and Our Lady of La Leche medals and holy cards, and one decade rosaries (email, and an online Resource Guide for Starting a Catholic Mothers Group to help you start such a group in your parish. There is also a book geared towards Catholic breastfeeding mothers that is in the final stages of the editing process.  I will make an announcement once it appears on  Also, more CNML info sheets will be added soon to the website covering basic breastfeeding concerns so please check back.

If there are other ways the Catholic Nursing Mothers League can inspire, inform, or encourage you, please let us know!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Critique of the Newest Sibling Breastfeeding Study

The results of a new breastfeeding study were released just a few weeks ago.  It has been quite controversial due to its conclusions.  Some are taking the results as "proof" that breast milk isn't all it is cracked up to be.  However, many prominent researchers and organizations have examined the structure of the study and do not feel the results are exactly as they appear.

Firstly, one study's results do not refute the results of hundreds of study.  Secondly, the study did not differentiate between a child who was breastfed for one day, one year, or three years; a child was only listed as having been breastfed or not having been breastfed at all.  Many advantages of breastfeeding are dose dependent so the longer breastfeeding takes place, the more protection is conferred.  Thirdly, according to a post by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine the study ignores what happened to the participants during their first four years of life and does not acknowledge the many ways breastfeeding has been found to save babies with serious conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis and pneumonia among others.  It also ignored the health benefits of breastfeeding for the mother such as protection from ovarian cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attacks.  The study also seemed to forget to mention the increasing evidence that shows that formula feeding increases the risk of SIDS.  Another issue with the study, according to The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, was that the researchers felt than by studying siblings, they would be studying children in the same exact environment.  However, this isn't true;  siblings do not share identical life circumstances even though they live in the same house.

Based on the myriad of studies that have shown breastfeeding to increase a child's IQ to prevent many illnesses in both mom and baby, to contribute to bonding between mom and baby, to effectively space babies (Ecological breastfeeding), I think we can safely say that breastfeeding is definitely worth it!

Here are a few other critiques of the sibling breastfeeding study:

LLL Great Britain

Dr. Flanders

Baby Milk Action


Friday, March 7, 2014

CNML at the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce Conference

Today CNML was an exhibitor at the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce Conference.  CNML was a real hit! All the Our Lady of La Leche medals and one decade rosaries were taken, and I also gave away three copies of each of Sheila Kippley's three breastfeeding books.

A college student took some CNML brochures for her Newman center.  At least one La Leche League Leader took a medal, holy card and brochure, and she even took some items for her friends.  A staff person from the archdiocese (whom I had never met previously) told me how proud she was of my having a table at this conference, because I had the only faith related table.  I told her how quickly my items disappeared, and she said that people are hungry for God.  New Mexico is a relatively Catholic state.  Even though everyone present was there for the breastfeeding presentations, they all gravitated to the CNML table.  Today's response was much different from last summer's Catholic homeschool conference where very few women took items.  Who knew that CNML would be a bigger success at a secular event than a Catholic one!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Chemotherapy

I had originally planned to write a post for all those moms who are unable to nurse their babies for various reasons.  However, after doing an Internet search, I realized how little there really is online about pregnancy, breastfeeding and chemotherapy.

This post was inspired by the sister of one of CNML's board members.  Her name is Katy, and she has breast cancer.  She was diagnosed during the pregnancy of her fifth child.  She recently had her little baby and will resume chemotherapy treatments soon.

Friday, January 3, 2014


I have been meaning to write this post for a few months now.  In September, I was blessed to be able to take a trip to Paris (and London) with my husband and toddler daughter.  My daughter is still nursing, so I wanted to take her with us.  My children's grandparents and their great-aunt watched our sons while we went on our international voyage. 

One of the fabulous places we visited while in Paris was the Louvre:

 I had my husband take a picture of every painting we saw that portrayed Mary nursing Jesus or a mother nursing her baby.  I guess you could say anything related to breastfeeding is my passion.  Here are a few that we saw:

Here is my daughter nursing.  I am wearing my authentic Parisian scarf:

We also visited the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal.  My daughter and I walked 2 miles down the streets of Paris to find it; it was worth it.  I considered it our pilgrimage:

And no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower:

Au revoir!