Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fifth CNML Principle: Ecological Breastfeeding

Fifth CNML Principle:
Ecological breastfeeding - the form of mothering which tends to delay the return of fertility after the birth of a baby -  benefits the nursing child, and enhances the mother's health and well-being.  Its natural child spacing effect is a moral and healthy form of natural birth regulation and should be supported and encouraged by families, society and the Church.
Commentary on the Fifth CNML Principle by CNML Board Member, Andrea Nease
There are two sides to ecological breastfeeding. The first is recognizing that eco-breastfeeding is a type of mothering, and looks very different in practice than other styles of breastfeeding. Formula feeding, while necessary at times, has heavily influenced our society’s views on breastfeeding, and subsequently how mothers practice it. It is common for breastfeeding to be thought of as simply a way to feed your baby and meet the nutritional requirements for your baby. Ecological breastfeeding, however, embraces and helps facilitate the bonding aspect of breastfeeding by encouraging mother-baby togetherness (frequent nursing, avoiding separation) and a response to emotional needs through comfort nursing. How do you bond with someone? By spending time with that person, communicating with each other, and meeting each other’s needs. I’ve had many mothers comment to me, while I’m nursing my [sometimes older] children, how they miss having that “break” while nursing. These mothers who have commented that to me have weaned at or before a year old and practiced cultural breastfeeding. This leads me to believe, for them, it is common to not make as much time for their babies after they have weaned. On the other hand, there are many women who have been unable to breastfeed who are able to closely mimic the natural mothering style in spite of supplementing with formula or donated milk.
Eco-breastfeeding draws both people closer together, strengthening the “One Body of Christ” through interdependence. This is very different from typical cultural ideas that leans heavily towards independence. As Catholics, we don’t believe we can go it alone. We rely on God and allow God to work through us. We ask for help from the Saints and other members of our parish, our spouse, family, and friends. We value generosity and charity, helping each other grow in virtue. These values are modeled at the breast when mothers, in their own special way, sacrifice their body (breasts) and blood (breastmilk made from blood). It’s okay for a baby to need his or her mother (or father)!
    The second part of this principle is recognizing the benefits of natural infertility and child spacing that ecological breastfeeding provides. Most women who fully practice ecological breastfeeding will average 14.5 months of infertility (1). Research has shown that tribal cultures usually experience approximately three years of infertility (2). Recent studies have said the optimal birth spacing, for health of mother and child, is 27-60 months apart (3). I think it is interesting how this closely resembles God’s natural infertility and child spacing through ecological breastfeeding. While ecological breastfeeding can sometimes be a tall order, it is advantageous. It helps build our relationship with our children, and gives the average mother a short break between births, which provides all sorts of advantages for the entire family. I, personally, have struggled over the years using other forms of systematic natural family planning. In the past, ecological breastfeeding has really been a life saver for spacing my own kids.
2- The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding by Sheila Kippley

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fourth CNML Principle

By Lorenzo Zaragoza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fourth CNML Principle:
Breastfeeding is a special way in which a mother makes a sincere gift of herself to her baby.  Breastfeeding is also a special way in which mothers are called to serve life in one of its most vulnerable stages.  In the breastfeeding Madonna, Catholic mothers have a special exemplar.

I hope that every nursing mother understands the enormity of the gift you give to your child by breastfeeding!  All those hundreds of nursing sessions, all those snuggles...they are forever part of your relationship with your child and become part of who your child is - physically, emotionally, spiritually.  You are selflessly sacrificing time, sleep, sometimes comfort to feed your baby's tummy, his soul.  Breast milk is soul food! (1)

By breastfeeding, you are serving life.  You are intimately protecting and cherishing human life.  Yes, pro-lifers who pray, financially support and volunteer in crisis pregnancy centers are doing wonderful work!  However, you are going above and beyond by nursing your baby when you had only 5 hours of sleep last night or after you endured your toddler's hour long tantrum or while you are sick, yourself, with the flu.

Our Lady of La Leche, whose feast day was just a few days ago on October 11, is a very fitting role model for nursing mothers.  Besides carrying baby Jesus in her womb, nursing Jesus has to be the closest she came to touching the divine God! Notice in the above depiction of Our Lady of La Leche that angels are serenading Jesus while Mary nurses Him.  Wouldn't it be nice if we were serenaded, too, while nursing our baby?  Maybe that is really what prolactin is - your silent serenade from the angels while you nurse a child of God :)

(1) Pope Pius XII alluded to this in his address, Guiding Christ's Little Ones. Also, Sheila Kippley discusses this and other aspects of breastfeeding and motherhood in her book, Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood.