Maria Lactans

Maria Lactans
Maria Lactans (wikimedia commons)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Heart of the Home by Andrea Nease

Several years ago, I read something (somewhere!) on how breastfeeding moms tend to favor their left side when nursing and how the heart of the body is tilted toward the left. It seems like God designed our hearts to be turned toward our nurslings. I thought that was interesting and it always stuck with me.

Most married Catholic women have heard the phrase that women are supposed to be the “heart” of the home. My tenth wedding anniversary is coming up this week and I have to say I only truly started to discover some mysteries of what being the “heart” of the home truly meant this past year. I have read some books on marriage and whenever this concept of being the “heart” is mentioned I’m always left wanting more and dissatisfied. I always come away thinking I’m not to supposed to think or help make decisions and leave that all up to my husband. That instead, I should focus on my emotions and being sentimental. While I certainly don’t discount compassion, empathy, intuition, or other attributes that are traditionally considered feminine, it never sat right with me I wasn’t supposed to be logical and utilize the cardinal virtue of prudence.

Sometime within the last year I listened to a Catholic talk that very briefly touched on the wife being the heart of the home and in the talk the speaker asked: “What does the heart do?” I think I stopped listening to the talk at that point because it was like a light bulb went off and I finally understood-with my head- more of what I should be doing with my heart. 

Rather than lumping “heart” in with emotions and feelings, I started to ponder what the heart actually does in the body. First, yes, the head (my husband) is placed over the heart. But the heart is at the center of the body. It is life-giving. If the heart doesn’t do its job, such as pumping blood to certain parts of the body, that part of the body can be damaged or even die. Without the heart functioning, the whole body will die. Even the brain can’t function properly without blood. In fact, the brain can only survive about six minutes without the heart. I often do feel like I am at the center of my home. I’m often behind the scenes but keeping everything together. And, the children are constantly coming and going from me as blood does to the heart.

On the flip side, many doctors will say medically if the brain is dead, even if there is a heartbeat or the body is kept alive, there is no life. I’m not sure what the Church’s position is on that scenario, but the point is both the brain and heart are important and they truly depend on each other to function maximumly, just as a husband and wife do. And together, they keep the whole body- the children, the community, the one Body of Christ-alive and kicking. Marriage is the foundation of our society after all. And while we’ve all heard the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body, I recently read another article that said if we think in terms of total work done, the heart is the strongest muscle since it is constantly working with no real break.

Moving beyond the obvious life giving and vital aspects of the heart, this line of thinking led me to focus more on the specific functions of the heart and compare them to my life as a (nursing) mother. There are four main chambers: the left atrium, the left ventricle, the right atrium, and the right ventricle. The atria receive the blood from the veins. The ventricles pump blood out into the body through your arteries. 

How does this translate to nursing and mothering? When we nourish our children, especially at the breast, we are being the “heart” by pumping life into our nurslings with all the love and care we give them. Physically, spiritually, emotionally. When we do this, we “receive” our “blood” (love) back. Sometimes this is simply just God’s design of a release of “love” horomones while nursing. Sometimes it’s the hug from a nursing toddler, the way they gaze in our eyes with happiness as they nurse, or when our toddler picks us a dandelion from the yard as a gift to mom or shares a toy with their sibling. It is hard work, but rewarding work. The children learn to be gentle and compassionate both at the breast and beyond. They first learn love in our arms and at the breast.

We see the symbolism in the Blessed Trinity. God is love, and for there to be love there must be a lover and a beloved. God the Father is the lover, and Jesus Christ is the beloved. The love they share for each other brings forth the Holy Spirit. (This concept is really the essence of the Theology of the Body according to Catholic author Katrina Zeno.) The nursing mother is the lover, the baby is the beloved, and we can be confident there will be good fruit produced from it- not only with our child but society and the church at large. This is a reminder that everything we do shouldn’t be for our own pleasure but has a greater purpose to move beyond ourselves and out to others (the body).

Another way to look at the heart is how it interacts with the lungs. When oxygen-poor blood comes back into the heart from the body, it is then taken to the lungs. The lungs take carbon dioxide out of the lungs and puts oxygen back into it. Here, the lungs can represent God. After all, we read in Genesis how God breathed life into man, and in other parts of the Bible God is referred to as the breath of life. The heart (mothers) propel their children and families back to themselves and ultimately toward the lungs (God) who then takes away our sin (carbon dioxide), converts us, and adds grace (oxygen) which had become poor and weak during our journey through the body.

The heart is working constantly. Mothers can relate to this. We often say it is a 24/7 job with no breaks. We are constantly working behind the scenes to send our family members out into the “body” (the domestic church or community) and always available for when they come back to us and need us, just as the blood constantly flows. After they come to us, with God’s grace we send them back off stronger than they were before. Ponder that in your heart the next time you comfort a crying (probably tantruming) toddler at the breast and how their demeanor has changed so drastically when they hop off your lap and run off to play again.
By Andrea Nease

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Breastfeeding through Type 1 Diabetes by Janalin Hood

It was a warm January day and I was waking from yet another night of very little sleep.  In fact from where I lay on the floor of the living room with our vomiting 11 month old, I was surprised that I had slept at all.  I had laid next to him on the floor on blankets and had tried my best to help him sleep, nursing him and offering him water as needed.

None of the older children were stirring yet so I took a few moments to collect my thoughts on what we needed to do for our baby who appeared to be suffering from a stomach virus.  I had called the doctor yesterday and had been instructed to call back today if he wasn’t improving.  I knew with certainty that he was not improving but couldn’t place my finger on why.  After two phone calls and more monitoring we decided to have him evaluated.  As I left the house I had no idea that it would be for the last time without the uninvited stranger.

We didn’t stay long at the doctor’s office.  A quick CO2 test on his finger showed that he needed to go to the ER immediately.  I called my husband and told him what was going on and that we would likely be there for a short stay… maybe some fluids… and be home.

The Emergency Room was swirling with doctors, nurses, blood work and many questions as to what was going on.  Our baby… our fourth child… the one named for my husband… was looking more and more lethargic and unresponsive.  I could tell from the conversation of the staff that this was much more serious that a stomach bug and I made the call to have my husband join me at the ER.

Things slowed down a bit as we waited for tests to be ran.  I prayed silently as I held our limp baby who was finally getting relief from his upset stomach, thanks to some medications.  My prayer was simple and perfect.  I prayed for Him to carry us and to be able to find out what was wrong with our baby who was showing signs of labored breathing.

The answer to my prayer came shortly after it was offered up.  A seasoned medic from the ambulance crew happened to be walking through the hospital and stuck his head in to see what was going on with “the little guy.”  He asked if a glucose reading had been done and sure enough, it had not.  They got out the lancet and glucometer and as my husband entered the room we heard the reading, “588,” followed by, “your son has Type 1 Diabetes.”

Very quickly the room got busy again and we were aware that we were being transferred to Children’s Mercy Hospital via their own jet.  I called our priest and asked him to come pray with us and I made a quick run home to gather a bag of clothes and for my breast pump as I was already becoming engorged from not being able to feed.  As we all gathered in the hospital room to pray before our jet departure the emotions became real.  The fear of not knowing what was in store was washed over with prayer and I knew that God was in control and that He would indeed carry us as I had prayed.

The flight crew loaded our lethargic baby onto the stretcher and I lurked behind.  He was now becoming very agitated at the sight of me and wanting to nurse for comfort.  As the jet was taking off my mind began to wonder what we would find when we landed at the hospital and how they would respond to the fact that he was still exclusively breastfeeding at 11 months old.  Prayers continued for strength, wisdom, and peace.

In the ICU our problems seemed minor compared to what others were facing.  The halls were depressing with some very very sick children there whom many were not likely to be leaving anytime soon.  Of course I could not nurse.  I found a corner of the room behind the medical crib where I could ‘hide’ from my infant’s sight.  I stayed there exclusively as to not cause any distress and spent my time on my smartphone researching Type 1 Diabetes in babies.  Thankfully a Facebook friend knew someone who referred me to someone else who had recently had their baby diagnosed at almost exactly the same age.  I took this new contact as a lifeline and started asking as many questions as I could, beginning with “what are we going to do about nursing once we get out of ICU?”

Two days passed and we were transferred to the 5th floor where the Diabetes educators were going to train us on how to care for our child over the next several days.  Several doctors came in and evaluated our son and the situation.  Most were very surprised that I was still exclusively nursing and slightly baffled at why I would want to continue to nurse when we were really only two weeks away from his first birthday.  But there was one doctor who came through and was ready to tackle the extra obstacle of us continuing to nurse through Diabetes.  I was soon holding our son and nursing him for nutrition and comfort once again.  Thank you Jesus.

The staff told us having Type 1 Diabetes was like having a newborn all over again.  They were right.  We had to learn everything from scratch.  There was a process to everything.  Weigh the baby in a dry diaper before the feeding, weigh the diaper after the feeding, all in order to try to monitor and decide how much insulin to administer him for a nursing session.  No longer were we free to just have a comfort nursing session without a shot.

It might have been easier at the time to quit nursing.  Actually I’m quite sure it would have been easier from the logistics side of things.  But I knew that our baby still needed my milk more than ever.  Not only for nutrition and comfort, but also for the other health benefits that breastmilk provides.

By late Friday we were headed home and very nervous about this immense responsibility that was left up to us.  A 24/7/365 job that never gives a break and has life threatening consequences.  Type 1 Diabetes, the uninvited stranger, had made it’s full introduction.

The next 30 days that followed our arrival home were as if we were living a nightmare.  Alarms were set for three hour increments around the clock and more often than not I was only getting 45 minutes of sleep in-between rounds of blood sugar testing, calling the doctor, dosing, and feeding routine.  I prayed for His Mercy in such a helpless passionate way because in my despair I had reached the point where I didn’t even have the words to pray anymore from my heart.  I clearly remember sitting in our rocking chair nursing our little one and reading all my prayers from a prayer book as I offered up my sorrows.

Life has gotten easier.  Type 1 Diabetes has been a language we have gotten a fairly good hold on.  We continue to nurse at 21 months and our beautiful baby is looking (and acting!) more like a toddler everyday. Nursing through Type 1 Diabetes has been such a blessing.  We are able to nurse through night lows and he never wakes or knows about them. I would encourage everyone facing an infant diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes to continue nursing as long as possible if only for this reason!

If you, or someone you know, are facing an infant Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis please feel free to contact me directly.  I would love to be that lifeline contact that helped me through the first 30 days for someone else in need!   My Facebook is: Janalin Hood or email me at hello (at) janalinhood (dot) com

"If God sends you many sufferings, it is a sign that He has great plans for you and certainly wants to make you a saint." - St. Ignatius of Loyola

 Breastfeeding the Type 1 Diabetic Child

Thursday, October 26, 2017

If You Give a Child a Stone by Andrea Nease

If You Give a Child a Stone by Andrea Nease
This past Thursday’s Gospel reading from Luke is one I’ve been familiar with for several years. It has stood out to me because it references cosleeping, which has been a part of our family’s lifestyle since it is one of the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding. In Luke 11:5-13 we read:
“And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves, Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him. And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?” 

When I read this again on Thursday, it was not the cosleeping part that made an impression. I focused on the part about parents giving good gifts to their children and not giving them stones when they ask for bread. I see how it applies to my own life and our culture as a whole. Here, it laid out so matter-of-factly that a parent would, of course, give their child a good gift and not a substitute. Are we really listening to what our children are requesting? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been guilty of giving my children “stones” at times. 

How many mothers and fathers do this with their babies who ask for their mother’s milk? When their child wants to nurse, rather than nursing the child and giving him what he asks for, we give him a “stone”. It could be a bottle, a pacifier, a toy, a security object, utilizing a piece of baby furniture like a swing or play yard, taking them on a car ride, singing them a song and rocking them, passing them off to another person or feeding them solid food. There are numerous “stones” we could give. We often go to great lengths to avoid what is natural and what our baby legitimately asks for and has a right to. We try to distract them from what they really want and need. As Alanis Morrissette says in her song Ironic: “It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.” How incredibly frustrating for the person who just wants a knife and keeps getting spoons again and again.

I’m also reminded of Matthew 25:35 & 40 that say:

 “For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in,”

And the king answering, shall say to them: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.” 

If only I truly saw a hungry Jesus every time my toddler asked me to nurse for the 10th time in an hour or when my baby wakes me again at 3am.

I haven’t met a nursing mother yet who couldn’t use this simple reminder. Even the most loving, devoted nursing mother has her moments where she has just had enough and gives in to her own desires instead of graciously serving. Mary would be the only exception I could think of. Proverbs reminds us that even the just man falls seven times a day. Just two weeks ago, I had to take a hard look at myself and realize I have been giving in to temptation to avoid nursing my three-year-old daughter. It made me chuckle when I read about the man rising from bed because of the knocking friend’s persistence. A toddler who wants to nurse is definitely persistent! I could dream up several excuses to try and get out nursing, but none of them are just. So, I’ve been consciously forcing myself to nurse her “like a newborn” again- without protest, with my full undivided attention. I soon saw her become more affectionate with me in return and her behavior improve within a day or two.

I’m thankful for God revealing my failure and rebuking me, and also for His mercy for when I have failed. He is very patient with me. Nursing is one of the most difficult things I have done, and I know I’m not alone. Not only is it often a physical battle for many, but also cultural and internal as well. Why does God lay such a heavy cross on a new mother’s shoulders? I think it is because we need this difficult struggle to grow in holiness and to build our “resumé” for the rest of our mothering career. Parenting never ends. Needs change, but there will always be crosses to bear. We can draw on the strength we gained early on to get us through other difficult times. But, we must have fortitude and persevere through the difficulties to fully benefit. When we do, we also grow in faith and trust in God. In prayer we must learn not only to petition God, but to have silence and listen to Him speak to us. It is the same with mothering where we must learn to listen to our children so we can know their needs rather than guessing or dictating and inadvertently handing them a “stone.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017


 (Wikipedia Commons)

This weekend I attended a women's retreat at my parish.  The speaker was Sonja Corbitt, author of several books including Unleashed, Fearless, and Ignite.  She was a very down to earth speaker but also very passionate about helping women break the destructive sin patterns in their lives and also love Scripture.  She came up with her own version of Lectio Divina which I think is well suited to being a mom.  It is called L.O.V.E.  The acronym stands for Listen, Observe, Verbalize and Entrust.  She suggests reading the daily Gospel reading first thing in the morning and following the LOVE method for just 5 minutes.  As you continue this practice, you can increase the amount of time.  Even busy nursing moms have 5 minutes to spare.  At first, you may not hear God's whisper but if you stay committed to this prayer time, eventually you will.

Yesterday's Gospel reading is the perfect Scripture reading with which to start, because it mentions Jesus having been breastfed by Mary and also the importance of reading/listening to God's Word.  Here it is:

Luke 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."  He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." (taken from

Try to find a quiet spot before your baby or toddler wakes in the morning. Ask God to speak to you.

Then LISTEN to God's Word.  Read the verses slowly and think about them.

OBSERVE.  Think about what it means to you or what God might be telling you in these verses.  What is happening in your life right now that might tie into the Scripture reading?  Think about all the patterns in your life - the good and the bad.

VERBALIZE.  Tell God what you think he is trying to to say to you in these verses.  Ask Him if you are right.  Possibly write it down.

ENTRUST.  Trust in God and in rest in His peace.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ecological Breastfeeding Resources

The Seven Standards Summary

Organizations who support those who are practicing Ecological Breastfeeding

Scientific articles

Other Catholic/Christian Blog posts

 Youtube videos


Informative articles

Saturday, August 12, 2017

CNML Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2017

CNML Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week 2017
 by Gena Ortega


Breastfeeding is a two-way street. That seems to be an obvious statement, perhaps. Mom provides milk to child; child drinks the milk. Let’s expand our view, though. Mother sustains the child's life through her very blood, her breastmilk brimming with unique immunofactors; child's breastfeeding provides mother with protection against breast cancer, strong uterine contractions to help her recover more quickly from childbirth, and child spacing through natural suppression of the mother's fertility. We sustain each other through this beautiful, Divinely-designed mother-child relationship.

Fitting, then, that the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) selected a sustainability theme for this year's World Breastfeeding Week: Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. The sustainability theme breaks down into four categories: Nutrition/Poverty Reduction, Survival/Health and Wellbeing, Environment, and Women's Productivity. Although the WABA has a global focus, we can examine and implement this theme from our Catholic Nursing Mothers League perspective and in our own small local communities. 

Nutrition/Poverty Reduction

We provide our children the optimal nutrition, designed precisely for them at each moment of their young lives. Breastmilk contents change constantly depending on the time of day, illness, weather conditions, stress. How good our God is to design our bodies this way! This also allows our families to save money in formula, doctor sick visits. 

Action: In your own community, you can share this knowledge by offering to hold breastfeeding support groups at your local Crisis Pregnancy Center or WIC office. Help local mothers who may be struggling financially to succeed at breastfeeding.

Survival/Health and Wellbeing

Breastfeeding is the best way to reduce child mortality, plain and simple. 823,000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal deaths (from breast cancer) could be prevented by increased breastfeeding around the world. How can you help to protect the children in your area?

Action: Leave a stack of CNML business cards, natural family planning pamphlets, ecological breastfeeding information at local pediatrician offices. Make it easy for pediatricians to share this information, which may be new to their patients.


Have you seen the baby outfits that say, "Eat Local"? Breastfeeding allows us to feed our children in a way that doesn't pollute or use unnecessary packaging. It is positive for God's creation overall!

Action: Do you have a shelf of breastfeeding books whose wisdom you would love to share? Start a nursing lending library among the mothers in your CNML group or in your circle of friends to save them from having to buy books.

Women's Productivity

CNML promotes ecological breastfeeding and mom and baby staying close - especially for those first three years of life - as the ideal.  However, there may be circumstances where a woman needs to work outside the house.  Women who must return to work after having a baby may feel pressured to forgo breastfeeding and resort to formula-feeding. Women who provide breastmilk for their babies not only feel fulfilled that they can provide for their children even though they are apart during the day, but pumping and providing breastmilk can often help the mother from taking additional sick days for a child who is frequently ill.

Action: Hold evening or weekend CNML meetings so that working mothers can still participate. Are you able to pump extra milk to donate to a regional milk bank?  Donating milk is an act of self-sacrifice and a corporal work of mercy!

Let's do our part as Catholic Nursing Mothers League members to help sustain breastfeeding for the mothers and babies around us!