Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus

Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus
Nursing Madonna (wikimedia commons)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

St. Zelie

Zelie Martin by in identified photographer
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

I recently read the book "The Mother of the Little Flower" by Celine Martin. I had read somewhere that St. Zelie Martin did not nurse her children. This left me curious what her life as a mother was like, especially being an example by raising saints and becoming one herself. I wanted to share some excerpts from the book about her nursing relationship of her children and the illness she died from. 

On page 73-74 it reads:

"What mother felt and complained of was that she could not, herself, nurse any but her first three children. She had to give the others out to be nursed, often at a distance in the country, necessitating very fatiguing journeys for her to visit the children. 

When Therese was born, mother felt an inexpressible joy. Before her birth, she admitted having heard her singing with herself. But soon after her birth, the baby fell ill, and once so seriously that she refused even to take the mother's breast. Mamma watched over her night and day, endeavoring to feed her baby by other means which the doctor ordered."

On page 90 it reads:

"As to myself, I was only eight years old when my mother, at my request, showed me the sore; I have always kept an unforgettable memory of it. All the upper part of the right side of her breast as far as the shoulder and the base of the neck was bright red with inflammation, while darker red streaks ran through it, up and down." 

With other descriptions given in the book (such as fever, painful swelling, discharge, etc) it seriously made me wonder if she may have had a breast infection such as mastitis which spread. A quick online search revealed "Non Lactational Mastitis", which can occur in women who are not longer nursing. Although, the books does make note of some injury with a table as a child, and also mentions cancer.

From the description of the property in the back of the book, it sounds like she worked on the same property as she lived. One could naturally assume this left her very accessible to the children who were living at home. A recurring theme in the book is how St. Zelie was completely selfless by always putting her family first and patiently enduring trials. There are many tidbits that are very relatable to the daily life of mothers. 

The book is a quick read and encouraging for mothers who are striving to raise saintly children. There is also a companion book on St. Therese's father, St. Louis Martin. 

Written by Andrea Nease

Saturday, January 28, 2017

How the Catholic Nursing Mothers League Supports Breastfeeding Moms

Are you new to the Catholic Nursing Mothers League or are you just not sure what we offer for nursing moms?  Let me share how our ministry can support and encourage you!

ONLINE: We have a growing online presence.  Our website contains posts and links on breastfeeding management info, spiritual posts and links, mothers' stories, podcasts, a small e-book lending library, and a whole lot more.  We have a yahoo group that has 144 members and is a little quiet (but also a nice alternative to Facebook if you are not a Facebook fan), a Facebook group with 875 members, and a Facebook page.

IN-PERSON: Currently there are 15 registered in person CNML groups around the country.  We are always happy to add more groups to the list as we want our ministry to touch Catholic mothers in every parish!  If you feel called to lead a CNML group in your parish or town, send me an email at catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I can help you get started.  CNML has a leader's handbook that makes it super easy!

GOODIES: CNML provides lots of goodies to inform and encourage nursing moms.  If any of the following items will help support you in your faith and as a nursing mother, please drop me an email at catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will gladly send it out to you.


Prayer shawls for nursing moms

Our Lady of La Leche medals and prayer cards

One decade rosaries

Rosary bracelets (these are new - I am pretty excited about them)

Pope Francis/Nursing Madonna cards to hand out to moms you meet who need breastfeeding encouragement (these are also new)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Three Special Christmas Season Feast Days for Nursing Mamas

Christmas, the Feast of the Holy Family, and the Feast of Mary, Mother of God are all special feast days that celebrate the gift of Jesus, yes, but also motherhood and family life. Christmas welcomes Jesus as a baby into our world. The Feast of the Holy Family celebrates the ordinariness and holiness of the Holy Family.  The Feast of Mary, Mother of God celebrates the honor we give to Mary, as Mother of our Savior.

I was pregnant during the Christmases of 1998, 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2011.  Each of those Christmases and other ones, too, I listened to the song, "Breath of Heaven" sung by Amy Grant and cried, of course!  Many times I was in the throes of morning sickness or feeling anxious about the upcoming birth.  Other times I felt joyful while thinking about my unborn baby.  I think Mary felt some of those emotions, too, during her pregnancy with Jesus.  Then many more Christmases I nursed a baby or toddler - during the night, on Christmas morning as my older children opened their gifts, and in between cooking dinner.  Mary most likely nursed Jesus well into toddlerhood, too, in the midst of her everyday life.  Can you imagine nursing the Son Of God?  What must that have been like?

I especially enjoy the Feast of the Holy Family, because my family is so important to me, and because I am a member of the Holy Family Institute.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph inspire me to try to be more patient and more emotionally present to my family, to play more with my kids, and to just be myself - the person God created me to be.  The Holy Family experienced difficult times - fear, needing to flee to a strange country, town gossip - just like we do, but they trusted God would take care of them even when they were afraid.  They lived ordinary lives.  Mary breastfed baby Jesus, helped him learn to walk and talk, taught him to pray and most likely home educated him, because there were no local schools at that time (an inspiring fact for you homeschoolers!).  Mary also snuggled Jesus close, kissed and hugged him, and probably sang him to sleep. All the same things we do with our kids!

Mary was a gentle mother to Jesus and desires to lead us to her Son through our vocation of motherhood.  I feel my relationship with Jesus and breastfeeding my children taught me gentleness.  It is difficult to stay angry with your toddler while he is nursing to sleep in your arms!  All those years waking up multiple times per night to nurse a baby really teach you gentleness, too.  If you are nursing your first baby, just know that as your baby gets older and if you have other children in the future, your love, patience and gentleness will grow.  Ask Mary to help you be the mother Jesus wants you to be.         

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas meditation

"Going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him" (Matthew 2:11)
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus shared a special closeness with each other.  Research has shown that those first few years of life lay the foundation for the child's worldview and even their relationship with their parents.  Breastfeeding can definitely help with that and it also encourages the mom and baby to stay in close proximity to each other.  All those times of nursing are continually being added to your baby's emotional tank.  Is it time for another deposit?
An idea for living out your faith:
Visit a new mother or possibly a nursing home resident that may be feeling lonely and isolatedBring your baby along.  Everyone loves a cooing, smiley baby!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Breastfeeding and Church Tradition

     It may pleasantly surprise you that the Catholic Church has a long-standing tradition in support of breastfeeding.  The Church, first of all, follows natural law.  What could be more natural and in tune with God’s plan for humans than feeding your baby the milk your own body produces?  Ecological breastfeeding, too, follows natural law.  You follow your baby’s needs for milk and comfort using the body God gave you as a gift.  You are then a gift to your child.  The infertility that results is nature’s design and another gift to you.
      As I write this, there is a heated debate taking place on a popular Catholic internet site.  They are discussing whether or not breastfeeding can be done in a selfish manner due to its natural benefit of infertility.  My personal opinion is “no.”  You can’t force your baby to nurse if he doesn’t want to.  Even if you wake him in the middle of the night to nurse in the hopes of extending your own natural infertility, he will only nurse if he needs it.  On a personal note, I have bedshared with all my children, and they woke naturally one to several times per night until around age two without any help from me.  Also, in the over ten years I have been involved with supporting nursing mothers, no one has mentioned that they wake their baby to nurse during the night (except for maybe a sleepy newborn baby in the first week of life)!  On the contrary, moms usually accept this phase of life and all it entails or try different techniques to get their babies to sleep through the night.  Then there is also the situation of many women who would love to have another baby but are unable to conceive because they are breastfeeding. 
      In terms of support from popes and bishops, Pope Gregory the Great, Pope Benedict XIV, Pope Pius XII, and (Saint) Pope John Paul II all showed support of breastfeeding.  The two latter popes publicly spoke to mothers about its importance (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p. 32-34).  The current pope, Pope Francis, has been especially supportive of breastfeeding moms.  On Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of twelve pregnant and nursing moms - one mom was actively nursing her baby during the actual washing of feet!  On another occasion, he encouraged mothers to nurse their hungry babies during a baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel.  At least two bishops also advocated for breastfeeding - Bishop James T. McHugh and Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo.  (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p.36-37).  As you can see, the Magisterium wholeheartedly supports nursing moms and babies.      
      Several priests actively promote breastfeeding in their own unique ways.  Father Virtue wrote a chapter on breastfeeding in his doctoral dissertation, Mother and Infant.  Father Timothy Sauppe created a Madonna chapel and developed a rosary of five mysteries in honor of Mary’s breastfeeding relationship with Jesus which was granted an imprimatur (Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, p. 38-40).  I am sure there are countless other Church leaders who are doing a wonderful job supporting nursing mothers.
      Christian artwork often portrays Mary breastfeeding Jesus, sometimes with her breast exposed.  Scripture mentions breastfeeding no less than 12 times, and weaning is often mentioned as taking place at the end of the second or third year of life.
      The Catholic Church honors two souls in heaven as patron saints of breastfeeding.  St. Giles is one of the official patron saints of breastfeeding mothers.  He was a hermit in Southern France in the late 600s - early 700s who reportedly sustained himself for several years only on the milk of a hind.  His feast day is September 1.  In addition, the diocese of St. Augustine, FL celebrates the feast of Our Lady of La Leche on Oct. 11.  Our Lady of La Leche is the patron saint of nursing mothers and women who want to become pregnant.  There is a shrine in the city of St. Augustine dedicated to Mary in this role.  Breastfeeding is so important, it has two patron saints, including the Blessed Mother!
(excerpt from book, Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers by Gina Peterson)

NFP International has some great links to what different popes have said about breastfeeding.

Also, here is a link to a story about Pope Francis encouraging mothers to nurse their babies in the Sistine Chapel.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

CNML's Partnership with the Guiding Star Project

We are excited to announce our partnership with the Guiding Star Project! If you have never heard of Guiding Star or do not know much about it, let me introduce them.

The Guiding Star Project is made up of centers around the country that support women and families in holistic and life-affirming ways.  The centers provide natural family planning, holistic fertility care and care for birthing women, breastfeeding support, and care for family life.  They follow Natural Law and promote a New Feminism that upholds the beauty and dignity of women while respecting all life.

As you can see, the philosophy of the Guiding Star Project fits in nicely with our principles here at the Catholic Nursing Mothers League.  There is even a CNML group currently meeting at the Guiding Star Tampa center!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Childbirth and Breastfeeding

     First of all, no matter what type of birth you end up having - natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean - you will most likely be able to breastfeed your baby.   Even after a difficult or traumatic childbirth, breastfeeding can bring about a wonderful experience of healing and bonding with a newborn, most of the time quickly and effectively.  The vast majority - experts say ninety-five percent - of women are physically capable of breastfeeding.   That is good news and part of God's design to keep the human race going.  That being said, nursing at the breast can be more challenging or delayed in certain circumstances.  However, with education and support from other nursing moms, a trained breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant, breastfeeding will most likely become easier and a natural part of your life as a mother.  Breastfeeding is the natural continuation of the cycle that begins with pregnancy and birth.
      Two easy ways to increase your chances of having the best birth and early breastfeeding experience as possible are to attend childbirth classes and to read a good childbirth book.  Childbirth classes taught independent of hospitals tend to have more information on natural birthing techniques and how to avoid unnecessary interventions.  Nursing mother group meetings at your church and breastfeeding support meetings in your community are good places to obtain recommendations for both childbirth books and classes.
      Husbands can be great labor coaches.  However, many women like having the support of another woman who has given birth herself, such as a friend or mother, in addition to their spouses.  There are also labor doulas who have specialized training in supporting and encouraging women in labor.  Doulas have been shown in the research evidence to improve mothers’ birth experiences and facilitate un-medicated labors and breastfeeding (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.22-23).  A parish nursing mothers group or a childbirth or breastfeeding class is a good place to ask about local doulas.
      It is ideal if the mother can avoid IV fluids during labor and birth.  Sometimes too much fluid can cause breast engorgement which makes latching more difficult.  Also, certain medications can make babies sleepy at birth. Striving for as un-medicated a birth as possible will help ensure an awake baby, ready to breastfeed.
      The first hour after birth is a very special time for bonding and getting baby to the breast before he takes his first long nap.  Baths and other post-birth activities can wait until after the first nursing.  Hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible in the first hour, and continue lots of loving and holding in the early days postpartum.  An un-medicated baby placed on his mother's abdomen soon after birth is actually able to crawl towards the breast and latch on without assistance!  There are many unseen hormonal bonding elements going on to help baby get off to a good start with breastfeeding - a beautiful design!
      If you do need a cesarean, you can still breastfeed your baby!  The key is to try different breastfeeding positions that allow you and your baby to nurse successfully and comfortably while staying away from your incision. Some possibilities: sitting upright with a pillow over your lap to protect your incision, the clutch hold (which is described in more detail in the “Latch and Position” section), and the side-lying position (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.191).
      Last but not least, writing a birth plan and giving a copy to all birth attendants is another good idea.  It is best to let everyone involved in your birth know that you plan to breastfeed and that you do not want your baby to have artificial nipples, bottles, water or formula unless medically necessary.  A positive birth experience is always a help to getting breastfeeding off to a good start!