The Virgin Suckling the Child

The Virgin Suckling the Child
The Virgin Suckling the Child (wikimedia commons)

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Matthew 25: 31-46

Today's Gospel reading very much ties into the life of a nursing mother.  We are like the sheep on the right of the Son of Man when He comes in His glory.  Everyday, all day and night, we feed and give drink to our nurslings with our actual bodies! Just our breastmilk keeps them alive for six months of their lives and continues to play a large role for many months and often years.  When we conceived our precious baby, he or she was like a stranger to us; it took time to get to know him or her.  As the pregnancy progressed, we noticed at what time of day the baby liked to kick and when he or she tended to get the hiccups.  Then when the big day came, we had to get to know our bundle of joy all over again.  We also clothe our babies, and we take care of them when they are sick, even when it means we get little sleep.  The last point mentioned in this reading is " prison and you visited me."  Hopefully, one of our children will not one day be in prison.  However, there are illnesses, mental health disorders, bullying, and doubts about God that may imprison our children at some time in their lives.  As their mothers, we will stay close to them, helping them weather those storms.  

Should we apply this Scripture passage to helping others in our extended family, in our community, and in our world?  Definitely!  However, we need to start by loving our family.  

Here are some quotes from Mother Teresa about the importance of family:

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put in that action.”

“It is easy to love the people far away.  It is not always easy to love those close to us.  Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start.”

“Whatever you do for your family, your children, your husband, your wife, you do for God.  All we do, our prayers, our work, our suffering, is for Jesus.”

“If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.”


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Devotion to the Nursing Baby Jesus

                                                                   Wikimedia commons

I love that we have a patron saint of breastfeeding - Our Lady of La Leche - who is not only a saint but also the mother of Jesus.  (Actually there is a second patron saint of breastfeeding, St. Giles, too.). However, I feel it is important to honor the Christ Child, who was born into the world as a nursing baby and is Our Savior.  There isn’t currently a devotion exclusively to the nursing baby Jesus, but I thought we could borrow one of the devotions already in existence to the infant Jesus.  

I found a few possibilities.  The Blessed is she website mentions 3 variations: Santo Nino de Atocha, Santa Nino de Cebu, and the Infant Jesus of Prague. I also found another one online - Divino Nino Jesus - which is a Columbia devotion.  Based on what I read, I think different countries/ethnicities have their own form of the same devotion to the Baby Jesus. Therefore, I propose that nursing moms have their own version, too: Devotion to the Nursing Baby Jesus.  

In the book, Devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague, it says, 

Devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague is devotion to the Child Jesus. It is veneration of the Son of God, who in the form of an infant chose a stable for a palace, manger for a cradle, and shepherds for worshippers.  Our Savior grants special graces to all who venerate His sacred Infancy.”

Since worshipping the Infant Jesus is an approved devotion of the Church, I don’t think we, as nursing mothers, will go astray if adore the Nursing Christ Child especially as we approach this upcoming Christmas season. We should go with child-like confidence to God with whatever is on our hearts just like our own little ones come to us for whatever they need.

If you are interested in this devotion, send me an email at catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com and I will send you a medal and prayer card of the Infant Jesus.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Are Bottles, Pacifiers and Cribs Necessary?

New moms these days are inundated with ads, catalogs, websites, and friends and family telling them all the different things they will “need” for their babies.  You can get baby swings, wearable baby carriers, strollers, special toys for every developmental stage, clothes for every season and holiday, breast pumps for when you want to go out by yourself and leave baby home, and the list goes on and on.  However, what does a baby really need?  At the minimum, a baby needs loving parents, warm milk, a few sets of clean and dry clothes, diapers (unless you are following elimination communication), and a safe place to sleep.  

Why are bottles, pacifiers and cribs not on the essential list?  What if you want to to go get coffee with a friend?  Don’t you need some bottles and a breast pump for your husband to feed the baby?  Nope. Just take baby with you.  What if soon after nursing, your baby still seems to want to suckle some more?  Don’t you need a pacifier for those times?  Nope, just offer your breast again.  Your baby will much prefer to nurse again than suck on a pacifier.  What about nighttime?  Doesn’t the baby need her own room with a crib? Nope, she can safely sleep with you as long as you follow safe sleep guidelines.   Did you know that the ecological breastfeeding lifestyle helps you keep your baby gear list down to the essential while promoting bonding between you and your baby, benefiting your milk supply, and helping you space your family?

Maybe you are thinking that you do not know anyone who mothers this way.  This seems so counter-cultural.  I lived this very lifestyle with my children!  All my babies have weaned now because they are growing up, but I mothered all five of them without pacifiers, bottles or cribs.  If you need support, the members of the CNML Ecological Breastfeeding Group can help you in living out this lifestyle.  Also, peruse our website for accurate breastfeeding and ecological breastfeeding info that does not go against Catholic teaching.  Do you need a breastfeeding book, Our Lady of La Leche medal or prayer shawl to keep you warm and remind you that someone prayed for you?  Just send an email to catholicbreastfeeding(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Toddler Nursing


A few weeks ago my husband saw a deer nursing her "toddler" in the middle of the street in our town.  The "toddler" was trying to nurse, but after a minute or two walked away either because there were cars and she didn't feel safe or because the "toddler" had been nursing on and off all day and it was time to move onto something else.  

I nursed all five of my children into toddlerhood.  I understand how the mother deer felt.  She probably thought, "You want to nurse again and in the middle of the street?"  It is definitely a different experience nursing a child of 2, 3 or 4 years old versus a baby.  In general, most of the breastfeeding issues of the baby period are past, but then other unique challenges are present.  One challenge I experienced was at some point my toddlers modified their latch; it was uncomfortable.  Also, some toddlers nurse very frequently throughout the day and night - almost like a newborn - which can be exhausting.  I did not get as much sleep as I would have liked for almost 15 years!   

However, there are so many blessings to nursing your toddler; I have no regrets.  Has your toddler ever melted down and then you offered your breast and the the world became right again (for both of you)?  I am not sure I could have survived toddlerhood five times without breastfeeding.  Another blessing of toddler nursing is it provides that special time for both of you to reconnect after a busy day and it gives you, the mom, a chance to sit down for a few minutes and rest.  When your child gets a stomach bug and will not eat solids or drink anything but water and breast milk, breastfeeding can help prevent dehydration.  I experienced this with several of my toddlers.  It was so scary when they weren’t eating and drinking like usual and also vomiting! Breastfeeding comforted us both!  Did you know that your nursing toddler still gets all the nutritional benefits of your milk and as he or she weans over time, the immunological properties actually become more concentrated?  By continuing to nurse, you get increased protection against breast cancer, too.  Toddler nursing also extends lactational amenorrhea which means greater spacing between babies and a delayed return of menstruation.

There are also fun parts to toddler nursing.  Some of the positions toddlers want to nurse in are hilarious!  And it is so sweet when your toddler comes up to you and says "nursies" in his or her cute little voice!

When my children were toddlers, I really felt supported by the book, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler (the book was written 20 years ago when LLL was a different organization).  I also felt supported by my local breastfeeding support group meetings.  I am hoping that the Catholic Nursing Mothers League facebook group and the CNML Ecological Breastfeeding facebook group will provide support to you for nursing your toddler.

Here are a few webpages that might be helpful to you.  They each have a few things on their websites contrary to Catholic Church teaching, but their breastfeeding information is scientifically accurate and well written:

Sunday, October 11, 2020

October 11: The Feast of Our Lady of La Leche

Today is the feast day of Our Lady of La Leche.  She is the patron saint of a happy birth and a plentiful milk supply.  Because breastfeeding is often such a large part of a mom’s life, it is very fitting that there is a saint devoted just to that.  Here is a novena that you can pray to ask for her intercession.  Customarily, it begins on October 3 and then concludes on October 11.  However, you can pray the novena at anytime.  The Catholic Nursing Mothers League (CNML) gives out Our Lady of La Leche medals and prayer cards as gifts; just email us if you would like one.  Also, an admin of the Catholic Nursing Mothers League Facebook group, who also leads a CNML group in her local parish and is a professional photographer, is selling some of her photos she took at the Our Lady of La Leche Shrine in St. Augustine, FL; ask on the Facebook group if you are interested.

We do not know a lot about Mary’s experience nursing the Christ Child.  I would imagine her female relatives and friends answered her questions and supported her.  I hope that CNML can help answer your questions and support you. If you are struggling with breastfeeding or if you feel alone in your breastfeeding journey, I encourage you to reach out to CNML via email or Facebook.  If you are looking for information on a specific breastfeeding topic, consider checking our website as it contains many evidence based articles written by a lactation consultant and also links to accurate breastfeeding information. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Help! I am Worried that My Baby is Using Me as a Pacifier!

Sometimes well meaning family members or friends see a new mom once again nursing her baby.  They feel for her and want to help her, so they tell her that maybe her baby is using her as a pacifier.  If the mom feels tired and overwhelmed, she might start wondering the same thing.  

However, what exactly is the purpose of a pacifier?  The purpose of a pacifier is to soothe and comfort the baby and to provide the non-nutritive sucking they crave.  It is also a mother substitute.  

Just as the Theology of the Body describes the covenant relationship between husband and wife, there is a similar relationship between the mother and her baby.  The mother not only cradles and protects her baby in her womb for nine months, but her body also nourishes and comforts the baby at her breast for months or years after birth.  Sheila Kippley writes in her book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, “The baby truly needs her presence, and no one can replace her.  Babies thrive on maternal intimacy, of being one with their mother. A mother usually provides the best comfort for her baby.”  If you are interest in reading Sheila’s book, send us an email.  We mail out her book as a gift to nursing moms.

If your baby or toddler nurses often and you are wondering if it is too much, remember how much time you see babies with pacifiers in their mouths when you are out and about at Mass, grocery shopping, and at the park.  Babies very much need oral soothing, so it makes sense that they need to nurse sometimes every hour! 

I understand how tempting it can be to use a pacifier even though in your heart, you would rather not.  All my labors started during the night and my babies were all born between 2 AM and 9:30 AM.  After I had my babies, I would be hungry and all wound up from the excitement and the hormonal changes.  Of course, it was always daytime at that point, too.  Then by nightfall, I was always wanting to go to sleep but my babies wanted to nurse constantly.  The hospital beds were uncomfortable and not set up like my bed at home.  Boy, that pacifier in the hospital room looked awfully tempting at midnight! 

As you may already know, avoiding pacifiers and bottles is good for your milk supply, good for baby’s mouth and jaw development, and helps extend the natural infertility due to breastfeeding (it is one of the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding).  Plus, it helps foster the special bonding between mom and baby. If you were a baby, which would you choose: a plastic pacifier or your mother’s breast while you taste her sweet milk, smell her special scent, hear her heartbeat, and look up adoringly at your face? The next time someone tells you your baby is using you as a pacifier or you are simply feeling that way, think of that image I just described and nurse your baby.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The Benefits of Breastfeeding a Baby with Down Syndrome

Breastfeeding is important for healthy babies, but especially important for babies with medical issues.  Babies with Down Syndrome, in particular, benefit greatly from breastmilk and the physical activity of breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding also helps moms.  First, I want to recognize Ella Grey Cullen and Jill Rabin.  They gave a presentation on this topic at an iLactation virtual conference.  A lot of the information I will discuss comes from that conference talk.

Second, before discussing the advantages of breastfeeding a baby with Down Syndrome, I want to mention that there is a lot of negative information online and even from healthcare providers about the difficulties of breastfeeding a baby with this condition.  However, most babies with Down Syndrome can successfully breastfeed with the help of a lactation consultant and other healthcare providers.  You can do this, mom!  You just need to find the right support!  If you need help finding someone, email the Catholic Nursing Mothers League, and we will help you find someone in your area to help you.

Now let’s get to the advantages of breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding helps develop the muscles in the jaw and mouth which will help with speech later on.  It helps shape the oral cavity, hard palate, and encourages less crowding of teeth.  There is less likelihood of orthodontic intervention needed.  There is a reduced risk of U - shaped dental arches, also.  Breastfeeding reduces snoring and apnea which very common in babies with Down Syndrome; 50-100% of babies with Down Syndrome have obstructive sleep apnea.

Breastmilk is species specific, digests faster and absorbs better than formula, and encourages more frequent stooling (babies with Down Syndrome are more prone to constipation).

The health benefits of breast milk are especially important for babies with Down Syndrome who are more at risk for different health problems. DHA, which is essential for brain growth and development, is present in breast milk, and breastfeeding has been associated with higher IQ levels.  There is immunological protection, decreased likelihood of obesity and other diseases, and a reduction in reflux with breastfeeding.  It helps protect against inflammatory responses in the body which formula can cause (babies with Down Syndrome are more at risk for inflammation).

Breastfeeding not only greatly benefits babies, but also moms!  It can help her deal with all her emotions with having a baby with an unexpected diagnosis and also help her be part of helping her baby, especially in those early days.

Some book and website recommendations: