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Breastfeeding Articles

by Sheila Kippley

One of the joys of my 30-some years of counseling and sharing breastfeeding experiences has been getting to know, at least slightly, the mothers who phoned or wrote, or who became personal friends. They were a regular source of inspiration for me. It was an honor to be part of their lives for a while.

The backgrounds and the experiences of these mothers varied widely, but they had in common a desire to do God’s will and to do what is best for their children. Collectively they have been like facets on a jewel.
The Beatitudes are also like facets and the jewel of Christian faith. Each helps us to see a particular aspect of discipleship.

Each of these thoughts on the Beatitudes reflects in one way or another the experience of mothers I have been privileged to know. Each reflection represents the experiences or thoughts of a different nursing mother. I found their attitudes refreshing, and I hope that some small part of their jewel-like sparkle manages to get through the words that follow.

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs Is the kingdom of heaven.

Lord, you could have been born anywhere—in a beautiful place, in a wealthy family, but you chose a stable. You chose poverty. Yet you had everything! A loving mother and father, warmth, and plenty of milk for your sustenance. I have no choice. My life is simple because of my situation. My husband’s job brings in enough money to meet our needs and still allows me to stay home with my baby.

Our baby is a true gift from you, Lord. I enjoy nursing him so much. How Our Lady must have enjoyed holding you so close as you suckled from each breast.

I do try to look for chances where I can choose a less expensive item whenever possible. I have a friend who does this better than I. When she has a new baby and people want to give her gifts, she asks for only secondhand clothes or other items. I have tried to follow her example by not purchasing brand new items or clothing when secondhand purchases are just as good and cost less. This has saved us money, especially in the area of bedding and furniture. I remember a priest at a seminar who wore a black cardigan that had holes in it, but the holes did not show up because of his black priestly outfit. Needless to say, Lord, that priest made an impression on me.

I’ve given our baby the best start in life by breastfeeding him. This also has saved us money. Besides the breastfeeding, I pray that I continue to feed my baby well with good foods as he ages and my husband and future family as well. Homemade meals with soups and breads are more nutritious than store meals and also help a family to save money. Please give me the energy and time to do this without feeling guilty if I have to resort to the quick store meal occasionally.

I pray that my husband and I can continue to share with others through tithing and by the use of our talents. When a relative or neighbor is in need, please give me the graces to help without grumbling and with a good and willing heart.

Our baby continues to grow big and strong. Breastfeeding is so good for him. Our pediatrician is supportive of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Thank you, Lord, for that wonderful physician. My husband and I are thin and tall, so our robust baby looks out of character for our family. We thank you, Lord, for your plan for mother and baby. Choosing to breastfeed has simplified my life. His food is always available without any work on my part. I have yet to buy any formula or bottles. Again, thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done for me and my family.

2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Lord, I am sure there are many other mothers who are quite sad and cry out to you in their sorrow. My heartache is so deep, so painful, that I can hardly pray through my tears. I keep recalling that beautiful day when I lost both my husband and son while visiting California at Christmas time. It was such a nice day that my son went swimming in the ocean. He got caught in a riptide and my husband went in to rescue him. Tragically both died. It all happened so fast and I could do nothing. I was completely helpless as I watched.

Being pregnant at the time, I was left with my other son and an unborn baby. Since her birth, my baby has been my solace. My sorrow has been so intense, but this baby has been my comfort as I nurse and cuddle her, especially during the night. This baby gives me strength and helps me to be a better parent to my son. I still grieve, Lord. Please give me the graces to be the mother you want me to be. Please help me. Help me to make the right decisions for my children, and please always give me one or two friends or relatives whom I can call on for support. I especially need a friend or two for my journey through this first year without my husband and son. My sister calls frequently and is very supportive.

The pediatrician says our little girl is thriving on my milk. Thank you, Lord, for a beautiful, healthy baby girl. You are so good!

3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Lord, I understand you want me to do your will in all things without protest. I’ve nursed two babies in spite of not enjoying the nursing as other mothers do. I do know that my babies enjoyed the nursing—they would kick their feet for joy as I began to get ready to nurse. They also loved lying next to me and just cuddling.

I struggled with nursing our first baby. Within the first couple weeks, I became engorged. Once I got the hang of it, the problems really began. I had mastitis several times within the first several months. During this time my breasts hurt so much and nursing was just about unbearable. In between the mastitis bouts, I frequently got clogged ducts. It was during this time that I wanted to stop nursing. It seemed so enjoyable to other mothers, but I was having a very painful and unpleasant experience. For six months my nursing was painful. I paid for a lactation consultant to come to my home. Her advice did not prove helpful. If it were not for the support of my mom and a couple of other nursing friends and sisters, I am certain I would have quit. My husband was also very supportive.

The knowledge I had about the benefits of nursing also proved helpful. I had really educated myself about its benefits to my baby, and I wanted to do what was best for him. Everytime I was at an all time low, I would pray to God that I could just do it a little longer. My mother came over frequently to help me. One night in desperation, we said some “Hail Marys” together. It was a long time before nursing became normal and easy.

When it did become easy, I still wasn’t blessed with all the wonderful feelings that some nursing mothers describe. I was one of those mothers who could not fall asleep while nursing her baby, and unfortunately, neither of my children were good sleepers. So I did a lot of night-time nursing sitting up in the rocking chair. Thus, I experienced lots of fatigue with both babies. I got used to the tiredness, and I was so happy to be doing something for my children that they both seemed to enjoy so much. I also was thrilled to be providing them with all the nutrients and benefits that are found in mother’s milk.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I do encourage mothers who are experiencing similar problems to hang in there and keep up the nursing. Usually most problems work themselves out soon with professional help and support.

Nursing my second baby was a breeze. I had no problems. I thank you, Lord, for that. I still did not enjoy nursing the way many of my friends did. Maybe this had to do with my disposition. I tend to worry and fret about things that other mothers do not even think about. Lord, help me to relax more as a mother. In spite of it all, I love my children and love being a mom.

So why did I nurse when I did not always enjoy nursing? First, I think that the good Lord gave me inner strength. He blessed me with wonderful people in my life who gave me constant encouragement. When I was having problems, I would say simple prayers, like, “Lord, I know that my milk is best for my babies. Your design for mother and baby is best for nutrition and nurturing. Please give me strength to continue.” Second, both of my babies enjoyed the nursing, and each nursed for 18 months. While I was not always happy about nursing, I did because it’s best for my babies. I hope to always follow the Lord’s will for my life, to seek his will in prayer, and I always want to stay close to him.

4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

My baby is only four months old. My husband works for the Church. At times we both attend Church meetings together, and I have been able to bring my breastfed baby to such meetings. However, we have been asked to participate in a weekend retreat in two months, but we were told we must leave our baby at home. With nursing, that is impossible. Our baby will not take a bottle and would miss me greatly if I left her with someone else, even it that person was my mother. What are we to do?

Please, Lord, give me the wisdom to use the right words to seek justice in this situation. Give my husband and me a gentle spirit so we can convey to our pastor next week our particular dilemma. I will reassure the pastor that our baby will not disturb any of the talks or events at the retreat. If our baby fusses, I will take him out immediately. Lord, please help me to answer any objections that may come up at the meeting with our pastor. Give us the courage and calmness to express ourselves well so that our pastor will better understand our situation. Help him to understand the needs of the baby for his mother and her milk, and that the baby has a right to his mother’s milk.
And thank you, Lord, for our wonderful baby. What a gift to us!

5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Lord, our home is in turmoil right now. Our teen is most blunt about his extreme dislike for us, his parents. We are terribly hurt by his behavior. I know our situation is not unusual. I hear from my friends and acquaintances that their older children run all over them. Why do older children behave this way? Why are they so disrespectful of their parents? These children all come from good Catholic homes. When I expressed displeasure about our child without getting into any details, my friend simply said, “I know. I’ve been there. I know the feeling.” Her words showed she understood and I felt better. Another friend who was having a bad time with her daughter said to me, “I didn’t know it could hurt so much.” Sometimes the hurt can be so painful that you just want to throw in the towel. It gets to be pretty discouraging. Who would ever think that your command to love our enemies would apply to our own children.

I know of many situations, Lord, where you sent relief because of my prayer. Thank you. I have also found the sacrament of confession so helpful in erasing any grudge or despair I might have with regard to any of my children. Or during confession the priest offers spiritual advice that I need at the time. Sometimes during my confession I unexpectedly start to cry, but I am sure other mothers have done this too. I thank you for helping me to forget the past and to learn to love my children when they’re not very lovable. Forgiveness is so necessary in family life, but it can also be most difficult.

I have nursed all our babies and have thoroughly enjoyed their years at home. The bonding that begins through the breastfeeding has been a big help, but I soon learned that the bonding and communication and love has to be achieved in other ways as the children grow.

Lord, raising our children during the early years was easy. Their needs were so basic: food, comfort, and love. Please give my husband and me the graces to continue loving each child, even when it gets difficult. As they leave home, help us to keep up the communication with our children. Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness in the sacrament of confession and help us to forgive others whenever we are matter how badly we feel. I thank you also, Lord, for time. With time, all things seem to be much better. Emotions heal with time. New activities and events take place. Family life has a chance to be renewed. Thank you, Lord.

6. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Lord, you want me to be pure of heart. You want me to have that single-minded goal of holiness, to be one with you. In our marriage we have developed more spiritual goals in the past several years. We have learned about natural family planning and about generosity in having children. We have learned about your plan for spacing babies through breastfeeding. We are excited about our new knowledge. We also have become more excited about our faith.

I weaned our first three babies during the early months to please my husband. He wanted me to wean early so I could help out with the ranch work as soon as possible. With a change in attitudes, we decided I would nurse our fourth baby more naturally. I continued to help my husband with the ranch work, but this time our baby went everywhere with me. We rode the tractor together, checked heifers in the middle of the night together, and rode a horse together to move some cows. She helped me in the kitchen and loves to cook. She has been my helpmate and a joy.

At 26 months, she weaned naturally. Up to that time I never left her for more than two hours. My periods also returned at 26 months. She nursed often up until that last month.

When my daughter was 18 months old, my 92-year-old grandmother told me I should wean, that my baby was too old to still be nursing, that she needed to learn independence, and that I needed to live my own life so I could come and go as I pleased. At that time I was very upset with this advice. So I went to you, Lord, in prayer. I asked you to show me the way. You certainly answered me immediately. A few hours later I went to give my husband lunch out in the field, and I told him about my grandmother’s advice. I asked him if I should wean our little girl. He looked at me lovingly and said, “No. You two are doing just fine.” I thank you, Lord, for changing my husband’s heart also. He has become so supportive of my breastfeeding.
Please, Lord, give other new mothers the strength and support to be single-minded, humble and strong in doing what’s best for their babies and their older children. Give them the courage to be bold and to take their babies with them. Give them the courage to do what’s right for their baby.

7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Lord, when you speak of peacemakers, I think of obedience. How peaceful this world would be if children obeyed their parents, and if church members and the clergy would obey and follow the teachings of the Church!

After her children had left home, a friend of mine regretted not stressing the Fourth Commandment when her children were still under her care. In many families the honor and respect due one’s parents is often missing. I had breakfast with an older man, a friend of my dad’s, whose son would not come to visit his mother when she was dying. There are many cases where child and parent are not talking or where one sibling will not talk to another sibling.

Please, Lord, help us as parents to instill in our children a sense of honoring their parents and respecting those in authority. Give us peace in our families.

May the bonding in breastfeeding teach our children how to love as they grow older and develop other relationships. May they also grow to respect and appreciate their friends and the elderly, especially their aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Help me, Lord, to remember that breastfeeding is only a start. There is also the truthful saying that “the family that prays together stays together.” The rosary is such a help to family life with Mary’s protection. Please, Lord, grant our family peace.

8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs Is the kingdom of heaven.

Lord, give me the graces to counteract the bad advice this world is so eager to give to young mothers. Give me the right words to say, especially when someone makes a negative remark about my nursing. When I see a mother nursing modestly in public, give me the right words to encourage her.

Last night we stayed in a hotel while visiting family and relatives. When our relatives found out we slept with our baby in the king-size bed at the hotel they were horrified. They ruined our Thanksgiving dinner with their negative comments. We felt persecuted and were at a loss for words. Actually, no one was interested in hearing our thoughts on the subject. They were only interested in conveying their views and objections.

I am a 25-year-old college graduate who quit work to be home. I love being at home with my baby. The most important thing is that we wake up together; smile, talk, and nurse; we’re inseparable all day; smile, talk, and nurse; go to sleep; smile and nurse all night; and start the new day the same way. The breastfeeding has helped me to form a trust and relationship with her that is strong.

I have learned through breastfeeding that I do not have to be “super” mom. The important thing is that I am there for my child. We can be good moms and wives by showing love and affection in the ordinary and simple ways.
Lord, there are nursing mothers who know of no one else that is nursing a baby. They are told that their milk is not good enough or that they are spoiling their baby. They are criticized for not getting a babysitter or for still nursing at nine months or a year. Please, Lord, give these mothers the grace to do what’s best for their baby and to ignore the negative advice. Strengthen the husband’s knowledge about breastfeeding so he can react to any irrational comments and defend his wife’s breastfeeding. May our society be more open and supportive of breastfeeding so that these criticisms are no longer a part of our culture.

Copyright 2005 by Sheila Kippley