Monday, December 8, 2008
When our second daughter was about four months old, I believe it was God that ordered my steps of find out about the book, "Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing: How Ecological Breastfeeding Spaces Babies" by Sheila KIppley. I already had a desire to nurse my baby on demand, but the book opened my eyes to a new way of mothering. Now, I plan on taking the ecological breastfeeding approach with all of my children.
Here is more from Sheila Kippley on "Scriptural Mothering":
In Scripture breastfeeding is usually associated with a special kind of care, a human example of God’s loving care for his people. We read of the nursing mother or of the child who is nursing or is weaned. Mothering is mentioned several times in Scripture and is often associated with breastfeeding.
What follows are biblical references to breastfeeding and/or mothering1 that may be helpful and supportive to parents, especially mothers. The Scripture quotes appear in the order they appear in Catholic bibles.
“And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned” (Genesis 21:8).
Here we read for the first time in the Bible of a child being weaned. Prolonged nursing of several years was common during Biblical times, and weaning was a cause for celebration of the child’s new stage in development.
Hannah: “As soon as the child is weaned, I will bring him, that he may appear to the presence of the Lord, and abide there for ever.”
Elkanah, Hannah’s husband: “Do what seems best to you, wait until you have weaned him” (1 Samuel 1:22-23)
Breastfeeding keeps Hannah with her baby. Hannah’s household planned to travel to Shiloh to offer a yearly sacrifice at the house of the Lord. Hannah excused herself because she was breastfeeding her child. Her husband supported her in that decision. Scripture then said: “So the mother remained and nursed her son, until she weaned him.” After the child weaned, she made the trip with her son, Samuel, and gave him to the Lord forever in the care of a priest and prophet.
Many husbands today support the mother-baby oneness of breastfeeding, and for this their wives are most appreciative. Hannah cared for her son during the early years of breastfeeding. When the breastfeeding ended, she then gave her son to the Lord.
When couples anticipate the conception of a new baby, they, like Hannah, can offer this child to the Lord and pray that the child grows up to do the will of the Lord. At the time of weaning, the mother or the parents, like Hannah, can offer the child spiritually to the Lord and pray that the child will grow up in the ways of the Lord.
“Thou didst keep me safe upon my mother’s breasts” (Psalms 22:9).
The psalmist describes breastfeeding as safe or protective. A nursing baby or toddler often seeks security at his mother’s breasts when hurt or insecure or upset for some reason. While this behavior is common among breastfed babies, it is also described in Scripture.
“…like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Psalms 131:2).
Here comfort nursing is described perfectly! One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that suckling has a quieting effect upon the child. A nursing mother soon learns that nursing is an easy way to pacify her baby into a deep sleep or to comfort her baby.
“Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15)
The Sacred Author used the bond that develops with breastfeeding to illustrate the enduring bond of God to his people.
“…that you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts” (Isaiah 66:11).
Comfort nursing is again described in Scripture. “Consoling breasts” is a wonderful definition of the mothering that takes place at the breast. Hunger satisfied, intimate closeness to mother, a wonderful answer to fatigue and the need for sleep, physical reassurance, pacification…many needs are fulfilled at the breast.
“…and you shall suck, you shall be carried upon her hip, and dandled upon her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).
Here a mother has close physical contact with her nursing baby. There is much holding and carrying of the baby by the mother. The baby is described as being on the mother’s hip and being danced upon her knees. Today this type of baby care is often called attachment parenting. And it is described in Scripture!
1. The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers for Ignatius Press, 1966.
Copyright 2006, Sheila Kippley