There has been a lot of discussion about breastfeeding lately. What is it? What isn’t it? How long is too long? Whose needs are really being met? And the implied: Is it sexual?
Many people are calling the controversial Time cover “provocative”. Time’s goal was to shock (and they did!), but they also brought attention to a serious confusion in our society. There is of course the discussion about nursing into toddlerhood, but at the core, our society mistakenly sees breastfeeding at any age as being something sexual in nature. There is even a picture circling on Pinterest of a baby with the words, “One day old, Already made it to second base”.
Here comes the real shocker: breasts were made for nursing babies! God’s wonderful design allows for a baby to receive nourishment and comfort directly from his mother at her breasts. There is nothing at all deviant about a mother feeding and soothing her child. So where does the confusion come from?
A woman’s beauty used to be viewed as a sign of her fertility. However, in our over sexualized culture, the conception lure has been removed from sex. Nourishing breasts, child-bearing hips and all that make women beautiful have always been related to both fertility and pleasure, but now they are viewed only as sources of pleasure.
Fortunately, there are still a few men like Dwight Schrute that know that babies’ needs come first. Here he describes the qualities he is looking for in a woman:
So if breastfeeding isn’t sexual, what IS it?
Breastfeeding is nourishment. There is no dispute that mommy’s milk is the perfect food for baby. It even adapts to accommodate the ever-changing needs of a newborn, infant or toddler. When baby is sick, mom’s body will make the antibodies baby needs and deliver them through her milk. What an amazing testament to our Creator! While there are endless benefits of breast milk, it’s not just about food either.
Breastfeeding is self-giving. Mothers intimately share their very selves with their children through breastfeeding. For many mothers, this is truly a sacrifice. When my son was about seven weeks old, I had a breast infection called mastitis. It is really painful! To drain the breast, I nursed my son in every position imaginable and a few that you might not be able to imagine.
As I hovered over my baby on the floor to let him nurse, I was suddenly overwhelmed by how much I truly love him. I would have never thought I would be doing something so strange. Yet I was willing to do anything for his benefit, despite what it may cost me. Does that sound familiar? In that moment, God offered me a glimpse of how He loves each of us. I’m sure it’s not always easy for God to love me. Even when it pains Him, He is always there for us. Like a mother sharing her milk with her baby, He generously shares His grace and mercy with us.
Breastfeeding is a mothering tool. When in doubt, nurse. Breastfeeding is my ultimate mothering tool. When my son falls and gets hurt, nursing makes him feel all better. When he’s going crazy during Mass, some cuddle time with mommy calms him down.
During my first few weeks as a new mom, I needed lots of help learning how to breastfeed. I couldn’t help but wonder how Eve survived without lactation consultants, La Leche League and other mommy friends. One morning, my son was especially screamy, and I wasn’t sure how to comfort him. That was the day I learned that breastfeeding is a mothering tool – and how (I think) Eve learned to breastfeed. I just know that all she was really looking for was something to shove in his mouth to make him stop crying!
Breastfeeding is bonding. Breastfeeding helps create a strong bond between mother and child. When I think about nursing, I think of the cuddles and kisses and hand holding. He’s touching mommy’s face, trying to smile while staying latched, playing with mom’s hair and necklace. I treasure the sweet happy noises he makes and how his little cheeks get so rosy. Those are the moments to remember, and that is, ultimately, what breastfeeding is.