Breastfeeding and Christianity

One might think that breastfeeding and faith are unrelated activities. After all, one concerns the physical while the other is of otherworldly and lofty things.

However, the act of breastfeeding is a study of God – a part of the Theology of the Body.

The Christian worldview is one that sees a mother as a physical person, made in the image and likeness of God. Although God is pure Spirit, He created us as body-persons with both soul and corporeal form and as a result, we come to know Him in and through our very bodies. Thus, our bodies are actually a sort of theology – a study of God Who exists as Trinity of Persons, sharing life-giving Love between Them.

A baby is the result of an act of co-creation with God; in the marital embrace a man and woman show forth an image of God as a Trinity of Persons. The physical act of feeding this baby is not only an extension of this act of co-creation on the part of the mother, but is also another important aspect of this Theology of the Body, as Pope John Paul the Great described and taught.

Scripture describes God’s promise of comfort in the language of a nursing mother – “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you” (Is 66:13a; Is 49:15) - and a breastfeeding mother learns to understand the love which God has for her, as His child, through the way in which she is able to mother her own infant at the breast.
In addition, breastfeeding is Marian. Devotion to Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, occurs in many forms but perhaps none quite as simple nor as beautiful as Our Lady of La Leche. The image of a nursing Mary – giving food, comfort and love to the infant (and toddler) Christ – is a profound one for all Christians, and in particular, for women who are currently nursing their own children.

Like us, she carried a Child inside of her, delivered him and put Him to the breast. Like us, she walked floors, changed diapers and perhaps even dealt with clogged ducts, nursing strikes and thrush. She nursed through teeth, tantrums and nursing gymnastics and through her breastfeeding relationship mothered Him just as all breastfeeding mothers try to do. By contemplating the role of Mary as a breastfeeding mother and the sacrifices it entailed for the infant Christ, Christians mothers can also grow closer to Our Lord.

Lovely Lady of La Leche, most loving mother of the Child Jesus, and my mother, listen to my humble prayer. Your motherly heart knows my every wish, my every need. To you only, His spotless Virgin Mother, has your Divine Son given to understand the sentiments which fill my soul. Yours was the sacred privilege of being the Mother of the Savior. Intercede with him now, my loving Mother, that, in accordance with His will, I may become the mother of other children of our heavenly Father. This I ask, O Lady of La Leche, in the Name of your Divine Son, My Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

Lastly, breastfeeding is Christological. Salvation consists of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection - in these acts, He gave up His very body in order to bring froth the Church from the blood and water that poured forth from His side.

In the ongoing act of breastfeeding, even if a mother faces no obstacles and trials to do so, a woman has the unique and beautiful opportunity to participate in the act of redemption. By uniting her sacrifice of breastfeeding - by offering up her body for the nourishment and succor of her children - with that of the Cross, a woman joins herself to the very Act of Salvation.

What a gift from Our Lord! What a blessing to contemplate as we latch our little ones! 

Breastfeeding and Judaism

Judaism celebrates breastfeeding as a gift and much hard work.

In addition, Jewish tradition holds a special place for weaning in the life of the baby and mother.