Breastfeeding and the Theology of the Body

Even after having 4 kids, you’d think that breastfeeding would come easier with the fourth kid, but nooooooooooo….. Jacob is throwing me for a loop. First it was the bottle feeding… That was interrupting the proper latch and his preference for the bottle seemed to overtake his want for breastfeeding, so we cut out the bottles. Second it is his latch, since he was bottle fed, his latch was smaller then the typical one. Mind you he also has a really small mouth because he’s a preemie, so we’ve been using a nipple shield to help open his mouth wider, but with that comes other problems: he doesn’t get as much milk as he would drinking from the bare breast. Third, since we’re using the nipple shield, he latches better using that than on the bare breast, but I’ve been working on getting him off the nipple shield. So that’s another transition. Fourth, he hasn’t been gaining as much weight as we’d hoped, so instead of adding formula, as other people would, we’ve been adding a tube while feeding him…to get him to a higher weight….Sigh…so many things going on.

There are usually 2 breastfeeding problems: 1) a milk production problem, where for whatever reason, your body isn’t producing as much milk as your baby needs and 2) a latching problem. This happens when your baby can’t latch properly and it makes breastfeeding hurt. For me, my problem has always been a latching problem. I have never had a problem with milk production, thankfully, but on the other hand, a latching problem can make any mother quit breastfeeding because it really hurts if you don’t get the help you need. Sigh… This is such hard work. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, and it is the least talked about in parenting classes, but let me tell you…. It puts things into perspective.

How much are you willing to sacrifice for your baby… To try to give him/her the best possible nutrition… It’s really hard… And the sad thing is… A lot of mothers give up before their babies. One thing I have learned in my life regarding breastfeeding is NEVER give up! If you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for it, it will be totally worth it. There is help out there if you really want it. But first you have to get over the painful latches of the milk production issues to be able to be in the clear.

Over the last few days, Jacob and I have been struggling with breastfeeding. He’s been fussy a lot at night which means that I’ve been up nursing him. I feel like I’ve been nursing him non stop over the last few days. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

Breastfeeding takes a lot of patience, persistence and a heck of a lot of the miracle nipple cream I was prescribed! Let me tell you… Without that nipple cream, I don’t know where I’d be.

Thinking about how this relates to the Theology of the Body… In so many ways, a mother is that child’s representative of Jesus, metaphorically, of course.

She willingly feeds her child, losing sleep and other things that come along with it. But if you knew what the milk was, you’d also understand the parallels with that of the Holy Eucharist.

What is the Holy Eucharist? It’s literally transformed from bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. See John chapter 6 in the Bible. Jesus’ body and blood becomes the sustenance for our lives. If we eat of his flesh and drink his blood, we will have eternal life. He is the life source of our lives.

In the same way it can be for breastfeeding…the mother’s body and blood is transformed into sustenance for that little baby. Without the milk, the baby would die. But I guess one of the most beautiful things to think about is that mothers get to feed their babies just like the Blessed Mother fed the baby Jesus. She gave up her body for him so he could live by drinking the milk that her body produced.

If breastfeeding doesn’t make you a saint, I don’t know what will. While I’m sitting here, feeding Jacob, sometimes I wonder why I don’t just quit breastfeeding this little boy… And as I contemplate this, I think no… I could never give up on this. This is my sacrifice for him but also for those who need prayers. My struggle will be offered up for those who need and want prayers. So if you’d like me to remember you during my struggle please comment on this post, and I’ll be sure to pray for you during my breastfeeding journey.

Before I end this post, if you could also lift me up in your prayers, I could really use them. Breastfeeding is hard, but one thing I’ve learned is… Get the help…it’s out there if you need it.

This is where I got my help…

The Doctor’s Breastfeeding Clinic

The doctors here are great! And so is the lactation consultant. I wouldn’t have made it this far without their help.

One last note… I was reading another blog about 5 saints who should be known by breastfeeding mothers, and one that really stood out was St. Zelie Martins. She was the mother of St. Therese of Lisieux. She was unable to breastfeed her children and had to send them to live with wet nurses because she couldn’t feed them. And many of them died while they were separated from her. 😮 Can you imagine?? Your babies died because you couldn’t breastfeed them?? I’d be devastated and I’m sure she was. So I’m that note, I’ll end this blog with a short prayer.

St. Giles (patron saint of breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers, St. Zelie, and Our Lady of La Leche, please pray for all the breastfeeding mothers out there that are struggling and wanting to give up! Give them the will to keep going even when they want to stop. Allow them to enter into the suffering deeply and unite it with that of Christ and the Blessed mother. Allow them to persevere by your grace. All this we ask in Jesus’ name! Amen!

My little milk monster! He keeps me on my toes!

Your sister in Christ,

Jeanette

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The Theology of my body

So 2 months ago, I attended the second Theology of the Body course in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, and it was truly amazing! I LOVE how the TOB community is very tight knit. I attended the course with a few people I saw last year at the first TOB course, and we became closer through our love for TOB and for each other!

Reality has set in though and the weight of the responsibility has set me on fire for the Lord and this prophetic message!

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my experience at the retreat, let me share an experience that I shared with my TOB friends at the retreat. It has really put things into perspective for me. I never considered my body to be a theology, but boy, was I wrong. I always thought that my body will be a gift, and sure…. it’s easy enough when you’re a parent… you’re ALWAYS a gift…but when the true nature of being a gift is called into question, things change.

A few weeks before the course, our friends got married, and it was a beautiful wedding. One of the sponsors at the wedding recently had a baby a few weeks prior, so I was asked to take care of him, and of course, I said YES! I LOVE babies!!

As I was taking care of him, he started to get fussy, so I rocked him, stood up, burped him… but he would have none of it. I quickly walked to the back as the entire wedding party was lining up and told his mom that he was hungry. She was unsure what to do because the wedding procession was going to start in a few minutes. My husband, being the TOB supporter, steps out and says “who’s going to be the wet nurse? Charity right?” and both the baby’s mom and I looked at each other and I said “I’m ok to feed him as long as you are… I don’t want him to be hungry.” And she said “tob right? Charity!” I was in such awe from that moment. I knew I had to be a gift for this little incarnate soul. He was hungry, so I fed him out of love and charity for him and his mom.

Wait whaaaaat????  You breastfed another baby??  Some of you are probably thinking this… and to you I say Yes…yes I did!!  I did it with joy and love for God. My understanding of the theology of the body made that decision easier for me to love another human that wasn’t directly related to me.

I must say that it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had.  I mean breastfeeding in general is a beautiful experience, but it is different when it’s your own child and when it’s someone else’s.  At that moment, I remember feeling awestruck and simply in love.  I was able to be a gift for someone other than my family and it was beautiful.

It only really hit me how powerful this witness was to me and to my fellow TOB retreat goers.  I shared this story with them during our Thursday bonfire, and a few women after came and told me that it was such a great story and that they would pray for me. One woman said that I would forever be her example of Our Lady of Laleche.  Every time she sees someone breastfeeding a baby, she will think of me and pray for me.  🙂  What wonderful people to offer up prayers for you.

Fast forward a few months later, and what have I realized….  There are so many things I can say about this experience.

It helped me have more reverence towards our blessed mother Mary.  She is the original Our Lady of la Leche.  She nursed the baby Jesus in order to sustain His life, and in turn, He gave up His to save hers.  WOW!!!!!  I, somehow, was able to participate in the very act of charity that sustained my friend’s baby as well as the charity that allowed Jesus to live.  We never think about Mary breastfeeding Jesus, but in reality she did.  What else would she have done??  She loved him enough to give up her life to care for him.  She had sleepless nights, fussy baby blues, breastfeeding aches, but yet she still gave up her life to take care of the one who gave up his. We often forget that Mary was human with real struggles and real parenting fails, but she, with the grace of God, took care of Jesus.  What a lovely reminder for us mothers… Mary was once in our shoes, so she knows our hearts better than anyone.

The theology of the body has taught me that we all long for closeness and love, and the only way to show and express love is to give of yourself fully.  To give of yourself to another freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully is the only way to truly live life. If you’re going to live, live with love.  If you’re going to love, love till it hurts.  If you’re going to be a gift, give yourself fully. When they say “no man is an island” it’s true.  No one can live by themselves devoid of the rest of the world. My dad once shared with me that “God made me to know him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life and be happy with him forever in the next.” I will forever take those words with me as I move forward in life.  That one moment where I gave myself to love and serve another little human has forever changed my life, and for that experience, I am truly grateful.