BREASTFEEDING GOD’S WAY
God's plan for women is to be nurturers in the home and society. When do we start nurturing? At the moment our baby is conceived. As soon as we know there is life within our womb, we should begin nurturing and loving the developing baby.
Once the baby is born, we begin nurturing the babe at the breast. God created us with breasts to nourish babies. This is His divine plan.
In Exodus 2:9 Pharaoh's daughter said to Moses' mother, "Take this child, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages." I believe God says these same words to every mother as He gives to us the gift of a child. Entailed in these words are the nurturing and training of the child from infancy to adulthood. But the very first task is to nurse and nourish the baby at the breast. God gave breasts, not only for the beauty of a woman's figure, but to function. When a mother chooses not to nurse her baby, she does so to her own detriment, apart from the fact that her baby does not receive the perfect food that he/she is meant to receive. Breastfeeding is a biological function of our womanhood. We are benefited when we use this function. Go to these links:
Genesis 49:25 talks about the "blessings of the breasts, and of the womb."
The most common word for women in the New Testament is gune which means “woman or wife.” However, one time a different Greek word is used, translated from the word “woman,” and it is very significant.
It is the word, thelus.
It comes from the Greek root word, thele which means
“the nipple of a woman's breast, to suckle, to nurse.”
It is the true picture of a woman, created with a womb to nurture life and breasts to nourish that life. Now where does God use this word?
This word is used in Romans 1:26-27, "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women (thelus) did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another...." In this scripture, God spells out the consequences of women who turn away from the way He has created us, including the biological function of breastfeeding. Now please don't get me wrong. I know that some women have not been successful with breastfeeding because of lack of knowledge or even physical disabilities. But it is when we blatantly refuse to nurse that we go against nature and God's plan for us as women. It goes on to say that when men saw women turn away from their God given function, they turned to unnatural lusts. The rejection in our hearts of our womanly functions of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing is a root of homosexuality.
Even the animal kingdom does not turn away from their natural function to nurse and nourish their young. Lamentations 4:3 NIV says, "Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people, have become heartless like ostriches in the desert."
When we breastfeed, we embrace our womanhood and the way that God so intricately and wondrously designed our bodies. We are also blessed with many blessings. Here are some of the blessings we receive when we nourish a baby at our breast.
When a mother nurses her baby, the hormone, prolactin, is operating. This is a very strong “love hormone” which bonds the mother to her baby. Animal studies with this hormone are most interesting. When it is injected into a rooster, it makes the rooster become clucky and mother chickens! How about that? A female animal that is nursing her young in the wild will fight to death any intruder upon her young, whereas after weaning, she does not show this protection.
I saw an example of this in my own backyard. One time we had a little wild kitten that eventually gave birth to kittens. We gave away most of the litter but kept one kitten which our wild cat continued to nurse. In fact, as she nursed her kitten, we watched the kitten grow sleek, fat and bigger than the mother.
However, one day my daughter dropped off their dog for us to care for while they went away for the weekend. No sooner had they left and we heard a terrible commotion—barking, meowing and skin and hair flying. Our little cat was fighting their dog with a passion. We managed to separate them and tie up the dog.
The next day another daughter, Serene, arrived with a little puppy she wanted to introduce us to. Oh no! Another terrible fight erupted. Skin and hair flying again! We managed to separate them while I’m crying out, “This cat must have rabies!”
The next day Serene came to visit again--minus her puppy. We were peacefully enjoying an herbal tea together outside when I looked over and noticed the cat nursing her kitten! Suddenly it hit me! Why didn’t I think about it before! Prolactin! This powerful hormone was causing her to fight for death to protect her kitten! Once she weaned the kitten, guess what happened? We had every stray dog in the neighborhood turn up and she never even blinked her eye at them!
The mother who is nursing her baby is bound to her baby. She finds it hard to leave her baby with a baby-sitter. She is very protective of her baby. In fact, the more a mother nurses her baby, the more prolactin she produces, and the more motherly she becomes! This is God's plan. He does not intend for mothers to leave their babies after a few months to pursue their career. They already have a more important career. Breastfeeding ties them to one another.
This hormone, which is released by the pituitary gland is the hormone that stimulates the mother's letdown or milk-ejection reflex (the tingly sensation you feel when the milk lets down). This is a wonderful hormone that has a calming affect upon the mother. Every time the milk “lets down” she experiences a feeling of relaxation, calmness--and even sleepiness. God is good. When we do things His way, we get His benefits. He knows that mothers need this calming hormone and He has graciously provided it for us.
I am not a calm person by nature, but after nursing my babies for many years, the continual release of oxytocin had a major calming affect upon my whole personality. The more children I had, the more I noticed it. Many mothers notice an increase in tension after weaning their babies. My daughters nickname the hormone, “relaxin.”
A dear young mother who I know very well gave birth to her third baby when her husband had an accident with very serious head injuries. They didn't think he would live through the night, and if he did, he would be a vegetable. It was a traumatic time for this young wife. Well-wishing friends advised her to wean her baby because it would be too much for her to cope with, especially as she had to drive an hour and a half to the city each day to visit her husband. But her wise mother encouraged her to continue nursing. Every day she went to the hospital, taking her baby with her, and continued to nurse her through the long difficult months. It turned out to be her greatest blessing. The hormone oxytocin helped to keep her calm through all this time. By the way, through prayer and God’s mercy, her husband lived.
A study cited by Dr. Niles Newton, Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University of Chicago says that "mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding their infants had higher levels of oxytocin during feedings than mothers who were breastfeeding and giving formula supplements."
Randee Romano writes about a study which "indicates that the secretion of oxytocin is a conditioned response, meaning that a mother's body may produce oxytocin in response to familiar sights, sounds, or activities, not just from the direct stimulation of breastfeeding. In a small sample of nursing mothers, all showed an increase in oxytocin before the baby was put to breast. This will not surprise mothers who feel their milk let down when their babies cry. In fact, half of the women in the study experienced this. An increase in oxytocin levels was also measured in 30 percent of the mothers when their babies became restless and in 20 percent of the women as they were preparing to nurse."
Oxytocin is known as the "hormone of love.” Dr. Niles Newton says, "Oxytocin also triggers nurturing behavior… Both men and women release oxytocin with orgasm. Married couples, after lovemaking, and nursing mothers, after breastfeeding, all reported lower levels of anxiety and depression than a group of mothers surveyed after a bottle-feeding. Even eating triggers oxytocin release, which is another reason to share family mealtimes."
3. NATURAL CONTRACEPTION
“Just a minute," I hear you say. "I know many women who have conceived while breastfeeding!" Yes, I agree with you. But it depends how they were breastfeeding. If we do it God's way, we will have natural child spacing.
What is God's way of breastfeeding? As a young mother I was confused. Over 40 years ago, rigid four-hourly scheduling influenced me. This limited amount of nursing was not enough to stimulate milk supply and by three months I had sadly weaned my first baby. I nursed twins for six months, but it was not until my fourth baby that I found the successful way of nursing my baby. Oh, why wasn't there some older woman around to teach me? I wished I could have attended an Above Rubies retreat! I found that to ensure an ample milk supply, I needed to feed my baby more frequently, in fact, not just when he/she was hungry, but when he/she was miserable and needed comforting.
But then I felt guilty as accusing voices gathered momentum, "You will spoil the baby if you feed him whenever he wants a feed." Now what should I do? I longed to do it God's way. Then God showed me through His Word. Every answer is in the Word of God, isn't it?
In Isaiah 66:10-13 God is talking about Jerusalem and likening her to a nursing mother. When we read what He says, we get God's understanding of a nursing mother. As you read this passage you will see no mention of food. What do you read?
"That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations: that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem."
Did you notice the words--"satisfy, console, delight, comfort?" We see here that nursing is not an alternative way to feed a baby, e.g. bottle feeding versus breastfeeding. No, it is total mothering to meet every need of the child. The breast is used, not only to satisfy hunger, but to satisfy, delight, console and comfort.
When a mother nurses her baby this way, she will nurse many times a day and through the night. The baby will sleep with the mother and nurse on and off as he wants. This amount of sucking stimulation holds back ovulation and inhibits conception. They have made a study of mothers who nurse this way. The average return of menstruation for these mothers is 14.6 months which means they would have their babies about two years apart. However, some don't commence menstruation until 2.5 years while some will start at 6 months. It is also usual for the first period or even the first two to be sterile. In Hosea 1:8 it tells us that after Gomer weaned she conceived and bore a son.
Recently a scientist name Beverly Strassmann traveled to Africa to live with the Dogon tribe in Mali. She found that the women of the Dogon tribe, who are not influenced by our modern society, give birth on an average to eight or nine children and their ovulation returns on an average at 20 months. The wonderful blessing of this is that they only ovulate about 100 times in their lifetime, instead of the approximately 400 to 450 times of modern women! This is not normal, but ABNORMAL! God never intended women to live this way.
It is interesting that this passage in Isaiah 66 also hints at the hormone, oxytocin. It says that as she gives suck, she will have peace flowing over her like a river.
I mentioned early the word thele, which means “to suckle at the breast.” The only other time this word is used in the New Testament is when Jesus was answering the Pharisees when they came to tempt him about divorce. His answer to them was, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:3-4). The word “female” is thele. In other words, Jesus called women “a suckling mother.” It may be hard to get your brain around it, but basically you are meant to be predominantly “a suckling mother” rather than predominantly “a menstruating mother!”
4. THAT WHICH IS ENOUGH
We have already talked about the understanding of God, El Shaddai. Let's look a little closer at this word, shaddai.
Sha means “that which is or he who is”
Dai means “enough”
Therefore the meaning for breast is “that which is enough”
Isn't that wonderful? The breast is total provision for the little babe as he/she nurses. When nursing a baby, we don't have to give supplement bottles, we don't have to give solids and we don't have to give pacifiers. The breast is enough to satisfy the physical and emotional hunger of our baby. God's understanding of the breast is that it is enough!
Now I must reiterate that this natural contraception, which is God’s plan, requires total mothering. You will need to:
a) Nurse your baby for emotional as well as physical needs
Yes, you'll be nursing more frequently. But don't worry! Put your feet up and have another rest and don't fret! Purchase a baby carrier and nurse while you are walking around and doing household tasks. It is amazing what you can do while nursing a baby. Remember, you are doing a great job! You are nurturing a precious life. There is nothing more important that God wants you to do at this moment!
Psalm 71:3 says, "Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort." Even as a grown man, David looks to the Lord for a habitation, to where he can come at any time. I think he is subconsciously thinking back to his early nursing days with his mother when he could come to her at any time. She was totally available as he constantly resorted to her for sustenance. It is a picture of a true nursing mother, isn't it? In fact, have you ever watched little lambs or calves feed from their mothers out in the fields? They have total access to their mothers. They will drink a little and leave it, and then go back and drink again whenever they need their mother.
b) Satisfy the sucking need of your baby
I am surprised to see so many babies with pacifiers in their mouths. A pacifier is a mother substitute. Babies are born with an incredible sucking need, which must be satisfied. God intends the mother to satisfy that need. Not only does this increase the bond of mother and baby, but also it holds back ovulation. If your baby uses a pacifier, it is likely you will conceive during breastfeeding.
My first three babies were scheduled. Two sucked their thumbs and one sucked her bottom lip. My last three babies were totally nursed. None of them sucked any substitute or needed anything else, even a “cuddly,” to satisfy them. They were totally satisfied and nurtured by the breast.
c) Don't start solid food until nine months
There is absolutely no necessity to do this before this time. Some bib babies may need to start at six months, but never before. Other babies are not interested until they a year old. You are only substituting an inferior food for the most perfect food God intends for your baby. And if you do, it will also limit your nursing and thus hasten the onset of ovulation. In fact, babies don't really need extra food until they have teeth and can masticate.
d) Don't use a bottle
Don't give water in a bottle or orange juice. It is totally unnecessary. If your baby is thirsty, nurse from your breast again. Don't ever give a supplement. If you think your baby is not getting enough milk, increase the nursing. Increased nursing will always build up a dwindling milk supply. It is the sucking stimulation that increases your milk. It is impossible to run out of milk if you feed your baby frequently enough.
Babies will often have a hunger spurt at about six weeks and again around three months. They fuss and cry and want to feed more frequently. The mother may think she is running out of milk, but what is happening is that the baby is saying, "I need a bigger supply now," and so he fusses so he can feed more frequently to build up the supply again. The law of supply and demand always works. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and if you notice that your little baby has continual dry diapers, you’ll know that something is wrong and you must take action.
e) Nurse during the night
The goal of modern mothers it to get their baby to sleep through the night. A “good” baby is determined by whether he sleeps through the night or not. But night nursing is necessary for holding back ovulation and this is God's intention. Even Paul, when describing himself as a nursing ( Thessalonians 1:7-9). Night feeding is easy when your baby sleeps with you. In fact, it is a very precious experience.
One word of caution. Breastfeeding should not be used for the primary purpose of contraception. It is an added blessing that comes with breastfeeding. Ultimately our trust must be in the Sovereign Lord who opens and closes the womb. If a mother conceives sooner than expected, it is God’s will to bless her with another gift from Himself. Every conception is a blessing, even if the timing may not seem right to us.
Another note. It seems that in our modern day that there is a minority of women whose periods return very quickly even though they nurse night and day and don’t use pacifiers or solids. Some statistics say it is about five per cent and that these are women who have higher estrogen levels.
Biblical Understanding of Nursing:
We have discussed Isaiah 66:10-13. Let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9. Here we notice how Paul uses a number of similarities with a nursing mother....
Gentle "we were gentle among you."
Nourishing the word "nurse" means "nourisher" in the Greek.
Cherishing "cherishing her children."
Loving "affectionately desirous of you."
Available "we were willing..."
Sacrificing "we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own lives..."
Night nursing "laboring night and day."
5. WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN TRUST
Psalm 22:9-10 says, "Thou art He that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's womb."
Right from the very beginning, we as mothers have the privilege of showing to our children a little of what God is like. In the womb the child's trust is in God for sustenance through the mother. As the little babe continues to nurse at his/her mother's breast, this baby learns to trust. He/she knows that life, sustenance, and comfort will always be there. Nursing a babe at the breast is a powerful work. Not only are we nourishing our baby, but also we are teaching them, right from birth, what it means to trust in God.
6. MOTHER'S HEALTH
We usually think of the baby's health when we think of breastfeeding, but most people don't realize that it is also advantageous for the mother's health. We were created by God's design to function as nourishers by using the breast. When we don't do this, our whole body is at stake. Read these findings:
* Eight case studies gathered from different countries have been conducted which prove that prolonged breastfeeding is a preventative measure against breast cancer. Herbert Ratner, Editor of Child and Family says, "If breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer it will be found in women whose babies are totally breastfed for the first six months and with more than one baby. The state of prolonged amenorrhea caused by breastfeeding could very well be the factor associated with the hormonal state that protects against cancer. In this day and age, when supplementary feeding and the early introduction of solids are popular, most breast-feeding is token, not total, and is not associated with the customary prolonged amenorrhea of the totally breast-fed infant."
* Reported in the Science News, October 1992, by Kathy Facelmann, Malcolm C. Pike from the Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles " blames the epidemic rates of breast and other female cancers on a fact of modern life: The average American woman starts menstruating at age 12 and typically gives birth to one or two infants. Pike estimates she will ovulate a whopping 450 times during her lifetime. By contrast, a woman who lived 200 years ago would have started menstruating at age 17 and would have delivered and breastfed about eight babies. Thus our foremothers ovulated fewer than 150 times during their lives. Pike argues that pregnancy and lactation provide a crucial resting period for the ovaries, the female sex glands that produce not only eggs, but also several powerful hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Each month, a woman's body readies itself for pregnancy. The ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone, which tell the breast cells to begin dividing in preparation for milk production. In years past, women went through this cycle less frequently because they were more often either pregnant or breastfeeding."
* "Women who have a full pregnancy before the age of 18 have one third the breast cancer risk of a woman whose first child is delayed until after age 30, or never has a child. One interesting angle on the breastfeeding issue is that the Tania women in Hong Kong, who traditionally only nurse with their right breast, have more cancer in their left breast." Mark Renneker, M.D, Understanding Cancer 24.142.
* "The observed protective effect of lactation on risk of breast cancer can be interpreted in a number of ways. The hormonal changes of lactation (i.e. increased prolactin and decreased estrogen production) may in some way inhibit breast tumor initiation or growth. During lactation, ovulation often ceases or is less frequent, which may also protect against breast cancer. There could be direct physical effects on the breast associated with lactation that might protect against breast cancer, such as changes in breast ductal epithelial cells in lactation or mechanical 'flushing-out' of carcinogens." McTeirnan A, Thomas D.B. Evidence for a protective effect of lactation on risk of breast cancer in young women: results from a case-control study. Am J Epidermiol 1986;124:353-8.
* A recent CASH study involving about 9,000 women, revealed that the women with the least breast cancer were those who had the most children and thus a longer breastfeeding experience. CASH researcher, Peter Layde, M.D. reports, "We found that women who breastfed a total of two years or more had nearly a third less breast cancer than women who did not breast feed."
7. BABY'S HEALTH
If your baby is healthy, this is a blessing for you as a mother. A healthy baby is easy to care for; a sick baby is a constant worry. The best way to keep your baby healthy is to give it the perfect food that God has planned. Cow's milk is a perfect food, but only for cows! It was never intended for human babies! The cow is a big animal with four stomachs. It weighs about 90 lbs. at birth and in only two years it is a whopping 2,000 lbs. This is not the kind of food that is required for the human baby who weighs about 6 - 8 lbs. at birth and is only 100 - 200 lbs. twenty years later!
The baby uses 100 per cent protein from the mother's milk. Less than 50 percent can be absorbed from cow's milk or formula so that baby has to take twice as much, which is extra work on the kidneys. Nursing mothers should not take any notice of the large amounts of milk that their bottle feeding counterparts give their babies. Nor should they expect them to be as big and fat! They are not meant to be! They are humans, not calves! And they don't want to establish unnecessary fat cells for overweight problems later in life. Of course, many breastfed babies will become fat and "roly poly," which we love in babies. But breast milk will not lay down fat cells for the future.
Breast milk contains up to 10 times more essential vitamins than cow's milk. This difference is reduced when cow's milk is diluted and reduced further when the formula is heated. The immunity that breast milk affords lasts long after the child is weaned. Breastfed babies do not suffer from constipation as breast milk forms a soft curd in the baby's stomach. Sucking on the breast will promote optimum facial development for which your child will bless you later in life.
Here are some other interesting facts for you, although to write them all we would need to do a separate manual.
* "The risk of acute gastrointestinal illness in infants receiving formula was six times greater than in infants receiving breast milk and 2.5 times greater than in infants receiving cow milk." J.S. Koopman, M.D. MPH.
* "Insufficient breastfeeding of genetically susceptible newborn infants may lead to beta-cell infection, beta-cell destruction, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) later in life. K. Borch-Johnson.
* "Children who were artificially fed or breastfed for only six months or less were at increased risk for developing cancer before age 15. The risk for artificially fed children was one to eight times that of long-term breastfed children, and the risk for short-term breast feeders was 1 - 9 times that of long-term breast feeders. M.K. Davis. Infant feeding and childhood cancer. Lancet, 1988.
* "Whole cow's milk should not be fed to infants during the first year of life because of its association with hidden gastrointestinal bleeding, iron deficiency anemia, and cow's milk allergy. The consumption of whole milk after the first year of life should be discouraged because of its potential role in a variety of disorders including atherosclerosis, recurrent abdominal pain of childhood, cataracts, milk-borne infections, and juvenile delinquency. Frank Oski, M.D. writing in the journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics.
* Recent news from London says, "Researchers say thousands of bottle-fed babies risk long-term brain and bone damage from aluminum in milk powders. Surveys showed the powders often contained more than 100 times the aluminum in breast milk. Aluminum interferes with the production of enzymes vital to brain activity. There were also fears that high doses could accelerate mental decline in old age."
We would need a whole book to list the advantages of breastfeeding for the baby, but apart from the physical health of the baby, studies reveal that it also results in increased intelligence. In Britain 300 premature babies were studied --193 were breastfed, 107 were fed formula. Eight years later they were tested and the breastfed children scored eight points higher in their test scores than the formula fed babies.
8. CORRECT WEIGHT LOSS
A mother puts on about 9 lbs. in readiness for her milk supply. If she doesn't nurse her baby, that weight does not come off easily. This problem is intensified if the mother herself was bottle fed or given fatty food in childhood. If too many fat cells are produced in childhood they remain on the body, waiting to be filled up when the adult eats a high calorie meal.
Some mothers say they haven't lost weight during nursing, but usually they have only breastfeed for a short while. Long-term nursing will always reduce weight. In fact, this is one time in your life, when you can eat what you want without worrying! Also, breastfeeding causes the uterus to contract and retract to its former state in the first few weeks.
9. LESS WORK
No need to prepare bottles or solid foods. Each time the baby needs you, it is another opportunity to sit down and put your feet up, or even take the baby to bed with you. If you have little ones around, it is an opportunity to gather them around you as you nurse your baby and read them a story or relate to them. Nursing keeps you close to your baby and your other children.
You also don't have to worry when baby cries. Put the baby to the breast for whatever need the baby has. It takes all the worry out of mothering. It is interesting to note that mothers who feed this way are usually the mothers who want more babies.
WHEN SHOULD YOU WEAN YOUR BABY?
A baby should be weaned when it is ready to wean, which if a baby is given this opportunity, will be at about two to three years of age. Some babies are not ready to wean unto four or five years. Research reveals that peoples in the world who do not substitute with animal milk of some kind nurse their babies for three to five years. Dake's Annotated Reference Bible suggests that Moses was five years old when he was weaned and ready to start his education in the Egyptian court; Samuel was five years old when we was weaned and taken to the prophet, Eli; Isaac was five years old when he was weaned and they celebrated with a weaning party.
Let's look at the mammal kingdom. We are also mammals, although more than that, for we are human beings created in the image of God. Young mammals that grow rapidly and mature early have correspondingly short nursing periods. Young mammals that grow slowly and develop late have correspondingly long nursing periods. The human infant grows slowest of all and reaches maturity latest and therefore should have a correspondingly longer nursing period. Large numbers of mammalian species reach maturity, reproduce themselves, live out their life span and die in less time than it takes for men to attain maturity and yet many of these nurse longer than most women.
Dr. Niles Newton tells of a study that suggests that the duration of breastfeeding may be related to the amount of social learning required. As long as a mammal is lactating, the young tend to stay near the mother and thus can possibly learn more from her. Marked differences exist in the duration of the nursing of aquatic mammals. Some are simple grazers of the sea and nurse only seven to ten months. Others, like the porpoises have complex social structures and sophisticated navigational systems and they nurse for 18 - 25 months. He states, "The effect of the unbiologically early weaning in human infants is not known, but it is possible that learning ability and socialization are influenced by date of weaning."
Here's the words of an old Egyptian sage, “Three longs years she carried thee upon her shoulder and gave thee her breast to thy mouth, and as thy size increased her heart never once allowed her to say, ‘why should I do this?’”
The advantages of later weaning are more than physical. In fact, as the baby grows and enters the second year, the mother is not necessarily feeding her baby for sustenance as he can get that from other food. She continues to nurse to satisfy his inner needs that are just as important as his physical. I am sure that a baby who is allowed to nurse for two to three years will have a basis of security and confidence for his future years.
Love from NANCY CAMPBELL