Amanda Evinger is the grateful mother of four children (and two others who have died), whom she homeschools with her husband Michael in a “little house on the prairie” in rural North Dakota. A convert from Calvinism, she spends her days in love with the Church and her vocation as wife and mother. She worked for nine years as Senior Writer for Catholic Stewardship Consultants and is a regular blogger and contributor to several Catholic publications, including the Latin Mass Magazine, Seton Home School Magazine, the Dakota Catholic Action, and the National Catholic Register.
After I had my first daughter on Dec. 23, 2008, I didn't spend the first few days gazing at my precious little Christmas baby with awe-inspired wonder as I wish I could have. I spent them in agony over not being able to nurse her well. I was in hair-raising pain, and my dreams of nursing my new honey-smelling, cuddle-bug like the Blessed Virgin Mary did in Byzantine works of art were “on the rocks.” And so, I prayed and prayed for the Christmas gift of being able to comfortably nurse my daughter.
By the time Christmas came, God had heard my prayers, and I was indeed nursing, but it was still a struggle. I felt very alone in my pain, and I didn't know who to turn to. My mother hadn't nursed her children, and my mother-in-law couldn't remember how she dealt with her breastfeeding issues. Thanks to the support of friends, professional lactation consultants, and the Catholic Nursing Mother's League (CNML)(www.catholicbreastfeeding.blogspot.com), I found the help I needed. I am profoundly grateful that, because of their loving concern for me as a mother, I didn't give up.
Now, eight years later, I can say I have successfully nursed all of my children in an ecological and extended nursing fashion, and it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever experienced. My time spent nursing my children have been times that I have lived my vocation to motherhood with an untouchable authenticity. It has given me a contemplative vision of motherhood and helped me to embrace the jewel-ridden, rugged cross of my vocation.
Breastfeeding – it weaves a tapestry of placidity between the heart of a mother and her baby; it sings the long-lost songs of nurturing and sacrifice; it speaks to all of the wonder of God's genuine concern for His children. When a mother nurses she is allowing her heroic love to flow into her baby's helpless, vulnerable heart. She is allowing her divinely-ordained maternal instincts to rule the air between her and her baby – not the anti-life, anti-family spirits that so prevail in this culture of death. When a mother nurses, she and her baby are inseparable; the link between them is unyielding and anchored in the truth of God's designs. By bringing a baby to her own breast, a mother is laying the foundation for a lifelong friendship with them that can stand against all odds. The profundity of nursing is ineffable and brimming with the marvel of the Creator's omniscience. The nourishment of breast-milk, drawn from a mother's own flesh and blood, is like no other source of vitality in the world. It is in a league of its own.
As Sheila Kippley writes in Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood, “Breastfeeding teaches a mother that she is important and needed... In Scripture, we read about the good care by nursing mothers. The child is 'quieted at its mother's breasts' (Ps. 131:2), is satisfied with the mother's 'consoling breasts', and is safe at its 'mother's breasts' (Ps. 22:9). Good mothering is depicted in Scripture through the mother who nursed and has close physical contact with her baby.”
In fact, the positive benefits that nursing can offer both the mother and the baby are simply astounding. More and more studies are being released about how breastfeeding blesses a mother – it lowers her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, enhances her maternal instincts in a phenomenal way, helps her lose pregnancy weight and lowers her risk of postpartum depression. For the infant, it has been shown to help prevent childhood diseases (as well as the onset of adult diseases later in life, such as diabetes), lowers their risk of developing mood disorders, and helps them form a most critical bond with the main person on earth who can give them stability and strength. As Gina Peterson, Executive Director of the CNML and author of Getting Started with Breastfeeding: For Catholic Mothers, shares:
“My own experience breastfeeding my five children is really what inspires me to promote it. I nursed my children for a total of almost 16 years and it was something I will never regret and would like every mom to have the joy of experiencing. It was such a special time in my life. I also really love helping other moms enjoy breastfeeding their children. Being able to combine my Catholic faith and love of supporting nursing moms is such a golden combination!”
In his Address on Breastfeeding in 1995 in a study session on breastfeeding, science and society organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society [of Great Britain], St. John Paul II said, “So human and natural is this bond that the Psalms use the image of the infant at its mother's breast as a picture of God's care for man (cf. Ps 22:9). So vital is this interaction between mother and child that my predecessor Pope Pius XII urged Catholic mothers, if at all possible, to nourish their children themselves (cf. Allocution to Mothers, Oct. 26, 1941). From various perspectives therefore the theme is of interest to the Church, called as she is to concern herself with the sanctity of life and of the family.”
The Catholic Nursing Mothers League (CNML) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and Catholic ministry that seeks to encourage and support nursing mothers emotionally and spiritually and educate parishes about the beauty and importance of breastfeeding. Their online presence includes an active blog, Yahoo group, and Facebook page and group.