The LORD says: Look, I'm extending prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like an overflowing stream. You will nurse and be carried on the hip and bounced upon the knee. As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…
August 1-7, 2014 is World Breastfeeding Week, which seeks to encourage breastfeeding for both child and maternal health around the world. When I was pregnant with Miriam, I always planned to breastfeed. “Breast is best,” they say. At the hospital, I had to be visited by the lactation specialist more than once to teach me how. As many mothers have written, the most natural thing in the world is hardly “a natural.” Both mother and child have to work at it to make sure the baby is fed.
In the beginning, my breasts hurt, and I developed scabs on my nipples. TMI perhaps, but true. My breasts no longer looked like they had since I went through puberty. They became a food source, a feeding trough, a sometimes leaky machine. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I was blessed that my milk came in, and Miriam took to the breast. The times I spent breastfeeding Miriam were some of the most sacred experiences of my life. There is little that compares to the intimacy of nursing. And the milk provided helped my baby girl grow into the three-year-old she will be on Sunday.
At first, I wished to only provide my infant breast milk. However, with my husband’s encouragement and support, we allowed some formula into her diet, so I was not always “on call.” Plus, pumping was the bane of my existence. I didn’t produce enough to always have some in the freezer.
And that’s ok. Not all mothers are able to breastfeed. Adopted babies thrive on formula. I do not judge. I can only reflect on my experiences.
As someone who focuses on body and spirit, I can tell you that both were especially present when I was a nursing mom. This is not a new realization, as God promised to Israel to nurse her, raise her, and comfort her. When I breast fed, I was very aware of the present of God, as the one who knit my girl in my womb and whose head rested on my breast.
I was not one to always breastfeed in public, but I am grateful that Kentucky has laws in place to protect nursing moms. I made some uncomfortable even when I had a cover over Miriam’s head. But I did what I needed to do. For her. For me. We watched UK basketball games that way. Flew to California without problem because I was able to nurse on the plane. And when I weaned when Miriam was one, I was able to let go of that part of motherhood with ease.
I am grateful that God never fully weans us. That she is always a mother comforting her children, nourishing us with life sustaining milk, teaching us how to be life-givers, God-bearers to our own children and those around the world.