Apparently last week was national breastfeeding week, and I meant to write a blog post then, but time got away with me – as it so often does! I am a bit obsessed with breastfeeding. I became fascinated in the process I guess when my friends started having babies, and even more so when I became pregnant in 2015. Since then there has been less than six months when I haven’t been either pregnant or breastfeeding, so it’s obviously on my mind a lot! There is so much I could say, but I’ll try and keep it just to the really interesting bits!
Let me start by saying that I am firmly in the camp of ‘fed is best’. Breastfeeding, especially initially, is HARD! I had problems getting started with both my kids (despite having read all the books – turns out there’s nothing like actual experience… who knew?!) After an emergency C-section and a week in hospital after I had Scarlett my milk just would not come in, so we ended up topping up with formula (which I ditched when I got home, because frankly I’m too lazy to wash and sterilise bottles!) After I had Harvey I had all kinds of different problems and it was really painful for six weeks. I almost gave up so many times. But I’m glad I didn’t! But, if you are someone who has bottle fed – I get it! Feeding your babies is best! Do what you have to do to keep everybody happy! But, that being said, here are some interesting things about breastfeeding!
Did you know that the breasts of a nursing mother analyse the saliva of the baby, and if it picks up that the baby is getting an illness, the mother produces antibodies, which then get passed into the milk and help the baby to fight it off? I think it possibly also stops the mother from getting the illness too – I have certainly noticed that I don’t seem to get colds while I’m breastfeeding! Very useful if you’ve got someone tiny to look after!
Another thing – breast milk has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties! Wowsers! That means it’s great for treating loads of ailments that might affect a baby, from conjunctivitis to ringworm. True story: I squirted some on a mosquito bite that was driving me crazy a few weeks ago – instant relief!
The magical stuff also adapts to the baby’s needs in other ways – it contains more and more calories as the baby grows so that he doesn’t need to drink more and more milk to keep him satisfied. I remember feeding Scarlett in the early days, and she would often take 40 minutes to have her feed. I remember thinking that if that was how long it takes to feed a tiny baby, imagine how long she would feed for by the time she’s five months! But it doesn’t work like that – thankfully! As babies grow they get more and more efficient at feeding and so actually spend less time there – unless you’ve got one of those babies that just likes to hang out on your boob!
There are SO many more fascinating things about breastfeeding, but I won’t put them all here. I also can’t be bothered to go through and find scientific evidence to back these things up (have I mentioned, I have two young kids?), but there are loads out there that are easy to find, if you are into that sort of thing! But I would like to go on to say that I think these facts (and many more) tell us a lot about ourselves.
No, I’m not about to start writing about breastfeeding in public (though I may touch on that in a bit, if the mood takes me). I think that all of that stuff I’ve just written reveals loads about human beings. Firstly, I believe that this all points to the fact that we are created. I just don’t see how such an intricate process could have happened by chance. All of the things work out so perfectly that I think it just has to have been designed. Even down to the fact that in the early days, breastfeeding a baby means you have to spend loads of time sitting down – right when your body really needs to be recovering after giving birth.
And yet it doesn’t work perfectly – it can be painful, there can be problems (hello mastitis! You’re not welcome here!) which goes to show that the world is not as it should be. The Bible tells us that the world we live in is fallen – back in the garden of Eden, people sinned against God, bringing a curse, meaning that things don’t work how they were originally meant to. (Don’t worry – one day God is planning to restore everything to an even better state, and you just need to trust in Jesus to secure your place!)
Immediately after the fall, Adam and Eve became ashamed of their naked bodies, which also has a bearing on breastfeeding. We feel the need to cover up! Whether we should ‘hide’ this act or not is something I’m not going to go into, but it is interesting that we feel embarrassed at bearing certain parts of ourselves to others, just like the Bible shows will happen. It is also fascinating to me that in a society where there is cleavage emblazoned across every bill board and TV advert, we get a bit squeamish about mums feeding their babies. In our glorification of sex, have we forgotten the primary purpose of breasts? Also, as an aside, why don’t people get all huffy about men revealing their bum cracks when they bend over? Surely that is far more offensive to look at than a bit of boob going into a hungry mouth?
What God is like
I think that breastfeeding also reveals a bit about what God is like too. He is kind, he looks after us – that is clear from the way he designed breastfeeding to work, both for the mother and the baby. But also through the times that breastfeeding is mentioned in the Bible. Yes – it really is! Here’s some for you:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15.
Could I forget my baby while you’re breastfeeding him? No way! But I am more likely to forget him than God is to forget his people. Wow!
And what about the story of Moses? He was put in the original Moses basket and sent down a river to safety when Pharaoh wanted the Hebrew babies killed. Pharaoh’s own daughter found him and decided to keep him – but she needed to feed the baby, she need a wet nurse. And, in God’s plan, who did she get to come and feed the baby? Moses’ own mother! God could have got her to find any other woman in the country to nurse the baby – events would have worked out the same if it had been anybody else, but no, it was Moses’ own mother who got to look after him, which can only have been for the purpose of showing God’s great kindness.
There are more, but I think these two are such strong pictures that I’ll leave it there.