Ecological Breastfeeding Part I
In a recent post I discussed the many benefits of extended breastfeeding. Both mother and child benefit physically and emotionally from a natural breastfeeding relationship, and babies also receive developmental benefits from the nutritional value of the milk. Unfortunately, in our society, this natural way of mothering has been all but lost.
With so many distractions and roadblocks put in the way of motherhood, and so many alternatives to the comfort and safety of a mother’s breast being endlessly advertised… it’s no wonder we have forgotten the beauty and the blessings that come with mothering our young children the way that God created and intended us to.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted to give her the best start possible, and I also knew that would include breastfeeding. It wasn’t until I read Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing that I realized I hadn’t thought of how I wanted to breastfeed.
My approach to parenting has always been that God has given us all the tools necessary in His creation to raise children who are healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t buy into the idea that you need the latest gadgets, toys, orthodontic binkies or whatever the latest craze is… It’s not that these things are inherently wrong in and of themselves, I just didn’t think that they are necessary.
I knew that God didn’t create babies for cribs or strollers or bottles. God created babies for mothers and fathers. So I have always been skeptical with cultural parenting practices; I critique cultural parenting techniques from every angle before I will accept them, because I know that God did not create man for 21st century America. Many of our innovations have gotten away from God’s intended purpose for families, so I make sure that whatever cultural practices I do adopt in my vocation as mother, they encourage God’s order rather than undermine it.
This is why I have chosen ecological breastfeeding. I truly believe that the principles of ecological breastfeeding are the natural, intended way God created us to nurture our children. I also believe that when we follow God’s intended order for our lives that it is healthier for us in every way; there are natural and spiritual consequences when we choose our ways rather than God’s ways – even when it comes to breastfeeding.
To be clear, I am not condemning anyone who does not follow this particular pattern of nursing. I am saying that having the worldview where children are burdensome and so I will only have a few, and the sooner I can get them to not need me for extended periods of time the better… is a wrong perspective. God has such a better way. With that being said… let’s get to the good part. These are the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding:
Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids or solids, not even water.
Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts.
Don’t use bottles and don’t use pacifiers.
Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules.
Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
These seven principles should be followed for the entirety of your nursing relationship with your child, until he is ready to wean himself. This is not something that you instigate, but a natural consequence of maturing that will happen when he is ready.
The only principle that you do not continue indefinitely is the first. Obviously, after six months of age, food can be introduced when the child begins to show interest.
I want to finish up today’s post with some of the benefits our family has had from following this path. I have been using ecological breastfeeding with Evangeline from the time she was born.
Evie has only been sick twice in the short 19 months of her life; both times she fully recovered in just a couple short days without any need for medication.
She has never had an ear infection or other any of the other common illnesses babies tend to be susceptible to. She is incredibly healthy in every way.
Evangeline is an extremely happy and secure baby. She knows that we will always be there when she needs us.
I gained 45 pounds during the course of my pregnancy. Without any kind of dieting, exercising or trying at all, I lost 41 of those pounds within the first 7 or 8 months postpartum.
For many women this natural form of breastfeeding helps to naturally space out children. Although our family was not concerned with the spacing of our children, this definitely has been a side-effect of ecological breastfeeding. I did not have my first cycle until 15 months postpartum. (I have to say it was nice to go two years without having to deal with that!)
Not only is this extended period without a menstrual cycle beneficial in spacing children, but it is also very healthy and is one of the main ways that ecological breastfeeding can help prevent breast cancer.
These are just a few of the short-term benefits we have seen in our own family. In Part II of this series I am going to go through each specific standard of ecological breastfeeding and explain some of the whys behind them and how implementing each one has looked in our own household. If there are any questions let me know and I will include them at the end of the series.