I am a mother, a wife, a pediatrician, a Christian — and a passionate advocate of breast-feeding.
The older I get, and the more I take care of babies, mine and others, the more I am in awe of God’s creation. God made a beautiful and perfectly tuned system for mothers to feed their young.
Breast-feeding provides perfect nutrition for babies. Breast milk is much more than food. It is infection protection, disease prevention, IQ enhancement and attachment-building.
Medical studies indicate that babies who are not breast-fed have a higher risk for infectious diseases, leukemia, asthma, diabetes, eczema and even SIDS, infant mortality and obesity. Mothers who do not breast-feed have increased risk for developing breast and ovarian cancers.
The composition of breast milk is perfect as well, starting with life-giving colostrum at birth and transitioning to mature milk as the baby grows. Breast milk increases in volume based on the baby’s demands at suckling.
All the reflexes, sights and smells that God created for this amazing act are in place at birth. Knit together by God in the mother’s womb, a baby will instinctively suckle his mother’s breast within the first hour of birth. A baby can actually crawl up his mother’s chest and latch on unassisted.
God’s perfect food is always available, just the right temperature, needing no bottles, no sterilization, and no electricity. Breast-feeding also provides a special bond and attachment between mother and child.
The Bible has many references to the importance of breast-feeding or “nursing.” Recall how Sarah’s weaning of Isaac was a momentous occasion for which Abraham held a great feast. One of my favorite stories is when baby Moses, thanks to his quick-thinking sister’s intervention with Pharaoh’s daughter, was able to be nursed by his own mother, even after being placed in a basket on the Nile.
Sadly, our current culture does not view breast-feeding as the normal way to feed babies, and many breast-feeding barriers exist. The church can help mothers who need support to do what God intends.
One example is “The Right Start” at St. Andrews AME Church in South Memphis. This new program trains “Milk Missionaries” to guide new and expectant mothers, to help them reach their breast-feeding goals.
Many other breast-feeding support services are available in our community to help new and expectant mothers with the help they need to succeed in breast-feeding. Go to shelbycountybreastfeeding.org for a list of local resources.
Dr. Ruth Lawrence wrote, “Breast-feeding is the most precious gift a mother can give her infant. When there is illness or malnutrition, it may be a lifesaving gift; when there is poverty, it might be the only gift.”
Jesus gives life eternal. But breast-feeding gives life on Earth its best start, the way God intended.
Dr. Julie Ware, a pediatrician at All Better Pediatrics and internationally board-certified lactation consultant, is chair of the Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition.