At St. Andrew AME, the Robinsons have a ministry called “The Right Start” — a new program that trains “Milk Missionaries” to guide new and expectant mothers, to help them reach their breast-feeding goals.
Such public health matters are often thought of as government responsibilities. Does the faith community also have a responsibility when it comes to public health in general, and breastfeeding in particular?
The faith community certainly does have a responsibility when it comes to public health in general, and breast feeding in particular. While certainly no expert on this matter, I yield to one who is, Ms. Theresa Notare of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Natural Family Planning Program of the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. In an August 10, 2007, U.S.C.C.B. article, Theresa writes: “Breast milk is Mother Nature’s ‘power drink.” Research confirms its nutritional and immunological benefits. Breast milk reduces a baby’s risk of contracting over twenty illnesses, including allergies, asthma, bacterial meningitis, diarrhea, ear infections, inflammatory bowel disease, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. And a woman who breastfeeds reaps benefits for her body too. As breastfeeding advocate Sheila Kippley reports, ‘one study found that a mother reduced her own risk of getting type-2 diabetes by 15% for each year of nursing. If she nursed two babies, each for a year, she had a 30% risk reduction for this disease, and whatever reduction she received remained in effect for 15 years after the birth of her last baby!’ ”
Theresa in her article goes on to explain: ” Breastfeeding also builds up the mother-child bond on an emotional and spiritual level. As Pope John Paul II said in a talk to members of the Pontifical Academy of Science in 1995, ‘This natural way of feeding can create a bond of love and security between mother and child, and enable the child to assert its presence as a person through the interaction with the mother.’ So meaningful is the breastfeeding relationship, he added, 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).’ ”