|Posted by childbirthcompanion on February 15, 2012 at 8:25 AM|
Many individuals and organizations understand and promote the benefits of breastfeeding. A good many reasons also abound for why a mother should choose to nurse her child, not only in infancy, but into the early years as well. These benefits range from nutritional and immune system building properties, to convenience and financial savings, to bonding. God’s design for nourishing a young child is phenomenal, and we can find references scattered throughout the Bible relating to this natural connection between a mother and child.
Breastfeeding is referred to in the Bible in a very natural, socially accepted light. Nursing mothers were mentioned specifically as ones that should be included when the people gathered together. Breasts that are “full of milk” symbolize bounty, fulfillment, peace and contentment. Many will acknowledge that children are a blessing of the womb, but what of the “blessings of the breast” presented in the same context? What did God really intend when He designed this feeding method for the smaller human beings?
The symbolism of breastfeeding becomes very vivid when He describes Jerusalem in terms of a nursing mother. Through this we learn more of the blessings God has provided to an infant through his own nursing mother. Among them we see a child who will be satisfied, consoled, delighted, fed, carried, comforted, joyful (happy), grow strong, and benefit from a peaceful mother.
Isaiah 66:11-14 That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory. For thus saith the LORD…I will extend peace to her like a river… then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth…your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb:
A baby obviously uses the breast for nourishment, and we see growth as his “bones flourish like an herb”. Although the scientific properties are not given here, it is clear that breastmilk is hugely beneficial to the child’s development. And we know that breastmilk contains not only nutritional value but antibodies that help to develop and strengthen the baby’s immune system.
The infant is also satisfied at his mother’s breast which would indicate a plentiful milk supply and good access to it. When a baby comes off the breast after a long period of sucking but still acts hungry and dissatisfied, that is a good indicator that he likely wasn’t getting all he needed. Although this could be due to a low milk supply in the odd occasion, the more likely problems are related to the quality of the baby’s latch and his activity at the breast or lack thereof. If the baby is poorly latched, he will not be getting the full flow of milk that should be available to him. As well, if he is just content to suck at the breast without actually drawing out the milk (milking the breast), he is not going to have a full tummy and, of course, will likely be dissatisfied after the feeding is assumed to be done. For this reason it is important that the mother learns how to tell when her baby is properly latched and swallowing at the breast to ensure that his nutritional needs are being met. In this regard, quality of time is most important rather than quantity of time.
Although nourishment is of huge importance, there is far more to breastfeeding than just eating. We also see that a child is meant to be consoled and comforted at his mother’s breast. Even older, weaned children often instinctively bury their faces in their mother’s breast when seeking comfort and soothing. There are times when a baby simply needs to nurse for comfort and not for food, when he’s not interested in filling his stomach, just in sucking. A mother should not feel guilty about soothing her baby this way or worry that she is spoiling him. She is fulfilling God’s design for nurturing her little one.
It also is apparent that the breastfeeding mother is inclined to carry her baby by her side (very likely to readily nurse him as needed) and bounce and play with (dandle) him on her knee, showing the close physical connection between them. Because his needs are so closely knitted to her ability to provide, it is quite natural and logical that the infant’s mother will choose to keep him close to her day and night. This closeness and comfort near or at his mother’s breast produces a happy, delighted child and a peaceful mother. This has been proven scientifically. When a baby nurses, hormones are released in the mother that cause her to relax and become enamoured with her wee one. Many women find breastfeeding euphoric and calming to themselves as well which helps to enhance the bonding between her and her infant.
It is amazing to see that the things we have discovered about the intricacies of breastfeeding and bonding have been laid out by God long before medical and scientific studies proved them. This should encourage women in their breastfeeding abilities as well as in the completely natural and nurturing proposes of a child at his mother’s breast.
KJV References: Joel 2:16; Job 21:24; Genesis 49:25; Isaiah 66:11-14