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Lactation and Life

This semester I’ve been working through a postpartum study guide, and it seems it is the lactation part that always makes me stop and wonder.

Lamentations 4:3
Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert.

Isaiah 66:11
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”

Hosea 9:14
Give them, LORD— what will you give them? Give them wombs that miscarry and breasts that are dry.

This physiological wonder was so normal in the Bible that it was used as metaphor. So important was lactation to societies that to wish dry breasts was a curse. I think sometimes we read these passages and assume breastfeeding was easy for the women of the Bible.  After all, without the cultural taboo of breasts and with mother’s who breastfed themselves, what could be more natural. And isn’t natural always easy?

Today I am trying to read these verses not as if breastfeeding were easy, but as if the women who breastfeed had just as many struggles as the women I know.  As if it took just as much time and energy to ensure a baby started out right.  As if there was just as much pain from cracked nipples when the latch was bad. As if candida, plugged ducts and mastitis were possible. As if breastfeeding wasn’t always easy, idealistic and fun.

 

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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