Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
If you are Catholic, the book integrates the health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding with a third dimension- the writings of leaders of the Catholic Church. It quotes popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests. For example, I was surprised to learn that the late John Paul II wrote repeatedly about breastfeeding, advocating it for its benefit to babies, mothers,
and society as a whole. Alphonse Cardinal Lopez Trujillo wrote the Foreword of the book. Mary Montessori,the famous childhood educator (and a Catholic), is quoted extensively in support of breastfeeding. Sheila Kippley herself, though very modest in her writing style, is a great Catholic laywoman in her own right. Along with her husband John Kippley, she is the
co-founder of the Couple to Couple League for Natural Family Planning. The mother of five grown children and several grandchildren, she combines her considerable research skills with her own experience as a gentle and loving mother in this, her latest book.
What if you have not breastfed in the past or are not breastfeeding your new baby right now? As an adoptive mother whose child (adopted as an infant and now age 7) was not breastfed at all, I think I can say that you will still appreciate the child-centered philosophy expressed in
this book, and you can apply the overall principles of being there for your child, holding your child, and meeting your child's need for YOU! And I think it is good to know that there may be some health issues to deal with that might not occur in a child who was breastfed, but knowledge is power (and good nutrition at every age is the answer to the health issues). In short, to quote one of the subtitles in the book: "Available, responsive, and sensitive." That's the kind of mother I want to
be, and reading this book is encouraging to me, even though my children are well past the breastfeeding stage!
In a time when we wish to affirm the dignity of woman, Sheila Kippley provides a Catholic view of the importance of maternal breastfeeding and a practical, up-to-date summary of useful data for parents who desire to give the best care to their infant. In eight short chapters of her second book on this topic, she touches on key benefits of breastfeeding as the healthiest nutrition for infants; as fostering the emotional bond of mother and infant; and as a moral duty of mothers who image God¡¯s provident love of us: its spiritual beauty as depicted in the Psalms.
Sheila has intuited a connection among several profound insights for the theology of the body ¨C Christ's embodied self-giving love in us. Drawing from her husband John Kippley's theology of marriage as ¡°Holy Communion: Eucharistic and Marital,¡± she correlates the unitive character of the conjugal act and breastfeeding. She fleshes out this analogy by applying to breastfeeding John Paul II's insight that in the conjugal act the order of nature and the personal order meet. Nature and person also meet in the act of maternal-infant nursing. John Paul II spoke of the moral good of maternal breastfeeding in his 1995 address to the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences; now Kippley elaborates on this duty in light of Wojtyla¡¯s teaching on the biological realities God has written in our nature as a foundation for moral life. In an authentic presentation of the natural law, Sheila integrates truths of biology and morality, of nature and person. Truly, Sheila and John Kippley¡¯s writings on marriage and family are a lay couple¡¯s gift to the Church.
This book helps couples follow Humanae Vitae by explaining Wojtyla's teachings on family responsibility and his recommendation of breastfeeding as a method of child-spacing. Explaining a mothering style she terms ¡®ecological breastfeeding, Sheila helps mothers to be in tune with their infant¡¯s needs as well as parental child-spacing goals. As a loving mother herself, and as an experienced teacher of family planning can do best, Sheila gives accurate advice on breastfeeding according to the ¡®norm of mother-baby togetherness¡¯ and a method of family planning in accord with Catholic moral teaching.
If used in marriage preparation, this book's positive tone and factual information may help evangelize engaged couples by inspiring a conversion of heart away from the contraceptive mentality. Even women open to having children may be unaware of the physical, emotional and moral good of breastfeeding. And once they experience the child-spacing aspect of nursing which gives time for attachment to each child, couples may become more receptive to the blessing of children and to the wisdom of mother Church¡¯s guidance on natural family planning.
With easy-to-read simplicity and an eye for the basics, Kippley gives us a balance of religious truth, scientific facts, and practical advice. Present this book as a gift to a pregnant woman, if you wish to affirm in love a mother and her child.
Fr. William D. Virtue