World Breastfeeding Week: Insights from JPII
The first week of August marks World Breastfeeding Week. This year’s theme is Step up for Breastfeeding – Educate and Support. At Whole Mission this past year, we launched a Lactation Class to provide both education and support to breastfeeding families. Nearly 30 years ago, Pope Saint John Paul II made an address on breastfeeding where he specifically called for education and support for breastfeeding families. We see Whole Mission as responding to JP II’s desire for promoting and supporting breastfeeding in our Catholic faith community.
The Whole Mission Lactation class draws upon many common themes that JP II addressed in his Address on Breastfeeding. In this post, I would like to highlight three themes.
1: Divine Scripture
Breastfeeding is frequently mentioned in scripture. JP II references Psalm 22. This Psalm says “Yes you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breast.” JP II uses this scripture verse to emphasize the vital importance of breastfeeding and the way in which it fosters an irreplaceable bond between the mother and her child. Scripture uses breastfeeding to depict God’s love and care and how just like a breastfeeding mother cannot forget her child the same is true for God and his people. Breastfeeding is not sacramental, but nonetheless a natural sign of something divine. Seeing numerous breastfeeding references in scripture emphasizes the importance and spiritual relevance of breastfeeding.
2: Lifetime Benefits
JP II’s address was given at the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences. Early in his address he mentions and emphasizes the benefits not only related to breastmilk for nourishment of the child but also the immunological properties that provide great protection against various diseases. Also science is continuing to support many benefits for the nursing mother including both immediate and long term benefits such as the reduction of risk for various cancers and cardiovascular diseases including heart attack and stroke. The benefits of breastfeeding can last for a lifetime and in turn result in positive benefits to society as well.
3: Informed Truthfully
JP II calls for healthcare professionals to have adequate training to help educate and support breastfeeding. He asks that mothers be informed truthfully about the advantages such as the ones described above, but also the difficulties. In the Whole Mission Lactation class, we discuss benefits but also dedicate a portion of the class to overcoming some common breastfeeding challenges. We start this section of our class with a quote from St. Zelie Martin that reminds us to “Carry on bravely.” And having good education and support can allow mothers and breastfeeding families to do just that on their breastfeeding journey.
Keep Whole Mission in mind if you or someone you know is looking for a class on breastfeeding. We would love to provide both education and support on your breastfeeding journey. It is important to know you are not alone and this is a way our Catholic community can support each other.
I would like to close with JP II’s final remarks from the address, “May God’s blessings of strength, joy, and peace be with each one of you and the members of your families.”