Ecological Breastfeeding: Part 1

In a recent post I discussed the many benefits of extended breastfeeding.  Both mother and child benefit physically and emotionally from a natural breastfeeding relationship, and babies also receive developmental benefits from the nutritional value of the milk.  Unfortunately, in our society, this natural way of mothering has been all but lost.

With so many distractions and roadblocks put in the way of motherhood, and so many alternatives to the comfort and safety of a mother’s breast being endlessly advertised… it’s no wonder we have forgotten the beauty and the blessings that come with mothering our young children the way that God created and intended us to.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that I wanted to give her the best start possible, and I also knew that would include breastfeeding.  It wasn’t until I read Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing that I realized I hadn’t thought of how I wanted to breastfeed.

My approach to parenting has always been that God has given us all the tools necessary in His creation to raise children who are healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually.  I don’t buy into the idea that you need the latest gadgets, toys, orthodontic binkies or whatever the latest craze is…  It’s not that these things are inherently wrong in and of themselves, I just didn’t think that they are necessary.

I knew that God didn’t create babies for cribs or strollers or bottles.  God created babies for mothers and fathers.  So I have always been skeptical with cultural parenting practices; I critique cultural parenting techniques from every angle before I will accept them, because I know that God did not create man for 21st century America.  Many of our innovations have gotten away from God’s intended purpose for families, so I make sure that whatever cultural practices I do adopt in my vocation as mother, they encourage God’s order rather than undermine it.

This is why I have chosen ecological breastfeeding.  I truly believe that the principles of ecological breastfeeding are the natural, intended way God created us to nurture our children.  I also believe that when we follow God’s intended order for our lives that it is healthier for us in every way; there are natural and spiritual consequences when we choose our ways rather than God’s ways – even when it comes to breastfeeding.

To be clear, I am not condemning anyone who does not follow this particular pattern of nursing.    I am saying that having the worldview where children are burdensome and so I will only have a few, and the sooner I can get them to not need me for extended periods of time the better… is a wrong perspective.  God has such a better way.  With that being said… let’s get to the good part.  These are the seven standards of ecological breastfeeding:

  1. Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life; don’t use other liquids or solids, not even water.
  2. Pacify or comfort your baby at your breasts.
  3. Don’t use bottles and don’t use pacifiers.
  4. Sleep with your baby for night feedings.
  5. Sleep with your baby for a daily-nap feeding.
  6. Nurse frequently day and night, and avoid schedules.
  7. Avoid any practice that restricts nursing or separates you from your baby.
These seven principles should be followed for the entirety of your nursing relationship with your child, until he is ready to wean himself.  This is not something that you instigate, but a natural consequence of maturing that will happen when he is ready.  The only principle that you do not continue indefinitely is the first.  Obviously, after six months of age, food can be introduced when the child begins to show interest.
I want to finish up today’s post with some of the benefits our family has had from following this path.  I have been using ecological breastfeeding with Evangline from the time she was born.
  • Evie has only been sick twice in the short 19 months of her life; both times she fully recovered in just a couple short days without any need for medication.
  • She has never had an ear infection or other any of the other common illnesses babies tend to be susceptible to.  She is incredibly healthy in every way.
  • Evangeline is an extremely happy and secure baby.  She knows that we will always be there when she needs us.
  • I gained 45 pounds during the course of my pregnancy.  Without any kind of dieting, exercising or trying at all, I lost 41 of those pounds within the first 7 or 8 months postpartum.
  • For many women this natural form of breastfeeding helps to naturally space out children.  Although our family was not concerned with the spacing of our children, this definitely has been a side-effect of ecological breastfeeding.  I did not have my first cycle until 15 months postpartum. (I have to say it was nice to go two years without having to deal with that!)
  • Not only is this extended period without a menstrual cycle beneficial in spacing children, but it is also very healthy and is one of the main ways that ecological breastfeeding can help prevent breast cancer.
These are just a few of the short-term benefits we have seen in our own family.  In Part II of this series I am going to go through each specific standard of ecological breastfeeding and explain some of the whys behind them and how implementing each one has looked in our own household.  If there are any questions let me know and I will include them at the end of the series.

Physical Fitness and Femininity

Call me crazy but I love running.  Well… to be perfectly honest it’s one of those love-hate relationships that started off mostly on the hate side of things and slowly inched its way over.  I was first acquainted with running in 8th grade, real running not running away from some poor kid who got tagged “it” running.  I had played volleyball earlier in the year, and my Dad convinced me to at least try basketball (which I ended up truly enjoying) and so I thought, why not give track a shot too?

My first instinct was to go for the shortest distance possible, get it over with quickly, and be done.  The realization came quickly that I would not make it in short distance track.  I’m not that fast.  So, I decided to attempt long distance, I was in pretty good shape and I could make it an entire mile without collapsing so, why not?  Besides, it was the least popular event, so my chances were highest there, and in hurdles… but hurdles didn’t last long.  My dear mother was much to nervous about them.

So there it was, long distance track; it kinda stuck.  I wasn’t very good at it, but I did it anyway.  I didn’t particularly care for it, but it was a good way to stay in shape for volleyball and basketball.  And besides, if I wasn’t doing sports, really, what else was there in a town of 500 people?  And then I transferred schools, which also meant transferring coaches.  Guess who was my new track coach? Dad… hardened marine, marathon running, long distance loving Dad… uh oh… Let’s just say I hated hated track season.  It was horrible!  He, unlike my other coach, actually made me do real work, hard work, excruciating long distance running work! Argh!! Plus… I wasn’t getting any faster.

And then it happened… Dad gave everyone else their track assignments for the day and took me out for a run on the road.  I had done this plenty of times, but never with just me and Dad during practice.  We talked and ran and had a jolly good time.  About half way through I realized I wasn’t laboring to breathe or hurting… I was just enjoying the run!  This running stuff was actually sort of fun.  Running on that old dirt road, looking out across the sea of wheat, sprinkled with farms and cows, I felt freedom unlike any other.

I thought that the end of track season signaled the end of competitive running… not so!  That year my Dad registered us in the Bolder Boulder, a 10k race in (you guessed it) Boulder Colorado.  We ran it together (mostly because he was nice enough not to leave me in the dust).  And it was incredible!  The fresh morning air, thousands of people surrounding you about to embark on the exact same journey, bands playing along the course, the beautiful Rockies draping the landscape, the sense of accomplishment upon crossing the finish line… it was a wonderfully rewarding experience that I will never forget, and one that I hope to repeat.

We ran that race twice together and my goal this year is to run that same race again with my Dad and my Hubby.  Thusly, in order to prepare for such a feat, which previously in my prime fitness days of high school sports was easily accomplished with no extra concern, I must train for it.  And so… Jake and I began training yesterday.  I have known for months now that I’ve wanted to do this, but I had a dilemma earlier in the year of what on earth do I wear?  Now it may sound like a silly girl question but seriously!

All of my workout clothes from high school and college… really after having a baby do you think I can still wear those?  And the ones I can wear should I be wearing them?  Hmm… no probably not.  If you’ve had a baby you’ll understand, mommy clothes are simply different than pre-mommy clothes.  Also, my personality is much different than that of my highschool years.  It is not that I think shorts and pants are inherently evil, but I do believe that as a Christian woman it is important for me to dress in a way that reflects who I am, namely a Christian woman.

Modesty is important, but so is another component that we seem reluctant to mention, femininity.  As Christian women we should celebrate our feminine nature in our words, actions, vocations and even in the way we dress.  With a culture that is becoming increasingly confused as to the difference between the masculine and feminine we must first and foremost protect God’s natural order in our own hearts and homes.  Second, if we talk, look and act like the secular culture, who will know that there is anything different to live by or for?  What a disservice we are doing to the Gospel by not proclaiming it with how we dress!

That being said (and also with the understanding that I too fail constantly in this area, which is why I am so thankful Jesus died for that sin!) when I knew I wanted to begin running again, I was looking for something a little more modest and feminine than what I had collecting dust in my closet.  So I began my search for distinctly feminine running clothes, and what I found got me very excited!  Running skirts.  Yes.  Skirts that you run in.  How cool is that?!?  Plus, they were having a sale :)  And oh do I love sales!  So I bought a couple, even though I am a little uncomfortable ordering clothes online, I feel that more and more I am having to do just that, as what I’m looking for simply isn’t in the stores!

Honestly, I could not possibly be happier with my running skirts.  They look feminine and cute.  They are terribly comfortable, and just altogether wonderful.  Not to mention, if and when the Good Lord happens to bless us with #2 they also have maternity running skirts!  How neat is that?  Alright, so I’ll stop the commercial now, but seriously they rock!  I love running, but I love running even more when I get to do it in a skirt. :)



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