A friend and I were talking, and she brought up a topic that we agreed didn’t make sense to us. Why is it that Catholic and NFP circles are not more welcoming of full-term breastfeeding? It makes no sense.
First off, we have 2000 years of artwork showing Mary breastfeeding Jesus, and not always as a newborn. There’s also the mention of full-term breastfeeding in the Scriptures (for example, Samuel, and more explicitly in 2 Macc). So it really shouldn’t be a foreign concept, and yet many retreats aimed at mothers will only allow said mother to bring the breastfed child if that child is under 12 months old. I don’t understand having mothers’ events where the kids completely aren’t allowed anyway, let alone a breastfed child, of whatever age. Though I did use Leo as an excuse not to go on a retreat once.
Then there’s the NFP aspect. Full-term breastfeeding is good for the child, but has the added benefit of (usually) suppressing fertility, thus naturally spacing children. Sure, you can chart and achieve the same result, but with a lot more frustration and abstinence involved. Since NFP is the only morally licit way to space children, one would think ecological breastfeeding would be more promoted, but it isn’t.
Besides the reactions to breastfeeding in the pews and at parish functions, it’s hard to become an NFP instructor with a nursling. When I did my class in England, I was allowed to bring Charlotte, since she was just a few months old, but not Kieran, whom I was also nursing at that time. Yes, he was able to go those 2.5 days without nursing, but I doubt Leo would be able to do so should I have to be away for a long weekend again. I’m currently in a cycle of constantly nagging the powers-that-be to reinstate their correspondence course for the teacher training or certification renewal so that those of us who cannot get away can still be trained/renew certification. I’d bet that CCL is more accommodating, given the Kipleys’ views on ecological breastfeeding, but the other methods don’t seem to be as open to that.
What can we do about changing this? I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t the time to be more involved in the organization for my NFP method. I don’t know how to go about educating the parishioners on it. I will happily talk about it with anyone who asks, but people don’t generally ask me why I’m breastfeeding my 2-year-old, they just ask me to move or cover up, and I can’t very well have a long conversation in the sanctuary before or after Mass anyway. Certainly the more we do speak about it and breastfeed openly and tell people we can’t make it to things because of breastfeeding, the more others might think about it, but I don’t know that that’s enough. I’ll have to think of ideas when I’m more alert.