Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Augustine and Breastfeeding

"So I was welcomed by the consolations of human milk; but it was not my mother or my nurses who made any decision to fill their breasts, but you who through them gave me infant food, in accordance with your ordinance and the riches which are distributed deep in the natural order. You also granted me not to wish for more than you were giving, and to my nurses the desire to give me what you gave them. For by an impulse which you control their instinctive wish was to give me the milk which they had in abundance from you. For the good which came to me from them was a good for them; yet it was not from them but through them. Indeed all good things come from you, O God, and 'from my God is all my salvation.'"

--Augustine's Confessions

Augustine on breastfeeding, which of course came up in one of my classes today. (I couldn't keep myself from setting the students straight about breastfeeding, which I'm worried they will count as a microaggression, but you know, Augustine talked about it first!)

At first when I read it, I was annoyed--it seems to downplay the difficulties and sacrifice in nursing. (It hurts! You have to do it so often! I just want my body back.) Then I realized, isn't that the truth? I didn't make my breasts fill with milk; I just give to Baby Leopard what I receive in abundance from God. "Indeed all good things come from you, O God" (although I often forget and get to thinking that they come from me).

And later, "Through your mercy, Lord, my tender little heart had drunk in that name, the name of my Savior and your son, with my mother's milk, and in my deepest heart I still held on to it." Of course, the spiritual food is even more important than the physical.


Miss Self-Important said...

I came across this passage recently on some La Leche League site while I was worrying about some aspect of nursing and found it very comforting. But how could Augustine recognize the difficulty of breastfeeding or see it as a sacrifice when there was no alternative? Cow's or goat's milk maybe, but these were known to be substandard. Also, if I recall correctly, the Confessions has another key passage about breastfeeding, where he describes the baby who cried from jealousy when its mother offered her breast to another child - a demonstration of infant sinfulness.

Emily Hale said...

Yes, I've experienced jealousy from Baby Leopard, but not for that reason.

Ha--the only alternative was a wet nurse, what the fancy people did, I guess?