A few days ago I was struck by the headline in our local paper which said breast milk was “Like liquid gold” and I thought to myself, “How things have changed.” At the time that I nursed my babies, way back in the fifties and sixties, the swing was to bottle feeding. Bottle feeding was supposed to free mothers from being tied down to hungry babies, daddy could get up in the middle of the night and do “his part” in the feeding schedule, and you could see by the ounce markings on the bottle exactly how much the baby had taken. However, it soon became apparent that no amount of doctoring of cow’s milk (or goat or soy or whatever) could make it as good as mother’s milk.

When I learned that grandson Jason was expecting his first baby, the best thing I could think of to send for a shower gift to the mommy was the latest edition (7th) of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League.  It is now fifty years since the first edition (1958) in which I wrote a chapter on The Father’s Role, which has long since been replaced. The founding doctors and nursing mothers who started LLL have a permanent place in my heart. Theirs was a ministry of love and encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies is still a ministry of love. As the cover of the current edition says, “Babies are born to be breastfed” Who in their right mind could doubt it?

As I browse through my third edition of The Womanly Art I find on page 71 the words of psychiatrist Dr. Marilyn Bonham: “The outflow of [a mother’s] love and affection for the very young child is pure gold in the bank.” I’ve written about breastfeeding before, not only the benefits to the baby but to the mother. The baby, of course, gets a made-to-order food that changes appropriately with the age, supplying exactly what is needed at each stage — colostrum for the newborn, antibodies to afford immunity, the special nutrients need for the rapid growth of a baby’s brain in early months. A breastfed baby is sweet smelling (with sweet-smelling stools), doesn’t become constipated, and the pros go on and on. Nursing helps the mother’s internal organs to quickly return to normal and you might say she is forced by nature to provide what both mother and child need most at this time – skin-to-skin closeness, face-to-face enjoyment, and the knowledge that to this one person she is all-in-all for the time being. This is the baby’s first experience of love and the importance of the bonding cannot be overestimated.

No person or group knows more about breastfeeding than La Leche League. Their book now reflects fifty years of nursing experience from thousands of mothers world-wide.

And a new study, just published in the American Journal of Pediatrics (see link) says that the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life.

Is there a baby shower coming up?

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding