Breastfeeding In The Bible

ImageThere are a lot of other websites that cover the subject of ‘Breastfeeding in the Bible’ and honestly, some I agree with and some I don’t. Most attempt to use the Bible to “justify” breastfeeding, which I find is completely unnecessary. If God didn’t mean for us to breastfeed, He wouldn’t have given us breasts.

I actually re-wrote this piece. The original version is very different from what you are seeing now. After much prayer and contemplation, I believe I should not give you another ‘preachy’ piece, or attempt to use the Bible to justify breastfeeding (again!). Instead of giving you the 11th Commandment (“Thous shalt breastfeed thy offsprings”), I think the Lord wants us to appreciate His creation, ie. woman, specifically, how we are designed to nurture. Let us not treat breastfeeding like another religious law, but let us do it out of love for God and for our children. I hope what you are about to read will bless you and encourage you to breastfeed.

First, let me share with you this beautiful poem I chanced upon :

MORE THAN A MOTHER

When God set the world in place,
when He hung the stars up in space,
when He made the land and the sea,
then He made you and me.
 
He sat back and saw all that was good,
He saw things to be as they should.
Just one more blessing He had in store;
He created a mother, but whatever for?
 
He knew a mother would have a special place
to shine His reflection on her child’s face.
A mother will walk the extra mile
just to see her children smile.
She’ll work her fingers to the bone
to make a house into a home.
 
A mother is there to teach and guide,
a mother will stay right by your side.
She’ll be there through your pain and strife,
she’ll stay constant in your life.
A mother will lend a helping hand
until you have the strength to stand.
She’ll pick you up when you are down,
when you need a friend she’ll stick around.
 
A mother is one who listens well,
will keep her word; will never tell.
A mother never pokes or pries
but stands quietly by your side,
giving you the strength you need,
encouraging you to succeed.
 
A mother is one who can be strong
when you need someone to lean on.
You’re more than a mother to me;
a reflection of Him in your face I see,
a love that knows no boundaries.
 
I’m glad that you chose to be
all this and more to me.
You share a love that knows no end,
you’re more than my mother,
you are my friend.
 
~By Kari Keshmiry~

Appreciating How God Created Us

El Shaddai

This is one of God’s name. El-Shaddai means God Almighty. El points to the power of God Himself. Shaddai seems to be derived from another word, shad, meaning breast, which implies that Shaddai signifies one who nourishes, supplies, and satisfies.

This is a “revelation” to me, as a woman. God created woman from Adam’s side but gave only to woman one particular ‘Godly nature’ from Himself – His nature to nourish, supply and satisfy – by giving woman breasts. Hence, breastfeeding becomes, to me, a reflection of God’s image in us. As parents, we are our children’s first ‘image’ of God, the Father. As mothers, when we breastfeed our children, it is also a portrayal of the loving Father to our children.

The meaning and significance of ‘breast’

Love, His Love

The typology of ‘breast’ in the Bible is affection and love. In the Peace Offering, for instance, the children of the High Priest (signifying Jesus, our Great High Priest; and we are His ‘children’, part of the ‘royal priesthood’) receives the breasts of the offered animal as food [Lev 7:31]. In other words, Jesus (also signified by the sacrificial lamb), gave us His love to feed upon.

Another picture of His love is the breastplate of the High Priest (Jesus). He carries the name of all 12 tribes of Israel on the breastplate of the High Priest garment. The position of the gem stones which bore the names of the 12 tribes speaks of God’s affection for His people. Also, the names on the breastplate were always close to the High Priest’s heart just as with Christ and His precious ones.

Another scene. At the last supper, John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, was leaning on Jesus’ bosom. Let me say it another way : John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, was leaning on Jesus’ love. Has it ever occurred to you that it was John himself who claimed that he was the ‘one whom Jesus loved’? Kind of thick-skin, isn’t it? And isn’t it ‘coincidental’ that the only time the Bible mentioned about Jesus’ bosom has to do with someone ‘whom He loved’? I am sure Jesus loved everyone of His disciples, including Judas Iscariot, but John, who leaned on Jesus’ love, seemed to be the only one who truly knew that he was loved.

Now for some Bible verses.

Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.
(Psalms 22:9 NIV)
 
“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.
For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”
For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
(Isaiah 66:10-13 NIV)

It is clear from the two verses above that breastfeeding provides more than just nutrients to a baby. A baby draws comfort as well as learn to trust while nursing at the mother’s breasts. It seems to me that God designed mothers to bond with their babies through breastfeeding and through this bonding, the child catches the first ‘glimpse’ of God’s loving nature.

The 11th Commandment?

Even jackals present their breasts,
To nurse their young;
But the daughter of my people is cruel
Like ostriches in the wilderness.
(Lamentations 4:3 NKJV)

Some people would love to use this verse to shove breastfeeding down your throat. Although this verse seems to be talking about breastfeeding, if you refer to Job 39:13-18 for elaborations on ostriches (letting the Bible interpret the Bible), it becomes clear that it is referring to mothers who neglect to take care of their babies. It may not be on breastfeeding per se.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
(Psalms 127:3 NKJV)

On the other hand, we have often talked about being a good steward of finances. Actually, I think we should be talking about being good steward of all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. Finances is one of them. Children is another. To be a good steward over our children is not just bringing them up in the ways of the Lord. I think to giving them the best care within our means. Giving breastmilk is one aspect of it. By doing so, we are taking care of their health and well-being. Nevertheless, this is just my opinion. It is certainly not the “11th Commandment”.

In the case where breastfeeding is not possible due to various reasons, it is God’s mercy and grace that formula milk have been invented!

A little Side-Track

Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
(Proverbs 5:18-19 NKJV)

Some ‘militant breastfeeding advocates’ are of the view that the only function of a woman’s breasts is to nourish her babies and nothing more. They tend to stress that there should be nothing sexual associated with women’s breasts. Their position came about as a defense for breastfeeding in public, which is fine but I find that sometimes they do take things too far.

The above verse, and many others, especially in the Songs of Songs, clearly shows that God created our breasts not just for feeding our babies, but for sexual pleasure as well. Actually, I don’t see why there should be a conflict between the two. The very breasts that love and satisfy our children can also love and satisfy our husbands.

God’s Promise for Breastfeeding Mothers

By the God of your father
who will help you,
and by the Almighty who will bless you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
(Genesis 49:25 NKJV)
 
For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
(2 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV)
 
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
(Galatians 3:13,14 NKJV)

God promise to bless us with the ‘Blessings of the breasts and of the womb’. Many other Scriptures show that children are blessings from God. At the same time, to have abundant milk supply to nurse these ‘blessings’ is also a blessing in itself, and the inability to nurse is seen as a curse.

All promises of God are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’ in Christ and we are in Christ. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law. Hence, the promise of abundant milk supply is also for us. Mothers who are trying to breastfeeding can stand on this promise of God when battling with the doubt of having enough milk, or the ability to breastfeed.

Lastly, here’s a Jewish Proverb to sum everything up :

“God could not be everywhere
and therefore He made mothers.”
~Jewish proverb~