A friend recently recommended to me "Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood" by Sheila Kippley.2005 Sophia Institute Press. I have read countless books since our marriage in 1994, many of them about the Faith and about motherhood, as I have struggled to understand both and to live out my vocation as a Catholic wife and mother in an increasingly secular society. I would like to heartily recommend the book to all people interested in facilitating the development of happy children, whether or not they are parents.

 

Some may initially think "this book is not for me because/ I'm a father/ I've decided to bottle-feed my children/ we haven't yet got married" so let me tell you what it is not. It is not an explanation of the technicalities of breastfeeding. Neither is it a book limited to one aspect of parenthood. It merely sets out in a clear, well-argued and substantiated , very readable way the Church's vision for the bringing up of happy children. Thus it emphasises how important is the role of both father and mother and of the wider community, it takes quotations from Papal letters and Encyclicals as well as secular research that bears out the positive effects of following the Church's teaching and it includes an explanation of how parents can naturally and effectively space their children without the recourse to either drugs and pills or to temperature charts. Sheila Kippley has been working on this area for over forty years and this book is an up to date summary of her work. John Kippley Sheila's husband has also contributed greatly to her work over the years.

 

As I read the first few pages, I wanted to cry.

The emotions I felt were recognition, empathy but above all, profound relief. At long, long last here it all was beautifully explained, the vision of Christ for mothers and children, the way in which we have been so intricately and marvellously created to fulfil each other's needs, in simple ways, the practicalities associated with living this vision in our society, the hard evidence which sees off those critics who seek to reduce mothers and babies to items that need servicing, the better to serve a market economy. And all of it comprehensively, eloquently, concisely and lovingly explained by someone I felt was the role model I had been so fervently seeking. Here at last was a woman who understood me and who understood Christ, who had lived the Faith in bringing up her own children, who was well-versed in the Church's teaching and who understood both the beauty of it and also the difficulties of living the vision in our anti- life culture. Here also were two Catholic parents who understood the importance of following the Church's teaching and of supporting each other in their complementary roles.

 

Sheila Kippley writes in her introduction that her purpose is to "provide Catholics with scientific and spiritual support for breast feeding.." She adds; " I hope to show how breast-feeding in an integral part of the vocation of Christian motherhood". It seems to me, that her book achieves both of these ends through a text which is concise, yet comprehensive and which has an expert balance of personal experience and empathy with hard scientific substance. Sheila Kippley shows how God meant us to be that living parable of God's love, that parent who is intended, albeit each in our own imperfect way, to be the metaphor for the love of Our Heavenly Father for each one of us. Bottle-feeding and putting children in cots is a very localised phenomenon in human history, restricted to the last hundred years or so and mainly to the West. So is atheism. It seems to me that this is no coincidence at all. A child who wakes in the night and faces the dark, who reaches for the warmth of a familiar, nurturing and reassuring embrace and who finds it absent, who cries and shrieks and noone comes, this is a child who at some profound level gives up hope in the inborn belief that the Universe is a kindly place, created and ordered by the presence of a loving God. A child who wakes in the dark and feels his mother, who snuggles in close and latches on when he needs to, is on each occasion reaffirmed in his innate understanding that the Creator loves him and will supply his needs, if only he will trust him.

 

Sheila Kippley shows that "Certain decisions made prior to the arrival of children may make it difficult to be a full-time mother and to nurse your children" (p73). I wish I had understood at the outset, as I now do, that "every task or activity in the home, including breast-feeding your baby or just having a good conversation with your husband, can become a prayer, if you offer it to God as part of the vocation he called you to fulfil with love". (p87).Lets do a kindness to younger couples now and save them a great deal of heart-ache by providing them with this book and also recommending its inspirational, well-researched yet roundly practical companion volume, "Breast-feeding and natural child spacing" Penguin Books 1974.