Question: "What does the Bible say about breastfeeding?"
Answer: To start, it is important to understand that the Bible does not give any specific instructions on breastfeeding. In spite of that, there are Christians who come down very strongly on each side of the debate, often to the detriment of Christian love and unity, not to mention our witness to the world. When Christians allow non-essential issues to divide them, no one gains except those who want to see dissention in the body of Christ. Breastfeeding is one of those issues.
In Bible times, the only alternative to a mother breastfeeding her children was to employ the services of a “wet nurse,” who was a woman who had recently given birth and was able to nurse other babies. The baby Moses was found floating in a basket in the Nile River by the Egyptian princess, who brought him into the palace and adopted him. Since the princess had no children, she needed a wet nurse to breastfeed him. Through a series of divine interventions, Moses’ own mother was procured to nurse him (Exodus 2:1-10).
Breastfeeding has been shown to be the most beneficial method of feeding an infant, partially due to the presence of colostrum, the first milk produced by mammals which contains essential nutrients, antibodies, and immunoglobulins newborns need for healthy growth and development, especially in the first days. Clearly, human breast milk is the healthiest form of milk for human babies. At the same time, there are conditions under which an infant’s mother simply cannot breastfeed. Women still die in childbirth, necessitating the implementation of bottle-feeding. Mothers are sometimes dry of milk altogether, and mothers with HIV, hepatitis, or other communicable diseases are precluded from breastfeeding. Some mothers have to go out of the home to work soon after giving birth and find the use of a breast pump simply too cumbersome and time-consuming. Finally, millions of American children born in the 1950s were bottle-fed because of a cultural passion for anything “scientific,” which included the new-and-improved method of feeding babies. There is no conclusive evidence that these children grew up to be any less healthy than those who were breastfed.
In the end, the choice of whether or not to breastfeed an infant is best left to the individual mother, her family, and God. It is incumbent upon mothers-to-be to acquaint themselves with the facts about breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding and then make their own informed decision, prayerfully and in the wisdom God provides (James 1:5). No woman should be made to feel that she is a terrible mother or in any way less of a Christian because she does not breastfeed. As Christians, we are not to judge one another on the non-essential issues but are to build one another up in the love and grace of the Lord Jesus (Romans 14:19).
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