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Conscious Breastfeeding Food For Thought: Where’s Our Saint Francis?

Today, they are blessing animals in many churches here in the States and most likely around the world in honor of the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Pets and the Environment.

It is doubtful that many cows will be waltzing in for a blessing, but you never know.

In India, no thanks to St. Francis, cows are sacred…

It makes me remember a funny incident that happened to me two decades ago when I was the first lactation consultant in a major hospital here in New York City.  On the lapel of my lab coat I wore a button that I had bought to support the Florida Lactation Consultant Association.   It was simple and powerful…or so I thought.

This button depicted a cow with a big red slash through it.  The International Symbol for a warning not to do something.  Travelling up to the maternity floor one afternoon a fellow passenger queried me on my button.   Shockingly, it was not the comment/question I had been expecting.  “Don’t kill the cows…are you Hindu? ” was what he asked.  I laughed and pointed out that my freckles were not Bindis and that the purpose of the button was to spark a conversation about breastfeeding.  He got off the lift to go see his wife and child and I went back to work.

A few days later, I was called into the office of the Director of Maternal Child Health and told to stop wearing my button.  I was shocked, but refrained from going ballistic at that moment.  I asked meekly why she was giving this directive to me.  Her answer was incredible.  She told me that, “by wearing this button you are offending formula feeding families.”

I would not be long for that job as the “Powers to Be” in that hospital did not truly support breastfeeding mothers.  As I began my resignation letter in my head, I told her what was the true intention of my wearing that button.  It was simply to open up a light-hearted dialogue about species specific milk…Cows milk for calves and human milk for human babies.

Here in the Western world,  cows are valued merely as a source food.   These cows are often horribly mistreated in an effort to maximize their production of milk and meat for consumption by humans.  Ironically, there are growing numbers who question whether the consumption of a cow’s milk is a valid option to promote human health.

Fast forward twenty years to 2008.  PETA, people for the ethical treatment of animals, continues its crusade to protect animals a la St. Francis.   Recently in their blog, The PETA Files, attention was focused on cows when they spoke of a letter they had sent to Ben and Jerry’s, a major maker of ice cream, asking them to substitue human milk for cow milk in the production of their ice creams.

All of this made me wonder…

Breastfeeding has all of us Breastfeeding Advocates and Lactivists.

Would Breastfeeding fair better if it also had a Patron Saint?

1 comment

1 Colleen (My Baby and More) { 10.06.08 at 4:14 pm }

Good question! I know when people have made remarks about my breastfeeding during a service I just say, “Jesus was breastfed so I’m sure he doesn’t mind!”

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