Breastfeeding Mary


*This post is not an argument against modern medicine, so please do not comment that “my baby would have died without a cesarean and formula!!”…My post is a celebration of the amazing job our bodies do when birthing and feeding our babies.  There is much to be learned from the ancient (and mostly forgotten) women…

It is often forgotten how the simplicity of what once was, worked pretty well.  It does not take an understanding of complex statistics to see that we would not have survived as a species if the simple, natural way or birthing and breastfeeding did not work most of the time.  We would not still be here if the ancient beginnings of natural birthing and breastfeeding did not work. While you might be similar to myself and not identify as Christian, I think many can agree that the stories in the Bible are at the very least based on some truths.  Many believe that they are 100% true, and I think no matter what you believe if you have an interest in birth and breastfeeding, this post might speak to you.

This time of year I see many beautiful pictures shared on Facebook of a breastfeeding Virgin Mary.  When Jesus was born he would have had to have been breastfed or would not have survived.  Breastfeeding was a matter of survival for babies who were born before suitable breastmilk substitutes.  I can only imagine what the experiences would have been like for Mary.

While Mary rode on her donkey she would not have been thinking about her looming “due date” and the pressures of time.  She would not have been counting her days with the dreaded doom of induction on her mind…

Joseph And Mary Travel To BethlehemShe would not have been going over her birth plan list in her hand…would not have had to worry about double checking that she wrote, “do not offer me pain medication unless I ask”, “do not coach me when pushing”, “immediate skin to skin” and “delayed cord clamping”.  

Mary would not have had to worry about her doctor making it in time as the wise women in Bethlehem would have been there to support her.  She would not have had to worry about staying on her doctor’s schedule and keeping her contractions going consistently and “textbook”.

She would have been the first person, or one of the first people to touch her baby.  She would have held him skin to skin straight away without worrying someone would come and snatch him away.  


Artist: Circle of Gil de Siloe Title: Virgin of the Milk (Virgen de la leche) Date: c. 1500

She would have immediately breastfed him and kept him in her arms after he was born.  She would not have had to worry about him being taken away for “routine” procedures.  She would have had to worry about a “policy” in the stable that babies must be placed in mangers and not next to her on her bed of hay as he might roll off without her noticing…

Mary would not have had to worry about if she was “doing it right” when latching him on as the wise women of the town would have been there to help nurture her and her new baby.  She would not have had to hire a lactation consultant as her questions could be answered at any time night or day.  She would not have had to look up videos on YouTube as there would have been many women within the town currently breastfeeding that she could observe.

She would not have been looking at her watch to check to make sure she was following the book’s schedule of “eat, play, sleep” as she would have fed him when he asked for it.

She would not have had to worry if where she birthed was a, “breastfeeding friendly” establishment as most every area across the world would automatically be “friendly” to breastfeeding women who have just given birth.


Mary and Child – detail by Gerard David, 1490

Mary would not have had to worry about someone offering her baby a pacifier or bottle of formula without her consent. She would not have had to explain to anyone why she would like to go home and discharge from the stable earlier than someone thought was appropriate.

She would not have had to worry about losing the baby weight or “getting fit for her bikini” the following summer. She would not have had airbrushed photos of celebrities holding their babies with the quote, “how I lost my baby weight!” staring at her in the grocery lines.

She would not have had to worry about breast pumps and maternity leave or signing Jesus up on the waiting list of a day care centre. She would have simply had him with her whenever she returned to the daily rhythm of “women’s work” within her community of women…most likely helping the next woman who gave birth and was breastfeeding an infant.

Mary would not have practiced, “atptachment parenting”, “co-sleeping”, “baby wearing”, “extended breastfeeding” or “feeding on demand”. Back then it was simply called, parenting…


Amesbury Psalter, 13th c., h/t

What would Mary think of the mainstream birthing and infant feeding practices? What would she think about induction dates, “routine” procedures immediately after birth, breastfeeding on schedules and cry-it-out routines? Back when Mary was around, the simple art of trusting your instincts and following the lead of your baby would have been the norm.  It was a matter of survival to be close to your baby, feed them when they asked for it, and keep them with you or a trusted family member for the first few years of their lives.  Since I am now here writing this over 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth, it worked pretty well as we have survived as a species.  Yet I also feel as though we have lost much, as a result of our intense desire to control and ignore the natural progression of birth and breastfeeding.