In going over my old files, I found one mother’s view as written to me in 1971.
“I happened to grow up in a small, rural Catholic community. I saw the first baby totally bottlefed when I was 14 years old. The custom was to nurse a baby for at least 16-18 months. When the parish held its centennial in the early 1950s, they set a lot of records: no divorces in 100 years, only one crime, vocations per family as high as any in the nation (one family had 3 priests and 4 nuns), strong tie between parents and children.
Today in the same town a totally bottlefed generation is making the scene. The change has produced drastic results. There is no longer the strong bond between parents and children. Over half of the young mothers work outside of the home. They appear to lack the strong maternal feelings of their own mothers who would never leave their babies with sitters. Today one doesn’t see many babies or smaller children at public functions like weddings, church functions, neighborhood gatherings like in the past. More and more they are confined to the home and the parents go out alone. Many parents throw their hands up in the air when talking of their teenage children. Drinking and reckless driving has gotten out of hand completely among their teens, they say. There hasn’t been a religious vocation in the last couple of years. On the surface this parish seems to be having more trouble than most with the children. I know there has been many changes in living to account for some of these troubles but I STILL wonder if the switch to bottlefeeding didn’t lay the ground work especially in the area of family unity? I forgot to mention that at one time breastfeeding was the only method of birth control. When bottlefeeding became popular more couples were reluctant to use rhythm; for a while some couples had a new baby every 11 months or babies very close — like 8 in 7 years. Once rhythm became popular and the ONLY alternative for these Catholics, the younger couples began to rebel (20 to 30 years of nothing but rhythm seemed ridiculous) so today they are switching to contraceptives.
I realize that in this day that breastfeeding alone isn’t the whole answer in controlling births, especially if a small family is desired. However, in talking with young Catholic students, I found them more receptive to the Church’s teaching on birth control when breastfeeding with its natural spacing factor was added to the list of Church approved methods. Most of them had no idea that breastfeeding had anything to do with infertility.
I realize that my views on breastfeeding are very subjective but I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak out and to work in this area. One might say I am angry for God’s glory.”
(PS: This mother had a brother-in-law who worked in Peru among the Indians. She said that the Indians there nursed for 3-4 years and the mothers didn’t offer any liquid from the cup. The children just imitate when ready. Also he said the missionaries and French nuns discouraged breastfeeding past one year because they felt the children should be more aggressive like American children. This mother has then wondered since then how much bottlefeeding and violence go together and has written letters requesting a study be done on sex offenders, drug addicts, hippies, etc. to find out how many were nursed for a year or longer. She uses a year as a starting point to eliminate all restricted forms of nursing.)