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January 19, 2006

William Gouge: Theologian and AP Advocate

Thanks to Lydia, Nathan's Helpmeet, who has drawn my attention to the works of William Gouge--specifically his pages upon pages of reflection on the Bible and breastfeeding. Lydia quoted a passage on cry-it-out and breastfeeding, but the section below really stood out to me.

Among other needful things, the milk of the breast is fit for young babes, and with it they are to be nourished. I think none doubt of the equity of this. It hath in all ages, and in all countries, been accounted the best food that can be for young babes. The metaphor, which S. Peter useth, taken from young infants [in the words, As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2)] confirmeth as much. So doth also the desire which such infants have to the milk of the breasts: and the ability, and promptness which is in them to suck: and God's providence in causing a woman's breasts to yield forth such milk: and the constant manner of nourishing little infants after this manner, commended in the Scripture: and [to conclude] the natural instinct which many unreasonable creatures have thus to nourish their young ones.

. . .

God hath given to women two breasts fit to contain and hold milk: and nipples unto them fit to have milk drawn from them. Why are these thus given? to lay them forth for ostentation? There is no warrant for that in all God's word. They are directly given for the child's food that cometh out of the womb; for till the child be born, there is no milk in the breasts: anon after it is born, milk ordinarily floweth into the breasts: yea a great part of the meat which they eat turneth into milk. They make this admirable work of God's providence to be in vain, that dry up this spring, and suffer not their children to partake of the benefits of it.

--William Gouge, On Domestical Duties

Martin Luther: Theologian and Cloth Diaper Advocate
John Calvin: Theologian and Lactivist
Breastfeeding and the Bible


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Hey, does your father-in-law know of any support groups for guys who want to overcome squeamishness about breastfeeding? As I once said to a female friend, after being brought up by FLGrandma I will gladly sign petitions, join boycotts, lie down in front of trains - even plant the occasional small explosive device - in support of women's right to breastfeed in public. But to be honest, I would gladly do all of those things if it would guarantee me that I never actually have to see a woman breastfeeding in public. Ridiculous, I know, but there it is.

Anyway, if your father-in-law wants to start up a group - I'm thinking we could call it something like eyecontact.org - put him in touch.

Actually I'm only half-joking - if you've seen any good articles on how men can overcome squeamishness, please post a link or two! And if you haven't seen any, I would humbly suggest that a bit of frank discussionon this issue would be a great help to the lactivist movement. Being a faithful reader of Tulipgirl has helped some, and I suppose having my own kids will someday help as well, but what else can be done?

Posted by: The Liberal Media at January 21, 2006 08:22 AM

On the same subject - what do you think of this TV commercial? http://www.brebank.pl/pakietyefekt/reklama.mpg

This is a Polish bank (owned by a German one, Commerzbank) - it's an ad campaign for their services for small businesses. The voiceover text is: "This is Magda, your future financial adviser at BRE. She got her MBA in London. She knows finance backwards and forwards. And she's hardworking, patient, and...nurturing." Then (when it cuts to the shot of the boy playing), a bunch of stuff about small businesses.

The point is supposed to be that small businesses need nurturing too, but I think the sleazy sax music kind of gives away that it's a more, um, traditional advertising technique. In terms of the effectiveness of the surprise, it's a 10, but in terms of taste it's way down there in negative territory.

If you know any German lactivists, I'm sure they'd like to know what Commerzbank is up to out here in the colonies...

Posted by: The Liberal Media at January 21, 2006 08:59 AM

While I agree breastfeeding is of tantamount importance, I don't think it is the ONLY important thing to consider in raising a child. I sincerely hope you are not using the basis of whether or not a woman chooses to breastfeed her child as an indicator for that woman's parenting skills. Our son has been formula-fed since he was two months old and he THRIVES, no matter how he is fed.

I see you are obviously a proponent of attachment parenting, and I assume all that goes along with it, i.e. baby wearing, co-sleeping, etc. I am happy to hear this has worked for you; however, that is not the case for many others.

I am curious - do you think mothers who let their children "cry it out" are savages, as your post suggests? There is such a misconception associated with crying it out. It is not simply the idea that you let your child howl and wail away while you ignore their cries. It is learning to distinguish those cries so it is known whether a child is in pain, distress, hunger, or in need of a diaper change, or simply restless and unable to fall asleep. Proponents of the misleading "cry-it-out" technique believe in the importance of sleep in a young infant. Again, our son is a happy and well-adjusted baby because he sleeps WELL. He is not cranky or overtired in the least.

Posted by: Leslie at January 21, 2006 09:38 AM

I loved this quote as well when I read Gouge. I think that the Puritans were so real that they could speak like this to their people. No minister today (that I know) would say such a thing...especially in print!

Thank God for the divines who would truly speak on the whole counsel of God.

(That Nathan's HelpMeet is pretty special as well!)

Posted by: Nate of PRESBYTERIAN THOUGHTS at January 21, 2006 05:58 PM

Lib, *L* so you remember that! Good question, I'll be pondering it and may ask around. . . Btw, heard from your mom this week--and I owe her an e-mail. *blush*


Yup--you've got a keeper. *wink* And I think if I had read more of the Reformers who have gone before, I would have been on a better track with my parenting when I first started. John Bunyan has some interesting things to say, too.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 21, 2006 10:09 PM

Hi, Leslie!

You have a cute little one. *grin*

You raise some interesting questions. . . The one that stood out to me was, "do you think mothers who let their children "cry it out" are savages, as your post suggests?"

I'm not sure where you got the idea that my post suggests CIO moms are "savages." However, I see that the selection Lydia quoted from Willam Gouge did include that word. Are you referring to this passage:

"On these and other like reasons heathen women, and very savages, have in all ages been moved to nurse their own children. . .--WIlliam Gouge"

Gouge is not stating in this sentence, nor anywhere in the passages that I read, that any mothering practice is "savage." What he is stating is that God's Creation, His amazing Design, is so evident that even those who do not have the revealed truth of the Bible or the benefits of medical/scientific knowledge (heathens and savages) are moved to nurse their children. The order in Creation is self-evident even to these. It wasn't a derogatory statement at all.

And that leads to another idea you brought up--whether breastfeeding equals being a good mother. No, of course not. There are fabulous, loving devoted mothers who don't breastfeed. There are less-than-fabulous, struggling, mistake-making mothers who do breastfeed. But I do believe that breastfeeding is God's design to nurture the mother/father/baby relationship and to nurture the physical and developmental growth of infants. We see that in the Bible, in Creation, and in science.

"I see you are obviously a proponent of attachment parenting. . ."

I had to really laugh at this. You see, I so resisted the term attachment parenting for years and years. AP was misrepresented and falsely defined during some of my early years of parenting to be something that caters to the whims of children, is permissive, is boundaryless and turns mothers and babies into exhausted, snivelling wrecks. Who would want to ever be associated with that?

But the Lord directed our family in small ways through the years to modify this, change that, focus on the other. . . And here we are. I'm comfortable with the label AP now (though Hubby isn't, even if he embraces the ideas.) But only when it is defined accurately and not the silly misrepresentation it has in some circles. (AP is from birth trauma theory? Oh, please. . . *L*)

Soooo. . . Maybe my answers don't quite fit with your initial impression of me. Or maybe they do. Either way, welcome Leslie.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 21, 2006 10:27 PM


I thought it would be helpful, since we've both used the term Attachment Parenting to provide some sort of definition, explanation, so that we aren't using the same words and meaning very different things. I'm quite well aware there are some who use the phrase AP to describe something very different than what AP is generally accepted to be. This explanation is taken from something written up by flowermama:

"The essense of attachment parenting is listening to our children, listening to our mothering intincts, and responsively meeting our children's needs. . . .

There is not a checklist of things we must do that will make any of us more of an AP parent that the mama next to us. Attachment parenting is an approach, a style of parenting, a lifestyle. Many attachment parents sleep with their little ones and use a sling -- we affirm that having our children be an intregral part of our daily lives is crucial, but how that looks in each family will be different for certainly God created each of us to be unique with individual needs. There are various attachment tools we can choose, and there are no pat "formulas" that work with all our children. The key is responsive parenting where we and our baby listen and communicate with one another -- that will help our trust and understanding of one another (and our confidence) to grow.

The ability to listen and communicate, and the understanding and trust that grows help us know how to parent our little ones as they grow older. God has been gracious to us, and as mothers we desire to be gracious with our children, and need to give ourself grace, too. It's not about being perfect -- as one the mamas on the board has said, we are not perfect, but we are the perfect mamas for our children. As we seek Him and His wisdom, we can trust that He will guide us and give us the tools we need to raise our children in a way that will bring glory to Him."

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 21, 2006 10:36 PM

That's a fascinating quote from the 1600's. From a social history point of view it's really, really interesting.

Posted by: Kathy at January 22, 2006 04:44 PM

Hi TG!

I read here everyday, but haven't posted in a LONG time. I breastfed up until 3 or 4 months for my son. I do wish it could have been longer, but it wasn't. (Lots of details I can't go into here ).

Along the lines of the whole C-I-O, Co-Sleeping thing was an interesting article I came accross recently. Apparently Dr. Ferber, the famous C-I-O authority has relaxed his views a bit. There is going to be a revised version of his book released soon, where he "has allowed that his technique is not suitable for all babies and that children can develop healthy sleep habits sleping in their parent's bed". (This article is from The San Diego Union Tribune, Sat. Jan 14, 06.) The connection is made in saying that breasfeeding is encouraged when the baby is sleeping with, or very near the mom, which facilitates breastfeeding. Interesting.

In looking back , I may have been able to BF longer if my son had been in the same room . . I don't know. What is also interesting in all this, is how parents put so much stock in what the "experts" say, and then how "experts" can change their minds. Thanks for the discussion on all this.

Posted by: blueyedtracy at January 22, 2006 06:21 PM


Yeah, I wish I had found a book called, "The Puritans on Parenting" when I first started out. *L*


I really want to be an encouragement to mothers. . . Not a shrill you-shoulda-coulda sort of voice. I feel like I finally really got the hang of breastfeeding with my third--and by my fourth it was second nature. But the first two times? At points it seemed easy and at other times it didn't. And I weaned both of them earlier than I wanted to. . . So, hey--four months! That's great!

Thanks for the info on Dr. Ferber. What is most convincing to me that CIO isn't the optimal way to approach sleep with infants is learning more about the biology and physiology of uncomforted crying and brain development.

Posted by: TulipGirl at January 22, 2006 07:23 PM

To respond to a statement of Leslie's...I have 4 sons who sleep well and are well-adjusted and happy, without CIO.

An 'attachment' mother spends so much time with her baby, learning to read his needs. She doesn't have to associate his cries with specific needs. She picks up on much subtler cues, and tends to the baby before he has to cry for it.

Leslie, am I misunderstanding? It seems as if you are saying that CIO mothers are in tune with their babies' needs, and AP mothers are not?

I know what it is like to be so upset that I cry without being unable to stop, and want to scream. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, physically and emotionally.

I try to spare my baby from that feeling whenever possible, by tending to his needs before he has to scream for help.

Posted by: weathertopmama at January 23, 2006 11:55 AM

As usual, thank you TG for a thought provoking post. What's the best book/website for finding out more about this fascinating theologian? I know I cld google but I'd like recommendations as well.

I read a lot & talked to friends while I raised our 3 but in the end it's trial & error (& a very supportive hubby) with each baby as you go along. That said, a societal change that supports breastfeeding would help matters too.

Posted by: Marion at January 23, 2006 04:59 PM

Very neat. I really like how he values breastfeeding. I can't wait to have that bond with my babies:)

Posted by: Tanya Wells at January 23, 2006 10:10 PM

Hi again,

I so think you ARE an encouragement . . .I hope I didn't imply that you were the 'you shoulda-coulda' voice. Also, I have read (just a bit) about the physiological effects of uncomforted crying, specifically when the stress hormone cortisol is released. Signing off,

Posted by: blueyedtracy at January 23, 2006 11:44 PM

Thank you so much for sharing! This is so encouraging.

Posted by: Christine at January 26, 2006 09:33 AM

One of our pastors (his wife was our midwife and helped deliver our babies at home) used to read 1 Peter 2:2 often with a certain knowing twinkle in his eye! They had 8 dear children, who were nursed well into kindergarten age!

Posted by: bonnie at January 30, 2006 11:53 PM

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