The Church must support breastfeeding - Pastor
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
As a member of the Breastfeeding Committee of St Mary, Pastor Carl Brown is on a mission to change the way people, particularly Christians in Jamaica, think about mothers who breastfeed in public.
A few days ago, at an event in Annotto Bay, St Mary, marking the start of National Breastfeeding Week, Brown delivered an impassioned, but eloquent invocation calling on church ministers and members to be more tolerant of what is a perfectly natural and essential gift from a mother to her child.
Speaking to Family and Religion after the launch, he said: "Today, we are trying to educate people, especially mothers, about breastfeeding, especially what we call exclusive breastfeeding, with no water or juice from birth to six months; because it's so important to the child's emotional and physical development, and also helps us to relieve poverty, and develop healthy young children."
Earlier this year, Brown conducted some research to establish whether there was any historical or religious evidence supporting his stance, and the findings were both unequivocal and shocking.
He explained: "Recently, I did a study on the Jewish culture because I wanted to figure out if Jesus was breastfed. Interestingly, the culture or law in the Jewish setting states that every child must be breastfed exclusively for two years.
"Women had to breastfeed because if they didn't, they would be stoned as a punishment. Mary was a Jew, which tells us that Jesus was exclusively breastfed for the first 24 months of his life. In my estimation, breastfeeding is the missing ingredient in many of the challenges we are faced with in Jamaica."
REVERSE THE TREND
Brown, who pastors the Guy's Hill District of Seventh Day Adventist Churches, hopes to reverse the trend that has made breastfeeding in public something of a taboo, and believes religious leaders have a major role to play in helping people understand that, while formula for newborns and infants may be popular, breast is best, and in any civilised and progressive society, mothers should be free and comfortable to suckle their children whenever they are hungry.
He said: "What I'm seeing is that most of the churches do not make any provisions for mothers to promote breastfeeding. Very few churches you go to in Jamaica have a mothers' room in their construction; it's never considered, but if a baby cries in church and mother takes out her breast to feed, everybody turns around and looks in disgust. I think as pastors, we need to create an environment that will help mothers to feed their babies without any disgust.
"Another thing I want to highlight is that the Church needs to do more in terms of promoting breastfeeding. In our community services department, we need to engage the young ladies and nursing mothers in the communities, and help them in a real way to understand that feeding their babies is a very important God-given responsibility."
- O. M.