Many of us associate Imbolc with milk in part because, as tradition has it, the holiday falls when the sheep in Ireland are lactating. As a result, a favorite family activity in many Pagan households is making butter, and many of us offer cow, sheep, or goat milk to Brighid.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve found myself reflecting on the milk my body produces. Brighid has connections to motherhood and midwifery, too, and as someone who already looked to Brighid with gratitude for inspiration and warmth, I naturally embraced this other side of her. Every year since giving birth to Bee, Imbolc is a special time for me to reflect on my ability to produce nourishment for my little one*.
Meditating on the magic of lactation took a new direction this Imbolc as I readied my Hygeia breast pump for a friend, protogrove mate, and new mama to use! I was so happy to share this pump. I bought it in part because it’s one of the few in the market that is meant to be shared; one of the few that is FDA approved to be shared (provided each person using buy replacement flanges and such). I realized that this same woman watched me openly breastfeed my daughter at every protogrove event. Part of my ability to do that was the encouragement my previous grove gave me, and their openness in letting me nurse without covering up. It also came from watching a coven-mate nurse her daughter back from my days in an eclectic circle. I brought that behavior to my own protogrove, and everyone was very supportive, especially members who had had children before our founding. We worked to normalize the behavior in our group and emphasize that it was natural and beautiful. The menfolk showed their support, too, and never showed any discomfort. In fact, I know they would all stand up for me if someone tried to tell me I should cover up.
At our last Imbolc rite, I witnessed my friend breastfeed her little one. My daughter saw it, as did the other children. They will grow up knowing it’s normal. In fact, as you can read in the article I linked below, part of why so many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding is that they’ve never seen it before! Think about it. As children, we learn so much through imitation. Naturally, people are reluctant to try things they’ve never seen, and many are discouraged when first attempts don’t succeed. This is why creating a positive, nurturing environment for families is so important, and that includes mothers, fathers, doulas, lactation consultants, and midwives.
Breastfeeding has become part of my grove’s culture, and seeing my friend nurse so openly as well made it feel very communal. I truly feel that each time mothers nurse in front of others, especially women and girls, or each time we stand up for the rights of a mother to nurse, we take on the role of the midwife in some way, birthing a new generation of nurturing people.
For more info on breastfeeding: http://www.mothering.com/articles/natural-breastfeeding/
*Yes, I’m still breastfeeding! Going for the natural weaning approach because it works for my family.