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Re: [sig] Russian Orthodox dogma about breastfeeding: myth or not?

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  • Jenn/Yana
    Eve Levin in her article Childbirth in Pre-Petrine Russia , talks about just this issue (and I think that this is the article which Jadwiga may be thinking
    Message 1 of 20 , Jun 5, 2001
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      Eve Levin in her article "Childbirth in Pre-Petrine Russia", talks about
      just this issue (and I think that this is the article which Jadwiga may be
      thinking of). It is part of a wonderful book about how women, in
      particular, retain agency within their lives, in the face of seemingly
      arbitrary and illogical beliefs. So now I will quote from Levin's article...

      From Levin's article of the above name, pages 49-50 in "Russia's Women:
      Accomodation, Resistance, Transformation," edited by Barbara Evans
      Clements, Barbara Alpen Engel, and Christine D. Worobec. Univ. of
      California Press, 1991.

      "Russian canons introduced an additional prohibition [to the beliefs about
      the defilement caused by childbirth]: no one was permitted to eat in the
      woman's company until her purification. This rule created a particular
      problem for the newborn child, who in theory could not nurse from his or
      her mother. There were a number of solutions to this problem. One was to
      delay the baptism of the child until the fortieth day--an infant not yet
      admitted to the Christian community could not be defiled by association
      with its impure mother. The concern for protecting Christians from a
      woman's postpartum impurity was so great as to raise questions about what
      to do if the infant's fraility prompted an early baptism. Metropolitan
      Ioann in the eleventh century had to rule specifically that an infant be
      allowed to nurse, even from an impure mother, to preserve life.

      "There was a second alternative for the problem of feeding the
      newborn--finding a baba [wet nurse, in this circumstance]...The church
      regarded wet nurses favorably, comparing them to their biblical forebears.
      Blessings lauded them for "recieving this infant in Thy name." It appears
      to have been rare for a new mother to have permanently turned over nursing
      of an infant to another woman except when she had no milk. Otherwise the
      mother would take up feeding the child herself as soon as she had undergone
      initial purification. When a wet nurse took on the responsibility of
      feeding an infant, she also acquired a special role in the rituals
      surrounding birth. If the mother was not able to present the child for
      naming or baptism, the baba would tak on this role. Furthermore, whoever
      nursed the infant, either its mother or the wet nurse, would undertake the
      prebaptismal fasts on behalf of the child. This involved abstinence from
      meat and milk for eight days--obviously impossible for the infant."


      So you see, even though the religious restrictions seem illogical and
      impossible to overcome without endangering the continuation of the
      community, people still manage to live with them by actively coming up with
      solutions. A society which fails to preserve the life of its members will
      simply die out, after all.

      --Yana
    • LiudmilaV@aol.com
      In a message dated 6/5/2001 7:02:11 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... This is fascinating, but I still don t understand how could a woman begin nursing 40 days
      Message 2 of 20 , Jun 5, 2001
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        In a message dated 6/5/2001 7:02:11 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
        slavic@... writes:


        > It appears
        > to have been rare for a new mother to have permanently turned over nursing
        > of an infant to another woman except when she had no milk. Otherwise the
        > mother would take up feeding the child herself as soon as she had undergone
        > initial purification.

        This is fascinating, but I still don't understand how could a woman begin
        nursing 40 days after giving birth! As a newly nursing mother, I read a lot
        on the subject and know that it is possible (but hard) to restart lactation
        (and even induce it in adoptive mothers), but milk supply remains low. So,
        how id they do it?

        Liudmila


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Jenne Heise
        ... Yes, it is. I had out two books and apparently got them confused. ... Well, this is what puzzles me. It seems like either women were routinely expressing
        Message 3 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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          > Eve Levin in her article "Childbirth in Pre-Petrine Russia", talks about
          > just this issue (and I think that this is the article which Jadwiga may be
          > thinking of).

          Yes, it is. I had out two books and apparently got them confused.

          > So you see, even though the religious restrictions seem illogical and
          > impossible to overcome without endangering the continuation of the
          > community, people still manage to live with them by actively coming up with
          > solutions. A society which fails to preserve the life of its members will
          > simply die out, after all.

          Well, this is what puzzles me. It seems like either women were routinely expressing
          breast milk (an option not mentioned in the article) or routinely delaying baptism. I was
          always led to believe that a long, for instance, 30-day, hiatus in breastfeeding is going
          to seriously impact lactation. The body believes that there is no baby to feed, and shuts
          down lactation.

          It's possible that women of the class from which wet nurses came simply delayed baptising
          their babies until the 40th day, and women of the class that hired wet nurses had their
          babies baptised within the 8 day recommendations, then hired a wet nurse to nurse their
          child.

          --
          Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@...
          disclaimer: i speak for no-one and no-one speaks for me.
          "It's no use trying to be clever-- we are all clever here; just try
          to be kind -- a little kind." F.J. Foakes-Jackson
        • Jenn/Yana
          ... Well, Levin says that the mother would take up feeding the child herself as soon as she had undergone initial purification. Could this have been some
          Message 4 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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            >This is fascinating, but I still don't understand how could a woman begin
            >nursing 40 days after giving birth! As a newly nursing mother, I read a lot
            >on the subject and know that it is possible (but hard) to restart lactation
            >(and even induce it in adoptive mothers), but milk supply remains low. So,
            >how id they do it?
            >
            >Liudmila

            Well, Levin says that "the mother would take up feeding the child herself
            as soon as she had undergone initial purification." Could this have been
            some time earlier than the 40 days?

            I know that women can continue lactation without the stimulous of suckling
            for quite some time by expressing milk. I have read of women doing this
            for several weeks (the woman I am thinking of was on an extended camping
            trip without her very young baby), so perhaps the mother kept her milk
            supply going in this manner (it is too bad that the baby may have not
            gotten the colostrum, the pre-milk filled with antibodies and such). Also,
            the canons stated that no one was to eat in the _presence_ of the woman,
            not that the baby could not drink the milk that the mother had produced.
            Maybe the woman expressed the milk and had someone else (the baba?) feed it
            to the baby, away from the mother. There may have been some question about
            whether the milk itself was "defiled", but perhaps there was a way around
            the problem.

            So with the combination of delaying baptism, the possible early start to
            purification, feeding the baby with expressed breast milk, and continuing
            lactation by manual expressing, and feeding the baby for a time via a wet
            nurse, it appears that there were many alternatives to the baby starving or
            needing to be fed permanently by a wet nurse. Babies obviously survived
            the restrictions placed on the mother, so the community must have figured
            out some way to follow the canons without killing off all the new members.
            Humans have a marvelous capacity to work with impossible-looking situations.

            --Yana
          • Jenne Heise
            ... That s a good question. In the context it appears that it is in fact the 40 days purification, but perhaps those learned in Russian medieval religion can
            Message 5 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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              > Well, Levin says that "the mother would take up feeding the child herself
              > as soon as she had undergone initial purification." Could this have been
              > some time earlier than the 40 days?

              That's a good question. In the context it appears that it is in fact the 40 days
              purification, but perhaps those learned in Russian medieval religion can give us a better
              answer. Was there an additional part-purification undergone before the end of the 40
              days' seclusion?

              > I know that women can continue lactation without the stimulous of suckling
              > for quite some time by expressing milk. I have read of women doing this
              > for several weeks (the woman I am thinking of was on an extended camping
              > trip without her very young baby), so perhaps the mother kept her milk
              > supply going in this manner (it is too bad that the baby may have not
              > gotten the colostrum, the pre-milk filled with antibodies and such).

              Presumably, since the baby was not yet baptised, he/she could nurse during the time the
              colostrum was coming down.

              >Also,
              > the canons stated that no one was to eat in the _presence_ of the woman,
              > not that the baby could not drink the milk that the mother had produced.
              > Maybe the woman expressed the milk and had someone else (the baba?) feed it
              > to the baby, away from the mother. There may have been some question about
              > whether the milk itself was "defiled", but perhaps there was a way around
              > the problem.

              Expression of milk would certainly be possible, but the technical issues involved in a)
              expression of milk from the human mammary gland, and b) widespread 'bottle' feeding of
              babies, make me think that if this was widely practiced there would be archaeological
              artifacts of the technology. Further, modern women note that even with a combination of
              nursing and modern expression technology it's often difficult to maintain appropriate
              amounts of lactation flow. It's possible that when the mother resumed nursing the child
              (at the age of a month and a half) was put on some sort of supplemental feeding.

              > So with the combination of delaying baptism, the possible early start to
              > purification, feeding the baby with expressed breast milk, and continuing
              > lactation by manual expressing, and feeding the baby for a time via a wet
              > nurse, it appears that there were many alternatives to the baby starving or
              > needing to be fed permanently by a wet nurse.

              Unfortunately, none of the alternatives are satisfactory solutions to the physical and
              theological dilemma. When using a wet nurse who had delayed her own child's baptism, or
              delaying one's own child's baptism, one was disobeying that dogma about time of baptism.
              One could feed a baby with expressed breast milk, but even today infants in that
              situation require supplemental feedings.

              --
              Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@...
              disclaimer: i speak for no-one and no-one speaks for me.
              "It's no use trying to be clever-- we are all clever here; just try
              to be kind -- a little kind." F.J. Foakes-Jackson
            • Brent Rachel
              From my reading, most of Levin s research in her Sex and Orthodox Slavs was from sources stating what SHOULD happen and not what DID happen . When she
              Message 6 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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                From my reading, most of Levin's research in her "Sex
                and Orthodox Slavs" was from sources stating "what
                SHOULD happen" and not "what DID happen". When she
                talks about penance for certain sexual activities, she
                IS able to cite a FEW examples.., but for the most
                part she states the penances that OUGHT to be assigned
                for the activity. There is no way to determine if
                they were ever imposed that way, and how widespread
                any applications might be.

                Now, I haven't read the work by Levin that we are
                discussing., but might it not be the case that what
                she is descibing was the "official" policy.., one that
                you are all discovering is impractical in the extreme?
                Are most of her sources records of what DID happen?
                I find it unlikely that there would be many such
                sources.., judging by Levin's previous work.

                So, I hypothesize that this restriction was probably
                adhered to about as much as the requirement that women
                not attend church during their cycle. Who's to know?
                And if such a wholely impractical rule (directly
                influencing procreation - the MAIN driving concern in
                all matters of intergender relations, per Levin,
                herself) *was* strictly enforced I believe that the
                ensuing chaos would have been recorded by visitors to
                a greater degree, and would have had PAGES devoted to
                it in the Domostroi. I think it is *just that
                impractical*.

                Just one man's opinion.

                Brent / Kazimir

                --- Jenn/Yana <slavic@...> wrote:
                > >This is fascinating, but I still don't understand
                > how could a woman begin
                > >nursing 40 days after giving birth! As a newly
                > nursing mother, I read a lot
                > >on the subject and know that it is possible (but
                > hard) to restart lactation
                > >(and even induce it in adoptive mothers), but milk
                > supply remains low. So,
                > >how id they do it?
                > >
                > >Liudmila


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              • stasi.wa
                ... From: LiudmilaV@aol.com To: sig@yahoogroups.com Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 11:36 PM Subject: Re: [sig] Russian
                Message 7 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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                  -----Original Message-----
                  From: LiudmilaV@... <LiudmilaV@...>
                  To: sig@yahoogroups.com <sig@yahoogroups.com>
                  Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2001 11:36 PM
                  Subject: Re: [sig] Russian Orthodox dogma about breastfeeding: myth or not?


                  >In a message dated 6/5/2001 7:02:11 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                  >slavic@... writes:
                  >
                  >
                  >> It appears
                  >> to have been rare for a new mother to have permanently turned over
                  nursing
                  >> >This is fascinating, but I still don't understand how could a woman
                  begin
                  >nursing 40 days after giving birth! As a newly nursing mother, I read a lot
                  >on the subject and know that it is possible (but hard) to restart lactation
                  >(and even induce it in adoptive mothers), but milk supply remains low. So,
                  >how id they do it?
                  >The same way working women do it. They continue to express the milk even
                  when they are not acutally feeding the child. We put it in bottles and
                  refridgerate it, but they would have probably dumped it being "un pure". You
                  don't need a pump to get the stream going, you know.
                  B. Anastasia with two babies to her credit>
                  Liudmila
                  >
                  >
                  >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                  >
                  >
                  >


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                • Jenne Heise
                  ... Yes, but do you need a pump to get any significant amount expresssed after you ve got it going? I was under the impression that the average human mammary
                  Message 8 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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                    > >The same way working women do it. They continue to express the milk even
                    > when they are not acutally feeding the child. We put it in bottles and
                    > refridgerate it, but they would have probably dumped it being "un pure". You
                    > don't need a pump to get the stream going, you know.
                    > B. Anastasia with two babies to her credit>

                    Yes, but do you need a pump to get any significant amount expresssed after
                    you've got it going? I was under the impression that the average human
                    mammary gland was not well configured for manual milking purposes.

                    --
                    Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@...
                    disclaimer: i speak for no-one and no-one speaks for me.
                    "It's no use trying to be clever-- we are all clever here; just try
                    to be kind -- a little kind." F.J. Foakes-Jackson
                  • MHoll@aol.com
                    In a message dated 6/5/2001 9:01:58 PM Central Daylight Time, ... Is there a footnote, a specific reference to the Russian text? I know the book it comes from,
                    Message 9 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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                      In a message dated 6/5/2001 9:01:58 PM Central Daylight Time,
                      slavic@... writes:


                      > "...Metropolitan Ioann in the eleventh century had to rule specifically that
                      > an infant be allowed to nurse, even from an impure mother, to preserve
                      >

                      Is there a footnote, a specific reference to the Russian text? I know the
                      book it comes from, I'm sure I even read the article, but I don't have it
                      now.

                      Predslava,
                      who just loves to check the original of a quotation. Saves her from doing any
                      *real* work.


                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • LiudmilaV@aol.com
                      In a message dated 6/6/2001 1:42:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time, ... Of course, and it was silly of me not to think of expressing. You actually can do this by
                      Message 10 of 20 , Jun 6, 2001
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                        In a message dated 6/6/2001 1:42:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                        jenne@... writes:


                        > > >The same way working women do it. They continue to express the milk even
                        > > when they are not actually feeding the child. We put it in bottles and
                        > > refrigerate it, but they would have probably dumped it being "un pure".
                        > You
                        > > don't need a pump to get the stream going, you know.
                        > > B. Anastasia with two babies to her credit>
                        >
                        > Yes, but do you need a pump to get any significant amount expresssed after
                        > you've got it going? I was under the impression that the average human
                        > mammary gland was not well configured for manual milking purposes.
                        >
                        >

                        Of course, and it was silly of me not to think of expressing. You actually
                        can do this by hand (that is, you or someone else might, I can't master the
                        skill so far). I have a relative who expressed milk by hand for her baby
                        back in Ukraine about 20 years ago, when there weren't any pumps available
                        and her baby refused to nurse.

                        What still bugs me is what did they do with the milk? There is a strong
                        sentiment in Russian culture not to waste food, so could they throw it away?
                        If not, how would they feed it to the baby? I understand that without a
                        nippled bottle this could be very tricky and time-consuming. Also, what
                        about going back to work in the fields soon after giving birth? How would
                        this non-nursing thing work?

                        Liudmila,
                        wondering if male populations of the list heard more than they'd ever want to
                        know about breastfeeding.


                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Robert J Welenc
                        ... milk even ... and ... pure . You ... after ... human ... No, it s not -- but I found that manual expression worked much better than a breast pump. I kept
                        Message 11 of 20 , Jun 7, 2001
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                          At 04:36 PM 6/6/01 -0400, you wrote:
                          >> >The same way working women do it. They continue to express the
                          milk even
                          >> when they are not acutally feeding the child. We put it in bottles
                          and
                          >> refridgerate it, but they would have probably dumped it being "un
                          pure". You
                          >> don't need a pump to get the stream going, you know.
                          >> B. Anastasia with two babies to her credit>
                          >
                          >Yes, but do you need a pump to get any significant amount expresssed
                          after
                          >you've got it going? I was under the impression that the average
                          human
                          >mammary gland was not well configured for manual milking purposes.

                          No, it's not -- but I found that manual expression worked much better
                          than a breast pump.

                          I kept lactation going during a 10-day hospital stay, (forbidden to
                          breastfeed because I was being pumped full of antibiotics) but it was
                          awkward and painful. I can't imagine being able express enough to
                          keep it going for 6 weeks. (And like many young nursing babies, my
                          5-month-old refused to take a bottle.)

                          What does the Domostroi say about women feeding their babies? Was it
                          common for the upper class to put their babies out to a wetnurse as a
                          matter of course, as was done in western Europe? If so, I imagine
                          that this was the only class that observed such a rule.

                          Otherwise it's wholly impractical and unlikely. Professional
                          wetnurses wouldn't exist in small villages, only in larger cities,
                          and the key there is 'professional'. Where does a peasant find space
                          to house and money to pay a wetnurse?

                          Perhaps you could have a relative or friend nurse the child, with the
                          understanding that the next time she gave birth, you would do the
                          same for her. Is there any evidence for such a practice? And having
                          a newborn and an older baby at the breast at the same time wouldn't
                          be easy. They have completely different suckling patterns. A strong
                          let-down reflex on the part of the woman can be handled easily by an
                          older infant, but tends to choke a newborn with too much milk all at
                          once.



                          Alanna
                          ***********
                          Saying of the day: You cannot unscramble eggs.
                        • Art Plazewski
                          ... From: Robert J Welenc [mailto:rjwelenc@erols.com] Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 7:55 AM To: sig@yahoogroups.com Subject: Re: [sig] Russian Orthodox dogma
                          Message 12 of 20 , Jun 7, 2001
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                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: Robert J Welenc [mailto:rjwelenc@...]
                            Sent: Thursday, June 07, 2001 7:55 AM
                            To: sig@yahoogroups.com
                            Subject: Re: [sig] Russian Orthodox dogma about breastfeeding: myth or
                            not?



                            Otherwise it's wholly impractical and unlikely. Professional
                            wetnurses wouldn't exist in small villages, only in larger cities,
                            and the key there is 'professional'. Where does a peasant find space
                            to house and money to pay a wetnurse?

                            Perhaps you could have a relative or friend nurse the child, with the
                            understanding that the next time she gave birth, you would do the
                            same for her. Is there any evidence for such a practice? And having
                            a newborn and an older baby at the breast at the same time wouldn't
                            be easy. They have completely different suckling patterns. A strong
                            let-down reflex on the part of the woman can be handled easily by an
                            older infant, but tends to choke a newborn with too much milk all at
                            once.



                            Alanna
                            ***********
                            Saying of the day: You cannot unscramble eggs.



                            Up until today wet nurse is a common practice in almost every village I
                            know of in Poland. They did not have to take money - goods and services
                            are most common to exchange for that service. Also what was a theory (
                            don't feed the baby till 40 days) was theory only , observed in some
                            sporadic examples.
                            Art.
                          • Jenne Heise
                            ... I don t remember the Domostroi saying anything about women feeding their babies. Is it possible that the issue never came up for the author (because babies
                            Message 13 of 20 , Jun 7, 2001
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                              > What does the Domostroi say about women feeding their babies? Was it
                              > common for the upper class to put their babies out to a wetnurse as a
                              > matter of course, as was done in western Europe? If so, I imagine
                              > that this was the only class that observed such a rule.

                              I don't remember the Domostroi saying anything about women feeding their
                              babies. Is it possible that the issue never came up for the author
                              (because babies weren't nursed in front of men, or priests, or something?)

                              Maybe it was only the wives of priests that obeyed the rule? ;)


                              --
                              Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, mka Jennifer Heise jenne@...
                              disclaimer: i speak for no-one and no-one speaks for me.
                              "It's no use trying to be clever-- we are all clever here; just try
                              to be kind -- a little kind." F.J. Foakes-Jackson
                            • MHoll@aol.com
                              In a message dated 6/7/2001 5:40:54 PM Central Daylight Time, ... Yep, or else, considering the personality of the author, since it s woman s work, it s not
                              Message 14 of 20 , Jun 7, 2001
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                                In a message dated 6/7/2001 5:40:54 PM Central Daylight Time,
                                jenne@... writes:


                                > Is it possible that the issue never came up for the author
                                >

                                Yep, or else, considering the personality of the author, since it's woman's
                                work, it's not really worth mentioning, as it doesn't immediately affect the
                                household.

                                Predslava,
                                being her cynical feminist self.


                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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