The good father: mothers, infants, and nursing...

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The past year or two, I've been reading books by shepherds. The Bible is all about sheep and shepherds. Jesus said He was the Good Shepherd and He told His Disciples the good shepherd gives up his life for his sheep. My calling is to shepherd Jesus' flock, so I read books by shepherds to learn how to do my work better. "Pastor" and "shepherd" started out as synonyms.

"Pastor" sounds like "pasture" because both come from the word "fed" or "grazed." Jesus commanded Peter to "feed my sheep," and this is your first duty as the father of a newborn. You are to do everything possible to get the mother of your newborn child to feed her lamb and everything possible to get your newborn lamb to his mother's breast, latched on, and sucking.

Daddy, you are the shepherd of your ewe and her lamb. The doctor or midwife is not the shepherd. They are the vets. They are only professionals, and following birth, their work is only cleanup. The doula is not the shepherd. She's a woman and shepherds are men.

You are the man...

You are the husband and father, and now it's your job to shepherd your ewe and her lamb.

Actually, it's good you're a man because men aren't sentimental about mothers and babies. Men know they're made to protect the lives of women and children, so the father looks at his wife and her newborn baby and all he thinks and feels is "this baby must live." This precious child is the fruit of their love, and he is their future.

If he's to live, he must nurse.

One nth generation shepherd up in England's Lake District dispenses with sentimentality concerning the newborn lamb starting to nurse: minutes, on their matchstick legs, they are stumbling towards the teats. Instinct telling them that they have one chance to live and it relies on getting hold and sucking. The line between life and death is often paper-thin. It is essential that they get enough of the yellow colostrum milk that carries the antibodies and nutrition they need in the first few hours. It is magic golden stuff, and half our work is ensuring that new lambs get to their feet and get their share.1

Now you are a father. Your wife has given birth to your firstborn child and "half your work is ensuring your new lamb gets to his mother's arms and gets his share."

So get to work. See that your wife gets her baby in her arms and at her breast immediately. Don't let the technicians or well-meaning grandmothers get in the way of this life-and-death bonding and union. The lamb needs milk. The lamb needs to work to get the milk. The lamb and the ewe must bond.

The lamb must live!

The mother's health, too, depends upon the little one nursing. The baby's sucking protects your wife from hemorrhaging. Likely that alone will cause the medical technicians to have the same goal you do—of getting your child to his mother's arms and breasts as quickly as possible. Regardless, this is your job even though every woman in the room will think you're useless, except to take pictures and admire your wife's work.

Don't be intimidated. Shepherds work hard to get the lamb latched on. If childbirth leaves the lamb motherless, the shepherd will skin a stillborn lamb, tie his skin around the body of the motherless lamb, and put her to the teat of the stillborn lamb's mother. The task is bloody awful, but the shepherd knows the newborn lamb must nurse to live.

God has given you the beginnings of a flock. You are the pastor, the shepherd of your flock, and first things must come first. Do everything possible to guard mother and child from anything and anyone who poses a threat to their bonding and nursing union.

Next week we'll look at one of the first threats you'll have to protect mother and baby from—the church's nursing nazis.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!