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Breastfeeding as Spiritual Practice

Breastfeeding as Spiritual Practice

by Leslie Davis

As a new mom I was deeply moved by the act of nursing my baby boy and the close bond we developed through breastfeeding. But nursing my first child also brought up so many strong emotions as I grappled with the frustration and irritation that came with having a  tiny human completely dependent on me.  As the months passed, parenting, and especially nursing, became my spiritual practice.

When my little guy was three, and I was pregnant with our second child, I wrote an article about my experience of breastfeeding as a spiritual practice, published by Mothering Magazine in Issue 120, September/October 2003. I’ve included some excerpts below and you can read the full article here:

Breathing In: Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice
by Leslie Davis

When my son was born I knew very little about Buddhism, let alone the meaning of the word sangha, but I often likened my nursing to a “practice.” It took such a deep commitment, and often it was such hard work to just sit still. I considered nursing to be my spiritual work. It was my quiet time, my time for solitude and a sweet togetherness with my child. My relationship to nursing had a sinuous path, as spiritual discovery can, but I was motivated by its wonder and pursued its winding course.


As all relationships do, my relationship with nursing my son slowly unfolded and offered me many surprising gifts.

I realized that I’d never before devoted myself to something so entirely. Of course I’ve devoted myself to my husband, to my family, to friends, to my writing, to mothering, and even to God and other spiritual endeavors at various points in my life. But in that moment I realized that, as a breastfeeding mother, I’d completely given myself to this act of nursing in a way that I never had before. Nothing was more important than nursing my son. Nothing was put before it. There was no procrastination as with exercise, no excuses as with trying to stop eating sugar, no laziness as with housecleaning and other chores. Nursing had to be done, and I did it, over and over again, multiple times a day, for more than 800 days in a row. It was the closest thing to a spiritual practice that I’d ever experienced.

I later learned about meditation and mindfulness and began to sit with a weekly sangha that we hosted in our home. My nursing practice and my sitting practice were mirror images of each other and of myself. I found refuge in the sangha–the community that dwells in harmony and awareness. I found refuge in a community of nursing mothers all over the world whom I had never met, and would likely never meet. They knew nothing of me, but I was holding those mamas with babes at their breasts in my heart and in my awareness every time I nursed my child. Especially during night feedings when all was quiet.

In the middle of the night I’d think, As I lie here nursing my babe, thousands of women all over the world are nursing theirs. Especially on those nights when my son wanted to nurse all night long, I’d bring myself back to that joyous vision–in my mind, I’d imagine all of the nursing mothers I knew, each of them awake or half-awake in the middle of the night, nursing their babies. Like a sangha, they were part of my nursing community–they were my air, my sky, my sunshine. Their commitment to their nursing practice made my commitment grow stronger. Their practice made my practice seem easier.

That little nursling is now 16 years old. He taught me how to be a mama. He has taught me so much about love, acceptance, communication, compassion, patience, joy and mindfulness. And I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t add that he has also taught me about fear, worry, anger, rage, and then some! Grateful that I captured this experience in an article that was published in print by Mothering Magazine back in 2003.

Read the full article published in Mothering Magazine, Issue 120, September/October 2003:

Breathing In: Breastfeeding as a Spiritual Practice
by Leslie Davis


About Leslie Davis

Leslie  writes to enhance her mindfulness practice. Through writing, she connects deeply to her self and her non-self, her joys and desires, her fears and worries. She is on an imperfectly perfect quest to mindfully raise her two teens with her husband Kenley, a dharma teacher in Thich Nhat Hanh’s lineage. A lover of nature, hiking, organic living and being with her family, Leslie also really likes to stay in, read a good book, write, make stuff, and soak in the tub. Leslie lives in Ojai, California and works as a marketing consultant, social media manager and writer. She has an MFA in Poetry from New College of California, San Francisco where she also studied letterpress printing. Leslie blogs here and at


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