Quoting Quiverfull: The “Suckling Mother”?

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies: The ‘Suckling Mother’


This word would not have been offensive to the those listening to Jesus at that time. Nursing mothers were a natural part of the lifestyle. Unfortunately, today there are many women who would not like to hear Jesus describing them in such a way. To be a suckling mother seems degrading to a career woman. And yet this is who God created us to be. When we embrace children and suckle them at the breast we fulfill our highest destiny. We live in the glory of our femaleness. We find our greatest beauty. And we wield a mighty power.

The mother who embraces life and suckles a babe at her breast is not wasting her time. She is nourishing a child who potentially bears the image of God—a child who will come forth from her home one day to bring God’s love and salvation to many. Maybe this child will be a mighty voice to turn a nation to God. And she nurtures a child for everlasting eternity. It is still true that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

When a mother nurses her baby she produces prolactin, which is known as the “mothering hormone.” The more the mother suckles the baby, the more prolactin she produces and therefore the more motherly she becomes. God has divinely endowed the female with a maternal instinct, but when she suckles her baby at the breast her maternalness increases. She lives more in the anointing of who God created her to be—to reveal the maternal character of God to her children and those around her.

Some mothers say, “I’m only interested in quality, not quantity” and so they limit their children so they can supposedly give more to the one or two they choose to have. This is a false conception. As her two children grow and go off to school, she is mothering less and less and looks to find fulfillment elsewhere, often going out to work and establishing herself in a career. And so her children receive less of her time. Whereas, when a mother has another baby and suckles the babe at her breast, prolactin kicks in and the motherly hormones charge through her system again. Not only does her baby benefit from this loving hormone, but her whole family. The love and nurturing spreads out to all her children. This is how God keeps the mother protecting and delighting in her children in the home.


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NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Is Ms. Campbell saying that time works differently when you spend it taking care of a newborn than it does when you go to a workplace? The fact is that time is time. Time with a newborn does take time away from older kids. Older kids know this. And a newborn is a round-the-clock job, cutting into your sleep as well as your waking hours. On the other hand, when I came home from work, all of me was there for my school-age children, to help with homework and discuss their day.
    Thinking back, if I had just kept having babies rather than returning to the workforce, we would also not have had the money to do those family outings that my kids will remember with fondness all their lives. I think a day at the zoo or amusement park is worth having Mom at work while you’re at school. I’m sure they’d agree.

  • chervil

    Where oh where to start. My 2 are teens now. Yes, I nursed. Yes, I work. I’m working right now (not that you’d know it, but I bill by the hour anyhow, from home. Usually.). Did I nurse whenever and wherever I was, did I talk about it, fuss about it, obsess about it, hoped not to leak in public and squeezed my own ninnies when they hurt? Sure. I lost all inhibition, and I am totally inhibited. Did I like it? Did I appreciate the fact that I thought I was doing the best for my babies? Absolutely. Did I look at it as some noble divine activity that was ushering in the next generation of Godly whatevers? No. It was just what I did as part of raising my kids, no more, no less. “To be a suckling mother seems degrading to a career woman.” No, it certainly is not, it’s just a weird way to put it. Who talks that way in real life. Get a grip. I don’t say “thee” and “thou” either.

    I don’t need to continually nurse a baby for the rest of my life to feel the “mothering hormone.” I feel it every single morning when my super cute 13 year old son comes downstairs in all his adorable sleepiness and I get to see him for the first time that day, and greet him as if I haven’t seen him in years. Every day. Not that he’s ever that enthusiastic about seeing ME, but then again, he doesn’t have that “mothering hormone”. I heard my mother on the phone once with my 54 year old brother, cooing and calling him ‘sweetie’. My brother is a most dignified gentleman and my mother is a mature, eloquent and refined lady! It doesn’t stop, no matter how old they get!

    I feel it even when I even talk about my kids, when they’re not even there. It cracks me up because I can literally feel that soothing hormone relaxing me and making me feel good, just by talking about them. Nothing else does that. I certainly don’t need to keep having babies to keep doping myself up with love hormones to keep loving and nurturing the ones I already have, but I suppose Nancy does.

  • texcee

    I did not nurse my daughter and the reason lands squarely on my mother’s shoulders. My entire life she had hammered into my head that the human body was “nasty”. Anything that had to do with sex was “nasty.” Breasts were “nasty”. I was so uncomfortable with my body that having a baby’s mouth making contact with my nipple made me feel like an animal. I still squirm at the thought. The only time I attempted to nurse my daughter was the day she was born. When they brought her to me for the first time, I put her to my breast because I was expected to do so, but my mother was sitting beside my hospital bed, her glare affixed to my bosom. It made my skin crawl and I wasn’t strong enough then to assert my independence. Daughter was bottle fed and turned out okay, so no harm was done. But this is an example of the “modesty” mindset, that the female body is BAD BAD BAD, but suddenly in this aspect, you’re supposed to ignore your mindwashing and suddenly see this as GOOD GOOD GOOD.

  • Lucreza Borgia

    What is with the insistence, over and over and over, about how powerful women really are as long as they give up power????

  • Wow. I feel like laughing at the absurdity of her last paragraph. Every escaped quiverful daughter talks about not getting any time with her mother, who was always taking care of infants. They were starved of attention. I grew up in a household of 3 kids and a mother who worked. I never felt starved of my parents’ attention, ever. I have to hand it to her for her ability to construct an argument that ridiculous.

  • Texee–That would have been me if I had had my baby just a few years earlier–I can SO relate! But now, finally, I have established enough geographical and emotional space between my mother and me that I can finally start to feel comfortable in my body and my vocabulary even around her….even though, to this day, she cannot say the words “sex” “breast” “boob” or “poop” (not even “poopy diaper”) out loud even in private conversation with me. I make up for it by saying them enough for both of us in front of her.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Her first paragraph…Holy Strawman! Does anyone here know a “career woman” who finds breast-feeding degrading? I certainly don’t. In fact, breast-feeding has long been correlated to a higher education level among women–in other words, breast-feeding is most common among the mothers who are most likely to have careers. (And my guess is that even educated women who choose to be SAHMs are probably entirely too feminist for Nancy Campbell). Also, the height of formula-feeding was before the women’s lib movement, when career options for women were extremely limited and it was expected that a woman would not work if her husband had the means to support a family on only his income. Those smiling 50s homemakers were mostly formula-feeding. Meanwhile, my mom and aunts (all educated, feminist former hippies) ALL “suckled” their babies as career women (and my cousin is doing so right now). It’s true they might have smirked at being called “suckling mothers” though, similarly to how they might have reacted to someone saying “zounds” and “fi.” I mean, “To be a suckling mother seems degrading to a career woman?” How about “To use archaic English with a straight face seems silly to a normal woman.”

    Also, color me creeped out at her description of breast-feeding that makes it sound like some performance-enhancing drug dependency. “Must have more prolactin! MORE PROLACTIN or cannot do job TO THE MAX!!!” I know that there are benefits to breast-feeding besides simply feeding a child but I don’t thing one of them is supposed to be keeping Mom strung out on mommy-chemicals so she can effectively mother all her children. Just…ew. Talk about baby addiction…

    And I haven’t even addressed how offensive it is to imply that women who, for whatever reason, CANNOT breast-feed are some how less maternal.

  • Jenn

    “When a mother nurses her baby she produces prolactin, which is known as the “mothering hormone.” The more the mother suckles the baby, the more prolactin she produces and therefore the more motherly she becomes.”

    I think she might have got prolactin confused with oxytocin.

  • Rae

    “This word would not have been offensive to the those listening to Jesus at that time. ”

    The reason that it’s offensive to women today is not because breastfeeding is suddenly considered “degrading.” It’s because the word “suckling” is now almost exclusively used with respect to animals.

  • This is also is also seriously offensive to women who cannot have children or are “only” able to have a few children. Are these women lesser women and poor mothers because God didn’t them a dozen children and therefore they don’t have this constant outpouring of hormones?

  • Nea

    Well, would you sign up for the lifestyle if they said “Come! Be a the thing that Washes, Irons, Fornicates, Etc.! You’ll be blamed for absolutely everything that ever goes wrong in your whole family! Give up your friends, style, family, and any notion not put in your head by a man!” ? If they don’t soft-soap it as the stronger, more powerful lifestyle, nobody would do it.

  • Tori

    I didn’t breast feed, and I would KILL for my child in a heartbeat.

  • Heh – she’d better be careful. There are lots and lots of religious images of the nursing mother in all her power. Very, very few of them are Protestant, and the oldest ones are Pagan – why bother with some male god’s gift of femaleness when you can call on the divine mother herself? Start talking about “the glory of our femaleness” in those tones too loudly, and you just might end up honoring Mary. Or Isis. Or – horrors! – Asherah.

  • newcomer

    Also, just pointing out the obvious: Jesus wasn’t an English-speaker, ye olde or otherwise. ‘Suckling’ is someone else’s translation of his words, and would not have been offensive but confusingly meaningless to those listening had he actually said it. It’s a word that monks/scholars in the Middle Ages felt best described the meaning of the text that they were translating from the Vulgate (in Latin), which had been translated itself in turn. Anyone who has ever undergone a serious attempt to translate ANYTHING knows just how imperfect a process that is; that ‘close enough’ is usually the best you can hope for without making your text incomprehensible. This is why I’m always a bit bemused when people try to glean so much meaning from syntax and specific word connotations in their bible studies.

  • revsharkie

    Not to mention women who became mothers through adoption.

  • Tori

    Actually you can work out a lot from syntax and word usage in various interpretations of the new testament. In studying the King James it actually gives you a fair stab at guessing the period various parts were written/re-written. The vast majority of those dates are quite recent. Ie – NOT thousands of years old.

  • newcomer

    Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that those aspects are meaningless from a linguistic/cultural/historic study perspective, just that it is a little odd when people who believe the Bible to be the word of God scrutinize every nuance of such edited and translated versions in an attempt to uncover ‘hidden’ spiritual truths.

  • SAO

    This is interesting because I’m reading a book on translation and they mention issues with translating the bible. The King James was translated from the Hebrew, the Greek and the Latin. The Latin bible was translated from the Greek. The OT portion of the Greek was translated from the Hebrew into a dialect of Greek common in the Mediterranean a few hundred years BC. It wasn’t the classical Greek that English scholars of the 16th century knew. The translators into Greek were learned Jews rounded up by a Pharaoh and Greek wasn’t their native tongue. However, the Jewish council didn’t think the Greek version was valid.
    The King James is the source of many English bibles, yet the original language can be opaque to us.

    Song of Solomon 5:4 is particularly interesting. Version range from the 1611 King James: “My beloued put his hand in by the hole of the dore, and my bowels were moued for him.” to versions where her HEART, not bowels were moved and then the message bible says this: “I got up to open the door to my lover, sweetly ready to receive him.” All this variation and it’s only one language!

  • Rusticblue

    Thank you for posting this message from Nancy Campbell… encouraged and enlightened by what she has shared!