The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Hey guys. Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. Today, we are talking about a super sensitive topic. Emily and I are somewhat terrified to talk about this, but also excited because it shouldn’t be such a scary topic. We are talking about one of the most common mommy war topics: breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. We are talking about how you feed your baby, and we’re both cringing a little bit here. I think it's one of the most difficult things as a new mom, is feeding your baby. It seems like it’s always touch and go and your'e wondering if it’s going to work, or how it’s going to work, or if you know your child’s getting enough. It’s the first thing that’s in your face as your first big responsibility as a mom.
Emily: Regardless of what you do, it takes up a tremendous amount of time. It takes a lot of time feeding your child in the first year. If I could clock the hours that you take, either preparing for it or washing bottles or whatever you do, it affects all these other areas like sleeping, and their temperament, and their mood, and when you go places, and what you have to bring with you when you go. It impacts everything for your first year, so it’s a huge deal.
Laura: It is like your life. I feel like that was everything I thought about the first year, especially with my firstborn. It was like everything came back to how I fed my child. Then too, you have kids that have gas or they have colic or reflux, and allergies. There are so many complications with either how your child receives it or even how your milk comes in, and what your diet should be. And even if you do bottles, you have to find the right nipple, and if you’re in a pump, what’s the right valves that are going to fit on you? I hope my husband does not listen to this episode or any men out there [laughter]. I’m sorry! I think there are so many variables and it is super stressful. It’s super personal, that’s why I think so many moms debate about it.
Emily: And like you said, I think we can all be unified that regardless of how you choose to feed your baby, there are challenges. It takes up a lot of time and it’s a big responsibility. I think we can all acknowledge that, “Hey, it’s hard.” Laura and I have all over the board experiences of feeding our children.
Laura: We have six kids between us. Emily has four of them though.
Emily: We wanted to share our personal experiences a little bit here, so you know where we are coming from. Laura, do you want to share?
Laura: This is really high level because we have so many experiences, just like all of you, but yes.
Emily: And if we were all sitting down for coffee, we would talk about all those great details. Okay Laura, what was your experience?
Laura: I’ve got two kiddos. I’ve written a ton about this topic because it was so stressful and difficult for me. Too much so and I realize that now, but I went from exclusively breastfeeding to exclusively pumping for about six months. Then it went to bottle feeding and formula feeding for the last few months. I definitely did all three, at a high commitment level to all of them, and honestly, breastfeeding was an idol for me. It was something that I wanted to work. I wanted to breastfeed. I had heard that it was the most natural way and all of those things, and I wanted to give breastmilk to my son, but for various reasons, it just didn’t work. I was so committed to pumping that I spent hours and hours on the pump. I was trying to get my milk supply up, doing all the lactation tips, and all the things you do to try to increase your milk supply.
My son was a huge eater. He was taking so much milk and it was a difficult time. Then the second time, my daughter had colic and we moved at the same time. I exclusively nursed her for about five months, very much in an on-demand way and whatever she wanted, and then I lost supply - or enough supply - probably due to stress, the doctor said. She just wasn’t eating enough, was falling off the growth charts and I went "wham bam," straight to formula [laughter]. I think it’s a thing you probably wouldn’t do until you’re a second-time mom. Maybe not, but I needed the first child to be able to say to the second child, “I’m not doing one foot in, one foot out.”
Emily: [laughs] I’ve had experiences too, all over the table. My first son came out four weeks early. We nursed but for a variety of reasons, for only about four months did that work, and he was never great at nursing. I would say I never had a good nursing experience. It was always a fight; it was always tears on his part and me feeling unsure. I went to the doctor with him at four months or something and he was like, “Hey, he’s at zero percentile. You have to do something.” That was immediate, “We are moving you over to bottle and formula.” Again, I was a first-time mom and I had no idea what I was doing, and I didn’t know what support was available and all those things.
Laura: It’s so hard the first time.
Emily: That was the best decision. That was the only decision we needed to make at that time, and moved over to formula and did that for the rest of the year, and he did great; he thrived. Then second time around we had twins, and I knew going into it that we had a 15, 16-month old at home and I was getting ready to have twin infants. I didn’t have a previously good breastfeeding experience and so I think I wasn’t expecting to breastfeed them. But I also wanted to pump and I wanted to offer them breast milk as long as I could, so that is what I did.
They were born a month early and I pumped for about three months with them, and kept up with it for a long time, but I honestly got to this place where pumping was extremely isolating for me. We had a family living with us at the time, and so I was having to pump in a back room of our house. With twins and feeding, it was like all I was doing was being attached to my pump and feeding those babies. I felt like I was going to go into a dark place, and so it was really, really important for me to stop that for my own emotional and mental health. Like Laura said, second time around, I think I felt more confident that they do grow out of that stage and everything is okay.
My most recent experience has been totally different. I had a full-term baby and this child loves nursing so much. I have been exclusively breastfeeding now for eight months. He will not take a bottle; I breastfeed on demand. It’s funny because now I’m having my total ‘dream breastfeeding experience’ but it’s still not perfect. We’ve had growth issues. Again, I can’t be away from this sweet guy because he won’t take milk from anything else [laughter] but me. It’s funny; I feel like we’ve done everything. I’m happy and it looks like I’m on trajectory to maybe go a year or more with this dude breastfeeding.
Laura: That shows you from two moms how we’ve had literally every experience in the book [laughter]. That’s what we want to make clear.. Especially if you look at Emily as a case study, the same person, and she has had an exclusive nurser and pretty much almost gone pretty quickly to formula both by choice, and by what happened. Same mom. I think that that’s an interesting note, that it doesn’t always work perfectly for every single mom or the mom doesn’t always have to make the same decisions with each baby.
Emily: I agree. So we wanted to address the gospel in this. This is a component that generally isn’t talked about when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding comes up. Personal experiences are interesting but what I hope that you observed, as we were sharing is that Laura and I, regardless of what way we were ‘choosing’, there were problems. Sin and the fall makes everything that God originally designed and originally planned, complicated and broken. Even if we're at the hospital say, “Oh, I want to do this natural ‘ideal’ thing,” it was complicated. Some women have their baby and maybe there’s things in their past, or traumas, or whatever, that make it so that they can’t, in that moment, make that decision to breastfeed. I think regardless of how you feed your baby, sin has, and will, and does, impact that.
Laura: The big thing to remember is that through redemption – this is the beautiful part about the gospel – God has offered grace through the cross. What that means is that being able to use formula and such things, we have an alternate method – a great method – of being able to feed our children. We have very helpful nurses and lactation consultants that when we’re struggling with breastfeeding, they can help, tips and advice. We have breastfeeding support groups and pumps. All these are a form of grace. It’s a wonderful thing that even though our bodies are broken, that sometimes when that perfect original design of being able to breastfeed your child doesn’t work out - because we live in a broken world with broken bodies - how amazing is it that God has offered grace through all of these ways to help us either find support in continuing to breastfeed, or an alternate method that’s going to work well for you.
What a cool way to see redemption: every time you attend that support group, or every time you hop on that Facebook page and get some advice, or from a friend, or you sit down with your pump, that is grace. We love finding God’s grace and the redemption story in the small things that we do every day as a mom.
Emily: I think the other thing that Laura touched on earlier in the episode, which I want to bring back up again, is what are we worshiping? What are we putting our heart and our hope in? Are you hoping in God? Are you focusing on worshiping Him? Are you focusing on letting the Lord and His word control you, or are you hoping in and focusing on your desire to feed your child a certain way, and letting everything else in your life be killed on that alter?
Being willing to literally sacrifice anything at any cost for this one thing. Maybe it’s a perfect breastfeeding experience or maybe it’s, “I must continue exclusive pumping for a certain amount of time” or something else. I don’t know what all of the different idols are, but I think it’s really important that we keep God as the most important figure; Christ as the most important thing in our lives. Do not begin to worship a style of feeding to the point where it’s controlling everything in your life. It can get really weird, and I think you have to ask yourself, “What is my heart worshiping? What am I making the most important thing?”
Laura: Along with idolizing or putting on a pedestal a certain method or way - because we have been extended grace in this area, our job is to give ourselves grace and also other women, so that we don’t hold them to some standard that we feel it should be. We’re not just talking here about if you breastfeed or if you don’t. People had opinions whenever I exclusively pumped or whenever I formula fed. There was a high standard of what kind of formula I use. I was even amazed by people’s really strong opinions about, “This is the best kind of formula. It’s the closest to breast milk. This is what you must use or you are not a good formula-feeding mom.” It happens in all sorts of areas of how we feed our babies, and it will happen as you progress past breastfeeding into if you’re feeding your child organic, or if you’re giving them processed foods or if you’re giving them gluten!
It’s something we face as moms our whole lives, and our job is to steward well whatever God has given us to feed our babies. One way that we can model God’s grace is by feeling freedom in what we feed our children. Evaluating that with your husband and looking at what’s going to work best, and not allowing a certain form of feeding to be idolized with you, or in your conversations with others. We want to give each other grace, moms, and not have this be a huge mommy war. There’s no point in it.
Emily: Just a quick side note, feeding is a legitimate way that, especially with our babies, we love them well. We are Christ to our children by feeding them and caring about their nutrition, and caring that they’re getting enough food and they’re getting it at the right time. That is a way that we are imaging Christ to our babies. A baby that’s literally physically nourished is able to learn and grow. You’re preparing them physically and mentally to be able to learn and hear the gospel, and other things later in life. I think we don’t want to devalue and say that eating doesn’t matter at all - because it does matter - but it’s your heart in it and your heart should say, “This is a way that I want to be preparing my child to receive the truth that I’m going to share with them and to nurture them,” and not, “This is a way I’m going to control my situation and feel like a good mom.”
Laura: Right on. I think we’ll end it there as we’ve hit our time. We hope that you don’t hear from us what method is correct or the right way to do things but just your heart attitude behind it, and why we can find freedom. If you’re struggling with that right now, we really hope that you’re able to move past that and be able to live in God’s grace of all of these great ways that we can feed our children, and to adjust your heart to be grateful for that.
We have our show notes on this. I think I’ve written about this topic a ton before. I don’t know how much Em has but we’ll have some other great articles up. Definitely check us out on Facebook and Twitter for social media, so if you want to follow along and get updates there, do that and you can head over to RisenMotherhood.com for any other info as well. Hope you guys have a great day.