I am, by almost every definition of the word, a “crunchy mama.” All my children have been born at home or a birthing center, I try to use natural alternatives to medicine and feed my kids healthy whole foods, I co-sleep and babywear, etc. And I’m very pro-breastfeeding. I’ve even written about 8 Ways Breastfeeding Leads Me in Worship. I nursed my older two kids until they weaned themselves as toddlers. I nursed in public. I championed other moms who nurse in public. You get the idea.
But then my third baby, Evangeline, came along and nursing was hard. I was in shooting pain almost every waking moment and—sorry if this is TMI—nursing was making me bleed so much that her stools turned black from consuming my blood! That freaked me out a little bit.
I tried everything I could to fix it; she had a lip-tie correction procedure, I tried pumping and using shields, I visited a lactation consultant multiple times…I felt so frustrated. And from all this pain and stress (combined with my own selfishness and sin) I was becoming a pretty terrible mother to all three of my kids.
After four and a half months, I talked to my husband and we prayed about it and decided to switch to formula feeding. I looked at the label on the formula I bought, and the first ingredient was “corn syrup solids.” How can that be considered food!? I cried so much. A couple weeks later my husband and I were watching a comedy and someone even made a joke about how formula-fed children aren’t as smart as breastfed children. This also made me cry.
I've read the statistics. I knew the benefits of breastfeeding. I imagined my Evangeline scoring lower on tests than my other two; I pictured her with more allergies and health problems than the other two. I could see her cute face becoming unnaturally, unrecognizably plump from the formula. I wondered if she and I would ever bond like I did with the others. And all these problems would be because of me. Because I couldn’t tough it out and do one of the most natural things in the world.
But now Evangeline is over nine months old. She’s been formula fed longer than she was breastfed. And you know what?
She’s a little thicker than my other two but she is not obese.
She is extremely alert and she is not dazed and unintelligent.
She’s bonded more with my husband than she has with me but that's really sweet.
I found a non-GMO formula with pretty decent ingredients from Costco that lasts me two weeks and costs $15. I’m really okay with that.
And guess what?
My life is so much easier.
Sometimes I ask the other kids to feed her a bottle. Actually, at this point, she even prefers to feed herself. Either way I am confident she gets sufficient snuggles.
She sleeps through the night, which means I do too. (Because of my other children, I went over four years without sleeping through the night. You have no idea how much of a gift this is to me.)
I can go on outings without her, no problem. For our anniversary, my husband and I had our first overnight getaway since 2011.
I went to Africa for nine days, for crying out loud. I didn’t think I’d be able to do a trip like that until I was, like, 40. But the day I decided to bottle-feed, I realized I could go! (And it was awesome.)
I’m not trying to get pregnant right now, but if I found out God gave me another baby, guess what! I wouldn't be stressed about it. Formula-feeding has given me so much independence that I don't feel like another baby would be "too soon."
And another huge benefit of this new experience is that I’m able to relate to a whole bunch of other moms now. When I’m speaking to a formula-feeding mom who might be suspicious that I’m being judgmental of her, she can now have confidence that I’m not judging her, and I’m not competing in the Mommy Wars, because I actually formula-feed my child and love it.
If God gives me a fourth baby, will I try to breastfeed him or her? Definitely. I don’t want to ignore God’s beautiful and gracious design for mothers to feed their kids this incredibly nutritious stuff that comes from our own bodies. Formula companies even openly admit that, health-wise, breastfeeding is best for infants.
But now I also know that formula-feeding is not the end of the world. I trace God’s hand through my nursing troubles and see His kindness to me through all of this. My baby is perfectly fine. Motherhood is quantifiably easier. It was the right decision for our family for this time. And I totally trust other families who make that decision too.
So I hope you’re encouraged, mamas or anyone, that if God gives you a perspective-broadening situation, that’s a gift. And who knows? Even though you didn’t ask for it, you might really enjoy it!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today