In the comment box:
Michelle, I’m sorry for your struggle with breastfeeding. I do, however, think that maybe you are putting too much emphasis on your own desire to nurse your baby, and not on the grace of having available a healthy alternative. It’s not about you at this point and I think far too often we as mothers get hung up on doing what we want, at the expense of everything else. If your daughter is doing fine on formula, be grateful that there is formula out there that’s good and beneficial. It’s not so much how you feed your baby, but that you feed your baby, and that your baby thrives.
First of all, I am truly grateful that my baby is healthy and thriving on bottled supplement – both formula and expressed milk. I have often considered that if I were living on a rural farm a hundred years ago, my child would likely be dead or very sickly.
But gratitude for modern technology that gives me a breast pump, safe drinking water and high-tech baby formula does not change the fact that my body is not functioning as it should. It is normal to grieve over this handicap.
If I were in a terrible accident and lost half my leg, I would be grateful that I didn’t lose my life, I would thank God for technology that would give me a good prosthetic, but it would be odd if I didn’t miss my leg and wish to be whole. If this were my first child, if I had not successfully breastfed five children (four of them with little difficulty), perhaps it would not be as difficult. But knowing what my body was capable of doing, and not being able to do it now, is very frustrating.
Secondly, yes, I do have an intense desire to nurse my child. In the last 9 1/2 years, I have been breastfeeding a child all but 15 months broken up in brief pauses between weaning one and birthing another. It’s a part of my life, it’s a habit, it’s what I’m used to doing, it’s how I know how to take care of a baby. I can and will adapt as the situation demands, but I am reluctant to shrug a tried and true method at the first sign of trouble. I persevered through this exact situation with my fourth child, and by the time she was three months old the tears were long dried and the supplements long forgotten.
Ultimately, what needs to be discerned is God’s will. Although I don’t feel that bottle feeding or breastfeeding is a moral issue, I do think that since God gave me breasts designed to provide nourishment for my child, that it is natural for that to be my goal. Other mothers may happily choose to bottle feed, and I have no problem with that. I was a bottle fed baby, and I turned out just fine – healthy, intelligent and well-bonded with my mom. But I feel that breastfeeding is what God intended, and it’s what I’d like to do.
Four years ago, when I struggled to feed Jenny, I wondered and prayed about whether or not it was God’s will for me to bottle feed her instead. I honestly don’t think He cared one way or the other. But I don’t think, if He had to choose for me, that He would really pick a bottle over His own perfect design.
Sometimes when we suffer it is because we are choosing our desires over God’s desires. But sometimes when we suffer it is merely because life is difficult. I don’t believe that God is causing this suffering, nor do I believe that this suffering is because I’m being overly selfish. Many may say that the suffering is pointless, and that I should save myself all the grief. Others, especially those who know me well, may understand the grief that would attend my quitting.
Is it wrong for me to spend so much time nursing, pumping, going to the lactation consultant’s office, and devising spreadsheets to track the baby’s weight gain? Perhaps my family is not eating gourmet meals, the laundry is being done only on an as-needed basis, and schoolwork is a bit lighter than normal. This is life with any new baby. The only person, besides me, who is having a hard time, is my husband, who is foregoing schoolwork to do childcare. But he has chosen to support me in this, and I thank the Lord that his schedule, for once, permits him the leeway to be home more often to help me.
And the baby? She’s fine. Here she is all snuggled on my lap as I type this blog post. I would never jeopardize her health for my own selfish desires.
Breastfeeding is not more important than a healthy baby. But I don’t think my breastfeeding and her health are mutually exclusive goals.