Spirit-Led Parenting: Feeding, Frustration & Freedom

 

I clicked instantly with Megan’s superwatt smile and Laura’s warm and genuine conversation. We met at my first blogging conference, Blissdom. The conversation trailed into the new book they were co-authoring and I knew it was going to be great, not just because of their gorgeous hearts, although that’s evident in the pages, but also in the fact that they could have been telling my exact story. A story so many mothers experience and one that I believe God wants to redeem. 

I am honored to have Laura share here today. Please welcome her and be sure to  join in the conversation happening on this blog tour. 

I didn’t enter parenthood expecting it to be easy. I’d seen enough sitcom episodes and read enough comic strips to know that life with an infant would bring its challenges. Less sleep, more laundry, new responsibilities -I understood all of that.

What I did not anticipate was that one of my  most intense struggles in new parenthood would be in an area I’d long expected to come naturally: feeding my baby.

In my pre-motherhood mind, the most difficult aspect of nourishing a newborn would be the breast vs. bottle decision. And since we’d already made our choice, based upon financial reasoning and a breastfeeding class that thrilled me with the God-designed way my body was made to sustain my child, I assumed this feeding stuff would be smooth-sailing.

Reality would soon crush my every expectation.

The reality is that breastfeeding can be hard. And sometimes, it can be really hard. The physical difficulties many  new mamas face in the beginning are  not often mentioned ahead of time. From the pain of engorgement to awkward positioning woes, to latch issues like the ones I experienced with my daughter-requiring hours of work with lactation consultants and months of extra equipment I’d never known existed. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, yes. But for some that beauty come in glimpses through the blur of tears.

Expectation: fail.

The reality is that some babies don’t read the manuals. Those feeding chars which neatly lay out how often you can expect your child to eat at birth, six weeks, three months, etc? My baby defined the phrase “off the charts”.  And while I’d entered motherhood determined to side with the schedules in that whole schedule vs. demand-feeding debate, my daughter’s needs soon launched me into the practice of feeding on-cue and far more often than I’d anticipated. I lived in the tension of feeling as though this were the right thing for my child, and yet fearing that I was failing by not heeding that tidy, “right way” advice. Those chart babies laughed at me, I imagined.

Expectation: fail

The reality is that for some mothers, making peace with the bottle is a road marked with heartache. Some  confidently find that bottle-feeding is the right choice for them from the beginning, only to have that decision questioned and  challenged by friends, family members, or even complete strangers. Others deeply desire to breastfeed, but find that traumatic birth situations or physical demands and difficulties force them to let go of this dream.

Expectation: fail

The reality is that it’s okay. In Spirit-Led Parenting, Megan and I tell our own stories, but are also privileged to offer stories other mothers have shared with us about their struggles and lessons learned through the journeys of feeding their babies. Our desire in this chapter is to sort through common issues and debates and give some practical advice, but also to just speak honestly to new mothers about what to expect. And to encourage them that no matter how-or how often-you are led by the Spirit to  feed your little ones, it is okay. You have not failed. And our God, who is faithful to heal, comfort and redeem, is ever-present and ready to take those stinging words from others or expectations left painfully unmet and bring beauty from ashes.

Someday I might be able to chuckle over my naïve anticipation of a ponies-and-rainbows breastfeeding experience. Not yet. In our book, though, I testify to God’s redemption of my intense initial struggles in feeding my daughter.

God knew all along. In the days before giving birth, when I barely gave breastfeeding a second thought, He knew that it would be my biggest parenting struggle in that first year, as well as one of the most vivid examples in my life of something that drew me closer to Him and taught me about serving through hardship. It was in the heavy shadow that I learned to cling to Him, trust that the Spirit was leading-even leading me outside the popular advice, and put one trembling foot in front of the other to follow.

Spirit-Led Parenting, page 85

Those early days from years ago are still fresh in my  mind, as I know they are for many mothers. Whether your babies are grown or growing, in your arms or on the way, we would love to open up a discussion in this space and hear from you. 

Have you encountered difficulties in your experiences with infant-feeding, or in making plans to feed your baby?  Have you weathered physical issues, personal disappointments, or judgment from others? How have you found healing from those hurts, or are there areas where the healing is yet to come? 

Why do you think this aspect of parenthood is so contentious, with battles over breast vs. bottle and schedule vs. demand? What can we all do to help foster an environment of encouragement instead among those in our circles? 

Thank you so much, dear Alia Joy, for allowing us the honor of sharing here! Join us for discussion on another BIG topic-sleep-tomorrow at Life-Edited. 

Spirit-Led Parenting is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Larua Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband , daughter, and son. 

Comments

  1. Christie says

    I wonder if the most important thing might be to simply share our stories (as you have done) without shame?
    I recently gave birth to my fourth. All babies are miracles, but, because I have PCOS, mine feel a little extra miraculous. Unfortunately, my PCOS has caused me to make less and less breast milk with each baby. I prayed all through this last pregnancy that I would be able to breastfeed my baby girl (and re-read all the books, started herbal supplements, and met with my lactation consultant all before her birth), but at two months old she is now entirely formula-fed. It has been a heart-breaking process.
    It is still very difficult for me to feed her around others without feeling judged (though the judgment is likely all in my head). I want to hand everyone who sees me bottle feeding a list of everything I tried (supplemental nursing system! prescription meds!) as if I must prove to them that my situation really was impossible.
    God didn’t answer my prayer the way I had hoped, but, like you, he knew what I would face, and I can trust that he will bring good out of this brokenness.

    • Laura says

      I think you’re so right, Christie, that one of the best ways to encourage one another is to feel the freedom to share our stories openly! It’s been overwhelming as Megan and I have broached this subject before, to see the emotional response from new mothers as others have bravely put voice to their own struggles. The power of “I thought I was the only one … now I know I’m not alone!” is incredibly healing.
      Praying for you right now as you walk in trust, knowing that He can redeem the heartbreak you’ve faced this time around in your breastfeeding journey. (And congratulations on your fourth sweet miracle!)

    • Alia Joy says

      I have PCOS as well but am completely done having children now. I was able to nurse all of my babies but it took a tremendous amount of work and frustration to get my first to nurse at all. I think because I persevered and it was so hard, I felt a sense of judgement instead of grace when I saw someone who wanted to breast feed but seemed to give up. Of course these judgements came without knowing anyone’s actual situation and were a huge reflection of my own immaturity as a mother, constantly comparing myself to others. Sometimes I would pump milk to feed my son in public because of the ease with which he’d take a bottle and I always felt like I had to preface the bottle feeding by saying it was still breastmilk. I know this is totally wrong and have come to realize over the years how much pride was involved in those thoughts.I ask your forgiveness on behalf of any judgement you’ve felt from anyone. Only God knows what we should be doing as mothers and it’s our job to support and encourage each other. I am so sorry that you haven’t been able to have the experience breastfeeding that you hoped for but I pray God blesses you and your baby as you do what you need to as a mama without any guilt or condemnation. My youngest is almost four and although I can’t have more biological children, I miss that cuddly newborn phase something fierce. So hold on to those precious moments no matter what. Don’t let any lies steal your joy.

  2. Tamara says

    I had baby #3 recently. Ten years after the first two! I did have those struggles and parenting pressures with the first two especially at different Mom’s groups. Now, after 12 years of parenting I don’t struggle with who I am, how I parent or any of that. I do breastfeed, but I find the first six weeks painful and difficult. Having a husband with crohn’s disease helped me persevere for the baby’s sake with my oldest, and it actualy became enjoyable after the initial learning curve. All of us suffer some loss in our lives and need support. Hugs to all the Mothers!

    • Laura says

      Oh, wow! Yes, I can imagine the blessing of perspective with a 10-year gap between rounds of parenting. I know that I was a different mother in many ways with my second baby – more relaxed and less concerned with perfection. (Probably after realizing how impossible it is to live up to those perfect standards!)
      And yeah, those first six weeks are SO. HARD. I wish someone had prepared me more for that!
      Thanks so much for sharing, Tamara!

    • Alia Joy says

      Each of my 3 children are four years apart so by the time I had my last one, almost 4 years ago, my oldest was eight. I agree that I was a totally different mother with my youngest. I think we get a different perspective as we grow into motherhood and watch our children grow, and we mature in ways as well. I wish I had the foresight with my oldest because I really hated his entire first year and felt like a total failure as a mom. But by the second and third, I had thrown out “the rules of good mothering” whatever those are and just allowed myself to enjoy my babies. I hope this book gets into the hands of new mothers. I know it is my go-to shower gift for new mamas.

  3. Virginia says

    I had a hard time the first few days feeding my kids both times. Thankfully I was surrounded by family and an amazing lactation consultant. After 2 weeks I’m grateful to say the feeding was figured out. PPD was a different story though. Rocked my world, quit my job scary.God has changed me so much! I’m so glad you two wrote this book!

    • Laura says

      Yes, lactation consultants completely saved my life when it came to breastfeeding! Our hospital offered a breastfeeding support group that met weekly and I was there every single week, with mid-week phone calls and one-on-one meetings too. I can still tear up when I think about all of the patience and grace those women had with me and my freak-outs/frustrations!
      Thank you for mentioning PPD as well. That’s another subject that isn’t talked about nearly enough, and where one mother’s story can help another so much in knowing they aren’t alone!

  4. deborah says

    I was surprised with breastfeeding too. I thought it looked like you just sat down and fed your baby. I didn’t realize it is something that both mother and baby have to learn. And it comes easily for some and not so easily for others. There is a huge difference in babies. Some take right to it, some simply do not. Thank goodness we have the options of bottles today!

    I got along fairly well breastfeeding, but I had a couple days with my daughter when she wouldn’t latch on right and eat. She had been and I still don’t know what the deal was. It was very frustrating though. I know mothers that have struggled with breastfeeding and have kept at it much longer than I would’ve!

    • Laura says

      It’s so true, isn’t it, that all of the pictures you see of breastfeeding mothers make it look like the simplest thing ever? Cuddle them right up and eat! :) I had no idea, either, that there was such a learning curve for some mothers and their babies. And I had some of those weird days too, where she had finally figured out how to latch pretty well and then totally seemed to lose the knack all of a sudden. What the what?? It can all be so perplexing. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Natalie says

    I think this is the hardest thing for me right now in my parenting journey…relating to others. I am pregnant with my fourth so all the things that I felt so sensitive about with my first two, like whether people were judging me for cosleeping or babywearing or nursing on cue, don’t bother me anymore most of the time. I just struggle so much with how to live authentically in community without judging other mothers or seeming to. How to be gracious and when to know that I can say something about how I do things without coming across as pushy. How to respond when somebody wants to make small talk in the nursery area while their baby screams alone in the next room and my adrenaline is rocketing and I feel like I may start leaking everywhere. :/ How to interact with people when I know that they disapprove strongly of so much of my parenting and have not been shy about loudly proclaiming the benefits of their alternative. *sigh*

    • Laura says

      Oh yes, that’s such a hard balance! I always try to feel out whether someone is asking for advice, or whether they seem confident in knowing that one method or another is right for them. The hardest situations, though, are with moms who are like I was at first – where I was trying to fake it, but really just needed someone to tell me that it was okay to follow my heart down the parenting path where I knew God was leading me. I was desperate for someone to speak that freedom to me – I just didn’t know it!
      And yes … oh goodness it’s so hard to feel safe and extend grace in relationships where it’s quite clear that the other person isn’t fond of your parenting style. That’s crazy hard. Praying we can all figure out how to live out that grace!

  6. Ashley @ Draw Near says

    I’ve heard the most wonderful things about your book. What a powerful resource for expecting and new mamas and women along the mothering journey.
    I was just talking and praying this morning with a woman I mentor, who is 4 months along in her first pregnancy. We were discussing this very thing –how difficult it can be to maintain our grounding in all of these points of decision, trusting that the God we serve will work and move through us as we are mamas to our little ones. I think this is especially tender terriritory — when you’re speaking of breasfeeding/bottle feeding, etc. because it gets at some very core issues of mothering — am I providing what my baby needs? am I succeeding? am I doing this right — and also very core struggles of womanhood — in particular, am I doing this as well as she’s doing it?
    I appreciate your heart of grace and inclusiveness here…this is so much of what we need to hear. You are the mama God has chosen for your child, he will give you wisdom as to the everyday choices of mama-hood, you are enough in him.
    Thanks for this great writing and forum. All the best to you on your blog tour.

    • Laura says

      Thank you so much, Ashley, for your kind words and encouragement! We appreciate it so much!
      And I think you’re right on about why the feeding issue is such a sensitive one. It’s such a core, basic need we’re providing when we’re nourishing our babies – no matter the method – and it opens us up to such BIG emotions and frustrations when we struggle in one way or another.
      Your line, “you are enough in him” – THAT. That is the heart of our message. Beautiful thoughts here. Thank you!

  7. Jessica says

    I really appreciate this conversation and am now convinced that I need to buy this book (so your blog tour has been successful, I guess)! My son is 3, almost 4, and I’m pregnant with my second. I was completely blindsided with breast feeding issues after having my son, and it was one of the most difficult situations of my whole life. After months of “breast is best” teaching, it made me physically (and mentally) ill when I wasn’t able to breast feed my son. I very much needed someone to tell me that while breast IS best, I wasn’t a bad mother if it didn’t work out. I truly think that disappointment contributed to my PPD diagnosis, and I hope and pray I can keep a more healthy perspective this time around. Thank you for sharing this message!

    • Laura says

      Jessica, congratulations on your pregnancy! I’ll pray right along with you that your experience this time around is peaceful and saturated in God’s grace – no matter what happens with breastfeeding!

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