Updated: Sep 18, 2021
I have a confession to make.
Having had tons of babies doesn’t mean breastfeeding is a walk in the park. It’s not even a light jog. It can be a tumble down an unexpected hill.
While I have breastfed many babies, each one has been very different: as different as the personalities contained in those tiny little bundles of mystery. Some have taken to nursing with ease, rejecting even a single bottle feeding, while some have fed beautifully and looked up at me sweetly, only to projectile vomit a moment later with the intensity of a wild firehose, all over my shirt.
I’ve had babies who easily fed from both bottle and breast like champs. Others were excessively rough. Their little mouths made me wince, and although I’d work hard to ensure a good latch, the fruit of my efforts would be a case of mastitis. The successful nursers made me feel like supermom. The others made me feel like a total failure.
You may have a plan or ideal in mind, but you might have to let that go and know that it does not define you as a mother.
Another confession, this one pertaining to my reference to a ”tumble down a hill.”
One night, I was nursing the younger of my twins. She was about four weeks old at the time. I had just finished nursing her brother, who was sleeping peacefully in a double bassinet that was secured to the side of my bed. It was about 3 a.m. and as I sat up against a pillow holding the little girl close, I could feel my head dropping every few minutes. Then it happened, my arms dropped along with my head, and this sleep-deprived mama felt the baby roll down, breaking free from my grip. She tumbled all the way down, off the side of the bed, dropping into the bassinet right on top of her brother. He cried, she cried, I cried. And when we all settled down (praise God no one was hurt), I decided that it might work better to pump for the nighttime feedings, so they would go faster and I would be less likely to have a narcoleptic moment.
At first I felt so guilty, like somehow I was doing a disservice to my babies. I know there are many moms out there who feel guilty when it comes to nursing issues.
My message for you ... and a reminder for myself: Stop. Stop thinking you’re somehow failing.
You are doing the best you can. Your baby is fed, whether it be from nursing, pumping or formula; they’re receiving nourishment! God, in His wisdom, has chosen you to be the mother of this unique child. He has equipped you with the desire and determination to find the best way to nurture your baby. He knows you are trying hard to navigate this territory that somehow we all thought would be so natural and easy.
You may have a plan or ideal in mind, but you might have to let that go, and know that it does not define you as a mother.
You may need to reach out for help. In some cases, supplementation might be necessary. There can be unavoidable hurdles. But guess what, it doesn’t make you less of a mother. You are enough! Your love, your dedication, your presence. All enough.
I’m willing to bet that of my fourteen children, you wouldn’t be able to guess which ones were nursed exclusively, bottle-fed with pumped milk, supplemented to combat reflux, etc.
I’m biased, but I think they’re all pretty amazing. They all seem to like me a lot.
I know your children will too, no matter how they were fed as babies.
Stay with us Lord!
Mane Nobiscum Domine
Carissa Douglas is a Canadian author and illustrator, known especially for her Little Douglings brand—a series for kids in which a group of children is sent on a mission by God with the assistance of a Saint. Carissa is the mom of 14, and a passionate promoter of the culture of life and all things related to this: our awesome Catholic faith. While her kids are busy with school work and projects, she spends her downtime writing stories and illustrating. To follow the adventures of the Little Douglings, visit them here.