One of the biggest surprises for me in becoming a mother was the discovery that feeding an infant is actually quite complicated. It also has an incredible ability to bring on feelings of guilt.
Consider: Should you breastfeed? Use pumped milk? Supplement with formula? Use formula exclusively? If you breastfeed, when and where is it appropriate to feed your child? If you pump, how often do you do it and how do you clean your pump parts? If you use donated breast milk, how do you vet your sources? If you use formula, what brand do you use? What bottles are the best? Regardless of the actual means of nourishment you use, do you do it on demand, or on a schedule? When do you end night-time feeding? When and how do you introduce solid food? If your child is [insert worrisome status here], could it be because of the feeding choices you made?
No matter how you deal with these and questions like them, your conscience will attack you. You will feel guilty, and things will always be not quite right. There's a simple reason for this: we're not living in the Garden of Eden.
Let's use a working definition of sin as anything that is outside of our Creator's design. From that angle, any feeding arrangement other than a smooth, painless, and exclusive nursing relationship (basically every feeding arrangement) is a testament to the effects of sin in the world. One could even say that breast pumps and formula are from the devil. They were certainly not found in the Garden of Eden, a point which was driven home for my family in a real and painful way when my middle child absolutely refused to take a bottle.
The whole situation was rather traumatic for all players involved. God had given me this child and a breastfeeding relationship that was going just the way it should, but here I was, spurning the gifts God gave me and instead trying to get her to drink from a bottle so that I could return to work.
In a perfect world, I either wouldn't be working outside the home, or I'd be able to take my child with me to the office and feed her as needed, from my breast, the way God intended. But because I needed to procure the money necessary to feed and house the other members of our family, and because my office is not quite that accommodating, neither of those two options were what we wound up doing. So our situation was a little messed up, and that can be attributed to sin in the world--through a combination of my own choices and circumstances beyond my control, things were not going according to design.
And yet, "In [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). God, through Christ, takes our not-quite-right (and oftentimes super wrong) situations, and He redeems them.
Breast pumps and formula may very well be from the Devil (can you tell I'm not best friends with my pump?), or at least come to us when the perfect design of breastfeeding breaks down because of the Devil's work, but God sure uses them for good.
Countless babies have been prevented from starving to death and provided with the nourishment they need to grow up healthy. My own bottle-refusing daughter did not starve to death; rather, the fact that she never did end up eating much during the day meant I got to spend a lot of extra time nursing her at night that I wouldn't have gotten to enjoy otherwise. Beyond that, all of the extra milk I pumped ended up being a blessing to several other babies who had no problem with bottles.
But things get even sweeter when we consider the idea that God’s taking my not-quite-right earthly situation and turning it into blessings upon blessings is but a shadow of, and flows from, the Great Redemption which Christ accomplished for the whole world on the cross. God gave us a brand new, perfect life in baptism, and continues to absolve our sins and feed us with his Word and Sacraments in the Divine Service.
If you're like me, your conscience is constantly grieving you about the choices you make as you carry out your vocations, but what comfort there is in Christ's Church! It is there that Jesus Himself, through your pastor, tells you that your sins are forgiven and delivers that forgiveness to you in His own body and blood. The temporal care we receive in our daily life is simply a reminder that God has taken care of the Most Important Thing, reconciling the world (even me, even you) to Himself.
Now I have Child #3 (who eats like a champ, breast or bottle, praise God) to feed and am lugging around my pump again. That cumbersome and daily reminder that I am often not there to feed my child personally is also a reminder that, despite my shortcomings and through no merit of my own, the Lord is taking merciful care of my family in both body and soul. And He's doing the same for you.
Heidi is a saved, baptized, forgiven child of God. She is also blessed to have the vocations of sister, daughter, mother, and wife. She works as a government attorney, which means that although technically she writes for a living, it's generally really dry stuff. She begs your forgiveness if it carries into her blogging. She is active on twitter and instagram under the handle @reyoph.