Sometimes when I am nursing Ben to sleep, the light of the neighboring houses shines through his window and dances across his cheeks. I imagine that behind each light, there are other mothers who are cuddling their babies. Rocking their toddlers. Reading “Llama Llama Red Pajama” to their preschoolers. And I feel a little less alone. We all strain under the weight of the bedtime dance. We all say a silent prayer that we will not be up soothing a crying baby before the sun wakes us. Many of us are struggling with how we feed our little ones, and this becomes particularly difficult when night falls. As our babies drift off to sleep, we wonder if there is anyone else out there who feels like we do. Overwhelmed with love, and desperately hoping that we are doing the right thing.
A mother’s identity is wrapped up in how she feeds her babies. There is no right or wrong when you are feeding your children with love. When Suzanne, Jamie Lynne and I began the I Support You project last year, we intended to weave tight threads of support between the formula feeding and breastfeeding communities. Your enthusiasm for this project was uplifting, exhilarating, and determined. We heard from hundreds of mothers, who saw themselves in our stories. We were moved to tears when leaders of the breastfeeding and formula feeding communities reached out to each other, and chose love and support over debate and rhetoric. And we were so inspired by the strong, wise mothers who reached out to share their stories of hope, perseverance and courage. But most of all, we were blown away by how many of you reached out to tell us that you finally felt like someone saw you. That your feeding journey was not weird or different or insignificant. That your child mattered. That your story mattered. That you didn’t have to hide. I met moms who fed their children through a g-tube and moms who exclusively pumped for babies in the NICU. Moms who used donor milk to feed babies who they were fostering, and moms who brought formula along when they traveled to other countries to adopt. I heard from moms who are nursing four year olds, and moms who chose to formula feed when their babies were hours old. You were brave, and you spoke your truth.
In honor of all of you, Mama By The Bay is so excited to launch a series of guest posts called “How We Feed With Love”. I want to showcase the feeding conversation that you have with your child. I want to say thank you by shining the spotlight on how you feed, and sharing your beautiful truths with this community. There is someone here who mirrors you, I know it. There is someone who will read your moment of light, when they are in their moment of darkness. You matter. We need your story.
I am so thrilled to share our first guest post with you, because Barbra is such a strong example of how important it is to trust your “Mommy Instinct”. She knew that her baby was struggling, and she has walked an unexpected feeding journey with him. Barbra and I connected last year, and when she contacted me about writing something in honor of Tube Feeding Awareness Week, I asked if she would share the story of her sweet son Knox. A very dear little friend of ours is also fed through a tube, and Barbra’s story helps us to honor him too. It’s a story of how a mother’s love, determination, and hope can help to heal a child.
How We Feed: Tubies
by Barbra Baker
My three year old son has a g-tube. He has been 100% g-tube fed since he was 20 months old. He has a condition called gastroparesis and also reflux (there are literally hundreds of conditions that can require tube feeding). Basically, his stomach is not able to process enough solid food so that he can grow properly. It was (and still is in many ways) a very long road getting to the point of needing a feeding tube. However, it is exactly what my son needs to survive and thrive. Because of his feeding tube, my son is happy, healthy, and growing. My personal example that proved to me he needed the tube was when I realized his fingernails stopped growing. We already knew he fell off the growth chart but I was at a gathering of moms when the conversation turned to how often our kids’ nails were trimmed. It was at that point I knew something was very wrong – I had not trimmed his nails in months. Over a year later, I trim his nails twice a week – this proved we had made the right decision in getting the tube.
I participated in the I Support You Campaign by interviewing my friend who breastfed her son and she in turn interviewed me for tube feeding. Tube feeding is just another way to feed a child with love and no one should be criticized for their choice.
February 9-15, 2014 is Feeding Tube Awareness Week. The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation has designated this week to bring awareness, education and debunk myths about those with feeding tubes. Feeding tubes are a positive treatment plan for those that need it. Tube feeding isn’t just for people at the end of life or brides on crazy weight loss schemes. The often necessary choices in how we feed our children can go beyond breast v. bottle. The decision to place a feeding tube is extremely difficult and should not be controversial or come with the need to defend reasons for getting it. Those who are tube fed need increased acceptance in society and parents need greater support in their tubies’ care. The theme for this year’s celebration is Nothing Can Hold Us Back. Just because someone has a feeding tube, that does not mean they can’t participate in regular life activities. My son goes swimming, goes to daycare, the park, plays with friends, gets into shenanigans, is loving, smart, throws wicked tantrums and does all the things that most three year olds do. My son’s feeding tube does not hold him or us back from doing what we need to do in our lives. It does not hold me back from working full time. Tube feeding isn’t hard – and can sometimes be easier than coaxing an orally fed three year old to eat!
So the next time you see someone with a feeding tube, don’t be afraid. Treat them as you would anyone else. If you need to consider a feeding tube for a loved one, know that it won’t hold you back. A feeding tube gives you freedom and security to live life. The feeding tube is a treatment option that keeps my son healthy. I have grown to love the feeding tube. Without it, my son probably wouldn’t be alive today.
#feedingtubeawareness on twitter, facebook and instagram
For more information on Knox’s journey, please visit Barbra and her family at http://bakeradventures.wordpress.com
How did you feed with love today? If you would like to submit a guest post for our “How We Feed With Love” series, please connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org