Motherhood

The Face of Fed | When “Fed is Best” Falls Short

I didn’t even know. I’m his mom, and still, I had no idea.

I blew it off as teething. Or was it an allergy? No, no, it must be a cold. Maybe it’s that he’s getting his personality, you know? The first three months he was just coasting, but now? Now he was pedal to the metal, leaving his more chill, giggly self behind in the dust. Babies get grumpy. They go through fussy phases. That’s life.

But what I didn’t know, what I was absolutely oblivious to, was that my supply had completely tanked. What I didn’t know was that my little guy was essentially starving.

Thank God I was producing something, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I watched as my calm, sweet, happy little guy morphed into a discontent, agitated mess right before my eyes. Not often enough to be overly concerned, yet often enough to be somewhat concerned.

And now that I know, now that I’ve started piecing together the puzzle, I can trace it all back to that day. Or those couple of days, really.

A stomach bug. That was the catalyst, the root of my inability to provide for my son. Although I could barely move, I nursed him every three hours, just as I knew I should. But that doesn’t really matter when you can’t even keep water down for 48 hours. I was so dehydrated, so weak, and my supply took a huge hit.

So as we sat in that jungle-themed room at his six month well-check, I took one look at his chart – the chart that showed my once thriving baby boy in the 55th percentile for weight now in the 8th – it clicked. Everything fell into place. All this time I’d been racking my brain, trying my darnedest to determine what it was that could possibly be bothering him so much, but the answer was so very simple: he was hungry.

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Sweet, squishy, newborn Jones. Photo Credit: Rachel Sanders of Sun Chaser Studios

And I’d been down this path before, many times. Not myself, but I’d walked alongside several friends as they navigated the reality that they were no longer able to breastfeed their children. Or that they were never able to from the very beginning. And every single time, every opportunity that arose, I uttered the same phrase: “Fed is best.”

Because it’s true. It’s so basic and uncomplicated while simultaneously being so powerful. In our culture of high horses and pedestals and judgment and I’m-not-afraid-to-tell-you-what’s-best-for-your-family-without-knowing-anything-about-you-or-your-journey, it’s what moms need. We need a reminder that we are enough, to know that however it may be that we provide nourishment for our children, we are killing it at this whole mom thing.

But the funny thing about “fed is best” is that, like most things, it is so much easier said than done.

When my friends needed that truth, it rolled off my tongue. When I needed that truth, though, when I needed it to soak into my bones and reach the depths of my soul, it was an epic battle. Because my body had failed. My maternal instincts had failed. I had failed. Those were the lies I allowed myself to believe, and if only for a moment, it was a moment too long. Way too long.

Those words, that poignant phrase, just didn’t quite have the impact on my heart that I had always imagined they did for my friends. To be honest, they fell flat. They felt overused, cliché, and almost too obvious to be inspirational.

But that doesn’t mean I was left wanting. I found my peace. What did it for me, what made all of the lies melt away and brought tears to my eyes, was the face of fed.

The face of fed was content, satisfied, comforted, relieved, and reassured. The face of fed could not have cared less if it was being nourished via a breast or a bottle; the face of fed simply wanted to be fed. It was as plain as that.

So as my sweet Jonesy sucked down that first bottle, I literally could not take my eyes off of him. They were glued to his tiny fingers grasping at every ounce of sustenance, to his eyelids becoming heavy at the realization that, at last, his most basic need was once again being met.

And that was all that I needed. That was my “fed is best.” Staring at my precious, perfectly pleased little man, soaking up every moment of his glorious face of fed, I realized that my feelings of despair at no longer being able to breastfeed were entirely selfish; they were leeches that I had willingly allowed to latch onto me, that somehow I was no longer adequate simply because my son was eating from a bottle rather than my breast.

Those lies, they made it all about me. And it was never meant to be about me; it was always about him.

That vulnerable, innocent little human didn’t view me as someone who had failed him. He didn’t view my body as a lost cause. All he ever wanted was to be fed.

And what a blessing it is that I can provide him just that.

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