How One Mom Balances Breastfeeding With Formula Feeding
For new parents, feeding can be one of the toughest decisions to make (not to mention the one most prone to mom-shaming— ignore the haters, people!). But ultimately, parenting is about choosing what’s best for you and your family, and being confident in your decisions. Still, sometimes it helps to have an experienced mom share her story of charting her own course—and saying no to the guilt. Mother of three Lauren Stewart is brutally honest about motherhood on her YouTube channel, popular Instagram and podcast, appropriately titled “ I’m Not Crazy, I’m Exhausted.” She’s been especially open about her struggles with breastfeeding, and she’s no stranger to supplementing. “The reality is, breastfeeding each of my children has been so much harder than I’d imagined. Tongue and lip ties, extremely sensitive tummies and allergies—my babies have had it all,” Stewart says. Here, she shares advice and insight on feeding, childbirth and the beauty of letting go when things don’t go to plan.
On making a plan to feed her babies…
“I always knew I wanted to try breastfeeding and that I would work very hard at it. But I also knew I wanted to give my babies what they needed, even if it didn’t look ‘perfect.’ To me, a mother is someone who makes the best choice for her child. I’ve always tried to give my kids what they need in the moment and not what I feel like they should need.
“I think the pressure—from society, from family, from friends, all of it—can make parents have a completely unrealistic set of ‘shoulds.’ But we are designed and made to do this. Listening to our gut and following our children’s cues makes motherhood a bit less pressured.”
On how supplementing gives her peace of mind…
“My third child Dawson was born this past February. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. At 38 weeks pregnant, I was in the hospital in full labor. I began hemorrhaging, and I was told the baby no longer had a heartbeat. They took me immediately for an emergency c-section. At that point, we didn’t think we would be bringing home our baby.
“The c-section took under 60 seconds to perform, and Dawson was okay. But the doctors were watching his weight. If he dropped more than 10 percent of his body weight, he would have to be admitted to the NICU.
“Because of my surgery and because he had to hit a certain weight, I supplemented nearly immediately. Enfamil NeuroPro was the formula my doctor recommended. When we used it, Dawson didn’t reject it or have tummy issues from it. We were so happy.
“After being in the hospital for nearly six days, doctors said Dawson and I were healthy enough to leave. Had we not supplemented, I’m positive we would have had to stay in the hospital.”
On breastfeeding struggles…
“For the first few weeks of Dawson’s life, I was unable to hold him across my front, like you’d normally hold a baby. My c-section wound was too deep and painful. It made breastfeeding difficult. I ended up nursing him in the football hold, and then I also chose to top him off with formula afterward. Thankfully all our efforts paid off!"
On being away from baby…
“Now I exclusively breastfeed Dawson, unless I’m gone. If I’m traveling or at events, Dawson is only on formula. If I’m home, he’s only on breast milk.
“Though I work from home 80 percent of the time, there are times when I need to be able to leave, and I know that I’ve already got a system in place to take care of my baby. Pumping stresses me out, and having three children and a business leaves little time to pump anyhow. When I travel for work or l have meetings, I know that I can spend my time before I go just loving on my baby and doing all my prep work—because he already has an endless supply of formula for while I’m gone.
“I wanted nothing more my entire life than to have children and to show them the world. To teach them hard work and to show them by my example there is so much possible in this life. Being a mother fills my heart and soul. Being able to do my work fills my creative side and brings me joy that I can share with my children.”
On dad bonding…
“For us, having someone who wasn’t Mom give the bottle always made it go better. Dawson wanted breast from me and bottle from daddy.
“Selfishly, I wished I would be the only one to feed Dawson. But watching the baby with Sean and giving my husband that time to love, snuggle and feed has created such a sweet bond.
“It’s also really nice to have extra help. With my recovery being so hard, knowing Sean could step in was a lifesaver."
On being kind to yourself…
“Motherhood is such a huge change. It’s honestly the one thing you plan and prepare for, but can never fully plan or prepare for. It’s emotional, it’s hard, and it’s so beautiful. I encourage other new moms to be flexible and embrace the change that comes with having a child. Work hard for what you want, have a voice, but also let your child guide you. Follow your gut. Cry when you need to. Ask for help. Ignore the advice that doesn’t work for you. You’ve got this!
“The reality is, I’m still exhausted, I’m still learning, and slowly I’m becoming more myself every day as I give more of myself over to the unpredictable ups and downs of motherhood.”