If you’re a mom on Facebook, you have probably seen by now at least one of those gorgeous Tree of Life “brelfies.” The breastfeeding selfies use the PicsArt app to depict breastfeeding as a system of roots, branching into a tree in their baby’s mouth. Traditional “brelfies” are used as a way to normalize breastfeeding through awareness, and these beautiful, artistic photos add to that.
I made the Tree of Life “brelfie” above with my three-month-old. It is amazing to me that I currently provide every ounce of nutrition that she receives. She grows and changes every day, and the nourishment from my body is how she does that. It is truly unique, the bond that exists between mother and child while breastfeeding. And, in the grand scheme of things, it lasts such a short amount of time. I’m glad I created this photo to remind me of the beauty that exists in breastfeeding.
However, there are other ways of feeding your children. And while most people probably think of formula as the replacement for breastfeeding, that was not my experience.
My oldest son, Cooper, was born with a host of complications that hindered his ability to eat without assistance. When Cooper was born, he was diagnosed with tracheomalacia and a tongue tie. Tracheomalacia is when the airway collapses in on itself every time a person breathes out. He had stridor, and was an extremely loud breather. It also made it dangerous for him to eat liquid since it is associated with aspiration. So I pumped exclusively for most of the first year of his life, and he ate thickened breast milk very slowly.
When he was four months old, he had surgery to repair his airway and correct his tongue tie. The day we got home from the hospital, he aspirated and was diagnosed with pneumonia. His lungs didn’t heal completely for years.
Cooper was small when he was born, and he grew extremely slowly. He was in newborn clothes for the first 6 months of his life. Because of his airway issues, he was an extremely slow eater, often spending at least an hour just to finish 4 ounces of breast milk. At eight months, he was diagnosed with a seizure disorder, and his seizure medicine made him so tired he would often fall asleep mid-bottle. It got to the point where he was spending almost as much energy consuming the bottle as he was getting from the bottle; it was a zero-output enterprise.
Finally, he was diagnosed with failure to thrive at about a year old, and we made the life-altering decision to get a G-tube for Cooper. This surgery changed our lives in many ways. He was finally getting the nutrition he needed to grow, he was able to take his medications through the tube, so we knew that he was getting everything, and he seemed so much happier!
Seeing all the Tree of Life photos floating around Facebook made me realize that no matter how your child receives nutrition, you’re doing right by your child. How you feed your child should not be an issue, as long as you’re actually feeding him.
Breastfed, bottle fed, or tube fed, we’re all doing the best for our children.
I created a tree of life image of Cooper being fed, to show that there is beauty no matter how your child is fed.
How is your child fed? Please leave a comment with your tree of life photo, however you choose to feed your child!