19 Kids and Counting stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar may still be in the hands-on stage of parenting with some of their children (the youngest, Josie, is 8 years old), but now that a number of the Duggar siblings have reached adulthood, some have begun building families of their own. So far, Jim Bob and Michelle have nine grandchildren with another three on the way, and it seems the Duggar siblings share pretty similar views on family planning, pregnancy, and childbirth as their parents. But do all the Duggars breastfeed? They seem to take a pretty flexible approach to feeding their children.
As parents of a super-sized brood, it's clear that Jim Bob and Michelle do things a little differently from other families, and they've made no secret of their desire to raise their children according to their ultra-conservative religious values. But when it comes to caring for her children as infants, Michelle's approach sounds pretty common. In a 2012 blog post about parenting for TLC, Michelle shared that nursing her babies and keeping them in the same room with her at night was important to her, and in an older episode of the family's reality show, she shared that breastfeeding was a major part of her daily routine. In a clip from 18 Kids and Counting (back before Josie was born), Michelle breastfed a then-infant Jordyn while at a movie theater with her family, and explained,
I kind of just nurse my babies all the time. If she starts to wake up, I usually feed her ... I feel like I'm cherishing the moments I have with her, because she's not going to be nursing for very long.
Joy-Anna Duggar and her husband Austin Forsyth, Joseph Duggar and his wife Kendra Duggar, and Jinger Duggar and her husband Jeremy Vuolo, are all currently expecting their first children, but there are a few things we can probably already expect from them when they do become parents. For one, at-home deliveries wouldn't be too surprising: at least two of Josh and Anna Duggar's five children were born at home, according to the Inquisitr, and Jinger herself was also delivered at home. Although mom-of-two Jill Duggar had intended to give birth at home with her first son, Israel, her plan went awry when she needed an emergency C-section after 70 hours of labor, according to Us Weekly, and Jessa Duggar delivered both of her sons at home, according to People (though she did have to be transferred to a hospital after her first home birth due to complications after the delivery).
Judging from past Duggar sibling examples, breastfeeding will also be something at least attempted. After Israel was born in 2015, Jill told People that she turned to her mom for breastfeeding advice, and said,
I call out to my mom and ask things like, ‘Is this feeling normal?’ and, ‘How long should I nurse?’ Israel’s a little boy, he will eat all the time, so I was asking if 20 minutes a feeding was long enough or too much, and how all of it should go.
In a 2016 episode of Counting On, Jessa revealed that she was also a breastfeeding mom, bringing her son, Spurgeon, along on a girl's trip with her sisters so that she could nurse him when necessary, and even discussing the fact that nursing her son has made her need to eat a lot more than usual, according to Us Weekly. Later, while pregnant with her second son, Henry, Jessa also told the magazine that Spurgeon's baby blanket was her double-duty diaper bag necessity, noting, "It doubles as a nursing cover because it’s so lightweight ... [and it's] handy for use as a burp cloth and for wiping up spit-up."
That doesn't mean that the Duggar sisters are against the idea of bottle feeding, though. In September 2015, for example, Jill's husband Derek Dillard, posted a video to Instagram of a then-5-month-old Israel drinking milk from a bottle, and in October 2016, Jessa also shared a photo of her son, Spurgeon doing the same.
In a separate post a year later though, Jessa admitted that she'd actually hoped to breastfeed her son until he was 2 years old, and opened up a bit about the criticism she'd received for his bottle use, both as a baby, and as a toddler. After Jessa's brother-in-law, Jeremy, posted a cute pic to his own Instagram account of a 22-month-old Spurgeon drinking from a bottle, Jessa reposted the pic, and invited anyone who felt the need to criticize her for it to "please share all your wisdom and perfect parenting advice in the comments section" (you tell 'em, girl.)
In other words, well, the Duggars might be a reality TV family famous for having 19 "J"-named children, but when it comes to their day-to-day parenting choices, they're just like the rest of us. After all, while it might be easy to have opinions about what you will and won't do as a parent before your child is born, the reality is that, once they're here, you just have to do whatever works best.
While the Duggars definitely seem to be supporters of breastfeeding — and while Michelle probably deserves some kind of medal for presumably breastfeeding all 19 of her babies — what's more important is that their children are fed and happy. Which, let's be honest, is a pretty good strategy, no matter what your parenting beliefs may be.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.