Celebrating the act of breastfeeding helps normalize it by de-stigmatizing it, which is why National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week exist. And that's awesome. But celebrating breastfeeding should mean honoring the entire experience—for many parents who breastfeed, their journey is far from easy.
Model and new mom Hunter McGrady shared an Instagram post highlighting her own experience, which was full of the ups and downs many can relate to. She gave birth to her son Hudson Tynan Keys in June, and she's been very open about what the reality of new motherhood looks like.
"I'm late to Breastfeeding awareness week because, well, I didn't quite know what to say but wanted to say something," she writes in the caption of her post. "I had this grand idea that I would give birth and Hudson would latch on, it would be beautiful, I would have an amazing supply and Voilla! Food for him on demand, easy peasy. Lordy, That was not the case at all."
She explains that she endured frustration, soreness, cracked nipples, nipple shields, nipple butter (as anyone who's tried breastfeeding knows, the nipples get a beat-down during those early weeks). McGrady also says she cried a lot about everything surrounding breastfeeding her son.
"I didn't know what to do, i still don't know what to do," she writes. "I was pumping and feeding so much that I got mastitis and my baby wasn't gaining weight."
She decided to combine breastfeeding, pumping, and formula as a way to feed Hudson—supplementing is something many nursing parents do, and it's nothing to feel bad about. But the pressure to exclusively breastfeed can be so overwhelming (I nursed both of my daughters for 13 and 15 months each and I almost broke under the pressure when they were brand new).
"I felt so ashamed at first because I felt so overwhelmed by the thought of exclusively breastfeeding," McGrady says. "I realized quick that that thought was more about me and what i wanted and less about what was best for him."
New moms are dealing with so much—a recuperating body full of wounds, the fumbling, stressful act of breastfeeding a 6-pound mammal, unstable hormones, exhaustion, and the list goes on. When something is negatively affecting your mental health and you have the power to control or eliminate that something, DO IT. What's best for you mentally is what's best for your baby, too.
"This journey is incredible, exhausting, scary, and the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life," she concludes in her post. "I'm proud of me, I'm proud of him, I'm proud of us. In case no one told you today my breastfeeding mamas, my pumping mamas, and my formula-fed mamas, you're doing great. We're in this together."