It’s not often that I can relate to the day-to-day struggles of reality stars, but a new video by The Hills alum Whitney Port does look a lot like my own reality. Wearing the uniform of new moms everywhere (hoodie, ponytail, bare face), Port confesses to the camera something I have experienced myself: Breastfeeding can be frustrating and painful.
In an eight-minute video that’s part of a series called I Love My Baby, But, Port opens up about the pain she’s felt while breastfeeding her newborn son, Sonny.
“I just hit a breaking point,” the star explains through tears, “and [I] said, ‘I can’t do this. It feels as though someone is slicing my nipples with glass.’”
Like a lot of other moms, I know how painful breastfeeding can be. I admire Port for doing her crying so publicly; I did mine alone, in the shower, while looking down at a very inflamed breast.
Like Port’s son, my baby was born with a tongue tie. Like Port’s son, my baby had his tongue-tie corrected shortly after birth. Like Port, I still struggled after the procedure.
Breastfeeding complications related to tongue or lip tie is surprisingly common, says Diana Spalding, a midwife and Motherly’s birth editor, who notes as many as one in 10 babies is born with one of the conditions. “A lot of parents report that after having it corrected, it takes a little while to be effective,” she says of tongue or lip tie fixes. “[That is] sometimes because the baby has to ‘relearn’ how to latch, or simply due to the healing process.”
For the moms going through it, that can lead to physical and emotional pain, as Port so freely demonstrates in her video testimony.
“I tried it after we came home from the doctor yesterday morning once he had the procedure done, and then I tried it this morning and it's just it's really painful,” Port says in her video. “I'm not really sure if it's painful just because I'm getting started again or if it's painful because he's not latching on correctly.”
I know latching was still a big issue for my son immediately after his tongue-tie was fixed. For awhile afterward, his father and I still had to feed him with eye droppers. When he did latch, it hurt and didn’t last long. Eventually, I started pumping and supplementing with formula, and my son initially seemed to like bottles better than the breast. It wasn’t an easy journey for me, just as it hasn’t been for Port, who wonders aloud if it would be better to “just give up on it and just pump and give him the bottles and be okay with it.”
That’s a question every women can and should make for herself.
“Feeling pressure around breastfeeding is unfortunately so common—and it's such a hard thing to work with,” Spalding says. “Breastfeeding is of course so amazing, and the research indicates that it is the best thing for babies. But at a certain point, we also [need] to be considering the mom's emotional and physical well-being. A super stressed mom isn't healthy for the baby either.”
For me, pumping and bottle-feeding didn’t spell the end of breastfeeding. We kept nursing and eventually my son got the hang of latching. On my end, the pain of bad latches and oversupply went away, and we eventually got to put the pump away for good.
In her video, Port says it’s not just the pain that’s getting to her—she’s also been feeling a lot of pressure to succeed at breastfeeding, and that’s a reality many new moms can relate to. That’s where the rest of us can help: It’s important for us to remember that whether we nurse, pump, bottle feed or supplement, as long as our babies are nourished, we are succeeding.
It may not be her most glamorous on-camera experience, but Port’s video shows the real-life struggles of a new mom. My hope is that it encourages moms to talk about their pain. You don’t have to cry on camera, but you don’t have to cry alone either.