Many mamas who plan to breastfeed spend their pregnancies imagining the moment when they’ll finally get to nurse their little one, but the reality is that, for a lot of us, breastfeeding can be really hard.
Fans of Little People, Big World know that Audrey Roloff is a big proponent of breastfeeding, but in a recent episode, the new mama admitted she felt “robbed” when her first few weeks of breastfeeding—and motherhood—didn’t go the way she’d planned.
“About 24 hours after Ember was born, l became severely engorged,” Roloff wrote on Instagram, noting that this was the beginning of a series of painful problems including supply issues, blisters, bruises, clogged ducts, and mastitis.
The physical pain was excruciating, she says, but the emotional pain in those first few weeks of parenting was also incredibly tough. Roloff’s daughter with husband Jeremy—Ember Jean, now 8-months-old—was born with a tongue and lip tie and had trouble latching. The tie needed to be surgically snipped. “She’s just so young, and we’re already having to do something that hurts her,” Roloff’s husband Jeremy said on the show.
No parent wants to watch their new baby suffer, and Roloff’s experience proves moms suffer too when they feel pressured to be perfect at breastfeeding. When a doctor suggested supplementing with formula, Roloff’s on-camera comments caused controversy, but suggest she felt incredible stress in her first few weeks of motherhood.
“I was very adamant about breastfeeding exclusively. Formula is like a sin,” she said in a recent episode of the reality show. There’s been a lot of online criticism of that statement, but even before it aired Roloff made it clear that she supports other mothers in feeding their babies in whatever way is best for them.
“Breastfeeding is a blessing, but I understand that it’s not always a choice,” she previously wrote on Instagram, noting that she’s not out to discourage other mothers whose journeys are different from her own.
Formula is not a bad thing, and is as much of a blessing as breastmilk for some families.
It should be noted that research shows giving some formula doesn’t interfere with breastfeeding for newborns.
The backlash since Roloff’s statement about formula is understandable, but instead of criticizing a new mother for expressing her feelings, perhaps society needs to ask why some moms feel such intense pressure to exclusively breastfeed, and whether an all-or-nothing approach to breastfeeding is more harmful than helpful.
Yes, we as a society do need to increase rates of breastfeeding, and yes, breastmilk has so many benefits, but mamas are more than our breastmilk. Demonizing formula doesn’t help boost breastfeeding rates and it doesn’t help mothers.
It’s unfortunate that Roloff (who has, thankfully, gotten over her nursing hurdles) feels she was robbed of special bonding time with her baby because of breastfeeding struggles, but her story proves that breastfeeding can be so hard, and putting extra pressure on new moms only makes it harder.