Breastfeeding is made out to be magical. Not only is a mom giving her infant critical nutrients, but the two are also forming an invaluable bond. But what about when it’s not so magical—like when the baby won’t latch? When a new mother’s nipples crack and bleed?
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week last week, Kylee Austin, a mother of three from Arizona, took to Instagram to talk about the difficult moments many nursing moms are beginning to speak out about, so other women don’t feel so alone.
I honestly NEVER thought I’d share this photo with anyone ever, but since it’s #worldbreastfeedingweek and #throwbackthursday I’m hanging out my vulnerability for all to see, boobs, babies, diapers, stretch marks, feeding issues, insecurities, and all… . . I don’t have many of these photos…this was my first attempt at tandem feeding my twins at the hospital. I struggled hard with breastfeeding with both the twins and my singleton. It’s been an extreme stressor for me, feeling guilty that I couldn’t get latching, that I never felt that “magical bond” of breastfeeding, just pain, that I found it mentally and physically exhausting to keep up with it all, and that I could only last 5 months with my twinnies and even less with my first son. . . I think breastfeeding is beautiful and amazing. I’m already missing my guys being this small, but I don’t miss the mastitis so bad I literally thought I was going to die. I don’t miss the cracked and bloody nipples, exhaustion and tears of frustration, or the envy of those that made it look so easy. . . So, behind the beauty of a picture of mom feeding her babies, might just be much more. A fear of not being enough for them, or societies standards, a loss of the feeling of efficacy or worth, or just a yearning to be the best mom she can be, even if it kills her. Anyone out there relate?
“I’m hanging out my vulnerability for all to see, boobs, babies, diapers, stretch marks, feeding issues, insecurities, and all,” Austin captioned a photo of her first attempt at tandem feeding her newborn twins.
She went on to debunk the belief that breastfeeding is effortless. “It’s been an extreme stressor for me, feeling guilty that I couldn’t get latching, that I never felt that ‘magical bond’ of breastfeeding, just pain, that I found it mentally and physically exhausting to keep up with it all.”
The twins in the photo, Keegan and Kayden, are 1 now, and Austin’s older son, Tristan, is 3. Though she misses her little ones being, well, little, there are a lot of things about those early months that she doesn’t miss.
My throat burns, my eyes hurt, I’m tired, shaking, and ashamed…THIS is real motherhood. . . Before you send me your love notes saying “you’re doing a great job, momma”, or your advice, “have you tried…??”, let me say this, as much as I love your support and guidance, I post these moments not for me, but because society has created this monster in motherhood. This monster that says we are supposed to be perfect, look perfect, and post the pretty. I, personally, feel so isolated by the image society has created for me, scared that in these moments when I should feel like I need to reach out for help, I will be judged instead. . . I think one of the hard parts of motherhood is that you can have a wonderful, engaged, memorable even day with your children and STILL have moments like these, moments when you question your sanity, moments when you question your ability, moments that crush you. . . What am I crying about? Well, it could be a mixture of many things. Lack of sleep due to teething and my rigorous schedule, lack of time for myself, lack of naps, anxiety, depression, relationships, money, housekeeping, feedings, threenager, infants, twins…what DON’T moms have to deal with? . . In the end, it doesn’t matter why. My kids are alive and healthy (thank God!), and I could have much bigger things to cry about. But, that doesn’t make me any less ashamed for yelling at my kids, having feelings that don’t make me “normal” according to society’s mom standards, putting my twins to bed early, or needing a second to myself and hiding in a room away from my three year old while he watches TV. . . Please, don’t feel sorry for me and please be gentle (with everyone, you never know what people are going through!). I just feel like this is my civic duty to post and tell whoever’s out there right now crying that you aren’t alone, that you are normal and that it’s going to be alright. Now, I’m off to say my sorrys and remind my kiddos that no matter what mistakes I make I always love them, and so does Jesus (and he NEVER makes mistakes). #stunningmotherhood #realmotherhood #momminainteasy #uniteinmotherhood
“I don’t miss the mastitis so bad I literally thought I was going to die. I don’t miss the cracked and bloody nipples, exhaustion and tears of frustration, or the envy of those that made it look so easy,” she wrote. Mastitis is a bacterial infection in a milk duct, and it’s a common result of nursing.
Austin tells Health her experience breastfeeding Tristan was especially challenging because she gave birth to him in Japan, where her husband, Joshua, was stationed in the Air Force.
“There weren’t a ton of resources available as far as lactation consultants or support groups,” she says. “I felt like I was just pushed out of the hospital: ‘There you go. You can figure it out.’”
It didn’t take long for the tears of pain and frustration to start flowing, Austin recalls, which left her unable to breastfeed after four weeks.
When it came time to nurse her twins, Austin and her husband had moved to Arizona, and she surrounded herself with all of the information and support she could find. “I was determined to make it happen,” she says. She breastfed them for five months while also supplementing her milk with formula.
Yet she admits she second time around wasn’t much easier. “I never felt that magical feeling,” she says. “When I’m with one baby on my breast and the other is laying there crying and sobbing, and I’m trying to wrangle a 2-year-old at the same time, there isn’t really much time to enjoy that moment.”
Austin might not have been able to breastfeed for as long as she hoped, but she says she has no regrets. “It was scary, and it was hard, but it was also the best experience of my life.”
She shares her journey navigating motherhood with her followers to help other new moms understand that the difficulties they might be dealing with are completely normal—and that they’re certainly not alone.
“Give yourself a ton of grace,” she advises moms who are struggling to nurse. “The more that you release yourself of the stress, guilt, and negative feelings, the better off your babies are, the better off your bond is. Even the breastfeeding gets easier.”
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