What would you say if someone asked you what the hardest part of motherhood has been? So far, it’s a toss-up between breastfeeding and potty-training for me. (Though I’m sure I’ll add to that list once I have teenagers!) I was sorely underprepared for how hard, how frustrating, and how painful so many days would be. And the hardest were the initial eight weeks of my first son’s life — the beginning of my journey as a mom. I struggled beyond anything I could have imagined to breastfeed him, and even now, nearly nine years later, I can vividly remember the pain.
As it turns out, celeb moms are often no different. Reality star and fashion designer Whitney Port is no exception. The new mom is still struggling to breastfeed her 2-month old son, Sonny, and her story sounds exactly like mine. And maybe yours, too.
Port candidly shares her breastfeeding struggles — and all the emotions that come with them — in a recent episode of her YouTube series, “I Love My Baby, But … ” In the 8-minute video, her eyes are blood-shot, tears stream down her face, and all at once, Whitney is no longer the Instagram-perfect reality star we know her to be. She’s just a mom, like us. A mom who can’t feed her child the way she wants to — the way her body is supposed to. I know this pain all too well. I know those tears and the feeling of failure. And I certainly know the guilt.
In her latest episode, entitled, “I Love My Baby, But I Haven’t Loved Breastfeeding That Much,” Port says that she fully intended to breastfeed, despite hearing that “it doesn’t come easily to a lot of people.” And she even says it started off great; at least, that’s what she thought. But within the first 24 hours, the pain felt like “someone was slicing my nipples with glass.”
That description could not be more accurate. I remember the fear of an impending feeding. I’d stare at the clock, watch the minutes tick down. I’d try to breath through the pain, praying for it to be over. Similarly, Port says in her video, “Because of the pain I’ve demonized breastfeeding in my head and the thought of doing it is dreadful.”
Yet despite the pain, it sounds like she’s not quite ready to give up. Partly out of guilt. Partly due to outside pressures. And partly because of the uncertainty that comes with parenthood. “I’m not blaming myself for it hurting but I’m blaming myself for possibly quitting,” she admits. Yet, due to the pain she is in, she also says, “I don’t know how much longer I should continue to try before giving up on it, giving him bottles, and being okay with it.”
That’s often the hardest part. Being okay with it. Knowing you tried your best. Knowing you’re still a good mom. And that your baby is fed in a way that allows you to heal and find joy in motherhood. Oh how I want to reach into my computer screen and hug her. And tell her that she’s going to be okay. That he’s going to be okay. That someday he’ll be a 3rd-grader playing video games and riding bikes with his friends, and this will all be a distant memory.
Whitney shares that her son did have a frenotomy — a procedure done to remedy a common infant condition known as being “tongue-tied,” so she has hope that maybe breastfeeding will improve now. But if it doesn’t, she will have to make a choice. Whitney says that while her young mom friends tell her to not put pressure on herself and that there’s nothing wrong with switching to bottles and/or formula, older women are pressuring to keep trying to breastfeed. She’s exhausted, overwhelmed, unsure of what to do, and still in tremendous pain.
While the difficulty of breastfeeding is one of the many aspects of motherhood that no one can prepare for, Whitney says she’s also surprised at herself for succumbing to outside pressures and influences.
“I’ve heard other people talk about these pressures and I never thought I’d let it get to me,” Port admits, “because I think I’m a pretty strong person and I go with my gut. I don’t compare myself with other people and what other people are doing. And now I’m doing exactly that.”
But when asked what she’d tell someone else, who is going through the same thing, her response speaks volumes: “I would tell them to not listen to anyone else and do what their heart is telling them to do. And that’s really what I should be doing.”
This video is real and raw. Despite being a celebrity, Whitney is with us in the trenches. She’s scared and exhausted and facing one of the hardest parts of being a new mom — guilt. So for now, she says she’s going to supplement with bottles and formula if need be. And maybe keep trying to nurse from the breast. Or maybe not. She’s the mom, after all, and she’ll know what’s best in the end.