Chrissy Teigen has never shied away from using her platform to speak out about the hardest parts of motherhood. In September, the model, author and mom opened up about her painful pregnancy loss to combat the stigma of miscarriage. Now, she’s speaking honestly about her personal struggles with breastfeeding and asking for people to “normalize formula” so other moms don’t feel ashamed.
“Ok I’m gonna say something and you all are definitely gonna make it a thing,” Teigen writes on Twitter, “but here goes: normalize formula.”
Teigen goes on to explain that while she thinks breastfeeding is “wonderful,” she felt deep shame when she couldn’t produce enough breast milk for her kids, Miles and Luna, due to depression and other health issues. “I remember pumping my ASS OFF, highest mode, so often, because I didn’t trust milk was going into their mouths if I breastfed,” she writes. “It drove me mad to the point I could only get an ounce. An ounce!”
Teigen’s story resonates with thousands of other parents who’ve been unable to breastfeed or struggled with the logistics of milk supply, latching and other difficult breastfeeding issues. Her initial tweet has received more than 170,000 likes, and nearly 5,000 people have responded with supportive words or their own stories of feeding struggles and shame.
“I feel this post,” one mom writes. “I could never produce and my baby struggled to latch, so I tried pumping for weeks. It got to the point where I would have a full blown panic attack as soon as the pump flanges touched my breasts.”
“Wish I’d read this a year ago,” another mom adds. “I drove myself into a deep depression because I couldn’t breastfeed my baby. Already felt like I failed because of a C-section after two days of labor. Then my baby was in a special care nursery. Then I couldn’t nurse. Fed is best, however it happens.”
Some people are using Teigen’s post to share important reminders that people use formula for so many reasons, and you never know what another family is going through.
“Having had a mastectomy 10 weeks before, I know I was fortunate in being able to breastfeed my 5 week premature son for a few days before I had to stop for chemo,” one mom writes. “So glad the nurses were supportive & gave him formula when I couldn’t feed him. It took away my anxiety & we thrived.”
Breast milk can have important benefits for newborn babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states breastfeeding can reduce the likelihood that infants will develop urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, diabetes and a number of other illnesses. Additionally, breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers for mothers. But the AAP’s recommendation that babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of life fails to take into account the struggles many parents face.
The responses to Teigen’s post prove breastfeeding can take a huge physical and emotional toll on moms, and not every family is able to make it work. Many also point out that exclusive breastfeeding requires an amount of time and privilege some parents simply don’t have, especially if they are working mothers.
In 2017, a mom on Instagram went viral after adding up all of the hours she spent breastfeeding during her baby’s first year. Her final tally? More than 1,800 hours! Despite the massive time commitment required to breastfeed, the U.S. still has no federally mandated maternity leave, and only 32 states have laws in place that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed at work.
There are so many reasons why breastfeeding might not work for some parents, and no one deserves to feel shame for how they feed their child. Teigen says she believes the push to normalize breastfeeding is a “great” cause, but “formula is great, too” and she wants parents to know “your baby is going to be beautiful, perfect and okay” no matter how you choose to feed them.
“I dunno why this is my crusade now,” she writes. “I just remember the sadness I felt, and want you to know you are doing it right if your baby is fed, mama.”