Breastfeeding is hard. Like, really hard. If you don't believe that fact, just ask anyone who's struggled to do it. Or turn to these celebrity moms who've struggled with breastfeeding over the years and have been refreshingly candid about their less-than-perfect journeys with their fans.
Mothers struggle with breastfeeding, or choose not to breastfeed, for a variety of reasons. Though many more certainly exist, such reasons include issues with milk supply or latching, concerns surrounding a mother's medication needs, cultural norms or lack of familial or workplace support, as well as unsupportive hospitals or practitioners that do not properly or fully help or teach new mothers how to nurse, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But regardless of why, the reality is that a lot of mothers struggle with breastfeeding. In fact, data from the CDC shows that 60 percent of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they'd like to. Every experience is different and it's not always as easy or straightforward as it's often made out to be. What it comes down to is that breastfeeding has to be the right choice for both mother and child, and if it isn't your path, that's nothing to be ashamed about. Take a cue from these celebs, who certainly aren't apologizing.
After welcoming her son, Silas, with husband Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel shared in an interview with Yahoo! Lifestyle that she struggled with breastfeeding because she wasn't producing enough milk.
"I had a very hard time breastfeeding and getting good amounts of quality fatty milk. For whatever reason, it was just harder for me," Biel said in 2018, according to Motherly.
After she gave birth to son Angelo, Adele opened up about the "ridiculous" pressure on women to exclusively nurse after they give birth. In 2016, according to The Independent, she said:
It’s f**king ridiculous, and all those people who put pressure on us, you can go f**k yourselves, alright? Because it's hard. Some of us can't do it! I managed about nine weeks with my boobs. Some of my mates got post-natal depression from the way those midwives were talking... Breastfeed if you can but don’t worry, [formula milk] Aptamil’s just as good. I mean, I loved it, all I wanted to do was breastfeed and then I couldn’t and then I felt like, "if I was in the jungle now back in the day, my kid would be dead because my milk’s gone."
After Jessica Alba welcomed her third child, a son named Hayes, she was dismayed when her maternity leave had to get cut short by a job opportunity, which also impacted her breastfeeding time.
"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," Alba previously told Motherly, referencing not only her company, but the series she's shooting with Gabrielle Union, LA's Finest. "I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave."
After giving birth to her second child, Saint, in 2015, Kim Kardashian opened up on her website about how she struggled with breastfeeding due to nipple pain and because her older daughter, North, really disliked when she did it, according to the Daily Mail.
"I'm not gonna lie — it can be time-consuming... For some reason, North hates when I feed the baby, and she lays on my lap so Saint can't be right in front of me to eat, LOL!" Kardashian wrote on her website, according to HuffPost, going on to share the advice she received regarding irritation. "The hospital suggested [nipple] shields to me, since at the beginning I found nursing super painful and difficult, so I took some home and never looked back."
After struggling to nurse her daughter, Bryn, Bethenny Frankel told Parade in 2010 that she initially felt like a "failure," but they eventually found their own rhythm together.
"She used to fuss every time, which made me feel like a failure, rejected, emotional — and sorry for her. Now she seldom fusses. We’ve got a groove going. I just love how happy it makes her," Frankel told Parade at the time. "I bow to all the breastfeeding mothers! I can do a lot of things, but breastfeeding is one of the greatest challenges."
Back in 2015, Tamera Mowry shared on her website that learning how to breastfeed was very difficult for her, and she advised all women who want to try not to leave the hospital until you've had a proper latch at least once.
"Breastfeeding was hard. It didn’t come as naturally as we’re meant to believe. Aden wasn’t latching properly, which meant I experienced soreness, my nipples were callused and I was in pain for about 8 weeks," Mowry wrote on her blog. "I was having a hard time keeping up my supply of milk and it was taking a major emotional toll on me. All this in the midst of things I had to learn and research as a new mom."
After giving birth to son Camden, Kristin Cavallari breastfed for a short period of time before switching to pumping, and then moving to a "goat milk" formula. As she told Hollywood Life in 2013, "It's hard. It was the hardest part of the whole thing and no one tells you that. I was a slave to pumping."
After giving birth to twins Knox and Vivienne, Angelina Jolie opened up to British morning show GMTV about why she no longer felt she could keep nursing them, especially not together.
“It was about as much as I could do,” she explained in 2008, according to TV Guide. “It’s very hard… very hard. You think, ‘Ah, if anybody can do that, I can do that.’ But it’s a lot harder than it looks in the books. I did [simultaneous feeding] a few times, but [mostly] I would take turns. It just takes a long time."
After trying to breastfeed her daughter True for weeks, Khloé Kardashian decided to stop, citing the intense pain as ultimately being too much for her.
"I tried breastfeeding for weeks and weeks!" she shared on Twitter in November 2018. "For me it was so painful but I also was not producing a lot of milk. So I had to pump every time she was napping... I guess due to stress my milk was not coming in. I tried and I just couldn’t give her enough. So I had to go to formula."
Though she deeply wanted to breastfeed, Kelly Rowland opened up to Parents about why she had to stop. "I had my heart set on breastfeeding, but I wasn't producing enough milk. I got down on myself, which I think was mentally limiting my supply," she told Parents in 2015, adding that she began using formula shortly afterwards.
After five months, Coco Rocha shared on Instagram that her supply ran out, and advised others to be more open-minded when it comes to making comments about bottle-feeding, given that it happens to every mother eventually. In 2015, she wrote on Instagram:
Not that this is anyone's business - I loved breastfeeding Ioni for the first 5 months of her life and then one day my milk went dry. It happens to every mom at different times. She's been on formula for a few weeks now and seems to be doing just fine... Anyone who has a negative comment to make on the way I raise my baby will be blocked. This is not a democracy, everyone doesn't get a say.
Jamie Lynn Sigler
Jamie Lynn Sigler, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, shared that she was heartbroken she wasn't able to breastfeed because she had to get back on her medication.
"All my fellow mommies that deal with MS or anything that causes them to have to make choices they didn’t necessarily want to... this is for you," she wrote on Instagram in April 2018. "I’m having to stop breastfeeding soon so I can get back on meds... I KNOW we will both be fine, but I’m emotionally having to deal with the guilt and sadness that is coming along with weaning us both off this magical time."
Emily Maynard Johnson
The former Bachelorette opened up to People about how she got mastitis — an infection of the breast tissue that can lead to pain and swelling, according to the Mayo Clinic — and wasn't able to nurse anymore.
"Breastfeeding is really hard," she explained to People in 2017. "I breastfed Ricki, I breastfed Jennings for a while and then Gibson, it’s so hard with other kids running around. I got mastitis which is like the worst, worse than childbirth I feel like. I didn’t want to tell anybody that I quit. I was trying to hide formula... I saw all of these beautiful breastfeeding pictures, I don’t know if I would post a picture like that, but I would love the option. I wanted to so bad."
Back in 2016, Chrissy Teigen spoke with Entertainment Tonight about how much time and energy breastfeeding truly requires.
"The feeding schedule surprised me a lot. If you kind of do the math, you’re kind of breastfeeding for 10 hours a day total,” she told Entertainment Tonight following the birth of her daughter, Luna. "It’s very loving and sweet, but it’s not easy. They just use you for your milk and you just feel like you are just a cow all day. It’s hard to work your entire day around getting her the nourishment she needs because they are just little animals."
Amanda Seyfried previously shared on the Informed Pregnancy podcast that she had a difficult time with breastfeeding following the birth of her daughter.
"I was ready to quit about five days in because it was a searing pain and I couldn’t get a good latch," Seyfried said, as SheKnows reported. The actress added in the same interview that she also struggled with mastitis, but she and her daughter eventually found a good groove, saying at the time: "She’s getting milk and she’s gaining weight like a champ."
After she gave birth to her daughter, Emily Blunt opened up about how breastfeeding became a full-time job.
"After we got home from the hospital, I didn’t shower for a week, and then John and I were like, ‘Let’s go out for dinner,’" Blunt told InStyle. "I could last only about an hour because my boobs were exploding. When the milk first comes in, it’s like a tsunami. But we went, just to prove to ourselves that we could feel normal for a second."
In February 2018, following the birth of her daughter, Lauren Paul got candid on Instagram about her struggles with breastfeeding, specifically coming down with mastitis more than once.
"This post labor chapter has been rough at times. Recovering from labor is no joke. I’m definitely on the mend in that department but...breastfeeding. Oh man," she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post at the time. "While it’s been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, I have developed Mastitis twice within 3 weeks." Paul went on to share that the infection made her the "sickest [she's] ever felt" and "the pain and aches were unbelievable."
"I wanna give a big virtual hug to all the mammas out there who have had any type of issue breastfeeding or are dealing with anything physically or emotionally difficult, be it with you or your child. You are not alone," she wrote.
Back in May, following the birth of her daughter Banks, Hilary Duff shared on Instagram that she was done breastfeeding after six months. "My goal was to get my little girl to six months and then decide if I (and her of course) wanted to keep going," she wrote on Instagram at the time. "Let me tell you. Pumping at work sucks. I had zero down time and am usually pumping in a hair and make up trailer while four hands work to get me ready for the next scene with lots of other people around. Even if I had the luxury to be in my own room, it’s not even considered a 'break' because you have to sit upright for the milk to flow into the bottles!" Duff's post continued:
Even if I had the luxury to be in my own room, it’s not even considered a “break” because you have to sit upright for the milk to flow into the bottles! Plus you are having your damn nipples tugged at by an aggressive machine that makes an annoying sound, that echoes through your head day and night (I swear that machine and I had many conversations at midnight and 3 am)! Ttttthen having to find someplace to sterilize bottles and keep your milk cold... Your milk supply drastically drops when you stop feeding as often and lose the actual contact and connection with your baby... With all of this complaining, I want to say I enjoyed (almost) every moment of feeding my daughter. Felt so lucky to be so close to her and give her that start. I know many women are not able to and for that I am sympathetic and very grateful that I could. For six wonderful months. But I needed a break. I was going to break. With the stress of a dropping milk supply and a baby that was getting bored or not caring about nursing when I was available to. I was sad and frustrated and feeling like a failure all of the time. When really I’m a bad *ss rock star. Moms get high on feeling like superwoman...because we are!
Kristen Bell understands the trouble of being out without her daughters nor a pump... and having milk come in. In her YouTube Series, Momsplaining, she revealed that husband Dax Shepard once had to "suck out" the extra milk while they were out of the house.
"I said to my husband, ‘I really need you to suck this out. We could talk about it, we could be weird about it, or you could just go ahead and nurse," she said, according to Cosmopolitan. "He pulled it out. He had a cup next to him. He was pulling out and spitting into this cup, and I’ve never been more in love in my life."
In 2015, about one year after she welcomed her daughter Charlotte, Chelsea Clinton opened up to E! News about how difficult it is to balance breastfeeding as a working mom.
"I think the one thing that I did find challenging was when I went back to work full-time. I still was breastfeeding and I was pumping and I was so committed to insuring I could keep doing that for Charlotte, and balancing those logistics was really hard," she told E! News at the time, adding that while they figured out a system that worked well for them, it "took a while." Clinton added in the same interview, "It also just took lots of, like... it's swallowing my pride and being comfortable with pumping in airport bathrooms and kind of wherever I needed to get it done."
Despite how much she wanted to breastfeed, Whitney Port opened up on her web series, I Love My Baby But..., that the pain was enough to make her stop within two days.
"After about 24 to 48 hours of doing it, it just started to get so incredibly painful," she said in 2017. "And we came home [from the hospital] and I just hit a breaking point and said, ‘I can’t do this. It feels as though someone is slicing my nipples with glass.'"
As these celebrities' openness show, breastfeeding is often a challenging process and each parent's experience with it, whether it's a struggle or not, is beautifully unique.