Ashley Tisdale on her 'difficult' breastfeeding journey: 'I was putting a lot of pressure on myself trying to make it work'

New mom Ashley Tisdale opens up about her breastfeeding woes, postpartum life and the sweet significance of daughter Jupiter's name. (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
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Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of childrearing.

A certain Disney Channel queen is now knee-deep in diapers, having welcomed daughter Jupiter Iris French on March 23. Just a few weeks into motherhood, Ashley Tisdale has become a candid source for the challenges of postpartum life, from feeling pressure to physically bounce back, to battling exhaustion, to struggling to breastfeed her newborn.

"I think one of the biggest challenges so far in motherhood was that Jupiter didn't latch," the singer and actress tells Yahoo Life. "I was trying to do breastfeeding and I had planned to do it for at least a couple months — I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it for a long time — but from the very beginning in the hospital, she didn't latch. And so it was kind of a difficult journey.

"A lot of people don't even really tell you how difficult it is," she adds. "It's not something that is very easy, but it was just even more difficult for us because she was very frustrated and then I would get stressed and felt frustrated. Coming home and trying for two weeks, I just felt like I was really striving in that area versus thriving."

Here, Tisdale opens up about how that struggle led to her introducing her baby to Enfamil formula — a decision she calls a "no brainer." Read on to see why she considers the fourth trimester more difficult than labor and find out the special meaning behind her baby's planet-inspired name.

First of all, how are you feeling?

I am feeling great. I am feeling good. You get past those first two weeks and you start to feel a little bit normal. So I'm feeling really, really good. I'm excited. Mother's Day is this weekend, and it's my first Mother's Day, so it's pretty awesome.

Do you have any special plans for the day?

We actually are going to have my husband's family over and we're going to do a brunch outside, so we're pretty excited.

How did you make the decision to switch to formula after struggling to nurse?

I just wasn't having the experience that a lot of moms do when feeding their babies, and I felt that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself trying to make it work. I was like, "You know what? I just feel like this is too much." And I just said to my husband that I really don't want her to have this experience feeding. She's frustrated, and I had to use a nipple shield, and it was just not the best situation for us.

When looking at formulas, I was excited to partner with Enfamil... She obviously loved it and had such a better experience with it. It really let a lot of pressure off. As a new mother you're going through a lot in those first two weeks, just mentally and physically and hormone changes, and so to take one thing off that was stressing me out just felt good. To be honest, you really do have that same experience with the baby as you were breastfeeding. Yes, it's not from your boob, but sitting there and being able to stare at your baby and looking at each other's eyes is still the same experience. I felt it got to that point where she definitely was having a better time feeding.

You've posted on Instagram about not realizing how hard the fourth trimester can be. What have been some of the biggest postpartum challenges?

Physically, there's a lot that you go through and I talked about it in that post. I think that no one really prepares you. Like, labor is the main thing; you go in there and you're getting tested and you make sure everything's great. And everything's going up to the birth of the baby, and what you need to do while you're pregnant and what you're going to go through, but no one really prepares you for that fourth trimester. I just felt like, you have the baby and there's no one to turn to [laughs]. I'm like, wait!

It just felt to me like the first two weeks after having the baby was more that I went through than the labor itself and pregnancy. It's just really difficult. For your body, the fluids are coming out and you're mentally exhausted and you're also having all these different hormone changes. You're just kind of going through it. And I had a lot of pain in my back that I wasn't really aware of what was happening; I felt very alone because I couldn't figure out what it was from. And a lot of people like chiropractors and doctors were like, "This is not a normal postpartum symptom" because it was back pain and nausea. I felt like I was in the first trimester again. I was like, "This is so weird." But I found out it was acid reflux, which is very strange.

So you're going through all this stuff. And then on top of that, you have your baby and you're adjusting to your new life of trying to figure out that schedule. Then obviously the added pressure of the breastfeeding not working out was really difficult as well — and emotionally difficult too, because you always obviously want to be providing for your baby and making it easy for them, and she was just having a frustrating time eating. I was just like, "What do I do?"

So I think it's just something that no one really prepares you for and not a lot of friends tell you about. I had one friend tell me, "Just so you know, it's definitely the hardest part." And I was like, "What?!" I was thinking that once the baby's out, it's the easiest, but it was a difficult time. I'm obviously on the other side now and we have a schedule and it just feels so much better... But I just think that whatever you can do to ease up any kind of stress and pressure [helps].

There's been a lot of celebrity moms speaking out about "snapback culture" and this pressure on new moms to emerge from labor looking like a supermodel. Is that on your radar?

Oh my God, yes. You see so many people — especially the models that just had babies — they look, like, completely normal after two weeks [laughs] and I'm just like, "Wow, that's amazing."

I love social media and to connect with my followers and my community and my fans. And it's such a positive step, but then there's some things that you see and you compare yourself. And so I did catch myself comparing my journey to someone else's — I had no idea what their journey was, but just [thinking], "Oh, she looks like she's fitting in her jeans from before she had the baby or got pregnant [laughs]."

So I just kind of had to stop myself and be like, you know what? We all feel differently. We all go through different journeys; no one's journey is the same. And to have patience. Patience has come up a lot in my postpartum period. It's learning patience with my child, and it's also learning patience with myself and my body. And it's one of the hardest things I have [dealt with] — I'm someone who, when I want something or want to do something, I'm like, "let's go." I'm very motivated, and I'm very driven, and it's helped a lot in my career, but at the same time, [patience is] just something I really have had to learn, and it's something I'm constantly learning from. I think it's very important to just have patience with yourself.

And what is the significance of Jupiter's name?

I actually came up with it about a year and a half before we started trying for a baby. When I was thinking about getting pregnant, we obviously didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl, so I just came up with it. I remember the moment — I think I was traveling for work somewhere, but I don't remember what inspired me about it... but I came up with that name and then I thought about the song my mom used to sing to me when I was younger. She used to pull up my stockings and the song goes "reach for the stars/there goes Jupiter/here comes Mars."

And then it turns out my mother-in-law actually used to sing that to my husband too — crazy. But Jupiter is such a powerful planet and I was just like, "It's so beautiful, I love the name," and my husband loved the name. And then once we found out she was a girl, my husband came up with her middle name. It's very unique, that's for sure.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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