Celebrities sound off on breastfeeding and formula shaming: 'There should be no judgment'

·7 min read
Ciara, Ashley Graham, Jamie Chung, Rachel Bilson and other celebrity moms share their feeding journeys. (Photos: Getty)
Ciara, Ashley Graham, Jamie Chung, Rachel Bilson and other celebrity moms share their feeding journeys. (Photos: Getty)

Breast, bottle, whatever: How You Feed is a shame-free series on how babies eat.

There's no question that fame comes with a ton of privilege. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of feeding a baby, and the challenges that entails, celebrities are like any other parents. They get clogged ducts and mastitis. They struggle with a low milk supply or find breastfeeding to be "the most difficult part of this mom journey." They stress out about running out of the formula their child needs. They get hassled about traveling with breast milk, and called out for nursing in public. They fight to normalize breastfeeding, or push back against the stigma about using formula when nursing doesn't go to plan.

Ahead of launching How You Feed, Yahoo Life spoke to a number of celebrity moms about their own personal feeding journeys — the good, the bad and the painful. Actress Rachel Bilson opened up about her experience with extended breastfeeding and the critical responses she sometimes received when people learned she'd nursed her daughter for nearly three years.

"There's such a taboo about breastfeeding — like, ‘oh my God, your kid was almost 3?’ It was like, ‘Yeah. And you know what? She was healthy, she was happy and we both slept better. It worked for us,'" Bilson shared. "I’d definitely get that reaction sometimes where it's like, ‘Oh my God, you breastfed for that long?’"

The former O.C. star, whose daughter Briar Rose is now almost 8, noted that by that point, the toddler "wasn't feeding on my boob all day." But nursing her daughter at bedtime was an important part of their nightly routine — "and we were both happier for it," she added. Bilson added that her struggles with weaning — and the "absolute torture" of hearing her child cry for that nighttime feed — also factored into her putting it off. Ultimately, she feels strongly that society should be more open-minded about the choices parents make when it comes to whether or not they nurse, or for how long.

"It should be the woman's choice and there should be no judgment," she said.

Mom of two Lauren Conrad echoed that sentiment, telling Yahoo Life that when it comes to feeding, "everybody's journey is so different."

In Conrad's case, that journey involved breastfeeding her two sons, and then pumping when she went back to work. As her milk supply began to diminish, the former Hills and Laguna Beach star started "supplementing here and there" with formula.

"I did a combination of both, and that was what worked for me," Conrad shared. "It's hard, though. I think that's one of the struggles that people aren't really ready for, and I think that there's weirdly a lot of shame involved, which there shouldn't be. It's such a personal choice and I think it's important just to support mothers in however they want to do it."

Supermodel Ashley Graham has also been supplementing with formula since welcoming twin boys in January. While Graham, who also shares a 2-year-old son with husband Justin Ervin, has long been a proponent of breastfeeding — "I can just feed my kids whenever they're hungry, because I'm there," she told Yahoo Life — meeting the demand of two hungry babies proved overwhelming.

"We do breastmilk and we do formula," shared Graham, who joined the Bobbie formula brand's MotherBoard collective this summer. "We do both because, just as one human being, I cannot keep up with two very savage babies."

While feeding twins has presented challenges, it's also given Graham some new mama skills. As the model has shared on her social media, she's mastered the art of tandem feeding her boys at the same time.

"When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I didn't know that you could breastfeed two babies at the same time," she admitted. "It took a while [to learn] ... but once you figure it out, boom!"

Mom of three Ciara has also seen her relationship with breastfeeding evolve with each new child. Speaking to Yahoo Life, the singer noted that she was "in a different season in my life" for each experience. Eldest son Future, now 8, was breastfed until he was 4 months old — around the time Ciara and his father, the rapper Future, ended their engagement and the "Goodies" performer needed to dive back into work.

"When it was Future and I, I was single momming it, so for my four-month mark, my mind was like, 'let's go,'" she said of the more streamlined experience.

Ciara went on to marry NFL quarterback with Russell Wilson, and the couple welcomed daughter Sienna, now 5, in 2017.

"When Sienna was in my life, I was in a different place in my life," she shared. "Life had blossomed a bit more and I was with the love of my life and all that good stuff. And so when I had to finish breastfeeding Sienna, I was more emotional in my process."

The baby of the family, 2-year-old Win, was born in the summer of 2020, which meant his musical mom had more time to devote to nursing.

"I breastfed him for 10 months, because the pandemic had me stuck up in the house and I was like, you know what? I am going to go as long as I can go. I'm just going to challenge myself," she told Yahoo Life. "And there were a lot of sleepless nights because you have to wake up, you have to pump and then their [feeding] gaps change. ... You literally are like, ain't nothing this women can't do. That is like a beast, waking up every two hours, breastfeeding your baby.

"I was really proud that I could go to 10 months; that was definitely a huge accomplishment for me," she added. "And it's been a blessing to be able to do that with my babies. I look at it also as a really sweet bonding opportunity as well. It’s a blessing and it's a gift."

But nursing isn't for every parent. When Glee actress and Ladygang co-host Becca Tobin and her husband welcomed son Ford via a gestational surrogate in February, she resisted pressure to try to breastfeed him herself through the process of induced lactation.

​"​I had an interesting conversation with my mom of all people, who we joke should be the president of La Leche," Tobin told Yahoo Life. "We had kind of a tense conversation when she asked me if I was going to attempt to breastfeed. And I just said, 'No, I don't think so, it's not for me.' And women are not used to hearing other women say that, because we're sort of programmed to be martyrs. And we're programmed to put ourselves through it, no matter what it is — physically, mentally, emotionally — for the greater good of your child. And what I've found out is that actually, what's best for your child is what's best for the parents."

Tobin explained that she was "really confident" in using formula to feed her son, though she noted that the ongoing formula shortages have been "really heartbreaking and terrifying," especially for those still struggling with the strain of pandemic parenting.

"We can't catch a break," she said.

The formula crisis hit close to home for Jamie Chung, whose twin boys were also delivered by a surrogate. While the actress considered herself lucky to have only been briefly hit by shortages as her sons start on solids, she found it "really upsetting" to see people hoarding cans of baby formula — with some selling them at a mark-up to desperate parents.

Chung also bristled at suggestions that moms who can't find formula should "just breastfeed" — advice that doesn't take into consideration the health needs or limited breastfeeding options for countless families including hers.

"I read like, 'just breastfeed.' It's not that easy," she told Yahoo Life.

Don't forget to #ShareHowYouFeed! Tag us to share your own feeding journey.

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