Raising Awareness With Tandem Breastfeeding Photo That It's Sometimes Hard

Breastfeeding is made out to be magical. Not only is a mom giving her infant critical nutrients, but the two are also forming an invaluable bond. But what about when it's not so magical—like when the baby won't latch and when a new mother's nipples crack and bleed? Breastfeeding is not always easy, seldom effortless, and can cause undue stress on a nursing parent.

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Kylee Austin, a mother of three from Arizona, took to Instagram to talk about the difficult moments many nursing moms are beginning to speak out about, so other women don't feel so alone.

Awareness of Breastfeeding Rigors

"I'm hanging out my vulnerability for all to see, boobs, babies, diapers, stretch marks, feeding issues, insecurities, and all," Austin captioned a photo of her first attempt at tandem feeding her newborn twins.

She went on to debunk the belief that breastfeeding is effortless. "It's been an extreme stressor for me, feeling guilty that I couldn't get latching, that I never felt that 'magical bond' of breastfeeding, just pain, that I found it mentally and physically exhausting to keep up with it all."

The twins in the photo, Keegan and Kayden, are 1 now, and Austin's older son, Tristan, is 3. Though she misses her little ones being, well, little, there are a lot of things about those early months that she doesn't miss.

"I don't miss the mastitis so bad I literally thought I was going to die. I don't miss the cracked and bloody nipples, exhaustion and tears of frustration, or the envy of those that made it look so easy," she wrote. Mastitis is a bacterial infection in a milk duct, and it's a common result of nursing.

Support for Nursing Parents

Austin tells Health her experience breastfeeding Tristan was especially challenging because she gave birth to him in Japan, where her husband, Joshua, was stationed in the Air Force.

"There weren't a ton of resources available as far as lactation consultants or support groups," she says. "I felt like I was just pushed out of the hospital: 'There you go. You can figure it out.'"

It didn't take long for the tears of pain and frustration to start flowing, Austin recalls, which left her unable to breastfeed after four weeks.

When it came time to nurse her twins, Austin and her husband had moved to Arizona, and she surrounded herself with all of the information and support she could find. "I was determined to make it happen," she says. She breastfed them for five months while also supplementing her milk with formula.

Yet she admits the second time around wasn't much easier. "I never felt that magical feeling," she says. "When I'm with one baby on my breast and the other is laying there crying and sobbing, and I'm trying to wrangle a 2-year-old at the same time, there isn't really much time to enjoy that moment."

Austin might not have been able to breastfeed for as long as she hoped, but she says she has no regrets. "It was scary, and it was hard, but it was also the best experience of my life."

Not Alone With Breastfeeding Problems

She shares her journey navigating motherhood with her followers to help other new moms understand that the difficulties they might be dealing with are completely normal—and that they're certainly not alone.

"Give yourself a ton of grace," she advises moms who are struggling to nurse. "The more that you release yourself of the stress, guilt, and negative feelings, the better off your babies are, and the better off your bond is. Even the breastfeeding gets easier."

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