Kelly Stafford says it’s ‘painful to watch’ moms feel pressure to breastfeed: ‘The conversation about formula needs to change’
August marks National Breastfeeding Month, reminding us that for every Coco Austin — who recently confirmed she’s still breastfeeding her 5-year-old daughter, Chanel — there’s a parent struggling to feed their child.
In the case of new dad Tan France, who just welcomed a son through a surrogate mother, it’s because he and his husband Rob are both men. For Bachelor education alum Lesley Anne Murphy, a preventive double mastectomy prevented her from breastfeeding daughter Nora. And for Kelly Stafford — who stars alongside France, Murphy and new mom Hannah Bronfman in a new campaign aimed at breaking the stigma faced by parents feeding their infants — the problem is more mental than physical; as a mother of four girls, including twins, she found breastfeeding an emotionally draining experience that made her “miserable.”
Stafford, wife of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, speaks out about her personal frustrations with breastfeeding in the first national ad for the bobbie brand organic infant formula. With his new “How’s food?” platform (as opposed to “how’s breastfeeding?”), the brand hopes to “evolve the conversation about how we feed our babies.”
For Stafford, 32, that meant entering her fourth pregnancy – youngest daughter Tyler, now 1, was born last summer – knowing she would no longer try to breastfeed. She tells Yahoo Life that she had nursed her three older daughters, but struggled throughout the process.
“I would try to nurse them at the same time, which was a bit of a disaster,” she says of nursing twins Chandler and Sawyer, now 5. “I just remember sweating constantly, and for how often newborns feed, that’s a lot to sweat .”
She switched to pumping exclusively when the girls were 3 or 4 weeks old, and lasted about eight months.
“I just said, ‘You know what, I can’t do this,'” she says. “It just didn’t work for me, and it didn’t work for them either. They gasped, but only to calm down. And I always worried if they were getting enough milk because if they didn’t get enough milk, they won’t sleep and then they’re off schedule and it’s a disaster.”
But pumping came with its own problems. She was pumping up to 96 grams per day and felt she needed “an extra hand” to operate the pump while caring for two babies. But when third daughter Hunter arrived in 2018, she reasoned the process might be easier with just one mouth to feed. That was not the case.
“There was a little — I wouldn’t say busy, but you know, my family is a little old-fashioned and my mom said, ‘Well, you just have to try it. It’s only one this time, it’ll be easier.’ I tried it and I think that lasted about a week and I went right back to pumping,” Stafford recalls, adding that this time she was pumping for about two and a half months. “At that time, my twins were 17 months old. old and I just couldn’t handle it, so I went to formula with Hunter at 3 months.”
Between her third and fourth babies, Stafford faced a health crisis, with it being announced in April 2019 that she had been diagnosed with a benign brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma; she underwent surgery to remove the tumor that same month. While she tells Yahoo Life that she and her NFL star husband had already decided that if they had another child, “it would be a formula right away,” her health fears reinforced her desire to “be present” for her family. instead of being overwhelmed by the demands of nursing.
“It was the fear of not being with my kids,” she explains. “I just felt like I couldn’t do everything. I couldn’t breastfeed and be the mother I wanted to be to my other three. So that’s where I drew the line and said, ‘Okay, I feel like my family will I’d be better off choosing bottle feeding over breast milk.'”
As Stafford revealed in an Instagram post that garnered over 58,000 likes last year, the fourth baby Hunter has been bottle-fed from the start. She attributes that decision to helping her have a “happier” postpartum experience.
“Obviously, postpartum is very different for everyone, but for me, not really the fear and pressure to pump or breastfeed really helped me and my recovery,” she says. “I feel like I came back as a mother much faster than… [had I been] sits there on a pump all day. [In terms of her] mental health, I just feel like it really helped me recover and start the next chapter with all four of my kids in a better mindset… Just knowing there was no pressure on me to not just be a mom of to be three [older kids]But also breastfeeding and pumping for someone else, I think it really helped. And just being a happier person right after I deliver that fourth one [baby].”
The Bobbie campaign — in which her children also appear — resonated with her for its message not to pressure new moms (or in France’s case, dads) to fixate solely on breast milk. She is still confused when she recalls feeling “condemned” after telling the lactation consultants who visited her in the hospital after Tyler’s birth that she was neither breastfeeding nor expressing.
“I have a lot of friends who are becoming mothers for the first time and you can see the pressure they put on themselves,” she adds. “It hurts to see. You’ve been through so much as a parent for the first time…”
She says that “the conversation about the formula needs to change” to “reduce the pressure on all these parents a little bit”. emphasize that “feeding is best” – whether that means supplementing formula as needed or being careful with yourself when breastfeeding just isn’t working out. (While both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding for nutrition and obesity prevention, they each provide guidelines for safe infant feeding, with the latest’s HealthyChildren.org site, noting that “if needed, infant formula can provide excellent nutrition for your baby.”)
Since the campaign aired last Sunday, Stafford says she has been inundated with messages from fans thanking her for sharing her story and speaking out against the stigma of the formula. That support — and her current mindset — makes it easier to process her own feelings about her breastfeeding experience.
“I think to this day I still feel a little guilty,” she admits. “I don’t know if that’s the stigma that surrounds us, [the idea] that I don’t give my child the best because I am [physically] able to produce… For my overall stability it was the right decision for me.
“There’s a little bit of guilt involved, but I think what happened in my family’s life after I quit outweighs the guilt that could come from that… It just made a huge difference when I quit.”