The pressures new moms face to breastfeed at all costs was amplified in last week's episode of TLC's "Little People, Big World," a reality series that follows the lives of the Roloff family. Audrey and Jeremy Roloff welcomed their now 8-month-old baby, Ember Jean Roloff, in the two-hour special, where Audrey's feelings about formula feeding were revealed.
The new mom has shared very specific plans about motherhood, including the goal to exclusively breastfeed Ember. In the episode, she explained that Ember had a hard time gaining weight and, during her 1-week checkup, she told the doctor that she was breastfeeding her daughter every hour throughout the night. The doctor said Audrey and Jeremy would need to supplement with formula if Ember wasn't getting fed enough through breast milk.
But the mom wasn't into formula feeding.
"I was very adamant about breastfeeding exclusively. Formula is like a sin," she said. "I never thought I would do that, but at the same time I need to feed my baby so we have to do it."
This sense that breastfeeding is the only option for her child has also been discussed on her social media, where she's very open about her struggles with breastfeeding. Audrey suffered from severe engorgement, clogged ducts and mastitis. The parents also later found out that Ember had a significant lip and tongue tie, a condition that can restrict the baby's ability to breastfeed effectively.
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but the pain that I've experienced while breastfeeding has been comparable to unmedicated labor contractions. Inevitably, all of this has left me feeling like I am failing my baby, frustrated, discouraged, and heart-ached. But even though the tearful sleepless nights persist, so will I. I will continue to pour myself out in sacrificial love for this baby girl who makes every hurt worth enduring. And not by my strength or striving, but in Christ alone," Audrey wrote on Instagram a few weeks after the birth.
Not surprisingly, Audrey's comments have angered some viewers, who saw her words as deeply shaming of formula-feeding moms.
Breastfeeding can be exhausting and emotionally draining, and that's just one difficult aspect of motherhood. Mothers may not be able to or may choose not to breastfeed for various reasons, and there's no shame in that. Audrey, whose platforms reach millions, does finally seem to get that, though she hasn't yet officially made a statement about her remarks on the episode.
"l always thought breastfeeding was a choice. But after Ember was born, l realized that for some people, it’s not a choice," she wrote on Instagram, a couple of months after Ember's birth.
And at Ember's 6-month checkup, Audrey celebrated how her baby hit the 90th percentile on "pure mama milk" despite the struggles, adding that "breastfeeding is a blessing ... don't compare your story to mine or anyone else's."
Hopefully, it's a sentiment moms will hear more often—that is, there's no reason to compare. Every mom, just like every baby, is different.