Health

How Ashley Tisdale Rejected the Pressure to Breastfeed and ‘Bounce Back’ After Giving Birth

Ashley Tisdale is getting quite good at doing what she needs to do to eliminate unnecessary stress from her life. The new mom, who gave birth to baby girl Jupiter in March, credits her strong meditation practice with helping her be present and tame her anxiety throughout pregnancy and the first few months of parenting, she tells SELF. 

Another crucial choice for her was refusing to buy into some of the ridiculous expectations that society puts on people who have just given birth. Take the assumption that breastfeeding is the right choice for everyone. “Are you breastfeeding?” is often one of the first things people ask Tisdale about her parenting, she says. “And I’m like, Why is that the first question?”

Pediatricians generally recommend breastfeeding for potential health benefits (like exposing the infant to antibodies), but many now also advocate for a “fed is best” stance (rather than “breast is best”) given that breastfeeding is not always a feasible option for physical, mental, or emotional reasons. 

Like many new parents, Tisdale had planned on breastfeeding, but Jupiter wouldn’t latch after nearly two weeks of trying. The experience was hard on both of them. “She was really frustrated, I was frustrated. She also got that hangry situation, which she probably got from me,” Tisdale says. “So it was building up all of this stress around feeding.”

At some point, a lightbulb went on for Tisdale: It doesn’t have to be this hard. “I remember turning to my husband in that moment, and I was like, ‘I feel like we’re striving versus thriving. I feel like there’s a lot of negativity around her feeding experience. I’m not having that positive experience, like, Oh, my gosh, looking into my baby’s eyes,’” Tisdale recalls. “And I felt intuitively like that’s not okay, it’s not right. She was clearly trying to tell me it’s just not happening.”

The switch to formula was both a huge relief and a milestone for the first-time parent. “Honestly, that was the biggest thing me and Jupiter have gone through,” says Tisdale, who is a spokesperson for Enfamil’s Enspire formula. “When we decided to formula-feed, it was the best thing I could have done. It was really pressure-lifting, and a great moment as a mom.”

Tisdale points out how, as with many of the harmful expectations women face, you can see the overemphasis on having the “perfect” breastfeeding experience all over Instagram. “I think it’s a very trendy thing to be showing your baby breastfeeding,” she says. “Okay, well, what about the people who don’t do that? Or it didn’t work out for them?”

Ironically, the singular focus on breastfeeding tends to increase the stigma around formula-feeding and may actually prevent parents from making the healthiest choices for them and their child. “We’re not really listening to our baby,” Tisdale explains. “We’re like, ‘This is what we’re supposed to do. This is what my friend does.’” She wants other new parents to remember, “There are other options, and they’re just as good.” Tisdale finds formula-feeding to be a very bonding time for her and Jupiter. “I get to have the experience with my daughter just as much as if I was breastfeeding, because she’s right there and I’m feeding her.”

Along with formula-feeding, Tisdale would like to normalize the fact that people’s bodies look different after giving birth. The actor has also recently learned to shrug off the unattainable, Instagram-perpetuated myth that she should be losing weight quickly and “getting back to” her pre-baby body. “There was that expectation because I had heard it from other people. I also saw people on Instagram that were new moms, and they looked like they were back into their bodies right away,” Tisdale says. “I was like, Oh, that’s just not my experience.”

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