Whenever we see photos of Valerie "Bangs" Garcia on Instagram, we think her life in London as Mrs. Lloyd Birchmore is perfect.
It's been more than two months since she gave birth to her daughter, Baby Amelia, via cesarean section.
And though she has been enjoying motherhood immensely, she admits to having her own struggles.
In a two-part Instagram post on Wednesday, February 14, Bangs recounts one of the biggest challenges she faced: breastfeeding.
The 30-year-old actress writes, "I thought I couldn’t, but I did. It really hurts in the beginning, but it’s tolerable.
"The struggle is REAL, indeed.
"#Breastfeeding doesn’t come so naturally to all mothers, different strokes for different folks; but with perseverance, it’s possible."
BREASTFEEDING PROBLEMS. At first, Bangs thought every thing was going smoothly.
She recalls, "I appreciate that the midwives here in UK taught me how to make Amelia latch on me as soon as I gave birth.
"I remember she kept falling asleep whilst feeding at the hospital so I had to massage her in circular motion at the end of her jawline right below her ear to help her carry on latching.
"I fed her every hour or 2 and I thought she’s becoming better at it every day ‘til early morning of the 5th day, and then she just completely stopped and I didn’t know why."
It turned out Baby Amelia was not getting enough milk from her.
"We weren’t discharged right away from the hospital because I had an infection after my C-section, little did I know that my breast milk was affected whilst I was getting treated with antibiotics and diminished my supply; it explains why Amelia got so frustrated and stopped latching during our last day there.
"In addition to that, the pressure that midwives had put upon me to breastfeed even when she’s repelling my breasts due to my lack of milk production just magnified all the pain and exhaustion I went through from labor and surgery at that time."
But despite all the stress she had then, all she wanted was to breastfeed her daughter.
Hence, she resorted to manually pumping out her breast milk for Baby Amelia. This she did for two hours.
And after suffering from painful spasms, she was rushed to the hospital.
Bangs relates, "I was seriously burnt-out. It had caused me a great deal of distress, I weeped my heart out thinking that I’m a bad mum for not being able to produce much milk for her.
"The thought of feeding Amelia with formula was dreadful for me to accept, but seeing her sob from hunger was agonizing so I had to give in.
"I tried to manually pump my breasts whilst watching breastfeeding videos on YouTube to get tips in desperation after two days of getting discharged from the hospital.
"Unfortunately, I’ve only gotten 10ml milk for straight 2 hours of pumping and it had caused me the most horrible spasm of my life!
"My husband was at work, but luckily, my mother-in-law lives 5 minutes away from ours and she had to call an ambulance for me. Yes, it was that bad!
"Pain much worse than labor pain because it was constant for a few hours. I was so horrified, I thought it had something to do with my surgery and my infection."
OVERCOMING THE STRUGGLES. The experience was "traumatizing," and the idea of giving her baby formula milk was hard for Bangs.
On a separate post, Bangs wrote, "I got traumatized and I was daunted to #breastfeed for a few weeks, and I thought it’s useless to feed her with my milk if I only get such little amount.
"I had to deal with the fact that I might have to feed her exclusively with formula.
"I was still anxious to breastfeed that’s why I started seeking for advice from other mothers and I’ve done some research.
"I have learned that it doesn’t matter if she gets only little amount of my milk and feed her with formula as well, it would still mean a lot because breast milk is like 100 times more nutritious than formula milk.
"I’ve also learned that mix feeding isn’t gonna make you less of a mother, I was just too fastened on my illusion of a 'Perfect Mother,' and there’s no such thing."
She didn't give up, kept on trying, and eventually tried an electric breast pump.
"I just had to learn to ACCEPT reality and ADJUST to my situation. I decided to pump again, I found myself producing more milk and it finally got me enthusiastic to breastfeed.
"I found it very tiring to manually pump, so I asked my husband to buy me an electric one. He’s very supportive, he immediately bought me one and I honestly think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever asked for! I’m so pleased with it.
"Since I was feeding Amelia exclusively with formula for almost a month, I found her getting lazy to latch on my breasts at times coz she much prefers her bottle teats for lesser effort in getting milk. But it’s alright for as long as I pump my milk out and she still drinks them from her bottle then I’m very happy with it."
Aside from this, Bangs has been taking supplements which help her produce more milk for her baby.
The actress wrote, "I’ve also been taking supplements like PregnaCare and Fenugreek to help me improve my milk supply, and I always make sure that I eat and drink fluids very well; but I honestly couldn’t fill an entire bottle up yet."
Towards the end of her Instagram post, Bangs reiterated the important lessons she has learned so far as she goes through her journey to motherhood.
"As I’ve said, different strokes for different folks, perhaps my supply would be much better when I have my second child. Nevertheless, it’s my choice to still continue breastfeeding Amelia.
"It’s good to always strive and try our best for our little one and that facet alone makes any mum a very good mother already.
"It’s always about Acceptance & Adjustment, then you will soon find yourself taking any aspect of #motherhood in stride."