First-time mom and TV star Heather El Moussa thought that breastfeeding would be a breeze with her three-week-old, Tristan Jay, whom she shares with longtime HGTV host Tarek El Moussa. But instead, she revealed in a new Instagram post, it’s been incredibly challenging due to some physical complications with the baby.
The “Selling Sunset” star, who will also star on HGTV’s “The Flipping El Moussas” beginning next month, shared that baby Tristan suffered from jaundice as well as “tongue, cheek and lip ties,” which can make it very hard for a baby to latch on during breastfeeding. That caused Tristan’s weight to drop, she said, which has added a great deal of stress to her first weeks of motherhood.
Fortunately, though, El Moussa said things are beginning to improve thanks to intervention from lactation experts she affectionately nicknamed her “baby fairies.” El Moussa’s social media followers have rallied around her, flooding her new post with words of support and suggestions for the road ahead.
Heather El Moussa Says She Spent Many Nights Crying Over Breastfeeding Challenges
El Moussa, 35, has alluded to her struggles with breastfeeding since Tristan’s arrival on January 31, 2023, and has periodically asked fans to share their own experiences. But her post on February 20 – with two photos of her snuggling with her newborn on a deck at their California home — was the first time she’d shared specific details of her own “breastfeeding journey.”
“Have been in mama hibernation mode for the past couple weeks but soaking up some fresh air today with my lovey,” she wrote. “As promised, I want to talk to you guys about my breastfeeding journey because it’s definitely been a journey !! I thought…. I’ll just pop him on my boob and feed him anytime. Ya no!!!”
El Moussa continued, “Tristan had tongue tie, cheek tie, lip tie and jaundice which were all caught very early on thanks to my incredible lactation specialist and @tonguetietribe, they’re literally baby fairies. I’m so lucky to have found them for the knowledge & support … but it made it very hard for him to latch & suck and it made it so that he was burning a lot of calories because it was so hard for him to eat so his weight was dropping.”
If babies don’t get enough breast milk in their first days of life, according to breastfeeding advocacy organization Le Leche League International, “physiologic jaundice” can occur because bilirubin isn’t adequately flushed out of their systems. It’s common among babies who can’t adequately latch on to the breast for sustained feedings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ankyloglossia – also known as tongue-tie – restricts the tongue’s range of motion because “an unusually short, thick or tight band of tissue (lingual frenulum) tethers the bottom of the tongue’s tip to the floor of the mouth.” That can cause the baby to be unable to move his or her tongue or keep it in the right position for breastfeeding.
Lip-tie and cheek-tie are related, similar conditions, according to the New York Times, which reported in 2019 that up to 10 percent of newborns have some form of tongue-tie. To correct the issue, doctors can perform a frenotomy – a surgical procedure in which they give the baby a topical anesthetic and then “snip the frenulum underneath the tongue to release it.” El Moussa revealed that things have improved with baby Tristan since “getting his tongue-tie fixed.”
“We’re now 2 weeks past getting his tongue tie fixed and he’s latching so well on the left side and we’re still working on the right side using non-traditional positions which were shown to me by the baby fairies,” she wrote.
“Having a lactation specialist and someone you can turn to is something I highly recommend if you choose to breastfeed,” El Moussa continued. “I had many tearful nights in the beginning because I’d be up at 3am trying to feed him & felt so defeated.”
Heather El Moussa Says She’s Trying to Practice Self-Care As She Adjusts to Motherhood
El Moussa also shared in her post that she’s doing her best to also take care of herself as she adjusts to motherhood.
She wrote, “Nutrition & hydration also needs to be a focus which is a little hard because when you’re breastfeeding & pumping non stop there’s not a ton of time to take care of yourself- you get so focused on your baby & that you really have to remember to take care of yourself so I have lots of water and special drinks like coconut water and greater than drinks. I also suggest getting on a meal plan if you don’t have time to cook especially in the beginning.”
In her Instagram Stories on February 13, El Moussa posted a photo of the liquid supplements she’s been drinking, including non-dairy cocoa cream, an Orgain organic nutritional shake, and coconut water. Over the photo, she asked fans to share their breastfeeding journeys with her. The next day, she posted a video in her Stories while holding Tristan, whispering that she’d been reading people’s responses and promising to share more details about her own experiences soon.
“Breastfeeding for me is definitely harder than I thought,” she said. “Harder but very gratifying and I love it.”
El Moussa reiterated in her February 20 post that despite the difficulties, that she loves breastfeeding and wants to continue despite the challenges.
“Even with all this going on, I genuinely love breastfeeding,” she wrote. “I love the skin to skin connection and think it’s such a beautiful bonding experience. It might be hard and challenging at the moment but it is such a special experience that I get to share with our baby boy and we’re working together to make it easier like we’re a little team.”
Many fans rallied around the new mom, flooding her post with supportive comments and stories of their own breastfeeding challenges.
One wrote, “You have no idea how many women you are going to HELP talking about your breastfeeding journey so far!! Ties have become this silly taboo topic with many being missed in bubs or brushed off. Thank-you for sharing. Well done for finding such an awesome tribe of people to help you.”
El Moussa replied with three heart emojis and wrote, “I’ve learned so much.”
Another person shared, “I’m a NICU nurse and I like to remind my moms that if it were easy there wouldn’t be support groups. Glad things are going better now.”