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Mom's breastfeeding photo tells story of struggle and love for twin daughters

After having difficulty breastfeeding her newborn twins, a California mom posted her experience to Instagram to give other moms hope.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

Elaina Bellis gave birth to two healthy twin girls in March, but when breastfeeding wasn’t going the way she imagined it would, the California mom decided to open up about her struggles in a post to her Instagram account.

The viral post shows Bellis tandem breastfeeding her two daughters, Quincy and Rowe. In the caption, Bellis speaks candidly about her emotional experience with feeding her newborn twins.

“I pump all day to be able to provide my girls with one ounce of my milk,” Bellis writes in the post. “And I've accepted that's the best I can do. All I can give them is my love and that's most important.”

“Breastfeeding was really weighing on my mind, and I just felt really called to share that I’d had these beautiful girls and everyone was healthy and that was great. But, even though I’d had the happy ending I wasn’t feeling happy because of how much I was struggling to breastfeed,” Bellis told TODAY Parents. “It was just devastating for me, and I felt called to share my experience.”

This isn’t the first time Bellis has used her Instagram account as a way to share her story with others — Bellis and her partner, James Branaman, openly shared about their son Lincoln’s stillbirth in 2014. Sharing the story helped the couple heal in their time of loss, Bellis said.

“It was really encouraging to share with our friends that our son was here, and he wasn’t with us anymore,” said Bellis. “It just really opened the door for me to process things and be really honest with my friends and with myself.”

Bellis says her posts about her stillbirth connected her with women all over the world who had been through similar losses, some of whom are still close friends today. Those connections made Bellis want to tell her breastfeeding story as well, so that moms struggling with nursing their babies would know they are not alone.

“I feel like often times, women portray that their motherhood experience is rainbows and sunshine and maybe it is for them, and that’s their truth,” said Bellis. “But for me, I was having that sometimes, but other times I was having these huge emotional breakdowns because of breastfeeding.”

Bellis believes that her traumatic birth experience contributed to her low milk supply. After learning that one of her twins had a prolapsed umbilical cord, meaning the cord was coming out of Bellis' cervix and cutting off circulation to the baby, she was rushed into an emergency C-section where she was put under anesthesia and lost a great deal of blood. The 29-year-old woke up several hours later to meet her twins.

“It was very traumatic, but everybody’s okay and I would do it again to have them,” said Bellis.

Friends of the couple have donated their own breast milk, and between those donations and the use of formula, Bellis says her daughters are happy and healthy, and that she feels peace with her decision to continue nursing when possible for bonding and comfort.

“The biggest lesson I learned from Lincoln is to let things go and to not have expectations,” said Bellis. “My daughters are fine. I got them here safely and that’s what matters most to me. As parents, we have to accept that what we can do is enough and beautiful and perfect for our child.”