Like most moms, Ashley Greene had certain expectations about what motherhood would look like. Ahead of welcoming daughter Kingsley last fall, the actress best known for playing vampire Alice Cullen in the Twilight franchise focused her attention on her pregnancy, figuring that "everything would fall into place" once the baby arrived.
"[I thought] the hard part was conceiving the child and making sure the pregnancy went well and getting through the birthing process, because I had a natural birth," she tells Yahoo Life. "So I kind of, like, planned everything up until that point and really didn't pay much attention to postpartum. And so then whenever I got to the fourth trimester, it was a bit of a rude awakening for me and it was really difficult for me, mentally and physically."
Greene calls her breastfeeding journey in particular a "rocky road" and a lesson that, despite all her plans, the new mom "didn't have much control over how my child was going to react." Kingsley had "a really painful latch" that made nursing challenging, while the star also struggled with the discomfort of pumping. At one point she resorted to exclusively pumping, which required her to spend two or three hours a day "sitting in my back room, feeling kind of alone and a little resentful while I was having to go and produce this milk."
Four months into motherhood, the actress — who is married to Australian TV personality Paul Khoury — has been able to resume breastfeeding in addition to pumping milk for Kingsley's bottles. Finding her groove as a nursing mom is down to two things, she says: Finding a "game-changer" breast pump, and learning to follow her instincts as a mother.
Currently working in partnership with Tommee Tippee, Greene says the brand's Made For Me In-Bra Wearable Breast Pump has made the pumping experience less painful, and more freeing. The portable pump fits into her bra and holds four hours of power, so "you're not plugged into a wall," the multitasking mom says. "It basically gives you the freedom to be able to pump." As a mom who admits crying over spilled breast milk ("it's gold!"), Greene says having a smoother, hands-free option has paved the way for a "shift even in just my mental health and happiness."
"I think it's a hard thing for people to understand unless you've been in that situation, but now that all of a sudden I have this freedom instead of this, like, anxiety surrounding it, it's huge," she says.
Along with finding the right equipment, Greene has also learned to trust that "I do know what's best for my child." That confidence took time for a mom who has tried to tune out unsolicited advice and social media toxicity as she navigates the challenges of motherhood.
"If I listen to my intuition, I'm going to know how to best raise her and she's also going to teach me what she wants," she says. "I was on every site and every book and on social media looking at how I'm supposed to raise my child and what was best and what were the signs and how was she developing. And I finally hit this point where I kind of stepped back and said, you know what? I'm just gonna listen to my child and I'm gonna figure this out. And it has been the biggest weight that has been lifted off of me; the pressure has been lifted off of me."
Social media, she notes, is "not necessarily the nicest place for a new mother."
"I think there's a lot of toxicity around it," the former Rogue star says. "There's a lot of judgment. There's a lot of 'if you are a parent whose style is different from the mainstream, then you're doing something wrong.' So I kind of had to take a step back and recognize that I would do what was best for my child. Now it's a much more pleasant experience. I'm also out now out of the fourth trimester, which is kind of like this light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like … there's a little bit more rhythm than there initially was."
Being surrounded by loved ones has helped.
"It took me a second to learn to really ask for help and accept it," Greene admits. "Because I think, again, there's like this innate thing that you just want to be able to do it all as a new mom. But it really does take a village. And so I had my parents and my husband's parents, and my husband has been a really, really great partner throughout this. And I'm super-grateful because even with the amount of help that I have with my family, it's still exhausting and it's still hard."
Greene will be leaning on that support system as she looks ahead to returning to work in the next couple of months. The actress and Hummingway founder expects to have a family member who can help out with Kingsley when she's on set, but she's still coming to grips with the thought of ending her maternity leave.
"I feel like I'm just getting the hang of this and I won't be ready to be separated from her [for a while]," she says. "Honestly, it's something that we're just gonna have to figure it out. I'm equal parts enjoying this [time with the baby] and I love working and love what I do, so I am excited to get back on set."
Greene recently opened up on Instagram about her fitness journey since giving birth.
"I think being able to take the time and having that moment to step away and go to the gym regularly again has definitely been extremely important to my overall well-being and mental health," she tells Yahoo Life. "It definitely gave me a sense of starting to feel more like myself."
But reacquainting herself with her new body has been challenging, too.
"I've never been more proud of my body and what it can do, but also it's almost like a foreign body at this part," Greene explains. "Like, everything is just so different and I'm rebuilding this foundation. During my workouts I said I've never felt weaker because I've never been out of the gym this long. I've always been into sports. And so kind of navigating this new life and this new body and this new world is something that I'm trying to be as gentle on myself as possible.
"I think it's really easy to say like, 'love your body, it did this for you,' but it is all of a sudden everything you once knew is now out the window and you're having to kind of have a reintroduction with yourself," she adds. "So I think for me it was important to be able to share that with people, that, you know, it's, I'm excited about being back in the gym, but also it's really frustrating every single time that I go. People are not alone, and it'll get better. I think we need more of that."
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