The struggle of balancing life with new motherhood is complicated and challenging no matter who you are—and sometimes there are big sacrifices that you have to make. Serena Williams was asked to stop breastfeeding by her coach and she’s opening up about the difficult decision.

Williams graces the cover of the latest issue of TIME magazine which includes an in-depth interview with the 36-year-old tennis champ. On the topic of motherhood, Williams discusses the challenges of balancing mom life with her pro tennis career and the sacrifices she has had to make to maintain her level of success.

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One of those big sacrifices came when her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, asked her to give up breastfeeding in order to get her back to full steam on the court. “I felt the decisions were taken through the angle of the family, where before, every decision was taken through the angle of tennis,” Mouratoglou explained to TIME. “This is a big difference. Even if you are Serena, if you want to be successful in tennis, tennis has to be priority No. 1.”

While Williams ultimately made the decision to stop breastfeeding her 11-month-old daughter, Olympia, it didn’t come easily. “You have the power to sustain the life that God gave her,” she said. “You have the power to make her happy, to calm her. At any other time in your life, you don’t have this magical superpower.”

The fact that the advice came from a male coach made it even harder to follow. “It’s absolutely hard to take from a guy,” Williams says. “He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her. I’ve spent my whole life making everyone happy, just servicing it seems like everyone. And this is something I wanted to do.”

Whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, doing what’s best for you and your family is always the right choice and no woman should be judged for it. Ultimately, Williams made peace with her decision. “I looked at Olympia, and I was like, ‘Listen, Mommy needs to get her body back, so Mommy’s going to stop now,’” she explained. “We had a really good conversation. We talked it out.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

Featured photo: Serena Williams via Instagram

 

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