Bottled Up over Writing about Bottled Up
I heard Suzanne Barston, otherwise known as Fearless Formula Feeder, speak at BlogHer this summer, and I loved the post she read as part of the community keynote. I thought she made important points, but moreover, I found her reception in the room to be generally supportive and that — to me — spoke volumes since writing about formula feeding usually doesn’t make you the most popular kid on the block.
And even seeing the reception she received speaking about breastfeeding, I felt my stomach drop when she asked if I would review her new book, Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t. I remember, quite acutely, what happened the last time I wrote about breastfeeding about two years ago. And while I still stand firm to everything I said* and my thoughts haven’t changed, I also wasn’t keen to replay that experience.
I wanted to be fearless like Barston, but I went through quite a bit of quaking while trying to decide what to do.
That is sort of the point of the book, and I have to be honest, I really really wish this book had been around back in 2004 when I had to stop trying to breastfeed. (I have to preface that as trying to breastfeed because since no milk came out of my breasts, I can’t really say I stopped breastfeeding despite having a child’s mouth on my breast several times per day as well as being hooked up to a machine 8 times a day. There was no feeding or food consumption happening over here.) It would have gotten me through the emotional valley I dipped into when I returned the machine. It would have gotten me through the steam of commentary I received — mostly from strangers who felt the need to comment on the way I was feeding the twins when we were out of the house — from their birth to age two, when we switched to sippy cups and no one ever said anything about breast milk again.
Even though those days are behind me and I haven’t yet gotten a chance to live through those breastfeeding/formula feeding years again, I thought it was an important book to read right now to put closure on that time in my life. To understand how that time period feeds into the whole “you’re a terrible mother” syndrome that I think most women experience in multiple facets of their parenting over and over again. To see proof that we don’t have to give into the Mommy Wars that others set up for us, and we can interact without judgment with people who make decisions unlike our own.
I’m still in the middle of reading this book, but I wanted to mention it in case you are in a similar situation of struggling with the emotional fallout that comes from utilizing formula feeding over breastfeeding. Because the choice isn’t really left up to the parents sans judgment. There are women in Sweden who may end up paying an arm and leg for the ability to feed their child if legislation is passed making it unlawful to discount formula or offer free samples. Latch on NYC is making it more difficult for women to receive formula for their infant, for instance, “Nurses must document the dispensing of formula to new moms, citing a medical reason for its necessity.” When you make people jump through hoops in order to guide them to the decision you want them to make, you’re going to also make women feel the heat as they pass through those rings of fire. And frankly, giving up my own dreams of breastfeeding my children was hard enough without needing to navigate a hospital’s shame-inducing techniques or an outsider’s judgment.
It would be wonderful if we could get to a point where true support and not just lip service is given for those who wish to breastfeed, and where those who need or wish to use formula can do so without judgment, lectures, or hoops to jump through. When that happens, I’ll believe that we’re actually putting people and not agendas first. Until that day, I think those of us who need or wish to formula feed could use Barston’s book.
* I really don’t want to rehash those posts, but I also felt it rude to refer to posts that new readers may not know about so the link is to inform if you wish to read them and not discuss.