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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.

13 comments

1 Mud Hut Mama { 11.10.12 at 3:30 pm }

Oh, I’m interested in reading this book. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my first and I felt like a terrible mother for a long time because of it. It was really hard to let go of. I remember thinking I couldn’t get pregnant without help and now I can’t feed my child without help. It was not an empowering way to begin parenthood.

2 Chickenpig { 11.10.12 at 4:08 pm }

I can’t believe that women who want or need to formula feed/supplement are being made to jump through hoops of any kind. We are adults and are capable of making decisions regarding the raising of our children…period. Society should only have the power to step in in the case of abuse or neglect, and I’m sorry, no matter how some people try to equate formula feeding with abuse, it’s not. I breastfed all three of my children, but I also supplemented with formula with my twins, and I for one appreciated the free samples and coupons, as well as the bottle feeding advice since I didn’t know anything about it.

3 Mic @ Life on K St. { 11.10.12 at 6:14 pm }

I always love it when you share your thoughts on this topic. I can’t wait to read the book. Over 2 years after I formula fed Kaitlin, the topic rarely comes up in conversation. But when it does, just like IF, those wounds still rest on the surface.

4 tigger62077 { 11.10.12 at 6:26 pm }

Your posts from back then are what got me through not being able to breastfeed The Boy. They were my shelter, my weapon, when I needed a way to tell people what my plans were and why…and then when I turned out I needed that alternative plan, they were what kept me from leaping over the edge. I will put this book in my back pocket, so to speak, for future friends who get pregnant who may have issues.

5 Cristy { 11.10.12 at 7:52 pm }

My heart broke from reading your breast feeding post. Shame on that nurse and medical staff for making you feel like a terrible mother AND for putting your children’s needs second to their idea of what was best. Too often, we adhere to the ideal. Too often, we don’t take into account that situations arise and decisions need to be made that will benefit, even though they seem contrary to what we’ve been taught.

Thanks for the book recommendation as well as a an important reminder to be mindful before one judges others.

6 Alexicographer { 11.10.12 at 9:04 pm }

Long, long, long before I was a mother and I think, before I even started negotiating IF, I read Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s Mother Nature book. It’s both a fabulous book and not an easy read, particularly in the IF community, as it talks about such things as how infanticide can (in some contexts) be a practice that improves evolutionary success/prospects (i.e. the chance of keeping one’s young alive to reproductive age — and positioning them to succeed at reproduction, not, obviously, the young that are its victims). Motivating much (perhaps all) of the book is Hrdy’s point that it is incredibly difficult (here, think hunter/gatherer societies, though the problem has not vanished) to raise human beings from infanthood to reproductive maturity (which, unlike for many other creatures, arrives at about the same point in time as independence from parents, and it’s a long, long time away from infancy). Anyway, she devotes at least a chapter to breastmilk and breastfeeding and if I took one thing away from her book it was this: that we in the parts of the world who have achieved it (for not all have; safe water and refrigeration matter!) should thank our lucky stars every single day that we have an alternative food available to feed infants that is safe and nutritionally sound (not perfect, but sound). And I do, just as I thank my lucky stars that IVF is possible.

7 a { 11.10.12 at 11:00 pm }

I wonder what it is about people (myself included) that we feel like we know better than other people what they should do with their lives. I have, at least, learned to keep such information to myself.

8 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.10.12 at 11:44 pm }

I remember you talking about that session. Sounds like a persuasive author and a brave book. Or vice versa.

She’s lucky (and smart!) to have you review her book. Anyone would be.

9 Meghan { 11.11.12 at 8:32 am }

Every time I read about documenting the medical necessity of formula I see red. I may not have a medical degree but I’m pretty sure that if babies don’t eat they’ll die. Sounds like medical necessity to me! I dont understand why anyone cares what someone else feeds their kid

10 N { 11.11.12 at 8:46 am }

I love her. I’m super proud that a post I wrote went on her FFF.

11 Justine { 11.11.12 at 12:52 pm }

I was a breastfeeder, and I still don’t understand why we can’t be supportive of women who either can’t or won’t breastfeed. Motherhood is hard enough without all of the judgement; I thought Barton’s reading at BlogHer was fabulous, too, and so glad that she’s written a book!

12 Mommy-At-Last { 11.12.12 at 3:04 am }

I read your posts on breastfeeding way back then, but I hadn’t become a mother yet and I had no idea, not really, it was all just theory. I too did the ante-natal classes and breastfeeding classes and went to a lactation consultant, but despite the drugs and the pumping and the rest and jungle juice and right foods, my body just couldn’t make enough milk for my twins. I beat myself up and carried so much guilt. Believe me I tried, yet still I think back and feel like I should have tried harder. I am intruiged to read this book maybe it will help me heal and let go of how I ‘let my kids down’.

BTW I also turned to making all their food, still at a year everything they eat is home made, as a means of making it up to them. Ridiculous when I think with my head, but my hormones and heart win this battle.

13 Battynurse { 11.14.12 at 10:51 pm }

Great post. Working in post partum I see and hear a lot about breast feeding vs bottle , baby friendly hospital initiatives etc. I think breast is great, for some not all. I dislike being pushed into not letting moms choose what works best for them.

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