Like many new moms, Suzanne Barston struggled to breastfeed her firstborn son. Despite support from her husband, consultations with lactation consultants, and a strong will to make it work, it simply did not work. As much as I would like to report that she was able to shrug it off, start a blog called FearlessFormulaFeeder.com, and move on, it was not that simple.
The disappointment, embarrassment, and guilt that came from her frustrating infant-feeding journey is a complex issue. She DID start a blog called Fearless Formula Feeder where women can share their stories and support one another, and now, she has published a book: Bottled Up: How the way we feed babies has come to define motherhood, and why it shouldn’t.
I couldn’t agree more with Suzanne that this is a topic worth the study she’s made of it. Part memoir, part sociocultural essay, Bottled Up addresses the position moms are put in when they read that breastfeeding is “the most important thing a mother can do for her baby,” and they cannot do it.
Whether due to physiological reasons, work, an intentional decision or not, formula feeding is perceived as an inferior path, as a lack of dedication to one’s baby.
For medical reasons, I was not allowed to breastfeed my son for ten days. The whole time, I felt like I wasn’t a real mom. I felt a heavy embarrassment in the hospital when I asked for formula, like I had to tell the story of all my blood work to every nurse so that they wouldn’t think I was uninformed. When I attended my first new mom support group, I felt grateful that my humiliating bottle-feeding phase was behind me, and then felt terrible for judging myself so harshly.
I thank Suzanne for opening dialog on this topic and for allowing me to share this excerpt of her book:
To be clear: this is not an anti-breastfeeding book. I think breastfeeding is an amazing thing, and I’ve seen it work very well for many of my friends. But this book is not for people who are trying to breastfeed– there’s already a plethora of great books on that subject, and more to come, I’m sure. This book is for the parents who wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t; women who are conflicted about nursing and want to make a truly informed decision about what to do with their bodies; breast-feeding advocates and care providers who are willing to listen to the myriad reasons that women may choose not to nurse; and for people who are curious about the other side of this worldwide baby-feeding frenzy.
Mostly, though, this book is for the woman who is in tears, with cracked nipples and a screaming baby whom she can’t mother because she is constantly hooked up to a pump, who wants so badly to quit breastfeeding and finds nothing but fear-and-guilt-inducing literature every where she turns… I hope this book will help her sit beside her breastfeeding friends, free from insecurity and judgment. I hope that it can inform a discussion which ultimately allows all women to feed their babies with pride, whether they are nourishing their babies from their breasts or from a bottle held in their hands, and that, ultimately, all women will have the freedom to find their own formula for good mothering.