Book Review: Bottled Up

Suzanne Barston is the blogger who created fearlessformulafeeder.com. When I was having breast feeding issues and felt like a terrible mother for giving formula to my 2 day old baby, hubby found this website. Although we went through two weeks of crazy breastfeeding interventions to finally be able to breast feed RJ, I am so grateful and appreciative to Suzanne Barston for the work she does with her site and now this book.

This book is in part a chronicle of her own struggle to come to terms with having to bottle feed her baby, supplemented with stories of other women who have written into her blog with their personal stories. This stuff is heartbreaking: the intense societal pressure to breast feed causes intense guilt for many women who aren’t able, for whatever reason, to make it work.

In addition to the personal stories of formula feeders, Barston talks about different aspects of the breast vs formula debate. She details the way results of studies on the health benefits of breast milk have been exaggerated by public health campaigns. She comments on the real difficulties of breast feeding, both biological and societal (this is somewhat specific to the USA where there is no paid maternity leave). She also has an interesting discussion of breast feeding from a feminist perspective (feminist discourse that undermines formula feeding as a valid option for women is surprisingly anti-choice).

This book brought up a lot of emotions for me because my own first experiences of feeding RJ were so hard. I remember two nights after she was born, surreptitiously ringing the bell for the nurse in desperation at 2am, in tears, finally saying that I thought RJ needed some formula. I felt ashamed. Now I just feel angry about how all the “breast is best” propaganda made me ignore what, in retrospect I believe would have been the best decision for my baby: not to have starved for two days because nobody would even say the word “formula” at the hospital once I told them my intention to breast feed.

I intend to write a longer post soon about that experience. In the meantime, I recommend checking out fearlessformulafeeder.com.

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