Disarming the “Mommy Wars”: One Mama’s Fight to End the Guilt and Stigma of Bottle Feeding AND Support Breastfeeding

4 Oct

My friend Suzanne Barston has been writing at The Fearless Formula Feeder for a long time.  When I say “my friend”, though we’ve never met in real life, I mean it.  Suzie has walked almost my entire motherhood journey along side of me.  We began blogging at approximately the same time and found one another because, well, way back then, nearly five years ago, there weren’t many of us out there.  Moms who had postpartum struggles that is, especially with breastfeeding, who were willing to talk about it publicly were few and far between in 2008.

I had been suffering from a paralyzing and life-threatening (I was so ill that for many weeks I would tell my husband daily that I wanted to die.) postpartum depression and anxiety, and a big source of my irrational guilt was my son’s initial inability to latch (enter never-ending pumping sessions and bottle feeding breast milk), followed by my “decision” to switch to formula when pumping was getting in the way of my recovery.  I was vulnerable and isolated (figuratively and literally, as the few friends and family members I had around me at the time had either formula fed by choice and didn’t understand my desire to breastfeed or had successfully breastfed and were a silent reminder of my “failure”).  I hadn’t found much support online either, as most of what I read encouraged moms to breastfeed to combat the blues and even supported breastfeeding while on psychiatric medications, if under the care of a physician who supported that choice.  Now, I totally agree with those statements for those mamas for whom that feels right.  However, I was not that mom and that made me feel even more like a failure, especially after my dreams of a natural childbirth were already dashed thanks to a very unexpected c-section after a ridiculously long labor.

Finding Suzanne’s blog and forging a relationship with her was probably the number one factor in my eventually overcoming constant anxiety about not having breastfed my son and moving past the guilt that riddled me for months and got in the way of positive thoughts and interactions in the beginning of my motherhood experience.  I knew that not only was she a support and ear, but that she actually did her homework to provide factual information, not just opinions.  The emotional and analytical sides of me were appeased and reassured by reading her blog posts and eventually joining the Facebook page associated with her blog.

Please know that this blog, Atlanta Mom, is not ever going to promote taking sides or making judgment about moms’ choices, if they are well-intentioned.  However, as the author here I wouldn’t be exhibiting integrity if I didn’t share my own story honestly and encourage others to end the stigma and the competition that has arisen within parenting in the past few decades.  I believe strongly that mothers need to band back together, not tear each other apart.  That’s why I started Beyond Postpartum over four years ago and it’s also why I’ve created this blog.  We are stronger.  We are better.  We are more informed.  We are doing good, when we share and care for one another.

One of the ways that Suzanne has decided to reach out to mothers and even healthcare providers is to publish a book she’s written based upon her diligent research on infant feeding.  Unlike just about any other parenting “expert” out there, Suzanne’s unusual position to support families no matter how they choose to feed their babies is a breath of fresh air.  Below you’ll find a press release about the book and a link so that if you’d like to you can easily purchase it on Amazon.

BOTTLED UP: How The Way We Feed Babies
Has Come to Define Motherhood, And Why It Shouldn’t
by Suzanne Barston

As the breast vs. bottle feeding debate heats up, some experts believe breastfeeding advocates may have gone too far. While breast is certainly best from a nutritional standpoint, thousands of mothers find themselves unable to breastfeed for physiological, emotional, or situational reasons. Once breastfeeding has “failed”, they are unable to find the support they need, and some are even feeling shunned or bullied.

BOTTLED UP: How The Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, And Why It Shouldn’t by journalist Suzanne Barston (University of California Press, August 2012), probes breastfeeding politics through the lens of Barston’s own experiences as well as those of the women she has met through her popular blog, The Fearless Formula Feeder.

“Breastfeeding has become the yardstick by which parenting prowess is measured,” says Barston. “Yet, it’s not always the right choice for every mother and every child. 
In fact, in some cases the pressure to breastfeed has created a dangerous atmosphere for both mothers and babies.”

Barston, who was devastated when she was unable to breastfeed her son, calls herself a “lactivist” and a formula feeding defender. “It’s an odd stance, but one that is sorely needed,” she explains. “I understand the debate on a level most don’t because I have engaged in the conversation on BOTH sides for nearly four years. My point of view is controversial, but it shouldn’t be: Support those who want to breastfeed, and support those who don’t want to.”

Incorporating medical literature, expert opinions, and popular media, Barston offers a corrective to our infatuation with the breast. Impassioned, well-reasoned, and thoroughly researched, Bottled Up asks us to think with more nuance and compassion about whether breastfeeding should remain the holy grail of good parenthood.


Suzanne Barston has worked for the past decade as a writer and editor for health and parenting publications, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Los Angeles Family Magazine. She has impressive internet following within the mommy-blogosphere at The Fearless Formula Feeder, and is also the resident “Bottle Feeding Expert” for a video-based website launching in September called KidsInTheHouse.com.

Because, like I said earlier, Suzie rocks and all, she’s also agreed to send a signed copy of the book to one reader here at Atlanta Mom.  To enter all you have to do is comment below with your email address so that I can be in touch if you win!  If you’d prefer not to share your email address publicly, please comment that you’ve emailed your mailing address to atlantamom930@gmail.com.  The winner of the book giveaway will be randomly selected on October 15, 2012.  GOOD LUCK!

I hope those of you who aren’t familiar with Suzanne’s work will take a moment to browse her blog, to join The Fearless Formula Feeder Facebook community, or to consider reaching out to moms who make different feeding choices than you and reassure them that you support them.  We’re all in this motherhood thing together, so let’s be good to one another instead of guilting each other, k?

Bless your heart ;-),


12 Responses to “Disarming the “Mommy Wars”: One Mama’s Fight to End the Guilt and Stigma of Bottle Feeding AND Support Breastfeeding”

  1. Deanna October 4, 2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Thank you! I had to bottle feed because I was physically unable to breast feed. I was devastated. But baby has to eat somehow! So great to find someone who also thinks the same is me. Breast feeding is great unless you can’t. Please don’t judge.

    • Heather October 6, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Hgielrehtaeh (at) gmail (dot) com

      I exclusively breastfed for 4 weeks, then pumped and supplemented until 13 weeks. I decided to quit when my family doctor asked how things were going with breastfeeding, and I said that with my son’s milk protein allergy and my husband working long hours, it as so hard, and that I had been trying to get my son back on the breast and it just wasn’t working, and that my breastmilk was pink from my bloody nipples, and then it hit me, and I said, “Why am I doing this to myself!”

  2. Krystle Freeman October 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm #


  3. Shawna Edwards October 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE HER!!! *fingers crossed*. Ferrari_099@hotmail.com

    • supermouse October 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

      Oh, I would love to be in the raffle! mahanamy7@gmail.com
      I am glad you two were able to help each other so much–a great example of practicing what you preach with regards to parenting choices. 🙂

    • Maria October 4, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      I have been lucky in my ability to exclusively breastfeed 3. I say luck, but the luck lay with having great support when I had my first, many do not have this. This post is lovely and balanced and I wholeheartedly agree with the need for all mothers to support each other and stand together, not apart.

      • Atlanta Mom October 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

        Thanks for your comment! Congratulations, as well, as you are the winner of the giveaway! I have emailed you requesting your mailing address so Suzanne can send you a signed copy. Thanks for following Atlanta Mom. 🙂

  4. hmshobergr October 4, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Would love to read the book!


  5. Katie L. October 6, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    My prenatal care was anything but stellar on the emotional front. For the first six months we were told that my son was going to die in-utero and we should just terminate. They diagnosed him with a cystic hygroma at 12wks and kept changing the origin diagnosis every couple weeks as we ruled out the cause of this water filled tumor on my baby’s neck. They started with Downs syndrome then went to heart defect then bone defect and finally said he would have a developmental disability but they couldn’t specify what specifically. We started going to the children’s hospital of Philadelphia and they told us that it would most likely just be cosmetic and he should be okay developmentally and they cleared me for a normal vaginal delivery with my regular OB/GYN. I finally after 7 months of pregnancy was able to breathe and begin to look forward to my baby. I still was afraid to get attached to him but I did start buying his things that he would need and such. I went into labor at 2am the morning after my due date. My labor was incredibly easy and progressed quickly and by 10am I was ready to push. I had gotten an epidural at 8am shortly after they broke my water and things got going real quick. My doctor however wouldn’t let me push until 10:30 because he was waiting for a consult with a perinatalogist bc despite my clearance for a nvd they were hesitant. At 10:30 they let me push 3 times. That’s it. They said the baby’s heart rate dropped a bit then came back up with each push and bc of he situation of my prenatal diagnosis they were uncomfortable with a nvd and said I would have a csection. They gave my husband scrubs but then out of nowhere and no warning to me I suddenly was being strapped to an OR table with a anesthesiologist shoving a mask onto my face that suctioned onto my face making me have a panic attack as I went unconscious. First feeling waking up was the remnants of a panic attack. I began coughing a lot. They put my baby on my chest for all of 30 seconds. I could hardly see him. I told the nurse to take him back before vomiting everywhere. The next bit is a bit fuzzy but after vomiting I remember feeling the weakest I’ve ever felt. My vision went completely and sounds kept fading in and out. I heard my other OB come into the room and both doctors started spit balling what could be wrong with me right at my feet with my husband looking ready to pass out next to me. He kept telling me not to worry but he is an EMT and he looked scared so I knew something was wrong. Next I know I’m being told I have to sign a waver to go back into surgery bc my BP was dropping and was at that moment 49/35.
    The second time I woke up I was wrapped up in warm bubble wrap (one of those bubble blankets for critical care patients) and there was a nurse sitting bedside over me. She explained that I lost a lot of blood and was in the ICU recovery bay. She called my husband on the phone and let me talk to him. I was still confused. I dozed in and out a lot. I was then put in critical care. The rest of the day from my diaphragm up was having intense muscle cramps all at once that was so painful I was screaming. It took them hours to finally give me a muscle relaxer and anti anxiety med to stop it. I was in critical care for 3 days. 2 of those days I was bed ridden with my epidural and catheter still in. I had an allergic reaction to the tape used on me and so when they removed my epidural I had open sores on each corner of my back. I had been given 9 units of blood 5 units of plasma and a ton of iv fluid. My husband said I looked like Jaba the hut. I gained 40lbs in the first 24hrs after my baby was born. It was 3 days in CCU before they transferred me to maternity. I was on oxygen still and didn’t hold my baby until that evening. First time seeing him. He was perfect nothing wrong and his tumor was gone. I was too sick to care for him. My milk never even came in from the birth trauma and I was too tired to try to get it to come. So I formula fed. I developed eclampsia sometime after my delivery and my BP was so high they were afraid I would seizure or stroke. Nearly a week after my delivery they released me practically AMA because I was in hysterics wanting to go home. I was back in the hospital 2 days later after a bad reaction to my blood pressure meds made my tongue and throat go numb and I couldn’t breathe. I developed scary post partum anxiety that was worsened by separation anxiety whenever my husband would go to work or leave the house. When that passed I developed post partum rage. I was mad at everything and everyone. I then felt guilty for not trying to breast feed. I felt selfish. Then Id get mad again. It was an endless cycle. I got thru it tho. I tried meds and switched to herbal treatments coupled with an extended maternity leave and support group meetings. My son is almost 8 months old. We are both perfect now. I have countless stretch marks on my stomach and scars on my back from the tape but they serve as reminders to what I survived. My son is perfect. He is incredibly advanced for his age. He is almost standing unassisted and walks when pushing a cart. He says mama and dada and sings and dances to music. He signs “more” when he needs or wants something and is always smiling. I thank God every day that we didn’t listen to those doctors that said he would die and to terminate. I am also incredibly blessed that I got my prayer answered to let me be the sick one so my son would be okay. Now I am trying to just get my story out there and raise awareness to everyone about PPD but especially to healthcare providers and how their actions can affect new moms. Thank you for all you do in this cause. And I no longer feel guilty for bottle feeding my baby bc he is healthy and smart and he was formula fed.

  6. Katie L. October 6, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Also please add me to the raffle


    • Dr Sarah October 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      I’ve e-mailed my address, but probably too late as the deadline is today! Oh, well, can’t hurt to try, and I wanted to join my voice to the ‘Yay, Suzanne!’ chorus, as I’m a big fan of her blog.

  7. Ronika October 12, 2012 at 4:08 am #

    Would love to read book!

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