Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t
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Well, keep going another week. It only comes up as a reason to bash formula feeders.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for sharing your perspective with us. Erin and I were very glad to have Suzanne join us for this candid discussion, and we appreciate that you listened and took time to comment.
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I fought very hard to exclusively breastfeed my son. It took us 5 weeks to establish a supply that would support his needs, so within that time I needed to supplement with formula. I think formula has a place and am grateful that it was available in order to help my son stay strong while we were working to increase my supply and his latch.
It has the bottom line as an advocate, so to villify breastfeeding advocates who are not corporate or trying to make profit is misguided. February 25, The city of Ottawa's Public Health website not only has a fabulous breastfeeding section, but a formula feeding section - that said the formula feeding section is hidden in the Food Safety and Inspections area, but not in the Healthy Baby and Parenting area like the breastfeeding section. Just because people are in a majority doesn't mean they're having it easy either.
Formula feeding mamas don’t feel supported—and that needs to change
I'm a huge fan of Suzanne, her book, and her site. But I also love this site. As a blogger, one of my first pieces was my own guest post on Suzanne's site, and I hope that there continues to be more ongoing dialogue. When I first read Suzanne's book and her blog, I literally couldn't believe the relief that I felt that was sort of "bottled up" sorry inside me. I know -- as a researcher myself -- that statistically formula feeders are not an "oppressed minority.
It was my emotional experience: to be felt like I was judged and somehow had "failed" because -- for a variety of reasons, including my son's allergies -- I decided to stop breastfeeding. Babies will be okay if they are formula fed; there is no doctor, no medical professional who has ever told me that my son will suffer physically or psychologically because he was. It's a personal decision, granted one made in a social and cultural context. But a feeding choice should not be part of how a woman evaluates herself as a "good mother.
Great review, Annie.
Formula feeding mamas don’t feel supported—and that needs to change - Motherly
I especially appreciate Suzanne's passion for supporting moms who formula feed and I know she takes a somewhat dim view of the way formula companies market to breastfeeding mothers, a concern we all share. I totally understand where you are coming from here, and I hope I was clear in my book that a lot of what I speak about is specific to a certain geographical and socio-economic subset of women. I do discuss this in the book - it is a subject I am quite conscious of, although I would never presume to speak for those whose experiences I can't possibly know on a visceral level.
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- Bottled Up by Suzanne Barston - Hardcover - University of California Press.
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That said - lately my focus has been in the advocacy arena. And surprisingly, the organizations that have come to me with concerns about the way breastfeeding promotion is being handled are actually those that serve low-income minority groups. Not the upper-class Brooklynites that I expected these issues to resonate with.
What I'm learning is that while the surface details are quite different, the end result is the same - breastfeeding is being promoted incorrectly, without regard for cultural sensitivity or individual circumstances. I am NOT advocating for a future where breastfeeding is discouraged or even not promoted, especially to those who may not have supportive communities surrounding them - but rather one in which we provide support and education without the mom-blame and confusing, inflated statistics.
I do not claim, in my book or elsewhere, that ALL women feel guilty about not breastfeeding, and I would never insinuate that there aren't intense systemic barriers to breastfeeding. But that doesn't make my experience, or the experience of my audience, any less valid. To the Feminist Breeder - I don't think formula feeders are an oppressed minority. Seems to me you took one sentence out of the free Amazon preview of the book and are judging my entire argument on that, so I'm not sure how much of a productive discussion we can have here.
But I do not use that statistic to show that we are a minority. I actually use it to show that most of us are starting out WANTING to breastfeed and then not being able to, for a myriad of reasons - and when we can't I know we are by far in the majority, numbers-wise. That's an awful lot of women feeling crappy about themselves from the get-go. As a breastfeeding mom of three who faced many challenges throughout, I can really see where both of you are coming from and I'm glad to see that there is enough common ground to have pleasant discussions AND not beat each other up.
There is a Canadian breastfeeding promotional ad circulating right now which on the surface is funny and on-subject. I watched it, laughed, enjoyed the familiar faces How to start, where to look for info, how to learn what's normal for a newborn frequent, lengthy nursing sessions, etc. Yet again, telling women "You should. It's best. Go for it! I would love to see more promotion focussing less on why it's great that's still important and more on "Here's how easy it is to access help" and "here's how a normal newborn feeds".
It would serve two purposes - less of a reminder for moms who had trouble establishing bf-ing and turned to formula to feed their babies that they are doing "less than best", and might actually HELP someone. The other day a women posted online somewhere that she was supplementing with formula and she wondered what brand to choose and what other women might know.
As someone with a poor supply who ended up formula feeding I wanted to answer but the truth is I don't know what brand is best. I tried to do research on different formulas to make sure I was doing the best I could for my baby, but the information isn't out there.
When I was searching for it I found myself angry with breastfeeding advocates. The lack of information made me feel like more of a failure at one of my worst times. I don't know what the balance is, but I wish we could find one. As a feminist, and a PhD--I wanted to offer my support to the legitimacy, import, and academic accuracy of Suzie Barston's work.
I also took the time to speak with her, interview her on the phone and in writing, and did my homework as a researcher before merely sharing opinion. The push back against the author of the book in this thread is thinly veiled internalized misogyny in its finest form: misguided, mislabeled, misused constructs of feminism used as a way to oppress other women.
I see right through it, and directly to the courage, intelligence and depth to which Ms.
Book Summary: Bottled Up
Barston goes to actually help other women--using evidence based medicine, solid journalistic skill, and unwavering commitment to throw the covers back on a social construct of women that needs to be just as scrutinized as any other. I think the FFF site is an example of the future of feminism, and I am glad for it. Thank you for the review and all of the great comments.
For once, it is nice to read actual, well-thought out discussion. I agree that we should be offering support and information. Most importantly, women need to know what to expect when breastfeeding and have access to resources.
There ar sm nay obstacles different women in our culture, and around the globe, face - often without the help and support they need. I have trouble thinking of very many child rearing issues that are not frequently approached from an adult-centric point of view. Even with older children this is true. The entire public education system is set up primarily for the convenience of adults, not the benefit of children. A child centric education model would look very, very different.
I think infant feeding is one area where people often do put the child's needs first, almost to the point of forgetting that there is woman attached to those breasts who has feelings, needs and wants too. I didn't mean to suggest that most breastfeeding advocates don't already have an understanding of the barriers. I do think there are some, however, who demonstrate ignorance of those barriers or are dismissive of them. But even among those who know the barriers very well as I would say that I do , I think Barston's book provides additional context and stories to help further that understanding.
I think that is a fabulous question and is something that often frustrates me, both as it relates to breastfeeding and as it relates to any other type of advocacy or social change. I wrote about that previously in a post that asked "Is shame a barrier to social change? I also read Suzanne's book and owe a very, very overdue review and found it hit home very seriously for me.