My Guest Post on Fearless Formula Feeder: Where Does Breastfeeding Guilt Come From?

As part of my preparation for starting this blog, as a model for research-based writing that is also personal and warm, I read Suzanne Barston’s  Bottled Up:  How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood.  And I was inspired.  Really inspired.  Not just because her story and her conclusions about the research about breastfeeding were similar to mine.  But because she wrote a book about personal experience that is exhaustively researched and started an inspiring blog with a lively Facebook page where mothers can go to share their stories as well as read about the newest science and perspectives on motherhood.

She inspired me enough to write my own story about why I was not successful at breastfeeding for less than a couple months.  Here’s my guest post.

I felt guilt that originated from all directions — other mothers, the media, and, most of all, myself.  And I think Suzanne has a lot of powerful things to say about how breastfeeding has come to represent something very powerful and guilt-inducing in motherhood today.  Yes, it’s best for babies in general and we should do everything to support mothers to try breastfeeding, but it’s not always best for every mom, every baby, and every situation.

I hope that no matter where the cultural and scientific conversation turns about breastfeeding, mothers step back and start to realize how easy it is to induce guilt in another mom.  An innocent question to a mom who is bottle feeding her infant.  A small comment here about putting formula on a baby shower registry.  An unsolicited piece of advice to a stranger with a crying baby.

I’ve heard from some of you about your experiences with breastfeeding.  Did you experience guilt, no matter what your choices?   Did you have a friend who struggled with breastfeeding, and how did you support her?

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  1. I experienced tremendous guilt with not being able to breast feed. I tortured myself day and night. Right around the time I decided to give up, I discovered the Fearless Formula Feeder blog and began reading her book. It gave me some comfort I was desperately seeking as I continued to struggle with my choice to stop. Til this day, I still carry around a lot of sadness with not being able to provide for my son. In fact, today I heard from a friend who recently had her son and today was the first day she and her son had a successful breast feeding moment. While I was happy for her, really happy because I know how hard it can be, I found myself doubting my decision for the millionth time. Somehow forgetting the extremely painful process I went through to reach that decision.

    • I know. I’ve had those same moments. I wish I had discovered her blog and her book before I had my son or before I started struggling with breastfeeding. She’s a really great writer and an incredibly supportive person.

  2. I breastfed my son very successfully for eighteen months and it was never difficult fir me. That said, I fully support the rights of women to feed however they wish (boobs in public, formula, extended feeding, etc). I’ve never understood this obsession with infant feeding, nor the obsession with birth. To me both are only a minuscule part of the long journey of being a parent.

    I personally feel there is a vein if misogyny underlying this issue (though most will deny it). All of the women I know who have formula fed harve done so with great guilt and doubt. They all did it as thier own health (physical or mental) was suffering with the struggle of Breastfeeding. I do not blame them for formula feeding. Here is where I feel the misogyny lies. Many “lactivists” (not all, but generally the most vocal) push that the needs of the mother (woman) are nig important. That we should all push through something that is not working and us damaging our selves. Somehow we are viewed as falling if we have formula fed our babies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pro breastfeeding and will always support a woman’s right to it, but I feel women need to stick together and support each other, no matter what our choices in infant feeding are.

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