Message In a Bottle: Real Stories of Formula Feeding in America

I’ve been working on a few FFF-related projects lately, one of which being a little documentary-style video series which is basically a film version of FFF Fridays, with a bit of my own opinion thrown in for good measure. It’s also my attempt at a measured response (even though the kid in me, like that old cereal commercial says,  would really prefer the frosted deliciousness of a more petulant response) to the upcoming “Formula Fed America”, which I fear is just more one-sided, anti-formula propaganda, completely ignoring the very real experiences of moms like the ones featured in the following videos.

I’m hoping the film medium will bring a new audience to the discussion, so feel free to spread this around the Interwebz if you like it. I apologize in advance for the cheesy music; this was a low-budget project and I fell mercy to the high cost of licensing… just pretend you’re in the early 1990’s and get down with the synthesizer. If you go with it, it’ll be less jarring. Hopefully. God help us all.

Anyway – the original intent was to make one cohesive video, but it turned out much longer than I’d intended, and far lengthier than is “appropriate” for online viewing. Therefore, I split it up into a series of three shorter videos, and also made a short, 9-minute “trailer” or “synopsis” version for those of you with limited time. You can the trailer below – or follow the link to Vimeo, where you can watch it in fullscreen mode.

I encourage you to watch the actual series, though; the women interviewed are truly phenomenal and I think you’ll find it well worth the time to hear their stories and opinions. I’ll be releasing a new “chapter” every few days; today, I’m giving you the trailer, and over the weekend, I’ll put up Part One, which includes detailed personal accounts from three different families. Part Two (coming next week) opens up the discussion with a few more amazing women and tackles topics like peer pressure, advice from the medical establishment, and guilt. Part Three (also available next week) focuses on the political/social side of the debate.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the series. Two of our FFFs are involved – Megan and Meghan – and I’ll be posting a FFF Friday from the latter tomorrow to compliment the release of Part One (which will be up the following day).

Bracing myself for the sh_tstorm to come…



Message In A Bottle: Real Stories of Formula Feeding in America TRAILER from Formula Feeder on Vimeo.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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26 thoughts on “Message In a Bottle: Real Stories of Formula Feeding in America

  1. This is perfect! My husband is a filmmaker and we were planning a documentary exactly like this. I would love if we could work together!

  2. I think the video looks great — I didn't even think it was cheesy. It feels like a normal documentary, music and all. And it's well put together! 😀

    Hopefully the shitstorm passes over with a whimper; there's nothing there that should incite anyone. It's sad to say that someone will be incited, but still.

  3. So excited for you and PROUD of you! You've supported Payton and I through so much and I'm excited that you're sharing this video series with everyone!

  4. It looks like a very well-done documentary, but I'm confused. Formula feeding is the norm — it's what most women do. But from reading this blog and listening to the stories in the trailer and around the internet, it sounds like many women who use formula originally wanted to breastfeed.

    There definitely is a need for acceptance of a woman's choice, and the mommy wars don't really help any cause. It seems though that it would be more productive to support the women who wanted to breastfeed by campaigning to make it more mainstream and acceptable, and to fight for things like maternity leave, than to promote that formula is ok. Which it is, for the women who choose it as their first choice. But with so many woman looking at formula as what they choose only because they weren't successful at what they originally wanted to do, it seems counterproductive.

  5. @Suchada,

    Thanks for making your point so rationally and respectfully. I appreciate it, and understand your confusion.

    If you watch the rest of the series, I think you'll see that in at least 2 of the cases, there were medical reasons why breastfeeding didn't work out. There are also 2 women in there who successfully breastfed, one exclusively (and who was nursing for over 15 mths) and one who had to supplement w/some formula. And a few who had legitimate reasons – yes, they may have been able to nurse had they went to heroic measures, but they made a decision that it would better serve their families to switch to formula.

    I agree that we should be fighting for better maternity leave & support for nursing moms. But there are already many (very vocal) people doing that. Saying that formula isn't evil and also has a place in society isn't counterproductive to that, in my opinion. I also believe that it should be every woman's right to make an informed decision, and I fear that the overwhelming breast-is-best message in the media and promoted through our govt and medical associations is leading to some overblown claims and misinformation. I want all women who want to nurse to be able to, and all who don't want to nurse to be able to formula feed without being made to feel like a bad mother because of it.

  6. This looks great! I have no doubt it would have helped me to hear the voices of women who were going through what I was going through back then.

    Good luck, and I hope the forecast storms blow over!

  7. great videos! I think they are well done. I didn't see any comments, (good or bad) after the videos, but perhaps I was looking in the wrong place. Anyway, I'll be happy to comment over there, to put a positive spin and maybe help alleviate the shiatestorm a tiny bit.

  8. I know that in my own case, no amount of breastfeeding support would have helped me avoid FF with my daughter. I breastfed three children before her, each beyond one year. But if I hadn't been in such denial, and so convinced that FF=sickness and disaster for my child, then my daughter would not have gone as long as she did without proper nourishment. I also wouldn't have felt so incredibly horrible about having to FF her.

  9. It looks really well done! And this might sound weird, but I love your voice. You sound so calming and it just made me want to listen to what you have to say. Good job with the trailer! I can't wait to see the rest!

  10. I am so excited to see the rest of the series! I agree this really adds to the online discussions. There's something extra validating about hearing words come out of someone's mouth that could have just as easily come out of your own.

  11. FFF,

    I'm looking forward to watching the rest of the series. I think we all want the same thing — respect as mothers — and that there are so many diverse views of how to get there really speaks to the extent of the problem. Even as a breastfeeding mother and advocate, I would say that any mother has a legitimate reason to feed her child whatever she wants (unless by feeding her something is trying to do harm, but that's a whole other topic). I've been guilty in the past of using judgmental language, and I'm much more careful about how I say things now. No one needs to beat over the head with any message. Thanks for opening my horizons.

  12. The stories reminded me of the first few months all over again. It's so nice to hear other stories, but then I started crying…LOL!

    Thank You for putting your time into this.

  13. I am soo glad this has been made and hope for a wide distribution. Two pieces of feedback- one is that I wish the mothers had their babies or children with them. It somehow reiterates that women who formula feed are Still bonded to their children. And second, the tone of the narrator's voice is troubling. It's as if she's walking on egg shells as she talks, trying to please both sides. I would like to hear a gentle voice that is more down to earth and matter of fact without sounding apologetic. Some fierce but kind voices styles I like that come to mind are Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver, Jhumpa Lhairi, just off the top of my head. Thanks again!

  14. @Kourtny-

    That's so cool! Email me if you want to chat – I'd love to pick your brain about how to get this out there…besides posting it here and on YouTube, I'm at a loss. 😉


    Thanks for the suggestions! Unfortunately, this is the final product, so not much I can do about it now… but I really appreciate your feedback. You will see the moms with the kids in the 3 separate parts – they are all really adorable kiddos too!

    As for the narration… unfortunately, that's me you hear on there! I would have loved to get an impartial narrator, but the team I was working with thought it would be better to have me speak in my own voice, in my own words. May not have been the best decision in the long run… originally, I wanted to appear in the film, on-camera, rather than just doing the voiceover, but due to some contractual conflicts with other stuff I'm doing, I couldn't. This was the compromise we came up with. But never fear – I don't talk that much in the actual series – just to introduce each episode and bring up some points. Mostly, the interviews speak for themselves.

  15. All I can say is WOW!! Well done on the video can't wait to see the next instalment. You have made a very professional job of this and any support I can give you will get.
    Chris (Kate in New Zealand's Mum)

  16. Dear FFF – just wrote paragraphs and paragraphs, but they got deleted when I tried to post just now.

    I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding, but the gist of it is that your videos reminded me that I will continue to feed my daughter FEARLESSLY, love my daughter FEARLESSLY, wrap her in a warm blanket FEARLESSLY, and continue to parent FEARLESSLY. When I am a grandmother, I will tell my daughter how I fed her and do so with pride (no matter how I did it, I will support my daughter however she wants to feed her baby).

    I wanted to thank you for your video posts. The women in your video said so many powerful things. What struck me the most is that we need to be defined on being good moms by listening to our children, not by how we feed our children. All moms who feed infant formula are not bad moms and all breastfeeding moms are not hippies. There is a middle ground where we can flourish. Or maybe even appreciating each other. Period.

    I also wrote to you about where these feelings of shame for feeding infant formula come from? Where do these feelings of inadequancy come from? Why do we have these feelings of thinking “I'm a bad mother”? We need support as moms. We need to be supported!!! Your posts are so powerful. THANK YOU!!!!

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