FFF Friday: “There is still a nagging feeling that I failed at my project.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so. 


You what I love most about FFF Friday submissions? You guys are so freaking brave, and you write eloquently and honestly about truths that most people are afraid to admit. These stories define the “fearless” part of Fearless Formula Feeder. I think many folks misunderstand what a “fearless formula feeder” really is – it’s not always about being 100% happy with our feeding circumstances, or turning a deaf ear to the risks inherent in feeding your child a man-made product, or wearing a cape with a big F on the back (although sometimes, it is – except for the cape thing. But that could happen, I guess). What it IS always about is being fearlessly honest, fearlessly open, and fearlessly supportive. 

Sheryl has got to be one of the most fearless FFFs I’ve encountered, because she is willing to admit something that most of us won’t: sometimes, the sting of “failing” at breastfeeding doesn’t have as much to do with a fear or distaste of formula as it does with the concept of “failure”. From one Type A perfectionist to another, I salute you, Sheryl. Because I identify with what you’re saying – probably more than I want to admit to myself. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones.



Sheryl’s Story

I just want to be at peace with not breastfeeding.

Most days, I am. But sometimes, the feelings of guilt, anger, disappointment, failure, cynicism – they can creep up unexpectedly, and then I launch into an obsessive google search using keywords such as: “is breast really best”; “breastfeeding myths”; and “how to deal with smug breastfeeding moms”. This is how I stumbled upon the FFF website, by the way.

One of the earlier articles quoted in this blog mentioned that most women who are from the middle to upper class, educated, and have careers tend to see breastfeeding as a project – something to be studied and obsessively prepared for.  These women read all the literature, attend breastfeeding classes, hire lactation consultants, buy expensive double pumps.  While it is true that the main intent of breastfeeding is, of course, the nourishment of one’s baby, few women would admit to the almost selfish fact that, for them, breastfeeding is also a personal accomplishment.  Something to be proud of, a badge to wave around in playgroups, the number of months or years of EBF being a clear numerical trophy of one’s sense of accomplishment.  For women like this, failing at a project despite all the preparations is a crushing blow.

I should know, I was one of these women. I did all of these things while I was pregnant – set a goal that I would breastfeed for at least a year and did all I could to prepare myself.  I will not get into the details of the how and the why, but suffice it to say that I tried to breastfeed (and to give an idea of the extent of the efforts, I know what the terms ICBLC, galactagogue, and SNS stand for), had some measure of success for four months (success being a relative term, this means mixed feeding), but due mostly to low milk supply, I eventually decided the day I celebrated my 33rd birthday, that I owed it to myself, to my marriage, and yes, to my baby, to regain my sanity and stop breastfeeding.

My baby is now six months and has been exclusively fed with organic formula for the last two months.  She has not gotten sick, thank god, and is in the 90th percentile of height and is just a smidge overweight. We are working on that.  She is generally a spirited and happy baby who started sleeping through the night at four months and is developmentally advanced in some aspects and is on track in others. I am happy.

But there is still sometimes a nagging feeling that I failed at my project.  With it comes the occasional shame, the defensiveness, the bitterness. I pass by the lactation room in our office, and I avoid making eye-contact with my officemate who has just finished a pumping session. I try to avoid going to the water cooler when my other officemate who is a LLL volunteer is there. I quickly click “Hide” when I see preachy breastfeeding articles posted by Facebook friends. This is my hangup.  It is something that I have to continue coming to terms with everyday – just like other things that I’ve failed at in the past.  I am a work in progress, but ultimately, my goal (my new project, really) is to finally, be well and truly at peace with my decision to stop breastfeeding. To see it not as a failure, but just one of those things that did not work out. And then move on.


Share your FFF Friday story: email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

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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7 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “There is still a nagging feeling that I failed at my project.”

  1. Has your pediatrician said you have to work on her weight? I’d be concerned. My baby was “overweight”, then reached a point where they stopped gaining weight but continued growing and even lost weight. Is she mobile? When they get mobile, her weight problem may sort itself out. I’d just be careful about working on a baby being a “smidge” overweight, your baby may be doing exactly what she needs to do.

    • My little one also went through a phase where she could’ve technically been termed a smidge overweight but none of the doctors or nurses I saw were worried about it so I didn’t. The moment she started crawling she slimmed down and when she started walking she slimmed right down. Now as an active toddler I actually worry that she might be underweight but as my doctor said ‘if she’s happy, healthy and eating then why worry’.

  2. LOVE THIS POST! Thank you for writing this. I hadn’t thought about it in this way, but I think you’re absolutely right! Yes, I think part of the let-down when I “failed” was that I didn’t make it to my “numerical trophy” as you put it. I truly hope you are successful in the new project you mention at the end! 🙂

  3. Oh, I know what you mean. For me it was mixed, I had a good nursing relationship at 6 months, but I thought the advantages of bottles and formula outweighed the advantages of nursing. It was like all of my friends had decided that this “project” was a good idea – the only idea – and I thought it was sort of a bad idea. It felt strange to be making such a different choice than virtually all of my friends. People at work always asked me if I was pumping (as in do you need a break to pump) at which point I had to explain that no, I didn’t. Luckily after they start drinking milk at age one a lot of this goes by the wayside.

    I see that others have also suggested not worrying about the weight, especially if it is just a “smidge”. Babies need a lot of fat for their brain development and I think at 6 months it is still important to fed on demand (but maybe I am wrong about that). They do tend to slim down once they start moving around and maybe now that she is starting to eat solids that will change also.

  4. http://www.skepticalob.com/
    Is a great place to read about the exaggeration of breastfeeding benefits. I’m not a formula feeder but I support any mom’s healthy feeding choices. There s so much more that goes into the decision to stop breastfeeding. The benefits certainly don’t outweigh the cost of your sanity and time with parner and/or your other children. I apologize for the lactivists who hurt feelings. We’re not all like that! 🙂

    • I would disagree with the recommendation regarding the skeptical ob website. I think that FFF does a good job of addressing the studies in a way that is much more fair and balanced then the SOB. The SOB has a history of going after women who have lost children in childbirth, ridiculing them and their choices, trolling them and posting their personal information for all to see. The FFF has always advocated for a live and let liive policy where I feel that the SOB is hurtful and tries to demonize anyone who disagrees with her point of view. If she stuck to the science it would be one thing, but she goes after mothers and makes things personal. FFF fosters positivity and inclusion, SOB does the opposite.

  5. I’m going to chime in and agree with the others who say you shouldn’t worry about your DD’s weight. My own (formula fed) DD has always been 75th-90th percentile in height and weight. She’s a size bigger than her age. It’s never bothered me. As she’s gotten more active, she’s gotten more proportional, but she’s never going to be petite. As long as your DD is healthy overall, worrying about her weight at 6 months is very premature.

    Good luck! 🙂

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