The FFF Community Guide for Responding to Formula Critics, Pushy Hospital Staff, and Other Nosy and/or Rude Characters

“How do I stand up for myself in the hospital if I don’t want to breastfeed?”


“I want to feel confident about my choice… but what can I say to people who question it?”

I get asked both of these questions at least twice a month. Aside from the fact that it frustrates me to no end that parents are still feeling judged and belittled for their feeding methods, I also am not the best at short, pithy responses. (Long-winded is an understatement for how I typically communicate.) So I often post these quandaries on the FFF Facebook page, to get the input of the brilliant parents who populate it. Their answers range from practical to profound; cheeky to cheerful. As usual, my audience is way smarter than I am.

I’ve compiled these responses into a living, ever-present “database” of pocket responses for these common bottle-feeding conversations. I’m also happy to add to it, so feel free to contribute your own suggestions in the comments. I hope this helps you all stay confident, proud, and fearless in your decisions. Because you have no reason not to be.

– The FFF



In the hospital….

“The way I recently shut down one of the midwives at the hospital a day after a delivered who asked why there was formula next to me, who also reminded me I needed to keep baby to the breast in order to produce: ‘Thank you, I’m well aware and I’ve made my decision.’”

“Say, ‘I’m fully aware of the benefits of breast feeding but it’s not for me. Thank you for respecting my decision on what is best for my baby and I.’”

“I would make it known to the hospital staff as soon as you check in (they asked me shortly after). If they inquire why or say you should meet with a lactation consultant, don’t feel like you need to give an explanation. Just stay firm and ask for formula. They have plenty available so they should just accept your decision!”

“Make sure everyone in your birthing room is on board, and only allow people in that support your decision. Make sure that you have it in writing that you do not wish to have lactation consultants come to your room, and that you do not wish to breastfeed. If you are challenged, immediately request to speak to the charge or head floor nurse. The support system you surround yourself with is going to be key. Additionally, I’d look into the hospital where you are planning to deliver. If they are ‘baby friendly’ they tend to promote BF over FF, so just a heads up. Hopefully no one will challenge you, but just be prepared and know that this is a safe space for you. Finally, FFF/ISY support groups are forming around the country. There may be a resource for you right there!”



“I was VERY assertive about it with my second child, and explained that we had made a sound, reasoned decision that was best for us. We also requested a bottle of formula while I was in labor so I could give the first bottle, which was very special to me. We also had a sign in my room in the maternity ward. Now, it’s harder to be so assertive with your first, because everyone thinks you’ll get religion about it at the last minute. I would absolutely avoid over-explaining. People will try to cut down all your reasons no matter how good they are. Just find a mantra and repeat it as nauseam. Example: ‘We’ve decided already, but thanks for your concern.’”

“I would be the type of person that would need to rehearse my ‘explanation’, if you will. So, my suggestion would be once you come up with a short idea of what you want to say, preach it girl! To yourself, to your spouse, your loved ones, and friends. Ask them to do the same. Utilize your loved ones and friends in the hospital as well. Give them the same idea of what you plan on saying, so if the time comes and you’re exhausted and don’t have the ability to fight in one moment or more, they can back you up. I had a hard time with pushy nurses when I was trying to breastfeed at first. Eventually I got the courage to simply say ‘thank you for your help, but you need to leave….NOW’ If I am blessed with another baby I may be going directly to formula. If I do that I will be saying ‘I have done my research, and I have searched my heart. I thank you for the support, but I do not need your help. I am the mother of this child. I know what’s best. Please leave now.’”

“I think it might pay to remember that in a lot of hospitals they have a breastfeeding policy that they have to abide by. The hospitals probably don’t consider how confronting that is for Mums who don’t want to go there…”

“I had my OB write on my antenatal card: ‘Not to breastfeed’. It didn’t stop some midwives still trying to persuade me but it also raised awareness among others to already respect my decision. This was for my 2nd child who went straight onto formula from birth. I also just told family and friends (and nosy strangers!) that it didn’t work out for my 1st child and hence it was the best decision for our family.”

“Tell them when they are birthing your baby and paying for said baby, they will get a say. Tell them that minding their own business is best for them if they would like to stay in your life.”

“I would just let them know upfront that you’ve considered your options, you are well informed and have decided that formula feeding is the best option for you & baby. If they say maybe just try it or offer a lactation consultant or start banging on about ‘breast is best’, just remind them it’s not necessary – as you are already well informed on the topic and it’s not open for discussion. Your body, your baby, your choice.”

“I’d say you have researched your options and formula feeding is a better fit for your family.”

“I wrote in my birth plan ‘We will not be breastfeeding. Thank you for respecting this very personal and informed decision’. No one ever pressured me at all. One nursed came in after a shift change and asked innocently. I kindly said ‘It is written in our birth plan that we will not be nursing’ She was completely ok with it and didn’t say anything else.”

“Make your intention known in your birth plan and tell all doctors and nurses ahead of time (or as you arrive while you still have your wits about you). Let them know if you are interested after birth YOU will bring it up, and to make sure a small bottle of formula (1oz or so) is available for immediately after the birth.”

“I was really stressed about this but I had my doctor put it in my chart and made it clear when I showed up at the hospital not to ask me about it. “


For strangers, in-laws, bosses, neighbors, that snotty mom in your playgroup, and everyone else who has no business asking…

“Don’t even bother with an explanation. Shut them down. I breast fed, expressed and formula fed and whenever a busy body asked me about how she was fed I’d just say ‘she’s feeding great, thanks! How are you keeping?’”

“I just used to say, ‘With all due respect i have made the choice that best suits our family’s needs and I don’t wish to discuss it further.’”

“’Are you wearing a tampon? What color is your poop? What is your pooping routine? Oh? You don’t like questions/comments about your personal body? Neither do I.’”

“Don’t answer them. If they ask tell them that question and topic is off limits.”

“I told people my son was well fed and healthy. If they felt that was unimportant, then it was their priorities that were skewed, not mine.”

“If someone wants to be rude enough to try and force you to bf, then you can be rude enough to tell them to stop in a manner that will actually make them stop.”

“Remember – ‘No.’ is a complete sentence.”

“Just like baby’s name- keep it private until the baby comes. Not worth having to explain your decision nor hearing anyone’s ‘opinion’”

“I would say that you don’t talk about their breasts, so please don’t talk about yours.”

“I’d go for an eye roll, a withering stare and an exasperating sigh.”


“Tell them, ‘No. I am an adult and I make decisions for my body and my baby, period. That’s the last you’ll say about it.’”

“‘I don’t/didn’t tell you how to parent your child, you don’t get to tell me how to parent mine.’ That may be a last straw comment. It shuts my MIL down pretty quickly.”

“I choose how to use my breasts, not you.”

“Probably just easiest to nod and say thanks for the input, but I don’t want to discuss it! It’s just about impossible to change people’s minds and beliefs. Your midwife should support your decision either way, especially once you have told her that that is your decision and you wish to hear no more about. It’s a bit like people telling you that you have to give birth a particular way – whether or not you want to. “

“When people ask what you plan to do, say ‘I plan to feed my baby.’ Done.”

“I will try breastfeeding, when you try minding your own business, and seeing as that won’t happen for you, breastfeeding won’t happen for me.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’ve made up my mind. Hey! How about that Sports team/weather/new movie [insert subject change of choice]”

“I held firm to my decision and made it clear to people that the benefits of bottle feeding are essential for me and far outweigh any breastfeeding benefits. Be firm, stand your ground and educate yourself on both sides.”

“I understand where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you giving me advice, but for now, I am going to try and do what’s best for both of us, and right now, that doesn’t include breastfeeding.”

“‘I’ve never had so many people inquire about my breasts before,’ usually shuts them right up.”

“One word answers. Have you considered breast feeding? No. But have you read the research? Yes. Hard to argue with one word answers.”

“I just smiled and gave them a blank stare…it really is none of their business. They would get all awkward and I would just keep smiling…!”

“When people asked me this I would smile and say, “Because.” And then change the subject.”

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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