About Bottled Up

Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t (University of California Press, October 2012)

From the UC Press website:

As the subject of a popular web reality series, Suzanne Barston and her husband Steve became a romantic, ethereal model for new parenthood. Called “A Parent is Born,” the program’s tagline was “The journey to parenthood . . . from pregnancy to delivery and beyond.” Barston valiantly surmounted the problems of pregnancy and delivery. It was the “beyond” that threw her for a loop when she found that, despite every effort, she couldn’t breastfeed her son, Leo. This difficult encounter with nursing—combined with the overwhelming public attitude that breast is not only best, it is the yardstick by which parenting prowess is measured—drove Barston to explore the silenced, minority position that breastfeeding is not always the right choice for every mother and every child.

Part memoir, part popular science, and part social commentary, Bottled Up probes breastfeeding politics through the lens of Barston’s own experiences as well as those of the women she has met through her popular blog, The Fearless Formula Feeder. Incorporating expert opinions, medical literature, and popular media into a pithy, often wry narrative, Barston offers a corrective to our infatuation with the breast. Impassioned, well-reasoned, and thoroughly researched, Bottled Up asks us to think with more nuance and compassion about whether breastfeeding should remain the holy grail of good parenthood.


“Barston’s defense of bottlefeeding declares a moratorium on using motherhood as a dumping ground for our cultural anxieties and ambivalences. Through the deft interweave of personal narrative and sharp analysis, Bottled Up reveals how mother-blaming, sloppy science and deficient policies are far more pernicious that artificial milk.” —Chris Bobel, author ofThe Paradox of Natural Mothering

“Before the last half of the 20th century, if a woman was not able to breast feed her infant, then she had to secure the services of a wet nurse or watch the baby die. Then came the industrial revolution and the advances in post-natal care that included the invention of baby formulas so that infants could be bottle feed as an alternative to breast feeding. This in turn became so popular that it created a cultural backlash in the mid-20th century with advocacy of breast feeding over formula based bottle-feeding. Unfortunately this advocacy all to often led to women who were medically unable to breast feed to be stigmatized by their peers. That’s why “Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t” by Suzanne Barston is such a timely and much needed contribution to the national discussion of breast feeding vs. bottle feeding. Informed, informative, articulate, and personal, “Bottled Up” is a blend of social commentary, health-based infant nutritional science, and autobiography. Exceptionally well written, “Bottled Up” is critically important reading for women on both sides of the issue philosophically, but especially recommended for any mother who finds breast feeding her infant problematical. Simply stated, “Bottled Up” is a unique contribution to this social and medical issue that is thoroughly ‘reader friendly’ and should be a part of every academic and community library Health & Medicine reference collection.

– The Midwest Book Review/ Library Bookwatch- Nov 2012 

“Bottled Up is a truly timely book. It is testament to how messed up things have become when it comes to motherhood that it even had to be written. The end result is a serious, engaging, challenging and also accessible account, drawing on the best of scholarship, science and journalism.”

Ellie Lee, Director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies, University of Kent

““This is an informative and well-reasoned book that looks acutely at the meaning of baby feeding alternatives. It will be helpful to mothers, no matter what their choice.”

Sydney Z. Spiesel, Ph.D. M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine

“This book is a must-read for every woman and man who is fed-up with the shaming and blaming of bottle-feeding parents. Barston explains with evidence, anecdote and humour why breast isn’t always best and why women will never be free to enjoy their babies and map the maternal landscape until infant feeding decisions are no longer used as a test of good motherhood.”

—Dr. Leslie Cannold, author of The Book of Rachael

Barston gives a heartfelt defense of mothers who go against the dogma of Breastfeeding Over All Else. Based on both personal experience and expert consultations, her conclusion: occasionally it’s healthier not to breastfeed, and anyway don’t stress about it. Surprisingly, such a reasonable point of view is poorly represented in the Mommy Wars. Barston’s book is a welcome contribution.”

—Sam Wang, Ph.D., Princeton University, co-author of Welcome To Your Child’s Brain: How the Mind Develops from Conception to College.

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  1. Pingback: Bad medicine: Why the AAP's new statement on breastfeeding & medication is disturbing - Fearless Formula Feeder

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