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It’s OK to Bottle Feed Around Me: Encouragement from a Breastfeeding Advocate

Is it possible that in our current culture moms feel just as wary to bottle feed in public as they do to breastfeed?

It's okay to bottle feed around me

I lead a local breastfeeding support group. I’m not a certified lactation consultant or counselor, so our group is strictly for peer support. Still, I’m a mother of four breastfed children, and the combined wisdom of all the moms attending often leaves us feeling stuffed full of new knowledge and encouragement at the end of a meeting.

A few months ago, a new mama attended who hadn’t been able yet to successfully latch and transfer milk to her baby without the help of an SNS or bottle. She had struggled through a month of major inconvenience and frustration, and was hoping for new inspiration or insight from our group.

I watched her nurse and asked her questions. While I gave her my two cents worth of advice (in an informal capacity, of course), and encouraged her to continue seeing the lactation consultants, it was evident there was no easy fix in her situation.

A month later, the mama came to our group again. I hoped as soon as I saw her that she would give a glowing report of how everything had turned out roses, but that was unfortunately not the case.

She settled into our comfy couch, pulled out a bottle, and started to feed her sweet girl expressed milk while she chatted with us and explained how nothing had changed. They still weren’t able to latch properly, and little girl got very frustrated at trying. Feeding expressed milk was not her plan, but it didn’t seem to have dashed her spirits. She was hopeful that they would find a way to make breastfeeding work, but she seemed at peace with their situation.

It wasn’t until a few days after our meeting it occurred to me that something wonderful had happened there. A bottle feeding mama had walked right into the middle of a gaggle of women with their breasts out, and fed her baby like she had every right to. Because she did. And she knew it. And so did we.

No one in our group batted an eye. Even the newbies greeted her with the standard small talk. “How old is your baby?” “She’s so pretty.” “Are you recovering well?” And then when everyone felt comfortable asking if breastfeeding was not working out how she’d hoped, they responded to her story with empathy or compassion. No one offered obnoxiously obvious advice or judgement.

Now, I think this group of women is pretty spectacular, but I may be a little biased. What struck me most, in retrospect, is that this mama was so BRAVE to come for support and camaraderie even though she knew she’d stand out. She couldn’t have been sure that everyone would recognize she came with a spirit willing to do whatever it took to give her baby the best. But she took a chance.

And she inspired me.

And made me realize how infrequently I see mamas bottle-feeding their babies in public. In our very breastfeeding-friendly city, I see nursing mothers quite regularly. Is it possible that families who bottle feed here feel reluctant to advertise that they aren’t breastfeeding for fear of judgement?

I know that babies who are bottle fed often nurse less frequently than those who nurse. It’s also obviously more inconvenient to prepare formula or warm milk while on-the-go. Still, I rarely see bottles at church, the park, or the store. If that’s the result of higher breastfeeding rates, then fantastic! But if it’s because bottle feeding mothers feel shamed, then heaven forbid I rejoice in it!

If we really have swung, in some communities, to shaming bottle feeding in public instead of breastfeeding, then I want to take a public stand. I have been exclusively breastfeeding for eight years. I facilitate a breastfeeding support group. I write regularly for a breastfeeding website…

And it’s OK to bottle feed around me!


I want you to nurture your baby the very best you can with the resources you have. If that means bottle feeding formula or breastmilk, then do it! I want you to feel loved and supported by the other mothers in your community. If that means bottle feeding next to me while I breastfeed in public, then by all means do it! This precious life is too short to squander for fear of judgement, or to darken with resentments toward fellow mothers who could be inspirational friends.


Are you seeing fewer bottle feeding moms in your community? If you bottle feed, do you feel pressure to hide it?

Anjanette Barr is wife to a librarian and mom of four living in Juneau, Alaska and loving the life God has blessed her with. Her days are filled with lots of silly antics and laughter, mountains of laundry, and more love than she could ever hope for or deserve. She blogs at Find her also on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.


  1. I planned on breastfeeding myself but complications led to my needing many medications in the days before and the days after I gave birth. These things also led to the inability to hold my son but a few times during the next day and half. The medications dried my milk and no amount of pumping sped up the process of it coming back, the lactation consultant said it would likely be at least a week give or take. My baby had to eat so he was fed formula and though I tried hard to get him to latch it just didn’t happen. Since I had planned on breastfeeding I got a lot of supplies at my shower from family, I had told WIC and taken the class, told friends and baby’s dad so when it turned out that I didn’t I was insulted, thinly veiled as it was, by many people. No more than by my sons father who said I was lazy, didn’t try hard enough, must not care for the baby because I didn’t find a way to make sure it happened. So when anyone asks me about it I feel as though I am required to explain all of the things that led to it not happening, just as I have in this comment, because if I dont they will see me as a selfish mother who didn’t want the best for her child. I’m a single ftm, I work on having confidence as a parent daily and not being able to breast feed was a huge enough blow I wish that others wouldn’t add too it as well.

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