Guilt-free Bottle Feeding: Expert Interview with Madeleine Morris

Today I'm excited to introduce Madeleine Morris, author of the recently published Guilt-free Bottle Feeding who will grace us with her insights and honesty on infant feeding including the neglected bottle. An award-winning former BBC reporter and presenter, Morris has written for the Times, the Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald amongst others. Currently she is an investigative journalist for the Australian ABC's flagship current affairs show, 7.30. Fortunately for us she and her co-author, paediatrician Dr. Sasha Howard, joined forces to challenge the Breast Is Beast (typo, and it’s staying) ideology and offer ample evidence children who are bottle-fed (even with formula!) can grow up happy, health and smart too. They also offer practical advice for bottle-feeding but make no mistake, this book offers valuable knowledge for all parents such as infant feeding research, the culture of parenting and yes, the media. I’m a big fan of the book and should also note Madeleine Morris interviewed me for the book.

She also agreed to answer some questions for Momma Data. Enjoy...

MD: What’s the biggest misconception about breastfeeding?

MM: Without a doubt that because it’s ‘natural’ it will come naturally to everyone.  The idealization of breastfeeding has done all of us a great disservice.  We all believe it’s the ultimate expression of motherhood, yet we’re unprepared for the intense learning, adjusting, and sometimes ultimately failing that is the standard trajectory of breastfeeding in our thoroughly modern, unnatural lives.  

MD: What’s the biggest misconception about formula-feeding?

MM: Hmm… a tie for this one.  1) That formula-feeding is easy, and that you just ‘have to do what it says on the tin’.  FF isn’t rocket science, but there are important techniques you need to know to FF safely, and to promote health and bonding to its maximum.  Sadly, because of the conspiracy of silence around formula-feeding (as though if we don’t talk about it it will just go away) families don’t get told the information that could potentially make a difference to their baby’s health, and their own bonding experience.  2) That people formula-feed because they are too lazy, or just can’t be bothered to breastfeed.  Most mothers I know came to early formula-feeding through a traumatic breastfeeding experience OR they made an informed choice to do so, after seriously considering their personal circumstances, and what will be better holistically for their whole family.

MD: As a journalist, how do you think the media can improve the status quo in terms of breastfeeding/infant feeding news and advice?

MM: I wish journalists would be more transparent about important caveats.  If a sample is small, we need to know, right at the top of the story.  If it didn’t allow for important confounders, let us know (or better still, don’t report the study, because it’s less reliable anyway.)  And I wish there was a law that reporters had to read the whole study, not just the abstract, or even worse, only the press release.  This happens more than we realize, and it results in shoddy, misrepresentative stories.  

MD: Do you see any positive developments?  Negative?

MM: I actually think there has been a positive shift towards understanding the complex culture of formula-feeding, and reducing the shame FFing mothers feel, led by a number of important thinkers and advocates, such as Suzanne Barston, Joan Wolf, and any number of female journalists who are writing about their experiences of FFing in a positive way.  However, I don’t see much of a shift amongst the wider ‘baby industry’ - by that I mean baby media, public health bodies and the medical establishment.  We recently had a leading baby magazine in Australia say it couldn’t review my book because it is a breastfeeding friendly magazine, as though even discussing formula was anti-breastfeeding.  It is a very big tide to turn.  

MD: How has the media responded to your book?

MM: Much more positively than I expected!  Generally it’s been really warmly received.  I did a phone-in show on Australian radio where women were calling up saying they had never phoned in in ten years of listening, but wanted to say how grateful they were for the book. Amazing!  I think it really speaks to the huge need of so many families out there who are formula feeding for whatever reason, and need help, understanding and to not feel bad about it. That’s what we’ve tried to do.  

Thanks, Madeleine. 

Later this week I'll share more of Madeleine’s insightful answers in the debut of the official Momma Data Expert Q&A. I'll leave you today with more details about the book and Madeleine: 

Madeleine Morris on Twitter: @Mad_Morris

Watch the video: Madeleine Morris answers Is Breast Best?

Read another media interview with Madeleine.


ShrinkMom said...

I wish I had this book sooner too. It's about time. I breastfed some too. Thanks.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Hey Shrink Mom - Hopefully it will help a lot of moms in time.

Andrea Riley said...

Finally getting around to buying this book. Excited to read it at the hospital he he he!

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

Better late than never! Big week!!