The best books about western society’s obstacles to breastfeeding

Who am I?

I got hooked on breastfeeding when, during my health visitor training, our class had a lecture from Drs. Penny and Andrew Stanway, who wrote the original Breast is Best. I breastfed my own children, became a breastfeeding counsellor and lactation consultant (IBCLC), and championed breastfeeding as a health visitor and midwife. I then worked for 14 years with the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, teaching and supporting healthcare staff to improve standards of care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. Throughout, I gained a huge respect for babies’ abilities in relation to breastfeeding. This directly influenced my belief in their capacity to continue feeding themselves when they start solid food, which is my current focus.

I wrote...

Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide

By Gill Rapley, Tracey Murkett,

Book cover of Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide

What is my book about?

Solid foods are nowadays recommended from around six months. At this age, the vast majority of babies don’t need to be spoon-fed, and they don’t need their food to be pureed. Instead, they can feed themselves with pieces of real food, using their hands. They know what they need to eat, how fast, and how much. The parent’s role is simply to provide healthy food and shared mealtimes, and to trust their baby’s abilities and instincts.

I first began speaking and writing about BLW back in 2001. A few years later, I teamed up with Tracey Murkett to write the first edition of this book, which sets out the benefits of baby-led weaning, why it makes sense, and how to do it. Since then, baby-led weaning has taken off worldwide and the book – now in its second edition – has been translated into over 20 languages. As a result, many authors have followed in our wake. But our book was, and remains, THE definitive guide.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business

Why did I love this book?

This was the book that really opened my eyes to the power of marketing, and the impact this can have on the way babies are fed – in all countries of the world. It’s an absolute classic – a seminal work. It showed me how the infant formula industry (and increasingly the baby food industry in general) uses any tactics it can to influence and distort the dialogue around infant feeding. I was especially horrified to learn how, as a health visitor and midwife, I could unwittingly be used to promote products and practices that had the power to undermine breastfeeding, even while I thought I was supporting mothers and babies to do it.

By Gabrielle Palmer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Politics of Breastfeeding as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As revealing as "Freakonomics", shocking as "Fast Food Nation" and thought provoking as "No Logo", "The Politics of Breastfeeding" exposes infant feeding as one of the most important public health issues of our time. Every thirty seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. In her powerful book Gabrielle Palmer describes how big business uses subtle techniques to pressure parents to use alternatives to breastmilk. The infant feeding product companies' thirst for profit systematically undermines mothers' confidence in their ability to breastfeed their babies. An…

Book cover of Breastfeeding Uncovered: Who Really Decides How We Feed Our Babies?

Why did I love this book?

Amy nails the many aspects of today’s UK society that make breastfeeding so difficult for mothers and their babies. She looks at the myriad subtle – and not-so-subtle – ways in which breastfeeding is discussed and presented, so that it comes across as something laudable in theory but unrealistic and undesirable in practice: great if you can do it, but keep it to yourself and don’t frighten the horses. She also explores the many, seemingly unrelated, notions we have about how babies should be cared for, such as where and for how long they should sleep, which are quite simply incompatible with what babies really need, and with helping breastfeeding to work. Never mind pressurising women to breastfeed – how about we just support them to do it!

By Amy Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breastfeeding Uncovered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Across the world mothers are urged to breastfeed, but in Western society many find this a difficult task. Those who stop can feel demoralised and unsure as to why such a desired, encouraged and biologically normal behaviour can appear so challenging in reality. Breastfeeding Uncovered examines why this continues to happen, revealing how complex social and cultural messages work against new mothers, damaging the normal physiology of breastfeeding and making it seem unmanageable. Dr Brown removes the focus from the mother and instead urges society to rethink its attitude towards breastfeeding and mothering and instead to support, encourage and protect…

Book cover of Breastfeeding and Medication

Why did I love this book?

Sadly, one of the many obstacles to breastfeeding lies within the healthcare system. For too long, education about how breastfeeding works has been severely lacking in the training of doctors, pharmacists, and a host of other disciplines. The result is that time and again, women who seek help – often for conditions unrelated to lactation – are given advice or care that fails to take into account their feeding choices, Many are told that they must stop breastfeeding in order for either them or their baby to receive treatment. As a pharmacist and breastfeeding counsellor, who, for years, ran the UK’s Drugs in Breastmilk helpline virtually single-handed, Wendy’s knowledge in this area is second to none. In the hands of health professionals, this book has the power to bring about huge change.

By Wendy Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breastfeeding and Medication as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sadly, women often feel they have no alternative but to give up breastfeeding, having been prescribed or purchased medication. In many cases, however, this is unnecessary. This book outlines the evidence base for the use of medication during breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Medication presents a comprehensive A to Z guide to the most frequently prescribed drugs and their safety for breastfeeding mothers. Evaluating the evidence for interventions and using a simple format for quickly identifying medications that are safe or unsafe to use, it also highlights those drugs where there is inconclusive evidence. Additional contextual information makes this the most complete…

Book cover of The Breast Book: A puberty guide with a difference - it's the when, why and how of breasts

Why did I love this book?

Whoever said ignorance is bliss was lying! Ignorance about one’s body is a massive obstacle to breastfeeding. As a newly qualified breastfeeding counsellor I remember being amazed at how many women become mothers without really knowing anything about how their breasts work. But why would they? In formal lessons about ‘growing up’, breasts are hardly mentioned (beyond the fact that they will appear at some point) – almost nothing about how they function, and even less about what they’re for. And, of course, most children in the UK never get to see breastfeeding in action. Emma’s book is the antidote to all that ignorance. It’s the book I wish I – and my daughter – had had, aged ten. I’m so glad it’s there for my granddaughter.

By Emma Pickett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Breast Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When breasts first start to grow, no one talks about it. There aren't any greetings cards that say, 'Woo Hoo! Your breasts are developing!' but you get a birthday card when you are ten and that's just about planet Earth going around the Sun ten times.
Why don't we say, "Woo Hoo!"? Because we live in a society where we often get uncomfortable and look at the floor when it comes to talking about breasts. They seem to be important in lots of ways but then there are these confusing rules that say when we're allowed to notice them and…

The Big Letdown

By Kimberly Seals Allers,

Book cover of The Big Letdown

Why did I love this book?

Kimberly writes from personal experience and from the heart. She pulls no punches. Her book covers a lot of the obstacles you’d expect – societal attitudes to breastfeeding, the formula industry, and so on – but it’s her chapter on ‘the feminist fallacy’ that really spoke to me. I’ve always been baffled by the lack of support that feminist writers have shown for breastfeeding. They talk about it as a chore, as a restriction on women’s freedom, not as something amazing that a woman’s body can do. Kimberly challenges this thinking head on, fearlessly exposing the flawed thinking that has, in the name of equality, blindly followed an agenda set by men, with the result that motherhood is devalued and breastfeeding is framed as simply an issue of ‘choice’. Her conviction provides me with the hope that we can reverse this. Brilliant.

By Kimberly Seals Allers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Big Letdown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Breastfeeding. The mere mention of it has many mothers wracked with anxiety (how will I manage with work, other kids, what if I don't make enough milk?) or guilt about not doing it (will I be hurting my child ifl choose not to breastfeed? what will people think of me if I choose not to?). This hot-button issue is one we've talked about repeatedly in the media and in celebrity culture. Remember when Angelina Jolie posed for the cover of W nursing her new-born? Oh, the controversy! And when Barbara Walters complained about the woman breastfeeding next to her on…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in breastfeeding, puberty, and medications?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about breastfeeding, puberty, and medications.

Breastfeeding Explore 16 books about breastfeeding
Puberty Explore 18 books about puberty
Medications Explore 24 books about medications

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Breastfeeding…Naturally, Your Baby's First Year, and I Don't Know How She Does It if you like this list.