The best books about western society’s obstacles to breastfeeding

The Books I Picked & Why

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business

By Gabrielle Palmer

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business

Why 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.


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

By Amy Brown

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

Why 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!


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Breastfeeding and Medication

By Wendy Jones

Breastfeeding and Medication

Why 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.


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

By Emma Pickett

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

Why 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.


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The Big Letdown

By Kimberly Seals Allers

The Big Letdown

Why 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.


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