I finally got ’round to finishing the last few pages of ‘The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business’ by Gabrielle Palmer. I bought it months and months ago, but as it’s not what I would call a dip-in-and-out read, it was very hard to gather the time and concentration needed to read it.
First and foremost, let me say that this is not a book that should only be read by nursing mothers. I think it should, at the very least, be read by all women. It encompasses so much; from the beginnings of the end of breastfeeding in certain cultures and how it’s being turned around by proactive governments, how multinational companies market breastmilk substitutes to deliberately undermine breastfeeding relationships, doctors and health care professionals who would have us believe that breastmilk isn’t good enough and most importantly, a woman’s right to feed her baby as she chooses without pressure or unethical influences from corporate bodies.
Reading the book frustrated me on so many levels. I’ve talked before about Nestle’s marketing practices before, but it goes beyond that. The origins of formula; unnecessary death of babies in both developed and ‘third world’ countries; the undermining of women because we’re “not good enough”/”not reliable enough” to maintain life (and this goes hand in hand with the medicalisation of birth and unnecessary interventions, but is not a subject I know enough about to comment on); the supplementing with formula without permission from mums; the strange habit of separating babies from their mums in hospital, etc.
The book is well written, and well referenced. The author, Gabrielle Palmer, is clearly passionate about her subject and not without credentials in the area (she was a breastfeeding counsellor in the 1970s and helped establish Baby Milk Action who are responsible for maintaining the Nestle boycott).
I have promised my copy to Hanna to read, but if anyone else is interested in reading this I would be happy to loan on its return. In the mean time, I recommend reading this extract (external). This book has changed the way I look at so many aspects of birth and infant care.