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The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business Paperback – 29 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pinter & Martin Ltd.; 3rd Revised edition edition (29 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190517716X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905177165
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 2.4 x 21.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Gabrielle Palmer is a nutritionist and a campaigner. She was a breastfeeding counsellor in the 1970s and helped establish the UK pressure group Baby Milk Action. In the early 1980s she lived and worked as a volunteer in Mozambique. She has written, taught and campaigned on infant feeding issues, particularly the unethical marketing of baby foods.
In the 1990s she co-directed the International Breastfeeding: Practice and Policy course at The Institute of Child Health in London until she went to live in China for two years. She has worked independently for various health and development agencies, including serving as HIV and Infant Feeding Officer for UNICEF New York. She recently worked at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she had originally studied nutrition.
She is a mother and a grandmother.
Her book Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics was published by Pinter & Martin in 2011, and she is currently collaborating on Why The Politics of Breastfeeding Matter with Susan Last, due for publication in 2015.
Gabrielle Palmer retired from active campaigning at the end of 2009.

Product Description

About the Author

Gabrielle Palmer is a nutritionist and a campaigner. She was a breastfeeding counsellor in the 1970s and helped establish the UK pressure group Baby Milk Action. In the early 1980s she lived and worked as a volunteer in Mozambique. She has written, taught and campaigned on infant feeding issues, particularly the unethical marketing of baby foods.
In the 1990s she co-directed the International Breastfeeding: Practice and Policy course at The Institute of Child Health in London until she went to live in China for two years. She has worked independently for various health and development agencies, including serving as HIV and Infant Feeding Officer for UNICEF New York. She recently worked at The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine where she had originally studied nutrition. She is a mother and a grandmother.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

chapter 1: why breastfeeding is political (excerpt)

If a multinational company developed a product that was a nutritionally balanced and delicious food, a wonder drug that both prevented and treated disease, cost almost nothing to produce and could be delivered in quantities controlled by consumers' needs, the announcement of this find would send its shares rocketing to the top of the stock market. The scientists who developed the product would win prizes and the wealth and influence of everyone involved would increase dramatically. Women have been producing such a miraculous substance, breastmilk, since the beginning of human existence, yet they form the least wealthy and the least powerful half of humanity.

As subjects of research, breastfeeding and breastmilk have attracted much attention during recent decades, yet as academic careers thrive on discoveries of how breastfeeding works and what breastmilk contains, women and their babies are still prevented from fulfilling this unique relationship. As knowledge about breastfeeding increases, so do global sales of artificial milks and feeding bottles. This may surprise those who live where breastfeeding is still part of the culture or where well-educated women have access to support, information and their babies. There are policy documents, promotional initiatives and media attention in many countries. However, all over the world women are impeded from protecting their own and their babies' health, and often survival, because of factors beyond their control.

Why, after about a million years of survival, has one of the principal evolutionary characteristics by which we identify ourselves as mammals become so damaged? Have women been freed from a time-wasting biological tyranny to lead nobler, more fulfilling and more equal lives? In this book I examine the political reasons for a situation which has a profound effect on the whole world from the major economic effects of squandering a natural resource to the individual misery of a sick child or an unhappy woman.

Why is it that whether we were breastfed ourselves, or breastfeed our own children, depends on our social and economic position? How is it that in many societies, 100% of poor, undernourished women all breastfeed easily, while in others, groups of privileged, well-nourished women believe they cannot? Why is the right to breastfeed fought for so vehemently by some women and rejected so forcefully by others, often according to their class, education or society? And why, if women participate in the modern economic structures which are claimed to be for the benefit of us all, must the breastfeeding relationship be curtailed and restricted? For many women, what could be a simple compromise becomes an agonising decision.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 July 1998
Format: Paperback
As someone who had to defend breastfeeding my child, I already had strong views about how society looks at the practise. The first time I read this book (first edition)I found the history behind it fascinating. What really alarmed me, though, was the truth behind formulas and what used to pass as formula! After getting the second edition, I was dismayed to find that nothing had improved in 10 years. This book is well researched an passionate. Be warned! After reading this, you may just become an activist!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By hanaflower on 29 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
It makes me sad that any promotion of breastfeeding is now seen as 'making those who can't feed feel guilty'. This book explores how we have come to this point in the industrialised world, and looks at the impact of unethical marketing practices on developing countries.
Palmer really knows her stuff, and the book is well laid out, though the topic means it's not light reading. The myths around women's lives in history are explored, and I particularly enjoyed the information about natural birth spacing through breastfeeding, knowledge that has been all but lost, leading to more maternal deaths and ill health.
There is some hope, for example from projects in Brazil, but noone makes money from breastfeeding, and sadly I can't see the situation changing anytime soon.
All in all, a powerful book, meticulously researched, and highly recommended. Misses out on 5 stars simply because it seemed to fade at the end, rather than finish with a summing up, which I would have appreciated.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. M. L. George on 1 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
I was recommended this by another parent and boy was I ignorant. I read this very quickly and was absolutely horrified by some of the actions of formula companies. In this world profit really does come before anything else. I love the 1st part of the book, where even as a mother of 2 breastfed babies, I learnt more than I ever knew about the amazing and wonder stuff that breastmilk is. This is a well researched book and by releasing a another edition, she has brought it right up to date. I was worried it would be preachy and dogmatic but this wasn't the case at all, the author has a sense of humour and while you can tell she is passionate about the subject, she does not allow the bias to come across.
The decline of breastfeeding affects society as a whole not just children and parents, everyone should read this book - I have passed it on.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 May 2001
Format: Paperback
I often wondered why women do not breastfeed anymore. Is it because it seems easier to bottlefeed, is it because they heard so much about possible problems, is it just because they are to vain and afraid what it will do to their breasts, etc?
Then I came across this book... breastfeeding is a long forgotten art, caused by many factors, main of them change in woman's place in society and workplace through industrial revolution, forceful and false advertising of artificial baby foods from manufacturers, often supported by medical profession, etc.
This book is a great study of the phenomena of breastfeeding (or rather its decline) and is well researched and supported by references of studies. The style is very friendly and easy to read, full of photos and with the extensive reference guide at the end.
I strongly recommend this book not only to mothers, but also to medical profession, anyone who studies the history of economics, media or advertising as well as human relations!
An absolute MUST read!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mair Davies on 24 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business

After having waited eagerly for over a year for this book (I kid you not I preordered it in Summer 2008) I can now say that it was well worth the wait.

It's without a doubt the sort of book that gets you thinking whilst really really cross - if it's not a call to action for those who read it I just don't know what will get people moving on this subject.

The book was easy to read, and well referenced.

My only criticism was probably that it came across as a bit ranty (perhaps only to me) towards the end and in all honesty I find the big scale thinking probably a bit unrealistic (the cynic in me? I wish I did not find it so?).

I have so far recommended this to all my friends with even the slightest interest in breastfeeding and women's issues, and will continue to do so.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 26 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
This book is truly informative & inspirational, it also made me very cross ( with artificial milk manufacturers not the author..)
I was already pro-breastfeeding mostly through the examples & support within my family, & it is truly appalling to see mapped out how many mothers have a perfectly good breastfeeding relationship ruined by those with a vested interest in artificial milk. Buy it, read it & spread the word.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. S. L. Barber on 31 May 2009
Format: Paperback
The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business
I have waited patiently, since the UNICEF conference in November, to get my hands on this book and it has been worth every second of the wait. I have read so much that can help me in my job that I will have to re-read it just to make sure I have taken it all in and remembered. This is not a book to read whilst on a relaxing holiday as it does make you blood boil to read about infant milk manufacturers practices. I did just that and almost fell out with my 80 year old mother in law when she adamantly assured me that her husband, 'who was reared on watered down condensed milk' came to no harm!
They say knowledge is power and I really believe that what I have acquired from reading The Politics of Breastfeeding will enable me to continue championing the breastfeeding cause!
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