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The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business [Paperback]

Gabrielle Palmer
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 April 2009
A truly 'life-changing' book.ABM

This book is the most profound exploration of the global and personal costs of artificial feeding I have encountered. It is heartbreaking, challenging, and a page-turner. Anna Swisher, ILCA

There are many people who prefer to focus on the beauty of breastfeeding, and don't want to look behind the scenes; don't want to look how, why, when and where breasts 'are bad for business', or that a baby dies every thirty seconds due to lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles and counterfeit milks. This is a book to awaken the masses, to make us sit up and notice. If only we would. Countless breastfeeding books exist, but few with the passion, integrity and importance of this one. Veronika Robinson - The Mother

This book is authoritative about the evidence for breastfeeding, while making one's blood boil about the folly and, alas sometimes, venality of the social and commercial forces that stop this vital function of early life and parenting from being the norm. It's a great read. Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London

As revealing as Freakonomics, shocking as Fast Food Nation and thought provoking as No LogoThe 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 essential and inspirational eye-opener, The Politics of Breastfeeding challenges our complacency about how we feed our children and radically reappraises a subject which concerns not only mothers, but everyone: man or woman, parent or childless, old or young.

3rd fully revised and updated edition.


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The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business + The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding + Food of Love, The: Your Formula for Successful Breastfeeding
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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: 13.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,733 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 will be published by Pinter & Martin in May 2011.
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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener! 10 July 1998
By A Customer
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening yet depressing 29 Sep 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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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most powerful books ever written 17 Mar 2008
By Annie
Format:Paperback
I was overwhelmed when I read this book. I think it should be required reading in schools. It's so much more than just about how you feed a baby. It shows how choices have been taken away from women - and men - and how corrupt the world is. It's profoundly powerful, and sad in places. Everyone should read this book. I wonder why Oprah hasn't got hold of it yet?
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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful book! A real eye-opener! 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for any parent or non-parent 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful breastfeeding info as well as politics 3 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book will make you angry, as it describes the way many women and babies have been conned out of their birthright. However, it is not just about politics. It contains plenty of information about breastfeeding and health (for both mother and baby), with references. The writing style is easy to read and entertaining, and lots of anecdotes make it personal in tone. There is practical information on breastfeeding too - good to read BEFORE you have a child.
As far as the 'politics' bit goes, the book was stimulating, informative, and yes, I got angry. This is despite the fact that I disagreed totally with the author's views on economics - she is straight out of the pages of the Socialist Workers Student Society newsletter. She appears to blame most of the world's evils on the free market, but it was Government-employed medical staff who wrecked breastfeeding in the 1950s and thereabouts. Nestle & co may peddle artificial baby milks, but women only started using them when doctors, midwives or health visitors told them to supplement.
Aside from that, great book - exposes the pro-bottlefeeding arguments for the deceitful tosh that they are.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars eye opening
I grew up in a culture where formula was the norm but chose to Breastfeed because, to be honest it's easier. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Rebekah
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing book!
Published 14 days ago by Mrs Jenny Sykes
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
This book is interesting, but sometimes I find it lacking of sufficient evidence.
Published 27 days ago by Yanbo.Hu
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, an eye opener.
Mums and pregnant ladies and the heir partners would do well to read this. And midwives and health professionals too! Read more
Published 6 months ago by Toasty
5.0 out of 5 stars A must!
Evoking, interesting, emotional journey! There were times I had to stop I was so angry. And times I read far later into the night than I should. I thank the author for this book!
Published 7 months ago by Kjv
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Your Eyes to The Political World of Marketing
A book for any parent/parent to be to read. Let you know the lengths that advertising companies go to just to get you to buy their products.
Published 7 months ago by S. Spink
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly written revealing the devastating truth about...
I first read this book from the library and had to buy it. Everyone should read it as the politics of breastfeeding affects society as a whole. Read more
Published 12 months ago by poptart
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
really good book just enjoying picking it upp and putting it down after a few pages. even the first paragraph is very profound.
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. Leanda Jacob
1.0 out of 5 stars Angered!
I came across this book by accident as I was looking for other baby books and I thought I'd have a read of the synopsis. Read more
Published 14 months ago by chiswizz78
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 of THE best books!
I read this book when my kids were young (now out of college) and it inspired me to write my best seller. Eat Vegan on $4. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ellen Jaffe Jones
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