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The Politics of Breastfeeding (Issues in Women's Health) Paperback – 1 Jun 1993
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
The decline of breastfeeding affects society as a whole not just children and parents, everyone should read this book - I have passed it on.
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.
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!
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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Interesting spin on breastfeeding.
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