• Zoe

"Why Breastfeeding Matters"                 Book review


I recently bought a set of four of the "Why it Matters" range of books published by Pinter and Martin as a gift.

These are part of a fab range of books written by some of the most renowned and respected names in the parenting world. Well at least my parenting world! All these names are very familiar to me but you won't see them in the general media. They are all far too busy to court the media, helping support families in person in their respective fields.

The range was created to give parents access to evidence based information on specific topics around parenting and birth. They are all written in plain English without jargon and in an easy to read manner with short headline chapters. 

They are nice and small and easy to pop in a bag to take out with you. This immediately puts you at ease as it feels achievable to read a book this size on a particular subject! 

The books aren't instructional, They won't tell you what you should do. All of them give you evidence based information around the choices you may face as a parent.

These days many parents want solutions and instructions. Some people don't want to have to read information and make decisions themselves as it means they take on the responsibility for those decisions . It is often far easier to be able to blame someone else. 

Much of the parenting advice out there in the mainstream isn't actually backed by any evidence, shock horror! It's often what sells books is the promise of more sleep or some other such myth!

When faced with information or advice from anyone including a health professional a good response would be to ask "what is the evidence for that?" Usually the reply is well it worked for me or my child.

And after reading these books you'll be able to reply "well the evidence shows/suggests....." 

I went to the book launch last year of Rosie Knowles book "Why Babywearing Matters" and have a signed personal copy and have been lucky to meet and chat with Rosie many times.

I also feel like I know Charlotte Young, who has written "Why Breastfeeding Matters". She is the Analytical Armadillo as well as running Milk Matters as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), helping to support families with feeding.  She is one of the admins on the Infant Tongue tie board on Facebook.  I first heard of Charlotte many years ago, on the Pumping Mummies board on Babycentre. I set this group up in 2009 after the birth of my eldest and I was exclusively pumping breastmilk to feed her. Over the time on the board I learned a lot on the subject of pumping,, and that in fact many were pumping due to their child having a tongue tie. I had never heard of this in any of our antenatal classes or discussed after when Mai couldn't latch.  Charlotte's name popped up on the board along with others such as Ann Dobson and Sarah Oakley all IBCLCs very experienced in tongue tie assessment and division.

I joined the Facebook group before the birth of my second child to get support and I have used it often for support during our feeding challenges with our second and third children including messaging Charlotte. Despite never having met her I feel like I have! She has written many great blog posts so I wasn't surprised to learn that she had been approached to write this book.

The book is number 7 in the range and is 192 pages formed of 16  chapters. The references alone are 9 pages long! That goes to show how much of what is discussed is based on reearch and evidence.

This isn't a book that explains the pros and cons of breastfeeding comparing it to formula. It isn't a debate about which is "best", It discusses feeding from a biological and evolutionary normal point of view. She states the evidence and research and dissects it to fully explain and demonstrate exactly why breastfeeding matters. It cannot be balanced as the evidence is not balanced, it overwhelmingly supports that breastfeeding or breastmilk is the biological norm as well as the evidence on formula showing the risks to this. I found it hugely interesting reading about some of the reasarch and theory behind how breastfeeding impacts on the immune system and impacts our health both as a baby but also as a woman feeding her child. 

Charlotte writes in such a no nonsense way, which I found refreshing as so many posts online and books pussy foot around this subject not wanting to offend those who do not breastfeed or those who use formula. 

We do a huge disservice to families to not make them aware of the risks and this needs to begin with a change in language. The phrase Breast is best was created by a formula company as a marketing ploy to make it seem up high on a pedestal, out of the reach of many and to make formula seem normal. And so we are at a point in our culture where the UK has the worst rates in the world (see here). Charlotte discusses why this is the case and the barriers families face in the myths that get pedalled and the lack of decent feeding support out there. As well as discussing marketing tactics and the growth of the formula industry. 

By knowing this all upfront when pregnant or perhaps after "failing" at breastfeeding in the past (women do not fail, they are failed) then this gives you a massive advantage at the start of your journey.

Charlottle also has some great tips in the chapter "The partner's role?" as on the surface of it getting someone else to feed your baby seems like a good idea. However, the reality is often different and this chapter goes into why and offers suggestions of how a partner and family may support a woman on her feeding journey without doing the actual feeding. 

Other topics covered in this gem of a book include the "babymoon" crying and soothing, breastfeeding and mental health, SIDS and the impact of breastfeeding and sleep, where your baby sleeps, guilt and judgement, combination or mixed feeding, exclusive breastmilk feeding (or expressing/pumping) and a chapter on formula covering how to safely make up a bottle and the use of ready made cartons. She also includes a handy appendix at the back around professional support and exactly what this should look like (and that isn't telling you what you should do!) and the titles used in health care as it can be very confusing to assume everyone you meet when you have your baby has had formal training in breastfeeding when sadly this is not the case. 

This book is not out to make people feel guilty or to feel judged, it offers up the facts and evidence in an easy to read plain language way and should be read by everyone who works within the birth and parenting sectors as well as expectant parents and extended family too.