The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer

Subtitled: When Breasts are Bad for Business.

The Politics of Breastfeeding is a history of the ways in which breastfeeding is challenged by societal constructs and business entities. For example, a large portion of the book outlines the ways in which formula manufacturers have spend (and continue to spend) billions of dollars to win customers. That’s not so different than any corporation–except these companies are coming up with ways to prevent mothers and babies from being able to breastfeed. In the case of Nestle, these practices have directly caused the deaths of babies in the developing world.

In Western cultures, breastfeeding is frequently framed as a choice made by the mother. But breastfeeding is chosen for mother and baby by biological hardwiring, and when breastfeeding doesn’t work something has gone wrong somewhere. Our cultural discourse points fingers at individual moms but this book rightly shows that we’re looking in the wrong place. Instead of blaming moms, we should continue to look closely at how to support mothers and babies in all facets–by helping them breastfeed with prenatal education, support during birth and in the immediate post partum period, and developing humane corporate and public practices to help moms continue to breastfeed after returning to work.

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