Breastfeeding Uncovered by Amy Brown
Reviewed for ALCI by Dr Genevieve Becker, IBCLC Jan 2018
Published by Pinter & Martin, UK 2016. 318 pages excluding references. Approximate price €15.
“We need a new approach to feeding babies” states Amy Brown. She then explains that the approach needs to recognise and get rid of barriers that mothers face, to portray breastfeeding as just normal and not news or debate, and not leave responsibility for breastfeeding to the mothers themselves, motivated individual health workers or volunteer supporters. “Breastfeeding is society’s responsibility.”
Dr Brown explores the evidence of the effects on breastfeeding decisions and carrying out those decisions, and how all of us – society – can act to change these effects. In the introduction she lays out 18 steps. I particularly like Step 15: “Educate the public to stop being idiots, or at least do no harm”. Throughout the book there is a conversational tone so it seems like a friend chatting with you. Numbers and statistics, such as risks of not breastfeeding, are explained with easy to follow analogies as well as answers to commonly raised questions about research evidence provided.
Dr Brown includes responses from mothers from her own research experience which helps to keep the focus on the situations and practicalities that affect real mothers and babies and why these are issues beyond the individual mothers. Responsive feeding and baby care and “normal” (frequency of feeding, sleep, closeness, birth practices, and psycho-social interactions) are well covered and what are the effects on breastfeeding, and the barriers and knowledge gaps related to these practices being better supported. Motherhood, body image, mental health and individual personalities are also included as are fathers, health professionals, media, marketing, economics and politics.
It is easy enough to read, however, I found I wanted to make notes and mark key sections like a textbook so maybe not beach-side reading. The book is also well researched with a 23 page appendix of the chapter-by-chapter references for all the evidence that she discusses using both historical and very recent studies. Some readers might prefer the references were nearer where they occurred in the text, though others may prefer the smoother layout unbroken by citations. I suggest an overall read first and then a more detailed read that also considers the references.
The book is UK-focused though very applicable to Ireland. If you found previous books such as Breastfeeding Matters by Maureen Minchin and Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer enlightening and motivating, then this book is also for your bookshelf. The difference is Dr Brown gives clear practical points and clear arguments towards what all of society can do to change the situation to be more supportive of breastfeeding as the societal norm. There are many pithy phrases that could be quoted in presentations and media articles (with credit to Dr Brown of course).
I recommend all ALCI members read it and that they encourage other health professionals, students, media workers, politicians, and those who know it all and pontificate on their opinions, to also read this book. Her website has even more to explore http://breastfeedinguncovered.co.uk