When Breast Intentions was first announced as a forthcoming title, I spotted a big commotion about it on the publisher’s Facebook page. So strong was the strength of feeling to see this author in print, there were comments such as “I will never read a book published by you ever again!”. What was all the fuss about? Apparently the author writes a controversial parenting blog.
Breast Intentions How Women Sabbotage Breastfeeding for Themselves and Others is not an easy read. It could be mistaken for a thesis for a degree in Psychology or Sociology being choc a block with research theories, quotes, Freud and 55 pages of references. The author appears to have applied every twist and turn of psychology theory to breastfeeding in great detail. Reading it, I felt it could be very useful academic material for students of Psychology or Women’s Studies and would make a great discussion point in those subjects. As a discussion topic for mothers it also gives plenty to chew on and I can see why it may stick in some throats. The basic premise relies on the assumption that mothers who made the decision to bottlefeed or who gave up breastfeeding at the first hurdle have deep seated regrets which cause them to exhibit a range of behaviours and emotions through deception, guilt, excuses, envy, contempt, defensiveness to sabotage. Indeed those are the chapter headings.
For myself, the book didn’t stir up any feelings of discomfort or anger. But then I am apparently known as “a positive deviant”, a “black swan”, “tough cookie” or a “diamond in the rough”. As soon as I became pregnant for the first time; I knew I would breastfeed; not to just “try” or “see if I could”. I went out to buy a book on it, happened on a good one, any difficulties were swiftly dealt with and that was that. Job done. I hadn’t been breastfed myself and wasn’t aware of a single person who had breastfed a baby successfully. And so I am inclined to agree with Allison Dixley on her point that the successs of breastfeeding for an individual mother could indeed be down to that mother’s personality and determination more so than anything else. Determination is bound to be more important than social support or the health care system, if you don’t really want to do something in the first place your heart will never be in it and you will easily cave in at the first hurdle.
But what about the author’s assumption that all mothers who formula feed have deep seated feelings of regret about not breastfeeding? I’m not convinced. I guess it could explain why there was such a hate campaign on the publisher’s Facebook page… if the haters were formula feeders feeling discomfort. However much of the hate was spilling over from a popular Facebook breastfeeding forum. Why did these breastfeeding advocates feel so strongly about the theories in this book? One possibility is that as they hadn’t read it yet, they were basing their anger on previous controversy from Allison Dixley’s blog. The other is that it is not the done thing in breastfeeding circles to make mothers accountable for not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding supporters go to great lengths to blame the support network and not the mother for lack of breastfeeding. And breastfeeding mothers go to great lengths to downplay their achievements so as not to make formula feeding mothers feel guilty. Why? This is what Breast Intentions discusses.
If you failed at breastfeeding or never started, and you’re not over it, you probably won’t enjoy this book. Similarly if you strongly believe a mother should never feel guilty for her feeding choices you will rail against it and write a bad review to deny the notions within and save face with your peers (“we never blame a mother”). In doing so however, you may be playing into the book’s hands by carrying out your own double deception and perpetuating the myth of a culture of “broken breasts”. Who will this book appeal to? I’m not really sure but if you are interested in a theory of academic psychology to explain low breastfeeding rates; Breast Intentions may fascinate you, even if you don’t agree with it all.
On the other hand if you’re looking for accurate breastfeeding information to help you succeed at breastfeeding then you’re looking in the wrong place as this is the wrong book for you. For good breastfeeding help pick up a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding and others here.