Monday, July 27, 2009

Review of an amazing breastfeeding book

The Food of Love; your formula to successful breastfeeding, by Kate Evans

I finished this 207 page book in less than two days. It's so easy to read, I imagine you could have a fairly successful attempt at digesting it even in those hazy newborn days (sorry, weeks...), when you can't even hold a real conversation due to sleep deprivation! And, as the book itself sates on the second page, if you really are in that zombie-like state and can't possibly bear a book, and just need help with breastfeeding, there are loads of wackily drawn cartoons and diagrams to look at and to make you laugh, while informing you and banishing your fears/guilt at the same time. How did Kate Evans manage to do that?? Great!

The forward to the book is written by a midwife, who, as well as declaring the book “essential” reading for the 21st century mum, write that she wishes “the NHS could afford to hand out copies” to new parents,which sounded very promising to me. I wasn't disappointed!

The book covers topics such as how emotionally/psychologically we might (and do) feel uncomfortable with breastfeeding, and how it seems so silly to other cultures to have these hang-ups, all stemming from the sexualisation of breasts, which, let's be frank, are only really there for one job, and this is it. The cartoons are just great, and often left me thinking, “yes, that's how it should be!” while giggling at the same time. It has all the technical stuff: why breast is best, but delivered in a light-hearted way, that wouldn't make you feel like a terrible person if you read the book and then decided not to breastfeed. (Or couldn't for whatever reason). But if you did run into problems, and thought you couldn't feed, the book is PACKED with simplified trouble shooting for things like latching baby on, or how to get rid of blocked ducts, with funny and very clear illustrations, which at 3am is a lot more useful than the thought of your midwife visiting “first thing” or even the pain of calling a 24hr helpline (which, although comforting, doesn't show you visually how to do it).

So the book is very practical, as well a tickling your funny bone at every turn. It has some of the author's (and her family's) experiences, which helps with the concept that she's a real person, and has really done it (she boasts literally having had ALL the ailments in the problems section....and going on to extended breastfeeding!). And I love reading anecdotes in books like this, maybe I'm just nosy. There is advice on multiple births and special care babies: how feeding is different but still possible (and perhaps even more vital). For very new mums, it gives some great ideas about what to “do” when you're stuck in a chair breastfeeding (again). Yes, newborns feed all the time. All of it. Really. Her ideas are great (and funny), and I especially like her extra ideas for second (or third or more) time mums, who are also entertaining a toddler, that is, while feeding. Women are great.

One of the most lovely and comforting things I found about the book is comparing our modern babies to those they evolved from many moons ago. (Check out Cave Mother's blog for more of a day-to-day idea). It discusses how, to survive, babies needed to be near mothers, but that mothers had massive support from the community way back when: we are a tribal species after all. So yes, our babies may have been demanding to be held /fed all the time, but our older children would be off playing with the other children in the tribe, so you wouldn't have to entertain them, your sisters/aunties/mother would be doing all your chores, and your mother/older women in the tribe/teenage girls would coo over the baby, and swaddle and carry her when you needed a rest. It explains that for these purposes, all we have is cbeebies, take away food, a bouncy chair and internet chat rooms..... doesn't look great does it?

The book then helpfully points out, in my favourite cartoon of the lot, that babies in general (and I found great comfort in this, as it applied to my little boy very heartily, and no-one believed me/thought I was nuts or exaggerating) do not appreciate non-human company (i.e. that of bouncy chairs/mobiles/tv), but this is for evolutionary purposes. The cartoon depicts a happily cooing baby, content with its own company for hours on end. Then a tiger came and ate him all up! The second picture depicts another baby who screamed “as if a tiger was about to attack him” every time his mother put him down (is this sounding at all familiar??? This was my life for about six months!). The mother gives up and puts the baby in a sling and carries him everywhere. The tiger, skulking in the background, thinks; “drat, foiled again.” The line reads: “guess which baby yours is descended from?”. This really made me feel better! Babies aren't supposed to want to sleep alone in a cot or be happy in a door bouncer while you take a shower or cook tea! It was ok that my baby needed me 24/7, because that's what millions of years had taught him to do! I wasn't going nuts, and I didn't have the most difficult baby on the planet, I had a very clever baby. A normal baby. This was my favourite part of the whole book. :-)

The book gives lots of information about various aspects of attachment parenting. (For a more substantial, but defiantly less entertaining look at attachment parenting, read THIS.) It gives very easy to decipher diagrams of how to wear (and breastfeed in) slings, and the benefits of babywearing, and the benefits of pushchairs too! She really gives every option. There is advice on safe co-sleeping,and the (very funny) pros and cons to sharing a bed with your baby. (Pro: daddy and baby look so cute together! Con: baby has razorblades for toenails.) But the lovely thing about all this advice on attachment parenting is that Kate Evans explicitly says, throughout the book, that your baby isn't like the babies in the books, so you know her best, and should do what is right for your family, no matter who it goes against (the midwife, your mother, this book...). As a new mum, I would have loved to have “permission” to do things my way (something I'm so excited about this time round) as I just didn't have the confidence to ignore the midwife, or my mum, or the books! And since none of them agreed with one another, it was a very confusing time indeed....

There is also some very helpful advice and information about the baby blues and post natal depression. Not everyone is overjoyed when they hold their newborn in their arms. But that's ok. That's the message, and a very comforting one it is (and would have been, 18 months ago) to me. The book covers breastfeeding in public, something many mums dread while pregnant, and there's even a section about your looks:how you will be different (regardless of whether or not your breastfeed) and how to, in time, be ok with that. Information on how hubby may feel about feeding, and even how breastfeeding can affect sex (even contraceptively!) and when to stop breastfeeding, how to combine with formula, and how to deal with feeding a much older child, if you wish (like the World Health Organisation recommends, two or more years), all these topics you may not even have thought of, but may well crop into your lives now you have a baby, are covered,and in a non-preaching, humorous way.

All in all, every word in this book was as fun,entertaining and easy to read as a candy-floss chick-lit novel, but paced with vital information, and very useful advice and points of view.

The blurb on the back reads thus:
This book will tell you all the information you need to breastfeed successfully:
clear pictures and instructions for your first feeds
how to breastfeed in your sleep
advice on beating the baby blues
what dads can do to help
the art of feeding your baby in public
a guide to breastfeeding complaints
what to do if you return to work
the Mama Sutra- advanced breastfeeding positions
full-term feeding for the fainthearted.
PLUS it's full of fantastically funny illustrations and will stay open at the page so you can read it when both hands are full.
This book will not tell you how to look after your baby. Your baby is utterly unique, and not the same as any of those in the baby books.
Does it sound good? It does exactly what it says on the tin. Read it!



At 9:42 am , Blogger Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Sounds great. Could have done with that last time, I think! Am convinced I will do it with no problems this time but, if not, I will order it on next day delivery!

At 8:05 pm , Blogger Kat said...

What a kick ass review! I want to read it even though I don't really need to....

At 2:47 am , Anonymous BluePixo said...

By far the most important releasing stimulus to the human infant is the sense of touch. The skin of a new baby is far more sensitive than that of an adult. It flushes and mottles at every sensation. It is through his kinesthetic awareness, through being touched and moved and handled, and through the things that touch his sensitive mouth, that a baby first locates himself and makes contact with reality.

Join BluePixo Entertainment - A place for mom and dad to share topics about parenthood and get a chance to win an iPod Nano

At 7:58 pm , Blogger zooarchaeologist said...

Oh How funny, I read this after your comment on my post (which seems to have got lost in the ether). I heav a lot of catching up to do! Sounds like an interesting read, im off to have a look at Amazon for it. Im warning you though- I'll blame you if I think its too pro ;)

At 11:33 am , Anonymous Laura McIntyre said...

Sounds like the perfect book for a mum to be , even i would love to give it a read and i have plenty of breastfeeding experience (4 years and counting )

At 8:55 am , Blogger platespinner said...

What a great review. Sounds like a really good book and definitely something I could have done with the first time around. I have a friend who is pregnant at the moment with her first and I may well buy this for her. I think I might just read it myself first!


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