Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Ten years on from his bestselling book about children and food, Dr Carlos Gonzalez has turned his attention to wider parenting issues. But this isn't a quick fix, finds Annalisa Barbieri - it's a whole different way of looking at child rearing.
The Food of Love – your formula for successful breastfeeding
A review of Kate Evans’ The Food of Love: your formula for successful breastfeeding by Blue Milk
Motherhood, and breastfeeding particularly, can be a terribly earnest business and can consequently make for a deathly boring read. So it is refreshing when a writer comes along who can make a ‘how to’ motherhood book lively. Kate Evans is one such writer. Her style is relaxed, chatty and inclusive (not unlike really skilled bloggers), and her book about breastfeeding is both informative and enjoyable to read. Evans’ writing is greatly aided by her skills as a political cartoonist. The Food of Love is filled with hand-drawn illustrations, which as the book says means that if you’re too exhausted with new motherhood to read much you can still pick up the main points by flicking through the cartoons. Utterly charming, Evans’ breastfeeding mothers are depicted as a wonderful range of women with various ethnicities, sub-cultures and body shapes (including loads of different breasts). (Although one of Evans’ few oversights is its heteronormativity). The breastfeeding mothers in The Food of Love successfully destigmatise the physique of motherhood. When a mother in one of Evans’ cartoons hikes up her t-shirt to feed her baby you can see a post-pregnancy saggy tummy. And while her mothers will sometimes look absolutely serene feeding their babies, they might also be in a range of other real-life motherhood states like worn-out, distracted, or even simultaneously computering.
The Food of Love covers all the usual topics of breastfeeding; how to attach a baby to your nipple, how to know if your baby is getting enough milk, and how to cope with engorgement, but also goes where few other breastfeeding books have peered – including topics such as feminism and body image. And certainly no other ‘how to’ book that I’ve read has ventured into the problems of breastfeeding when it triggers memories of incest and sexual abuse for women. If I gave out stars for my reviews I would give this book an extra star all of its own for finally including this issue, which I suspect is a hidden and significant cause behind low breastfeeding rates. Evans’ section on post-natal depression, which includes strategies for partners on how to bring the problem up, is also second to none.
My only caution with this book is one that I’d have with any breastfeeding book and that is that latching a tiny newborn’s mouth on to your eye-popping new nipples is tricky stuff, maybe too tricky for any book. The instructions in The Food of Loveread every bit as complicated as it was in practice for me the first time around. I’m not sure that I’d have got there through books alone, no matter how carefully they were written, and in the end it took several appointments with the best lactation consultant this city has to offer to fix my latchment problems.
The Food of Love also examines several of the stickier parenting debates, like co-sleeping versus separate rooms, and baby-wearing versus prams. Those women entirely not interested in giving co-sleeping, baby-wearing and the like a go may find Evans’ approach a little obtrusive because her enthusiasm for these practices is as great as it is for breastfeeding, but I doubt the book will drive those women away. Evans is a cheerful writer, and ultimately so endorsing of mothers (when was the last time you read a parenting book that concluded with instructions to ignore the book if in any way it has undermined your confidence as a parent?) that her book is unlikely to offend in spite of its partisan nature.
In sum, this book is adorable.