‘Why the politics of breastfeeding matter’ – Author Gabrielle Palmer -Book review

This is another excellent book from the ‘why it matters’ series from publishers Pinter and Martin. Gabrielle Palmer is well known for her ground-breaking book, The Politics of Breastfeeding, which was first written in 1988. Palmer is a nutritionist with a myriad of experience in the world of infant feeding, including working in Mozambique and China, supporting the establishment of the UK International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) group Baby Milk Action, and health and development agency work, including UNICEF. This new book is a condensation of the central concepts from the Politics of Breastfeeding, and it delves efficiently into the systems set up to sabotage the intentions of breastfeeding women, milk economics and the creation of a market that aggressively pushes breast-milk substitutes. It describes the differences between advertising and information provision, and also describes the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.  This new book provides an accessible introduction into the corporate forces and vested interests that affect infant feeding decisions, with explanation of the historical underpinnings, as well as provision of an up to date, contemporary focus. The World Breastfeeding Week theme for 2016 was shaped around breastfeeding and sustainable development, and Palmer addresses climate change, dairy and environmental damage as part of her analysis of the costs of not breastfeeding. This revealing book is essential reading for all those who work with mothers and infants. It challenges us to rethink what we think we know about women’s infant feeding decisions, from the frame of simple, independent choices to a frame that recognises that the dice have been very loaded against breastfeeding women for a significant length of time.  Some mothers have been unknowingly situated at a distinct disadvantage, with great costs to their own health, their children’s health, society and the planet.

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