Breast Intentions: How women sabotage breastfeeding for themselves and others

Breast Intentions: How women sabotage breastfeeding for themselves and others
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ISBN:  978-1-78066-215-2
Publisher:  Pinter & Martin

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  (2 Reviews)

Author: Allison Dixley
Published: 24 November 2014

Binding: paperback
Format: 216 x 135 mm
Pages: 320
Illustrations: none
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Why do mothers fail to breastfeed their babies?

The majority of mothers know breastfeeding gives their baby the best start in life: improved health, superior intelligence, and closer emotional attachment are just a few of the crucial benefits. Yet a mere 17% of mothers are still breastfeeding when their babies are three months old. Why?

There are plenty of books out there that offer excuses. Tiredness, sore nipples, low milk supply, breasts too big, breasts too small, excess marketing by artificial milk companies… the list goes on. This is the first book to look for answers in the mothers themselves.

Controversial author and The Alpha Parent blogger Allison Dixley argues mothers fail to breastfeed because women undermine each other, using a toxic mix of deception, guilt, excuses, envy, contempt, defensiveness and sabotage. Drawing on academic research in psychology, biology, philosophy and anthropology, she sheds light on the hidden emotions of early motherhood, and reveals the deep and widespread damage artificial feeding can have on a mother’s confidence in her body, her mothering and in other women.

Heart-wrenching, polemic and ultimately a call to action, this is a book that will make you angry, but a book that will make you think. 

Average Rating (2 Reviews):  
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A challenging exploration of infant feeding relationships
Monday, 30 March 2015  | 

This is a really interesting book, but a really hard read. Ms Dixley is unapologetic and uncompromising in her exposition of the relationships between mothers, and mothers' own feelings about their breastfeeding experiences. Almost everything she says resonates with my experiences and is well backed up by reference to scientific evidence. I recognise the truth of much of what she says. The reason it's hard to read is that it portrays human nature, and that of mothers in particular, in a very negative way. The chapters of the book have titles such as "deception," "guilt," and "sabotage," and the content is equally bleak. Dixley's writing style is aggressive and colloquial, which seems to emphasise her no-nonsense tone. All mothers come in for harsh evaluation, however they feed their babies or relate to other mothers. It seems that they cannot win, except that if we could all take Dixley's assessment to heart, and use it to transform they way we as mothers face breastfeeding, and how we relate to other mothers we interact with, we could surely liberate women from emotional and social discomfort, and enable families to be happier with their choices. This would be a great read for a mother or mother to be looking for self empowerment in breastfeeding, and would be especially helpful in avoiding the so-called "booby traps" along the way.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful.

Intriguing (3.5 stars)
Friday, 26 December 2014  | 

This book is not an easy read; it could be mistaken for the thesis of a degree in Psychology or Sociology being choc a block with research theories, quotes, Freud and 55 pages of references. It might make useful academic discussion material for students of Psychology or Women's Studies but as a discussion topic for mothers it has the ability to touch a raw nerve or two. The basic premise relies on the assumption that mothers who made the decision to bottle feed 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, according to the author I am "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”, despite the fact 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 that the successs of breastfeeding for an individual mother could indeed be down to that mother's personality and determination more so than social support or the health care system.

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 sure they do; perhaps it could explain why there was such a hate campaign on the publisher's Facebook page when this book was first announced... if the haters were formula feeders feeling discomfort. However much of the hate was spilling over from a popular breastfeeding forum on Facebook. 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 the author'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 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.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful.

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