Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Two Wraps & A Very Important Book

CROCHET: Child's Wrap Waistcoat inspired by Wrapped
KNITTINGTea Cosy Wrap by Debbie Bliss 
READINGShadows at Stonewylde  by Kit Berry, and

So far, this week is a productive one. The girl's ballet cardigan is finished (I'll show you on Friday) and work began on a wrap/waistcoat for her, based on the adult version I introduced in last week's Festive Gift Guide. It is a quick and simple project and should be finished soon. The tea cosy wrap is also waiting to be resumed but I have been distracted by something I feel to be an incredibly important work and definitely worth sharing...

I've known of Gabrielle Palmer's book for some time, and the recent price reduction was the prompt I needed. It's billed as a "life-changing book" and I really think this is the case. This powerful and engaging read is not only about breastfeeding - it's about politics, business, corruption and the sad fact that nature and instincts are bad for business and have suffered accordingly. I'm not done with it yet, but so far it's raised feelings of anger, sadness, shock and also made me feel glad that I was pig-headed enough not to give into considerable pressure to artificially feed my own child by being undermined and doubted.

This third edition is fully revised and updated (sadly, attitudes have not changed much since the first edition in the 70s)  and is quite a challenging read - not  in the way it's written, it's actually very accessible  - but for the way it makes one think about one's own attitudes, and long-held beliefs. Despite breastfeeding for a total of almost 4 years myself, I have never considered myself a lactivist, but an advocate of free choice ('Why should I care how someone else feeds their kids as long as they DO feed them?'). Well, Palmer's exposition has made me consider that choice may not be as "free" as I perceived. I am still looking for the right words to formulate my thoughts on this (edit - my reply to the first comment below comes close), so at this point can say no more to you than I would recommend you read it, whether you are male or female, a parent or not and whatever your current opinion on the importance of breastfeeding.

At the time of writing, the Kindle edition is on sale for £1.99 in the UK (or for $3.21 at compared with the paperback price of £7.99! I'll leave you with the official summary (and having read the first two books listed, I think if you liked those, you'll find this compelling):
As revealing as Freakonomics, shocking as Fast Food Nation and thought provoking as No LogoThe Politics of Breastfeeding exposes infant feeding as one of the most important public health issues of our time.
Every thirty seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. In her powerful book Gabrielle Palmer describes how big business uses subtle techniques to pressure parents to use alternatives to breastmilk. The infant feeding product companies thirst for profit systematically undermines mothers confidence in their ability to breastfeed their babies.
An essential and inspirational eye-opener, The Politics of Breastfeeding challenges our complacency about how we feed our children and radically reappraises a subject which concerns not only mothers, but everyone: man or woman, parent or childless, old or young.
On Wednesdays I link with WIP Wednesdays and Yarn Along. Enjoy!

Edited - I should have used this opportunity to link you to my Customisable Knitted Boob pattern/recipe which is available in English and Portuguese. You can find it here

PS I'm tinkering a little with the blog layout at the moment.
If you come across anything strange, please do let me know. Thanks x


  1. I think the whole arena of breastfeeding is pretty fraught, not only the pressure to not breastfeed but also the opposing pressure from lactivists, which can lead to women who are unable to breastfeed feeling ostracised.

    I'm not a parent (yet) but I hope that my personal choices will be respected whichever way I choose to go - perhaps this is a bit of a vain hope though!

    1. Absolutely! It's this "fraught"-ness that I found to be quite challenging when reading the book - the discussion about other natural bodily functions is never fraught. So why is breastfeeding such a controversial issue? Why is it so emotive? What is behind that and why, in first world countries is it such an issue? And why is it that for the majority of cases (of course some people may have physical preventions) it's only women in developed countries or those where artificial food is readily available, and breasts sexualised and used as a commercial commodity, that are "unable" to bf or persuaded to artificially feed at the first sign of it not being easy?

      When a baby is learning to walk, and he falls over, we don't suggest he gives up trying and uses a wheelchair instead, that it's the next best thing. We support him and help him to learn. He sees other people walking as the norm, and he gets up and tries again, he wants and expects to do it, so he keeps falling and getting up. (Of course if he has a problem with his legs - eg his muscles can't bear his weight - then there needs to be medical intervention.) If everyone around him were in wheelchairs, and it was rare to see someone walk, plus there are posters, adverts and products everywhere to alleviate corns, blisters and aching feet, and people tutting at those walking around in public then his 'choice' to learn to walk or use the chair may be affected, probably without him realising it.

      I am 100% in favour of choice. I think that making an educated and informed choice is very different from one that is based on subtle commercial pressures and societal norms. (In the UK you are far more likely to be 'able' to bf if you are older, middle class and educated - what choice is that for the others outside of that narrow category?)

      These issues are all why I feel this book is so important.

  2. Thank you for sharing the book, it sounds interesting will add it to my wish list. Love the knitting too!

  3. very productive week in deed for you.

    1. Funny how some weeks are so much better than others :)

  4. I'm nursing as I read your post, so I am (almost literally) a captive audience! Very interesting. I breastfed my first for over a year, but as you allude in your comment above, it was HARD and excruciatingly painful for the first while. It needed all the support and encouragement of my friends and my mum to persevere, and a tunnel-vision that the alternatives were not (to my thinking) something I wanted to even consider.
    That said, there's been interesting research to show that there's very little to back up the 'breast is best' claim (notice you don't see that mantra round much anymore, I think it's because the data can't actually back it up).
    I'm just glad it's been a wee bit easier with this boy who's on my knee right now, guzzling away!

    1. There is a very interesting chapter in the book which talks about the proven benefits of breastmilk and also about the funding behind some of the type of research which aims to refute it. It's very eye-opening actually. Aside from the topic, it's an insight into business corruption on a huge scale.

      MASSIVE CONGRATULATIONS on the arrival of your little man - I'm so pleased that all your waiting is at an end. Enjoy your cuddles xxxx

    2. There's an interesting article about the problems of the phrase "breast is best" here:

      It basically points out that breastfeeding is the biological norm, it's not special at all :-)

  5. Very interesting. I'm not sure exactly what issues arise in the book but feel very strongly about the way we are manipulated by big companies to act n ways that we would otherwise see as unnatural/ Food being used as a commodity is one aspect of the nutritional problems facing the world that is covered in the book I am reading at the moment that I feature on my blog today.

    1. That sounds interesting too - off to check it out. Thanks

  6. Which Gabrielle Palmer is it? I think she has two books now.

    And how times change - not the wraps I initially thought of associated with you. I guess you could knit your own stretchy though!

    1. Ha, Meg! I wondered if anyone would comment about "wraps" and to be honest, when I decided on that as the post title I gave a little sigh that these are the only wraps I get to write about these days!

      It's the 3rd edition of The Politics of Breastfeeding - the link is under the main photo x

  7. Interesting sounding book-- definitely something to look into when I reach that point in my life. Thank you for being so open and honest with your sharing.

    Also, I love whatever you are crocheting in pink-- is it James Brett Marble yarn?

    1. Yes Mary, it is! Well spotted. That's the wrap waistcoat and it's some really pretty pink that Little Miss chose herself :D

  8. That book sounds like be I need to add to my reading list. Thanks for clueing me in to it. :) haven't tried Debbie Bliss' cozy pattern. Which book is it in?

    1. Hi Angela, it's the Debbie Bliss book "Knits to Give" which I have written about previously - you can see more of the pattern pictured in the post

  9. Sadly my stepdaughter decided not to breastfeed as her doctor told her there was "really no advantage to breastfeeding" (!) and that "baby formulas these days are just as good as breastmilk". There's plenty of misinformation still out there!

    Love the wrapped cardi - it should be wonderful in a child's size.

    1. You see, this is precisely why this book is such a vital read. A DOCTOR!!!

      I'm hoping to get as much of the wrap done as I can tonight - fingers crossed for a FO on Friday! :)

  10. I think the wrap vest will be so cute on your little one.

  11. Wowza, this books seems interesting. I breastfed both of my children and had a wonderful experience with both. I was fortunate to be self-employed at the time which made it much easier on me.

    Your project photo looks beautiful.

  12. Very interesting debate Sarah. I breastfed my first born for about 3 months but it just didn't really work out for either of us. Once he was on formula, we were both much happier. With my other 2 children I automatically chose to bottle feed from day one. I didn't feel guilty or felt less of a mother for bottle feeding and I still bonded with them. Yes, breast is best but sometimes it just doesn't work out and a mother shouldn't be villified by lactivists.

    Like you I'm 100% for choice too. You shouldn't feel guilty or be pressurised to do one or the other. However, what I do not agree with is big firms like Nestle promoting their baby formula to third world countries where the water is infected and unsafe to use. By continually promoting it over breast milk, it's tantamount to negligence. Sorry, didn't mean to get political. I'll get off the soap box ;)


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