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on December 6, 2001
I bought this book prepared to be fascinated. I was not disappointed. The author addresses some truly fascinating topics of how we view motherhood and breastfeeding in the United States. She makes some good points.
There were, however, so many problems with this book that it really overshadowed what the author did well. An interesting contrast is shown between the African American mothers and Caucasian American mothers that she interviewed for this book. One group feeling guilty about not breastfeeding and using public assistance, the other group apparently feeling no guilt about not breastfeeding and expressing a sense of entitlement to public assistance programs. Rather than expounding upon this fascinating subject of differing emotional perspectives on breastfeeding, the author serves up her thinly veiled personal political views. Worse, she openly expresses disrespect for one of the mothers that she interviewed, denoting in the book how she "kept the upper hand" in the interview. While one could argue that an interviewer "needs" to stay in control of the interview, there is absolutely no reason to show such public rudeness to someone who freely gave of their time to help the author with her research.
The author makes a conversation about the medical community pushing mothers into guilt about not breastfeeding, based upon ONE interveiw. Without even going into the lack of coverage of varying medical attitudes about breastfeeding in different regions of the United States, it has to be stated that making any such statement based upon just one statement is not only poor judgement, but simply ridiculous. Again the author takes a large issue and over-simplifies it for the convenience of her book.
Ms. Blum's contradictory treatment of the importance of breastfeeding is infuriating. With one hand she states her belief in the benefits of breastfeeding, with the other she marginalizes its importance, as if the decision were no more important than whether to wear blue jeans of khakis.
If you want a very slim beginning to this subject go ahead and read the book. Please, though, borrow it rather than buy it and reward the author for such a poor job.
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on June 29, 2000
This book brought out so many emotions from me. Not only am I a breastfeeding mom, in August 2000 I will be a receiving a BA in Women's Studies. I used this book as part of an independent research project that I did with one of my professors in the department. The research entailed looking at breastfeeding from a feminist perspective. Blum does have some really great key points that I had not considered when critically analyzing infant feeding decisions. Race and class are definitely issues that can affect breastfeeding initiative. She also seems to show that health professionals actively promote breastfeeding. However, I am also doing an internship at a major hospital which does over 6500 births a year, and I can tell you that the health professionals are definitely lacking in the promotion of breastfeeding. Grassroots efforts are being done by the Lactation Consutlants on staff and others involved in this area however the resistance is still very high from Dr's and nurses. I realize some who read this book may not understand why she reiterated all the negative reasons why women continue not to breastfeed, however this is reality. Our society is NOT as breastfeeding friendly as we think we are. I agree, as a breastfeeding mom, that she did not really address the breastfeeding experience as well as she could have. But overall, I think this is a great book to get a good synopsis of feminist issues in relation to breastfeeding. **sidenote** As a result of this independent research my professor is using this as part of the required reading for her Body Politics graduate level class in the Women's Studies Department.
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on September 30, 1999
I feel sad that mothers-to be would find this book liberating.It does not give an accurate account of the breastfeeding experience and address THE NEEDS OF BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN-I am ragged from the acccounts of women demanding the right to "keep their breasts to themselves, keep their pre-baby work lives,sex lives,sleeping lives and bash those that are bucking faulty cultural values as holier than thou- when simply their priorities and expectations are in check with the biology of our infants.This is an investment-not a sacrifice.Furthermore,the portrayal of La leche league is narrow, disrespectful and missrepresentative.I also found the tales of sexual stimulation while nursing to further elevate the ignornce and taboo in this area- sexual abuse is much more likely outside of the family bed and nursing relationship.Ms. Blum needs to study across cultures to get an accurate representation of breastfeeding.Of course, she is on the right track in her book if it is from the perspective of people who are ambivelant about the resposibilities of mothering. I think I will get to work on my book "IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE A MOM THEN BUY A DOG." Please buy books related to attachment parenting for accurate info "Our Babies Ourselves" by Meredith Small and Katie A.Granju's "Attachment Parenting......" Thanks. Ourinfo......
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on July 10, 1999
I found this book fascinating ... and maddening. Blum makes some interesting, on-target observations, yet -- despite her awareness that "absences are presences" -- she shapes her research by what she fails to look at. In particular, I was shocked to realize she'd spoken to ONE health care practitioner, even though she speaks authoritatively about "the medical community" pressuring women to breastfeed. This is NOT happening in the real world, where women are discouraged from breastfeeding or given subversive advice based on opinions, not medical research. She "systematically read the various pronouncements of the AAP" and other pieces, then supplemented this with ONE measly interview. Thus she misses learning that the pronouncements of the AAP don't have a thing to do with real doctors and nurses in the real world ... this despite the fact that her own interviews turn up scores of examples of women who got inane advice from doctors and hospital personnel -- advice that destroyed their breastfeeding relationships. Why is this? Because medical schools don't deem breastfeeding important enough to teach. Because breastfeeding is not deemed any HCP's responsibility, and it slips through the cracks. Because HCPs, like everyone, want others to make the decisions they've made. Because HCPs get gifts, free formula, and misinformation from the ubiquitous formula representatives. Blum should read the March 1999 Pediatrics article describing a survey of Fellows of the AAP. This is by no means groundbreaking; past studies have shown similar ignorance in the medical community. These doctors know as much as the average Joe or Jane on the street about breastfeeding, yet they feel confident giving advice -- advice that limits women's choices and robs them of their power. THIS is a feminist issue. This is, to use Robert Mendelsohn's term, MalePractice. How on earth could Blum have missed this point when the evidence is everywhere -- and she herself turned up so much of it? There's a lot of misinformation in this book that could easily have been remedied by research (including Blum's pronouncements on La Leche League, a worldwide organization, based on one geographical area), and I'm disappointed that Blum didn't know better (or perhaps she did, but was too eager to prove her theories and justify her admitted ambivalence about breastfeeding). I'm especially disappointed because this work had so much potential and still contains so many excellent points. And I'm disappointed because, as Katie Allison Granju points out in a previous review, Blum has somehow managed to miss many of the feminist issues tied up in breastfeeding. Blum has let her work be limited by her own experiences -- and she seems too smart for this. :-(
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on June 23, 1999
This book provides overly-simplistic and biased analysis to a complex issue. The individuals within the author's tiny (twenty or fewer) sample sizes of various sub-cultures (such as La Leche League members, minority and disadvantaged women, etc) seem to have been hand-picked in order to "prove" her theory: that breastfeeding is an immensely difficult, arcane, and sexualized undertaking that can/should only be attempted by women with maximum personal privacy, family support and financial backing. The book entirely ignores the empowering, radical feminist nature of breastfeeding (see books by Penny Van Esterik, Katherine Dettwyler, and Gabrielle Palmer for academic research on this topic). The book completely neglects the issue of the relative risks of artificial feeding for American babies, and the book implies quite forcefully that the mountain of peer-reviewed medical research demosntrating the critical importance of human milk is flawed or over-stated in some way.
A better title for this one would have been "Bottle-feeding Without Guilt". Oh wait....that one is already taken... Maybe "Bottle-Feeding Without Guilt for the Intelligentsia" would work then.
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on June 14, 1999
Blum has written an excellent book exploring the diversity of US women's experiences of motherhood, particularly as they revolve around breastfeeding. In the contemporary US, Blum argues, breastfeeding is the "measure of the mother." The author takes special care to discuss the diversity of women's breastfeeding experiences in relation to race and class. Drawing from historical experience as well as contemporary interviews, Blum finds that white, married middle-class mothers--with their greater resources and respectability--are more likely to experience breastfeeding as enjoyable and rewarding as compared to white and African-American working class mothers. Furthermore, Blum is rightly suspicious with medical "facts" on breastfeeding and is concerned to unearth how "knowledge" of breastfeeding is related to power relations. Readers will find this an exceptionally well-researched and well-written book, rich with insights about motherhood in our "postfeminist" era.
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on July 5, 1999
Linda Blum reveals the complexity and diversity of American motherhood and American women's experiences with (or refrain from) breastfeeding in this scholarly, yet enjoyable read. At the Breast highlights the potential for breastfeeding to be an "empowering, radical feminist" act (despite the contrary interpretation in Granju's review), a tool for social and state control AND many things inbetween. A must read for people interested in feminist research and discussions of the body and particularly, how women's bodies are entangled with state power and race and class relations in the United States. Superb!
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on February 4, 2003
This book has gotten bashed because it doesn't come out and say that breastfeeding is a must - but it does reveal a diversity of opinions, some of them mixed, about breast feeding. I found it refreshing and a welcome change from the "Women MUST breastfeed" books out there, masquerading as "unbiased" but actually quite one-sided. Yes, I believe breastfeeding is a good thing for mother and child but this doesn't mean (as Ms. Blum reveals) that it is always a joy. Unfortunately, I'm afraid so many will bash this book that it won't get a fair chance at finding its readership - and that is too bad.
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on June 14, 1999
At the Breast is sociology at its best-- we think of breastfeeding as "natural" but of course it is social and cultural too. Blum's discussion of how race and class shape women's attitudes toward breast feeding--and their chances of success with it -- was a revelation to me. If you read this book, you'll think twice before casually assuming that women who don't breastfeed are selfish, bad moms, lazy, ignorant etc etc. I can't recommend this book highly enough!
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