Book Review- Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage

Author: Rachel Reed
Publisher: Word Witch, 2021
Reviewers: Joanne Simpson and Tamsin Kreymborg

This is a great book on supporting natural childbirth physiology, and the Herstory of childbirth and midwifery. Rachel Reed gives a wide history about how birthing has changed over the centuries, with the role that midwives have today versus centuries ago and the changes that “advances” in medicine have had on births. One of the key messages is about trusting mothers’ innate wisdom and natural mothering, and women supporting women. While it promotes physiological birth as the best way to support the physical, hormonal and emotional changes that happen during birth, it also makes sure to point out ways in which physiology can be supported even when a natural birth is out of the equation. 

In her book, Rachel Reed takes you through the stages of labour and how a woman can be more connected to the physiology of birth. She explains the benefits of mother-baby bonding straight after birth and how this helps with hormone release for breastfeeding to start. She also discusses how caregivers and family can offer rites of protection to help each stage of labour. Reclaiming Childbirth reinforces the La Leche League philosophy:  “Alert, active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.”

The book is easy to read, with a mixture of short personal stories to illustrate the points. The reference section includes a mixture of books, scientific journals, WHO references and the author’s previous works. It is helpful for expecting mothers, midwives, doulas, obstetricians and other birth workers. The content is fabulous in preparing to have an active role in a birth and for a mother to start trusting her instincts in labour, although there isn’t any in-depth follow-on about breastfeeding.

One of the reviewers found it a particularly enjoyable read during her pregnancy: “It has opened my eyes to more possibilities during birth and to claim it as my own experience that I can control. I found the history (or herstory as Rachel Reed refers to it) of childbirth fascinating and slightly saddening that women have had some of the rites of passage into motherhood removed from them over the centuries, but also how we can ensure that no matter what setting or choices that the mother makes, this rite of passage can still be honoured.”

This book is recommended for group libraries.

Compiled by Katie Fourie, BRC 2021.

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Book Review- Safe Infant Sleep: Expert Answers to Your Co-sleeping Questions

Author: James J McKenna
Publisher: Platypus Media, USA, 2020
Reviewers: Sarah Hudson & Katie Fourie

Sharing a sleep surface with your baby is, and has been, the biologically normal way for babies to sleep. In this book, Dr James McKenna introduces the term ‘breastsleeping’ and puts together decades of research on parent-infant sleep. With a background in biological anthropology Dr McKenna explains the biological basis for human infants to need to be in constant physical proximity with a carer and how this conflicts with the values of Westernised societies which has historically promoted independence at all costs. He shares his observations of the impact of cultural ideology on public health messaging and highlights the issues around the interpretation of the research. While acknowledging that “no sleeping arrangement guarantees full protection” McKenna reassures new parents that elective bedsharing (as opposed to unplanned or ‘chaotic’ as he puts it) is the safest form of bedsharing. McKenna also notes that regardless of how an infant is fed, whether breastfed, mixed fed or formula fed, parents and infants benefit emotionally, physically, and psychologically from remaining in close proximity throughout the day and night.

The book is broken into short chapters some of which, e.g. when explaining very specific research technicalities, can be a little heavy going at times. It is written in a conversational tone with his own experience of navigating this area as a parent trying to reconcile his academic knowledge, his intuition as a parent, and the conflicting messages he received from health professionals along the way. He includes a series of schematics and diagrams that make seemingly abstract concepts easy to understand. The book is well-referenced and there is a section full of resources and further reading for those who are interested in learning more. There is also an appendix of anti-bedsharing campaign posters which were absolutely heart-breaking to look at.

Safe Infant Sleep is a must read for all parents and anyone working with families with young children. It contains essential information that will help to counter the multitude of sleep books that lead new parents to doubt their intuition. It aligns well with the La Leche League philosophies and indeed, provides a scientific basis for parental behaviour promoting breastfeeding and loving parenting during the night as well as the day. We highly recommend this book for group libraries.

Compiled by Katie Fourie, BRC 2021.

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It Takes a Village: How LLL Supports Wellbeing

Written by Lorraine Taylor, LLLNZ Leader – Mana

My twin babies were four months old. They were sleeping and breastfeeding well, yet I was not getting the sleep I needed and was at the end of my own energy. It was a Wednesday, a series meeting day (before I was a Leader) and I was really struggling to find the motivation to go along. I was tired, on the verge of tears and I wasn’t sure how far through the day I’d get before those tears would tumble. I mustered the energy to bundle two babies in the car and drive to the meeting. When I arrived I even sat outside for a few minutes weighing up whether I had the social energy I needed to go inside. Finally, I went in. Someone met me at the door and helped me carry in my babies, car seats, and my bag. They were genuinely happy to see me and slowly I allowed myself to start to relax. I don’t think anyone you spoke to about that meeting would have known how much they impacted my journey, how they held much more for me that day than my bags and my babies. I was so low but very well-practiced at appearing ok, and that meeting was a lifeline of hope, reassurance, and friendship – a salve to my depleted well being and integral to my survival.

Those babies are now 18 years old. I did survive; thrive even with the support of family, wonderful friends and the amazing women in the LLL community, and continue to find these people a source of support, growth and wisdom.

According to the the Mental Health Foundation, these 5 key attributes are important to a healthy sense of wellbeing:

Connect: talk, listen, feel connected.

Give: your time, your words, your presence.

Be active: do what you can, love what you do.

Take notice: remember the simple things that give you joy.

Keep Learning: embrace new experiences and opportunities.


La Leche League can be a community that enables, enhances, and provides a space and place for many of these aspects of wellbeing to thrive.

A place to talk and connect: for many of us, having a place to talk about this new parenting adventure is invaluable – exploring our feelings of overwhelm, newness, concerns, fears, and anxieties along with the awe, joy, inspiration, and observations of every tiny little thing our babies do. While we might know our limits for personal emotional safety, many women find meetings a place of healing, with space to safely revisit birth and early breastfeeding experiences. Sharing from each person’s experience at meetings gives women and parents space to explore, revisit and heal as they connect with others who have perhaps been through similar experiences. LLL can provide a place to connect and feel less lonely. To get new ideas as we navigate this job of nurturing a new human, a toddler, a preschooler, and beyond. Many friends made at meetings become lifelong connections. 

A place to share ideas about breastfeeding and parenting: there is so much to know. It’s reassuring to go along to a place of support, with others who have access to a world of information and can curate positive solutions for issues when we need it the most. I was always reassured that when I asked a question at LLL it would be answered in a way that valued breastfeeding and mother-baby relationships and aligned with my own parenting philosophies. I valued the gentle parenting vibe and embraced the parenting education that LLL had to offer. I felt nurtured, supported and surrounded by wisdom. 

A place to learn about emotions and relationships: LLL was probably the first place that I participated in a facilitated session where we were encouraged to articulate and communicate feelings and emotions. This not only helped me process many of the emotions of parenthood but also gave me the language to help my children navigate their feelings, giving me the tools and strategies to scaffold their emotional development. I first came to LLL for breastfeeding support but stayed for the lifelong learning in human interactions and growth. I am now a Communication Skills tutor and love the opportunity to facilitate this learning for others.

A place to help others: LLL offers a unique circle of support. As parents grow in confidence with their babies, they become aware that they have something to offer other parents who are also looking for information. Finding our place in the world, giving back to the community and other people going through parenting struggles is incredibly rewarding and satisfying. This can be really good for our mental wellbeing. I have been involved in training new Leaders, and it is awe-inspiring watching new Leaders go through the accreditation process and grow in confidence and leadership skills.

There is so much information out there about self-care, how to support wellbeing and mental health, and promoting positive mental health. For me, being a member of this community has been such a source of support, love, information, and growth, that I can no longer imagine what my life might have been like without it. The people and organisation have provided the map to my whole parenting adventure.

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Nau mai, Haere mai, Welcome to our new look Aroha Blog!

Aroha has been a successful member only publication for 24 years. It has moved through the times as a printed, and then digital magazine, always adapting to our readers needs. The content of the magazine has resonated with members and built a community of readers who have relished in sharing in others breastfeeding and parenting journeys.  

We have decided to move to a more accessible format for everyone to benefit from the amazing content! Our Aroha blog will cover a range of topics including pregnancy, parenting teens and everything in between, such as birth, breastfeeding and gentle parenting. Aroha is such a unique publication as it is written for New Zealand Breastfeeding families, which makes it relevant and relatable.

Parenting can sometimes feel hard and lonely; Aroha has provided a village and like-minded community to many families over the years, and we would love to extend the village to you.

We will have regular posts with all different contributions such as editorials, birth stories, La Leche League news, new breastfeeding and parenting research as well as book reviews.  If you have something to contribute we would love to hear from you! You can reach as at 

We hope to see you here often, we would love for you to become part of our community and trust you find something here that you connect with on your breastfeeding journey.

Always with LLLove,

Hayley x

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