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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The Nursing Mother’s Herbal

The Nursing Mother’s Herbal

Written by Sheila Humphrey, RN, IBCLC, and LLL Leader, this is a comprehensive and wellresearched
book about herbal use during breastfeeding and one that completely supports
breastfeeding. The use of herbs and natural remedies during lactation dates back to the earliest
breastfeeding mothers and many families now turn to natural remedies before allopathic
medicine to maintain good health and prevent illness, taking a proactive stance rather than a
reactive “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” stance. Sheila’s grandmother was a “plant person
whose medicine didn’t include anything from a doctor” as were her parents and Sheila also
married a botanist so using plants to maintain health is a way of life that is intrinsic to her.
The Nursing Mother’s Herbal integrates information about ways that herbs and natural remedies
can benefit or could possibly harm the breastfeeding dyad with practical breastfeeding solutions.
It is a very easy-to-read book and is written in a warm, reassuring manner with its primary
emphasis on the value, benefits and process of breastfeeding. The author’s extensive experience
in lactation support is clearly reflected in the breastfeeding information presented in the book, to
the benefit of mothers, Leaders or health professionals. The reader is consistently urged to seek
the help of an LLL Leader as her primary resource or is referred to LLL resources.
The Nursing Mother’s Herbal’s comprehensive information about the use of hundreds of herbs
and natural remedies during breastfeeding is also highly accurate, bringing together the wisdom of
the herbalists and the knowledge of the scientists. The book includes an extensive table of plant
safety, listing several hundred herbs, a discussion of herbal products, explanations of alternative
healing options, as well as herbal resources and websites. Sheila Humphrey has included just
about everything you would want to know about this subject. She has also included information
on specific herbal remedies for various situations and always the information is presented in a
conservative and safe manner, with clear reminders that the book is not a substitute for medical

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 14 Number 2

The Nursing Mother’s Herbal
By Sheila Humphrey
Fairview Press, USA, 2003
Reviewed by Trudy Hart (LLL Leader and Homeobotanical Therapist)

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Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family

This is the new nutrition and cookbook from LLLI – the old favourite, Whole Foods for the Whole
Family is now looking rather old, battered and dated. This isn’t just a cookbook – in fact there are
only 75 recipes in the whole book, it also gives vital information about nutritional needs (and what
foods to avoid) at various stages of life. It is divided into sections which cover the gamut of
nutrition, looking after yourself, solids, family foods and weaning in a lovely ‘conversation’ style,
punctuated with some delicious and nutritious recipes. One reviewer really wishes it had been
around when she was a new mum as it would have been a handy kitchen manual.
It generally has a relaxed approach, full of great ideas, like ‘foods you can eat with one hand’,
meals that give you more nutritional value, child-pleasing recipes, make-ahead and no-cook meals
as well as ideas for if you don’t eat meat. It has a good discussion about solids readiness and
baby-led introduction of solids and weaning. A few old favourites from Whole Foods for the Whole
Family are included, along with many new recipes. It often refers to the Womanly Art of
Breastfeeding and other LLLI books, but it doesn’t really talk about breastfeeding itself, except in
terms of stages and lifestyle and looking after yourself while breastfeeding.
The recipes use imperial measurements rather than metric, although there are conversion charts
at the back of the book. A few of the ingredients may be unfamiliar to some New Zealand readers,
but LLLNZ is inserting a glossary into each book to clear up any possible confusion.
The photos are lovely – although some may find them staged, and a little unreal. This is not a
cookbook with a photo for each recipe, although those that have been photographed look very
tempting. It is a very contemporary looking book and will appeal widely.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 14 Number 3

Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family
Good Nutrition and Healthy Cooking for New Moms and
Growing Families
LLLI, Ballantine Books, USA, 2012
Reviewed by Lorraine Taylor and Rosemary Gordon, LLLNZ

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Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding

Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding

This is a revised edition of the book first published in 1992 and previously reviewed in New
Beginnings, Volume 13, Number 1, Jan-Feb 1997. There are not a great many changes, apart from
some more emphasis on the obesity epidemic sweeping the Western world. Some concerns were
expressed in the original review and these probably still stand, together with the fact that the
author hasn’t updated all references to starting solids at around six months rather than the older
standard of four months or four to six months. Some of the ideas about good healthy foods seem
a bit strange, although maybe they constitute a relatively good diet compared with many
Americans’ food choices!
However, the reasons for the original recommendation of this book for Group Libraries are also
still relevant. The author, a registered dietician, provides a lot of good advice on eating well and
losing weight slowly while breastfeeding – no diet fads or large weight loss here. She includes
weekly meal suggestions, recipes from her own kitchen, and information about what to avoid or
take only in moderation. Special situations like colic, food allergies, diabetes etc are also covered.
This book is easy to read and you can dip in and out of it as the need arises for specific
information. Some of the references and suggested resources are now out-of-date, for example,
the latest Womanly Art of Breastfeeding mentioned is the 2004 edition. However, the book fills a
niche on a subject that often arises among breastfeeding mothers.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 15 Number 2

Eat Well, Lose Weight, While Breastfeeding
Revised Edition
By Eileen Behan
Ballantine Books, USA, 2006

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