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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Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents

Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents

This book by paediatrician, Dr Leila Masson, a member of LLLNZ’s Professional Advisory
Group, provides extremely comprehensive information about how to help our children get
better and stay well naturally.
The first section focuses on lifestyle choices that will help keep everyone healthy, identifying
the four steps parents can take towards optimal health for their child/children. These steps
are: nutrition, sleep, healthy lifestyle and avoiding environmental toxins. The author’s dislike
for sugar is portrayed in the nutrition page; however, there are a few nutritional ideas other
well researched nutritionists would disagree on. Having said that, compromises sometimes
need to be made, and the nutritional and other lifestyle advice is great for the novice to a
healthy way of living. On page 26, ‘What about co-sleeping?’, the author mentions that it is
safe from three months of age to co-sleep if certain measures are in place. This contradicts
some of the advice in the LLLI book, Sweet Sleep. However the author does recommend this
book for further reading.
In the next part (Part 2), she groups the information in alphabetical order under 20 common
health issues experienced by children as they are growing up. Each chapter includes a
diagnostic ‘Questions to Ask’ section that helps parents decide about the significance of the
symptoms displayed and the type of action needed, from getting medical help immediately
to reading the information she provides. There are plenty of suggestions for natural athome
treatments, as well as some suggestions for prescribed and OTC medications.
In the final part (Part 3,) Dr Masson includes a diverse range of subjects (in no particular
order) that range from mineral-rich foods through how to teach your child to swallow
capsules and finishes with ‘5 steps towards positive parenting.’
The design of the book is superb: the layout, with use of headings, bullet points, cute
photos, caution icons and the uncrowded pages makes it an easy read. The book includes
Endnotes listing scientific references and a comprehensive index that also includes subheadings.
Dr Masson also includes many useful websites throughout the book where
parents can source additional information from reliable sources.
Caution: Don’t try to read this book straight thought as you would a novel you could be
overwhelmed with all that could go wrong – but rarely wouldn’t. Far better to treat is as a
reference book or dictionary and use the index to look up only what you need when you
need it.
With the plethora of childrearing books available here from overseas it is refreshing to have
a book written in our ‘heart’ language (New Zealand English) that also reflects the medical
system we have here rather than the unfamiliar and different systems in other countries.
The book will be helpful to and appeal to parents and caregivers. Children’s Health is
approved for Group Libraries, but please note that there are contradictions in the sleep
section with other LLL material, and there are numerous recommendations for certain
branded supplements and medicines (LLLNZ does not usually make such recommendations).

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 17 Number 5

Children’s Health A to Z for New Zealand Parents
Dr Leila Masson
David Bateman Ltd, NZ 2015
Reviewed by Jeannie McNaughton and Janette Busch

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Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple

Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple

Nancy Mohrbacher is a star author amongst group library contributors in La Leche League.
This latest book continues her excellent work that started back in 2003 with her coauthorship
of The Breastfeeding Answer Book, which was designed to help mothers
breastfeed their babies.Whether the purpose of her books is to help others assist
breastfeeding women or they are directed towards mothers’ own self-help efforts (as this
new offering is), her style is always simple and direct in a way that is easily understood by
most readers.
The author commences with basic information on just why breastfeeding is so important
and why it’s worth the effort required to keep breastfeeding once you have returned to
work. She continues with a back to work overview dependent on the baby’s age and offers
specific suggestions on how to proceed at each stage. How to deal with employers is
covered and of course no book on this subject would be complete without comprehensive
information on pumps and pumping, milk supply, storage and handling, bottle use and
information to share with baby’s carer. The emotional issues involved in leaving your baby
with others are discussed as well as how the situation may change as your baby grows.
This is an easy to read book, chapters are set out in a clear fashion and it is not full of jargon.
There are few illustrations but the ones present are appropriate. There is an adequate
index, current references, a list of resources ranging from websites, books, smart phone
apps, videos and mother-to-mother support organisations. As is usual with an overseas
published book not all of the resources are useful to an NZ audience, but there is enough
there to provide a start for local mothers.
The table of contents is intelligently organised to allow browsing as needed; this is not a
book that has to be read from cover to cover to gain its full value. Appendices include
sample plans for different work schedules, milk storage guidelines and information for the
This book is highly recommended as suitable for LLLNZ group libraries and will make
valuable contribution for any women who are wanting or needing to return to paid
employment while still breastfeeding their babies. This book should also be read by partners
and support people so that they can understand the importance of their role in helping with
the maintenance of the breastfeeding relationship.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 16 Number 6

Working and Breastfeeding Made Simple
Nancy Mohrbacher
Praeclarus Press, USA, 2014
Reviewed by Averil Sheehan and Robin Jones

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Sleeping Like a Baby

Sleeping Like a Baby

This is an easy-to-read, reader-friendly book aimed at both those who need reassurance that their
baby’s sleeping (or non-sleeping) patterns are nothing to worry about, and for those who are
desperate to get some sleep. As is quoted in the book, “People who say they sleep like a baby,
usually don’t have one!”
The author is very clearly not in favour of “controlled crying”, which she describes as not being
evidence-based practice, and agrees with James McKenna that it is “social ideology masquerading
as science.” Nobody has studied exactly how long it is safe to leave a baby to cry, if at all.
Crying should be regarded as a form of communication and not a sign of manipulation. The author
points out that most infant sleep charts were compiled many years ago when breastfeeding rates
were at their lowest, so those observations were based on mostly formula-fed babies, sleeping by
themselves under laboratory study conditions.
The main message of the book seems to be, “Watch your baby and follow his/her lead.”
If you are trying to change your baby’s sleep patterns, the three basic things to consider are:
your child’s safety
is what you are trying to do respectful?
think about the bigger picture and what messages you want to send to your child about
There are chapters on what sleep patterns to expect of babies and toddlers at different ages and
stages, where your baby sleeps and how to set safe sleep rules, and co-sleeping. The chapter on
feeding is mostly about breastfeeding because Pinky of course unashamedly states that
breastfeeding is best.
There are also chapters on how to cope with problems like colic, reflux and teething, which can
disrupt sleep patterns, as well as one on the need to look after yourself before you can look after
others. There are tips for simplifying your life, getting as much rest as possible, taking time for
yourself, finding a support group, and finding help.
There is a list of useful contacts and resources. These are mostly Australian, but a few New
Zealand ones are listed too, including LLLNZ. There are also suggestions for further reading and a
useful index.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 9 Number 1

Sleeping Like a Baby
By Pinky McKay
Penguin Books, Australia, 2006
Reviewed by Rosemary Gordon

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