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.
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.