Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics

Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics

Written by the well-known author of The Politics of Breastfeeding, this book is based on a paper
written for the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), which works to halt the unethical
marketing of baby foods.
Gabrielle Palmer pursues her interest in the political aspects of infant feeding practice with
regards to the specific topic of complementary foods, the influences of cultural practices, market
forces, and government policy. She touches on anthropological evidence, history and cross
cultural migration, spotlighting both healthy and not so healthy aspects in a range of countries and
cultures. Much of the book deals with the politics of access and entitlement to food and water
resources. In many areas of the world food is produced but is unsuitable, is too expensive or not
available for local consumption. Nutrition support for mothers in poor and rich countries can lead
to unforeseen complications and have negative effects.
The author explains that local foods, prepared in traditional ways are usually the best first foods
for babies. She writes that commercially marketed ‘baby foods’ are unnecessary as
complementary foods and that recommending a set age for introduction of complementary foods
is not necessary. Babies will reach for family food when ready. The author also shows evidence
that cereals may not be the best first food for babies because most lack key minerals and children
may not be physiologically ready to digest cereals until around two years of age. Gabrielle Palmer
also explains that most complementary foods given to older infants and young children replace a
superior food, breast milk, with a nutritionally inferior food. There is also a very interesting
appendix on iron and iron deficiency anaemia.
This compact book of just over 100 pages is easy to read with key points summarised at the end of
each section, additional notes at the bottom of each page, appendices for fuller explanations,
extensive references and an index. There are several multicultural photos of young children
exploring complementary foods.
Although maybe not a core issues read, this book will give La Leche League families additional
support for valuing breast milk as the continuing superior infant food beyond six months of age;
for following their own babies’ cues in starting complementary foods and for using simply
prepared, local, family foods. It will also be invaluable to those interested in the politics of infant

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 13 Number 6

Complementary Feeding: Nutrition, Culture and Politics
By Gabrielle Palmer
Pinter & Martin, UK, 2011
Reviewed by Isobel Fanshawe and Lorraine Taylor, LLLNZ

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The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition
La Leche League International’s iconic manual has been through many incarnations in its previous
seven editions, but this eighth edition is a complete overhaul to bring it up to date with 21st
Century language, concepts and research.
It is laid out in logical sections to help make this either a book you read cover to cover, or one you
just dip into as needed. Part One takes a mother through her journey from pregnancy through to
birth and the first breastfeed and is called “New Beginnings.” Part Two looks at breastfeeding
from the first few days through to toddlerhood. Part Three deals with sleep, working out of the
home and other separation from the baby, and starting solids, and Part Four looks at issues
outside the ‘norm’ such as premature babies, induced lactation and adoption, multiples along with
a ‘Tech Support” section which is alphabetised for easy reference.
There is a lot of text (about 500 pages) but it is not overwhelming due to the easy-to-read
language. It is supported by black and white photos, and clear line drawings. The text is all
supported by frequent web references, along with a ‘Tear Sheet Toolkit” which is also available
online via > Store > Tear Sheet Toolkit.
Mothers own stories are included – look out for one from our own Barbara Sturmfels at the end of
Chapter 8. This book is heartily recommended for LLLNZ Group Libraries and as a must-have for all
new mothers and mothers to be – a perfect gift!

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 12 Number 5

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 8th Edition
By Diane Wiessinger, Diana West and Teresa Pitman
Ballantine Books, USA, July 2010
Reviewed by Donna Henderson, LLLNZ

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Baby-Led Breastfeeding

The co-authors of the very popular Baby-Led Weaning have now turned their attention to BabyLed
Breastfeeding. Could this be the start of a series of Baby-Led books, one wonders?
On the whole, this book is advocating a more simplistic approach to breastfeeding – no
complicated positioning, no marketing of must-have products, good information on milk
production, some realistic concerns and what you may expect to happen at different stages.
Rather than telling mothers what they should be doing with their babies, the authors take the
point of view that by following their baby’s leads about what they need to do to successfully
breastfeed, things will pretty much work out on their own.
The information about breastfeeding after six months and baby-led introduction of solids
increases the usefulness of this book over many others. Many breastfeeding guides give good
advice about starting breastfeeding, but very few (other than The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding)
have much to say on feeding older babies/young children or such great guidance on how to go
about baby-led weaning.
One reviewer felt that the discussion on nipple shields seems to be dismissive, as the authors state
that nipple shields rarely help and while some may be able to breastfeed with them, they are
“best avoided” This doesn’t seem very helpful if someone is struggling and needing some
glimmer of hope that they may work.
There are key points at the end of the chapters, along with bullet points at intervals, making it
easier for grasping the basics and the important information. These parts may be all the busy
mother has time to read. There are inserts from “real mothers” and there are some wonderful
photos, many illustrating how to achieve a good latch and a variety of breastfeeding holds and
positions, including twins and tandem feeding.
Because this is a UK publication, the reference list is not very useful for New Zealand mothers, but
La Leche League is referred to in the text as a useful source of help. Somewhat surprisingly, the
only New Zealand resource mentioned is the Ministry of Health’s website breastfeeding link. There
is also a grid chart at the end of the book, which could act as a quick guide as to what to expect at
different ages, what to do and when to seek help.
Overall this is a basic guide to making breastfeeding an enjoyable experience and an achievable
goal for mothers and their babies. It would be a valuable addition to our Group Libraries.

Original review, printed in Aroha Volume 15 Number 6

Baby-Led Breastfeeding
By Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett
Vermilion, London, 2012
Reviewed by Robin Jones Greif and Averil Sheehan, LLLNZ


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