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.

Continue ReadingBook Review- Reclaiming Childbirth as a Rite of Passage

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.

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

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.

Continue ReadingIt Takes a Village: How LLL Supports Wellbeing

My Child’s Behaviour Following Weaning

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:8 mins read

“Soon after my three-year-old daughter gradually self-weaned, her behaviour seemed to change which I found alarming and difficult to cope with.  She has started having tantrums, which she didn’t really have before and is generally unsettled and difficult to deal with.

Maybe this behaviour is normal for three or four year olds and is not related to the end of breastfeeding, but I feel like my magic “cure all” is gone and I don’t have anything to replace it.  I have considered that a drop in mothering hormones due to not breastfeeding might be a factor as I certainly seem to have less patience now.  This is the hardest phase yet and I wondered if other mums have experienced anything similar after natural weaning or with four-year-old behaviour generally?


Sarah Hudson , Hamilton Central – It is like you have written my story down exactly. My daughter self-weaned at three-and-a-half, and it seemed like she turned into a completely different child. She had gone from being a very pleasant child into someone who screamed and had tantrums almost every night. At the time I thought it was due to weaning, and as she is my only child, and the oldest grandchild in the family, I didn’t have anyone to compare her to.  However, my niece, who is almost five, has gone through almost the same ‘change’ at around the same time, and she was weaned around two-and-a-half. So I have come to the conclusion that it is just something that they all go through and it does pass. My daughter is six now, and while that age brings new challenges in itself, she is mostly pleasant and fun to be around again.

Lisa Ross, Dunedin – I too found my situation was similar when I gradually weaned my son when he was 12 months old. He seemed to turn from a placid easy baby into a monster over night and about a week after his final breastfeed, when he “lost the plot”, I tried to breastfeed him again but he wouldn’t have it. In hindsight, I have wondered if the drop in oxytocin had something to do with this. We both could have done with continued breastfeeding and therefore oxytocin to help keep us calm. However he was only 12 months old and not self weaned.  Maybe a book like Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Discipline Solution could give you some tools to deal with what I bet is a stage. It may be that your daughter is also struggling to know what to do when life gets hard, now that she no longer has her cure-all. Good luck.

Angela Blundell, Papakura – Oh I hear you!  Everyone talks about the “terrible twos” but in my personal experience, it is age three and four that really stretched me as a parent.  My third child is currently mired in that stage and it is quite a challenge.

After natural weaning (mine were younger, between two-and-a-half and three and even when I weaned my oldest at 15 months) I noticed my children did need an increase in physical contact and cuddles.  So I would make sure that I was offering cuddles at bedtime, stories snuggled in at other times, asking my children for hugs and offering more if they seemed a bit down or tired or grumpy.  Diane Levy, family therapist, talks about filling a child’s emotional tank and to me this exactly describes what all children need but particularly this age group, as they work out the world and how it works.

The other thing that I try to do is make sure my daughter is having enough food and rest.  Lots of tantrums can be based around hunger or tiredness so making sure we keep to regular food and sleep routines is really important.  I did have to make sure I’d offer food when my children used to breastfeed, otherwise I’d forget and then it would all go to custard later on!

I also try to keep an eye on what pre empts the tantrum.  Sometimes they are unavoidable but other times they might be a certain tone, or a certain activity that isn’t easy for them and that’s when I might pop in and offer my help.  More often than not, it’s met with a “I can DO IT MYSELF” or similar but that’s when I can say, quietly, “Okay, if you need help you can ask Mummy” and encourage them to ask nicely rather than yelling or screaming.

When everything meets critical mass I’ve found that nothing make a difference. What I usually say to the screaming child is “when you have finished screaming, come to Mummy and we’ll have a cuddle and a talk”.  Maybe they won’t hear it and I might offer it a couple of times, especially near the end when the crying is becoming a bit more forced or there are gaps in the yells.  Depending on what has triggered the tantrum, it might that there are a couple of false starts before the child is calm enough to receive a cuddle and to talk.

I think that it is okay to cuddle and reassure a child after a tantrum but it doesn’t mean that you are giving in.  They still might have to pick up their toys, put on their clothes for preschool or not have a lolly but once they are calm it’s when you can move into quiet Mummy mode, sit with them, validate their feelings of frustration but still quietly stand your ground about what needs to be done.  Again, filling the emotional tank comes into it.

Sometimes, there might be certain things that have to happen, sometimes they can’t do what they want, have what they desire and sometimes Mummy cuts the sandwiches the wrong way… unfortunately this is life and they will learn to deal with it more calmly eventually.  Letting them get the emotion out and filling their tank after might be the only way to deal with it.

As far as the mothering instinct goes, sometimes I do think we see our children more grown up than they are, I noticed it personally when I had another baby, my next in line child seemed so much older and my expectations changed, so it might well be that since weaning, your daughter is less your ‘baby’ and more your child, which might change how you respond.  I find the best way to rediscover the joys is to do the things that are fun – reading stories, going to a playground, play tag or hide and seek or rough and tumble, do some tasks together.  Letting my children know that I am enjoying them at this time helps me through the harder times when their behaviour is less than enjoyable.

Probably the final thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes I can make it worse.  I need to pick my battles, do what is important in my family and for me but also let go of any delusion of control I might have had and make sure that I am responding in ways that are positive .  We can’t control our children any more than we can control the sea but we can provide the framework where they can learn new skills.  The No Cry Discipline Solution by Elizabeth Pantley has a fabulous chapter on dealing with parental anger, and in a way that does not make you feel like a terrible mother for having a bad day!

Kate Stonier, New Plymouth – I breastfed my daughter until she was three-and-a-half.  We didn’t experience any tantrums until her baby brother arrived just before she turned four, but that was short lived.  She also sucked her thumb until we decided it needed to stop (when she was four years and four months) before it damaged her teeth.  She stopped in three or four days but I noticed for about a month how her emotions came out and up.  I actually saw this as a good thing – a time for her to learn to handle her emotions instead of relying on her thumb or the breast.

It was hard work but she has really moved forward now, is more confident and is starting to self-regulate.  I gave her lots of space to feel what she was feeling and often held back while saying that I was there with a cuddle when she was ready.

It is difficult to be patient when you are tired.  I sometimes wondered where my gorgeous girl had gone, but it was a phase.  I am sure some of that is normal at this age but I definitely saw a link to her stopping the thumb-sucking too.  Hang in there, this too shall pass and your daughter will be back and even more capable and confident than before.

Continue ReadingMy Child’s Behaviour Following Weaning

Breastfeeding an Older Child and Weaning with Love

  • Post category:Weaning
  • Reading time:9 mins read

I have two beautiful girls. They are now aged six-and-a-half, and nearly four. I always believed I would breastfed my babies when I had them. My mother had breastfed my sister and me. She managed to breastfeed my sister for about five months until certain well-meaning health agencies suggested she was running out of milk when my sister seemed hungry and wanting more. In hindsight it is pretty obvious my sister was going through a growth spurt and trying to increase my mother’s supply. Mum was encouraged to introduce formula and there ended her breastfeeding relationship with my sister.

My mother was more determined when I came along and fed me
until I was 13 months old. In fact, mum told me often about how
the well-meaning health agency had continually advised her to stop
offering the breast and to get me onto a bottle. My mother stopped
telling them she was still breastfeeding and just did her own thing.
My mother had told me this story for many years and so I knew I
would breastfeed.

What I did not know was how long I would feed my children. When I was pregnant people talked a lot
about breastfeeding babies past six months of age. No one talked much about breastfeeding beyond a
year. When my first child turned 12 months I assumed she would just stop breastfeeding. I had no real
knowledge about longer term breastfeeding. Fifteen months came and Tia was still a motivated

Admittedly she was only feeding at night but I did not discuss with many people the fact she was still
breastfeeding. Most people I knew stopped before three months or just shy of a year. I felt quite alone
at the coffee mornings of my old antenatal class. I attended sporadically as the majority of mothers
had stopped breastfeeding.

I attended La Leche League meetings and received wonderful support and connection which inspired
me to continue. Eventually the breastfeeding decreased in regularity and I fell pregnant with baby two.
As the pregnancy progressed I became sick with nausea and tired. I was less motivated to breastfeed
Tia and strongly encouraged her to stop by not offering her the breast any longer and talking about it
being time to stop. By this time Tia was aged about two years and three months.

She called breastfeeding ‘mummy’s milk’. Eventually she accepted it was time to stop. Interestingly I
grieved for the closeness and relationship we had, especially when she woke at night with illness and I
could not settle her easily. Night feeding had settled her so successfully. This strategy had gone.
Baby number two arrived six months later, surprisingly by C-section. This was a disconcerting
experience for someone so committed to natural childbirth, however a footling breech baby required
intervention. Breastfeeding became established and my baby took to it with passion. Elyse fed
differently to Tia, feeding regularly and often. Having had the benefit of the first child experience I
relaxed and listened totally to my baby.

Our breastfeeding relationship progressed and my baby grew older and in size. Suddenly I was
breastfeeding beyond two years. Next she was two-and-half and showing no desire to stop
breastfeeding. Elyse was eating solids but still wanted to have ‘mummy’s drink’.

I had started relief teaching and would arrive back to collect Elyse from family who had cared for her
during my absence and the first thing she would seek would be mummy’s drink. This behaviour started
very early on – once Elyse could talk and walk. At times I found this tricky, especially around people
who were less supportive of breastfeeding an older child. Elyse grew older; suddenly she was three and
still a committed breastfeeder (feeding mostly at night).

I had established boundaries. I might add that Elyse protested verbally against each one and at times
her loud verbal protests meant I pulled back on the boundary for a while.

I let Elyse breastfeed only at home after a certain age and old enough to understand. We talked about
stopping at her third birthday and then at Christmas. My husband joked about which Christmas. The
next step was that she would only be allowed mummy’s drink at night. She was constantly waking at
night and seeking mummy’s drink and so that no one else was woken at night, and so I could get back
to sleep as quickly as possible, I continued to breastfeed her as she asked. Eventually I became tired of
this and so decided to put in the next step of the boundary. No more during the night.

Elyse continued to wake and ask for it and still can at times. I remained strong and said no. She
protested strongly but eventually accepted the change. This was quite an emotional time as I felt sad
and bad about the fact that I had stopped perhaps before she was ready. However, I was ready.

Aged three years and ten months she would have breastfed all the time I am sure if I let her. She had
mummy’s milk before bed each night. If I was away at bedtime she would settle without it.
I managed to convince her it was one side only. We alternated the sides each night. I often forgot
which side it was meant to be but the supply had dropped greatly. I knew that soon it would stop

I enjoyed breastfeeding Elyse for this length of time but noticed how I kept it to myself. In our society,
breastfeeding beyond one year is a rarity. Two years is okay and more acceptable now but beyond
three years? I am not embarrassed but unprepared to be misjudged by people who do not understand
a breastfeeding relationship with an older child. Some people can be quite rude with their comments
and strongly misguided.

My elder daughter is often quite sad that I did not feed her as long and makes little comments. If I had
relaxed more I may well have fed her longer too. As my confidence and knowledge has increased with
my second child I would probably feed any future children for as long or longer.

I have at times sought the advice and support of fellow LLL members who have had experience
breastfeeding older children. This was especially valuable at times when I was ready to wean totally
but my child was still very committed to breastfeeding.

The literature available in our LLL libraries is very helpful as well. Each breastfeeding relationship is
unique. Everyone has personal limits. I never started out thinking I would breastfeed a child for so long. Two-and-half years seemed long enough but even now looking at my girls I can see how young they are really. They are not little babies but they are still little children and infancy and childhood is such a short time in their life. They are both pretty healthy and rarely unwell.

The World Health Organisation advocates to breastfeed children beyond two years. It would be
fantastic if more people even made it to one year and beyond.

I am ready to end the breastfeeding relationship with my child but certainly have no regrets about the
length of time we have breastfed together. I am hopeful the real benefits will be more evident as she
gets older and reaches adulthood. Hopefully illness will continue to be a rarity for her.

Interestingly, just this week, aged three years 10-and-half months Elyse has finally weaned. I have
certainly encouraged this but also gone along with her desire to continue taking mummy’s milk. I had
concerns she may continue until she reached school age but finally she has stopped in her own time.
When I contacted a few LLL mums and support people over the last while as my willingness to
breastfeed Elyse decreased I was advised that eventually she would get there and that there were
various little things I could try.

The other day Elyse asked for mummy’s drink. I offered her the side that was due, as we had started
alternating sides as a way to decrease my supply gradually and her frequency!
She tried the offered breast and said, “Yuck! I don’t like it. It tastes yucky. I want the other side.” I said
“No that is your side.” But she persistently indicated she wanted to try the other side. I knew the
supply would have been low on that side but offered it to her. She tried it to find it was empty. So
reluctantly she went back to the side that was yuck. Well to her it was still yuck. In fact with
exclamation and disappointment she proclaimed it tasted like cat’s pee!! Not that she knows what
cat’s pee tastes like but obviously it no longer appealed to her.

I said, “Well it is all gone then.” Time to stop. So there it was. After such a long time of Elyse seeking
mummy’s drink she was quite accepting of the fact it was time to stop. Over the last few days she has
asked to feed but accepted easily the fact it has stopped. She is weaned.

Interestingly my emotions are mixed. I have enjoyed breastfeeding her. At times it has been quite a
commitment and a frustration but overall I have not resented it too greatly. I have known the benefits
of long term breastfeeding of our young ones and know that Elyse has benefited greatly.

Elyse is rarely sick and recovers quickly. During serious tummy bugs she has always coped well because
she has not struggled with dehydration due to the fact she has breastfed through each illness. Just this
week she has again fallen unwell with a tummy bug and is recovering very quickly.

There was an incentive for her to give up eventually. I had told her that when she finished
breastfeeding she could have something special. It was agreed she would get her ears pierced when
she finally weaned. So today, day four after weaning, she has asked to have her ears pierced. I was
happy for this to occur however she pulled out at the last minute; obviously she is not quite there yet.
I would support anyone who is nursing their child and wondering how it goes when they are older than
society expects. It’s a relevant topic at the moment with the recent publicity in the news.

From Aroha Vol 12, No. 4 July/August 2010

Continue ReadingBreastfeeding an Older Child and Weaning with Love