Thoughts on: Why The Politics of Breastfeeding Matter, Gabrielle Palmer

This book was the surface level reason for an argument between my husband and I the other day. The real reason for the less than ideal tone of voice in the heated discussion was a couple of weeks not being able to speak much and a big sleep deficit. However! I still found the conversation interesting, not to mention the fact that even we could cross wires about something we both technically agree on and talk about all the time!

So, I had left my husband doing the sitting in the car while our son finished his nap and I had left the book in the car for my own nap-waits and said, “book there if you fancy it - look it’s about politics, you’ll love it!”. So when I next got into the car with him and waved the book jokingly saying, “how did you like the book then?” I did not expect him to have read any of it and was surprised when he returned my quip with, “hmm, I didn’t really like her tone, I prefer propaganda to lead me in more gently. I don’t think it is the best way to convince people”. OK, he might not have said propaganda - but that is effectively what I heard. This is a man who has supported me to breastfeed emotionally, physically, without judgement, without guilt. There could be no better support.

Yet. Yet, this book with facts about breastfeeding has triggered him. He felt defensive for women reading it who had chosen another way. I should mention that my husband is an eternal devil’s advocate; if he ever feels that something is being unfairly represented, or a voice is not being heard, he will strive to make that voice heard, even if he doesn’t agree. (He’s a pretty great guy).

I felt very strongly that if you can’t present facts about breastfeeding in a booked called The Politics of Breastfeeding, where the goddy god can you!? One of his arguments was that it was extreme to mention that the use of formula leads to dead babies. We can;t just keep quiet about things because they might hurt us or offend someone. We are not promoting the physiological norm to create a polarised narrative that shuns women who did and do it differently. Palmer is not talking about dead babies to make you feel uncomfortable, but she is not letting the fact that it makes you feel uncomfortable silence her.

I think what we can learn here is that we are not good at arguing, I mean that is pathetic, no shouting - no swearing. Also, if what you have to say has good intentions, if you have done your best at portraying the best information that you have at the time - how can it be wrong? How can it be a personal attack on someone who has not had this information before? I struggle with this daily because I am sure that I get it wrong sometimes, how can I possibly know the right answers - we are all just testing what we think we know. But if we waited until we had the answers to say something, I think we might be might be dust before a book is written. Surely answers are different for us all and the important thing is to make sure that your answer is aware of its limitations and privileged filters and that it does not place judgement onto another answer.

Oh, and I think it is a great book. If you have any interest in breastfeeding at all you should read it,