The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Eighth Edition,
published by La Leche League
I gave the sixth edition of this book a negative review in the Spring of 2002 due to the extremely poor dietary advice it provides—the sixth edition suggested a diet low in animal fats and salt, and high in vegetable oils. Recently a member asked me to look at the eighth edition, sure that it would be an improvement over earlier editions.
Vain hope! The eighth edition solves the problem of bad dietary advice by giving hardly any advice at all—just half a page of discussion on diet, with the recommendation to eat whole grains, unprocessed meats, nut butters, olive and canola oils and . . . leftover birthday cake! The one concession to good diet, buried in over five hundred pages, is “whole-milk cheeses and yoghurts.” Without qualification, the authors insist that “Your milk has every vitamin, mineral and other nutritional element that your baby’s body needs.” Oh, except for B12 if you are a vegetarian. But the woman on the standard American diet needn’t worry at all—not about calcium, B6, nor vitamins A, D and K—nor does she even need to eat more than she normally does. “There’s no need,” they insist “to worry about the quality of your milk.” “Eating more won’t make more milk and not eating enough won’t make less milk.” Not even more liquids are needed, say the authors. Yet any dairy farmer knows that dairy cows won’t produce well unless they get plentiful water and lots of food.
Since problems with milk supply are on the increase, one would hope that The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding would present a realistic discussion of this challenge. But no, the authors assure us that most women have plenty of milk. If baby cries all the time, if mom’s every instinct tells her her baby is not getting enough—it’s just all in your head, say the authors, or someone has been “scaring you.” In such situations, the authors don’t even suggest weighing of the baby to see whether he is gaining weight, an omission that is highly irresponsible. Yet, they do admit that milk supply can be a problem in mothers with a “hormonal” or “anatomical” problem. Such mothers “supplement to make up for the amount of milk they can’t make,” but there is nary a word on what that supplement should be.
As the national voice for breastfeeding, La Leche League has an enormous responsibility to provide nursing mothers with accurate information on diet and nutrition. Instead, the very women who have the will and intelligence to enact the dietary changes that will ensure the optimum development of their children are soothingly assured that it doesn’t matter.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2012.