Fresh MilkI see breasts in the sky. I recently learned a mammatocumulus is a storm cloud with breast-shaped protuberances hanging from its belly. I expect to lift my face to the gathering storm and be showered with warm milk, sweet and abundant.

This book is fantastic! It careers madcap from heartwarming, to infuriating, to hilarious, to sad, to empowering, and then all the way back again. It is something like a breastly, milk-sodden version of The Vagina Monologues – only bigger, better and a lot, lot milkier.

I have mentioned Fresh Milk a couple of times already on my main blog. In a recent post I referred to it in pondering The Sensual Art of Breastfeeding. Back in May 2006, for Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I posted an extract on Cooking With Breastmilk. (For the record, I have – in porridge.)

Other topics include: shopping for nursing bras; breastfeeding multiples; male breastfeeding; nursing in public; the emotional impact of being (or not being) breastfed; breastfeeding and sex; milk banking; adoptive nursing; wet nursing; breastfeeding older children… and more, and more, and more. it just goes on and on until you start to wonder, what on earth next?!

I suspect that in a way the ideal reader is someone who has already been-there, done-that. From my own experience, a person who has not been to a fairly extreme* breastfeeding place would need to be exceptionally broad-minded in order to be able to put aside all the stupid, squeamish hangups we have about breastfeeding and really make the most of this magnificent tour de force. Nevertheless, if you are that broad-minded person – prepare to have your eyes opened, with probably a bit of milk squirted in them for good measure!

[* By our modern standards, I mean, where breastfeeding past a few weeks is not the norm, never mind thinking about and doing the things discussed in this book!]

This book is really important, for so many reasons.

For one thing, it is unique as an unabashed celebration of our lactating breasts. It is wonderful and refreshing to find a book that is all about breastfeeding but is neither a pious exhortation nor a medicalised instruction manual.

It gives us a way to think and speak about our amazing lactating bodies that goes beyond the purely functional. Indeed, it asserts unequivocally that breastfeeding is more, much more, than just a bodily function. Breastfeeding is, at its best, a key part of who a mother is, a key emotional as well as physical element in her relationship with her children and her partner and her wider family.

This book is about the wonderful variety of experiences that we have, it is about the stories behind the milk, it is about how we deal with what we do as mothers when we breastfeed our children. It is about all that and more.

Like The Vagina Monologues, this book does also have its weaknesses.

It misses out some things that I would have liked to see: more about breastfeeding outside the industrialised, sexualised West, for example; or a closer look at the politics and economics of our (non-)breastfeeding culture; and maybe just a bit more than a passing reference to things like breastfeeding and spirituality, the feelings of a female partner of a breastfeeding mother (oh and wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear about some adoptive nursing action from said female partner too!), breastfeeding in art and in our culture historically as well as in the modern age.

I personally wouldn’t have minded just a little bit less about the sex angle, either – especially the frankly horrible chapter on lactation porn.

And it is clear that the book is informed as much by its author’s feelings and attitudes as by the thoughts and deeds of the amazing women (and men) featured in its pages.

None of the above would really be justifiable cricitisms if the world were awash with the literature and art of lactation celebration*. But because we have so little, our demands and expectations of what we do have must soar. Like The Vagina Monologues, this book is in some ways a vicitm of its own uniqueness, and of its own success.

[* Oh I like the sound of that. Lactation celebration!]

Still, when all’s said and done – this book is wonderful and fabulous. Yay boobies!

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