The DFF Book Club

Whereas the DFF Book Club usually showcases the best children’s books on our shelves, in honour of Baby Month, I wanted to introduce you to a title that every mother should read — especially if she’s breastfeeding!

If you find it hard to read the term “breastfeeding” without cringing, and prefer the term “nursing” (which makes me think of ladies in white dresses with support stockings and sensible shoes), I’m sorry, but you’ll be wincing throughout this whole post. I hate euphemisms and prefer to call a breast a breast! Furthermore, this book is just for you as it demystifies many elements of human lactation.

Fresh milk, by Fiona Giles
What's in a cover? Apparently the Australian cover (right) was too racy for the worldwide market, so Americans and Brits get the dripping gerberas instead.

If you have any interest in breastfeeding at all, Fresh Milk — the secret life of breasts is an eye-opening collection of different breastfeeding stories. Touching on everything from the sexual fetishism of breastfeeding to how mothers have successfully breastfed adopted children, Australian author Fiona Giles proves no story is taboo.

And no issue, except of course, breastfeeding itself, and how our Western society has changed it from a natural practice into a pseudo-sexual shame, precluding the continuation of age-old practices like wet-nursing and public breastfeeding. This book is a fascinating read, even for the bottle-feeder.

The collection of stories cover an incident where a woman’s baby was breastfed by someone else without consent, a father who used to latch his baby onto his nipple to comfort her, a woman who pumped for months after her daughter died — donating her milk to a milk bank, children who weaned from their mothers very “late”, and men who fantasise about lactating breasts.

Fresh Milk isn’t necessarily a pro-breastfeeding book. Included are stories by those who never wanted to breastfeed their babies, those who tried and decided it wasn’t “for them”, and those mothers who “admitted defeat” after battling hard to create a successful breastfeeding team with their baby. For breastfeeding does take two, and both the baby and the mother need to be able to work in tandem to create a breastfeeding success story.

Breastfeeding is as individualistic as women’s breasts themselves, and no stories are alike. This collection of essays and interviews are all centred on people who have been touched by breastfeeding, or its absence. As the author writes, “together they extend the boundaries of what we consider normal when it comes to human parenting. They reveal a glimpse into what lactation means to us, and how it might fit more amply into our lives.”

Borrow it from the library, buy it for a friend (giving it away only after you’ve read it first — it’s an easy one to read through quickly), or keep a copy for yourself. This book will provoke thought and discussion on breastfeeding from all perspectives, promoting tolerance and acceptance of a range of views.

Highly recommended — do you have a breastfeeding story to share?