The Breastfeeding Café
by Barbara L. Behrmann
reviewed by Cheryl Peachey Stoner
Hesston KS USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, p. 77
Have you ever breastfed in a public place while surrounded by people, and felt completely at ease? In the hope of creating a safe, comfortable, and welcoming place for all mothers, Barbara Behrmann wrote The Breastfeeding Café. This café is an ideal but imaginary place where mothers can gather over good food just to hang out -- so to speak! Combining the author's own experience with a broad spectrum of other mothers' nursing experiences, The Breastfeeding Café is a flavorful addition to the LLLI Catalogue and LLLI Bibliography.
Empowered by overcoming the challenges of nursing her own daughter and motivated by the challenges facing other women, Behrmann decided to write a book that provides:
[A] collection of women's firsthand accounts of breastfeeding experiences, thoughts, and feelings. I knew how much I had benefited from hearing other women's stories. If others had the same opportunity, perhaps they would be better able to overcome any initial hurdles they might encounter. Perhaps they would feel less anxious and insecure. Perhaps it would enrich their entire mothering experience.
Those familiar with books published by LLLI will recognize the format of The Breastfeeding Café. Quotes from many mothers illustrate a wide range of experiences. The mothers' voices represent different socioeconomic levels, employment status, ages, and ethnicities. Some are happy with their breastfeeding experiences, and some have regrets. As the LLLI Catalogue description says, "Some of the stories will warm your heart; some will make you laugh; some may surprise or infuriate you."
Controversial topics, such as sexuality and breastfeeding and "swap" nursing, are bravely discussed in this book. Some readers may feel that it's too inclusive and some parts may not be suitable for a new breastfeeding mother for fear of "scaring her off." When presented with this idea, the author protested, "But no! That's exactly who this book is for!" This book opens up the topic of breastfeeding in all of its manifestations in order to move it into the cultural mainstream. Behrmann writes:
The Breastfeeding Café arose out of my desire to help create a culture in which breastfeeding is visible and valued. Women must begin to talk about it honestly and unabashedly. We need to shatter the myths surrounding it and insist on the right to nurse our children without apology and with dignity. In a society in which pregnancy, childbirth, and child rearing are subject to increasingly sophisticated technology and ever-ready "expert" advice, women have the power to be each other's greatest allies. We can provide each other with wisdom, insight, and inspiration and validate and reinforce each other in the myriad choices we make for our lives.
Any mother who feels alone in her breastfeeding situation will find comfort in The Breastfeeding Café. At some point, this description applies to all mothers. Who hasn't had thoughts such as, "Is nursing a baby through the night normal?" "Am I weird for nursing my toddler?" Just like at an LLL Meeting, women will see reflections of themselves -- both reassuring and validating -- in the stories on these pages.
The book is filled with accurate breastfeeding information, a thorough index, and wonderful resources and references, including many published or endorsed by LLLI. La Leche League is mentioned often, usually favorably. Some readers may be surprised to find criticism of LLL included in a few of the stories. Several contributors had unfortunate experiences with Leaders who turned them off to the organization. Most critics thought that LLL is composed primarily of middle-class, white women. Others felt judged for working outside of the home, particularly in the case of one employed mother who wanted to become a Leader and was "turned down." As a non-LLLI publication, The Breastfeeding Café gives a view of LLL from the "outside" that is not always pretty. How can we benefit from this criticism? What can be done to change how LLL is perceived? It is encouraging to see LLLI embrace this book despite the criticism. There is room in La Leche League for every mother in these pages!
Read The Breastfeeding Café and reflect on the experiences and the criticism. Likely you will find yourself in the stories on its pages and will want a copy for yourself, one for your Group Library, and one for every sort of mama in your circle of friends.