By Valentina Attanasio – BT Managing Editor
Erin L. O’Reilly. The Recipe For Breastfeeding Support In America, Healthy Nourishment, LLC: Sant Louis Missouri. 2020. ISBN 97817344388. Paperback, 131 pages.
As La Leche League Leaders, we often ask ourselves how we can make a difference, what actions we can take to ensure that every child receives everything they need to get the best possible start in life.
Of course, we know that breastfeeding is one of these, but it is often hindered by various difficulties, which may also be beyond the parents’ control or choice. Parents are sometimes forced to make choices they do not want to make because their economic, social, and work situation does not allow them to do otherwise. In our daily counseling role, we can listen and offer support, but sometimes that does not seem to be enough.
Despite this feeling of powerlessness, actually, a lot can be done. This is what Erin L. O’Reilly illustrates in her book, offering an original way, a “recipe”, with various ingredients that, put together, could really bring a great improvement to the support of breastfeeding in the USA. Since this “recipe” addresses some points of global relevance, it may be beneficial in other parts of the world as well.
This is not the usual book dedicated to breastfeeding support, but a careful and accurate analysis of the current situation in the USA, taking into consideration several aspects – first among them, health in the broadest sense of the term – whose protection should be the basis of the recipe proposed by O’Reilly.
O’Reilly addresses each aspect of this recipe with a constructive and proactive spirit, providing solutions to the many shortcomings of US policies, which she does not hesitate to denounce in detail, being herself a witness of their consequences, especially through her counseling activity for the WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).
The ingredients of the recipe
Each chapter covers in detail one aspect that will make up the ingredients of this special recipe, which like any good recipe book, is accompanied by special illustrations, in this case, using breastfeeding art and breastfeeding stamps.
The book opens with a comprehensive introduction, which illustrates how the author has developed the rationale behind each chapter, addressing a key component that every breastfeeding dyad would benefit from:
– physiological health;
– developmental and mental health;
– gender, work, racial and health equity;
– economic health;
– environmental health;
– maternal empowerment;
– social health.
Although the concepts may seem very complex initially, O’Reilly manages to approach them with great immediacy and simplicity, allowing the reader to follow the flow of the thoughts that led her to elaborate a series of measures that could bring great improvements, not only to breastfeeding families but to the nation in general.
The summary at the end of each chapter helps the reader to fully understand the concepts by wrapping up the issues addressed in a few clear and concise ideas.
Special mention should be made of the chapter dedicated to La Leche League, which talks about the organization’s commitment to supporting breastfeeding through the empowerment of mothers and parents. Because of their dedication and their enduring contributions, O’Reilly states that the founders should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, “It is important that the Founders of La Leche League and the organization be recognized for the invaluable contribution to the health and well-being of our world at large…” 
The final sections of the book are also very useful, as it’s here that O’Reilly draws the reader’s attention to the key points addressed, the “Recommended Breastfeeding Support Ingredients for the United States” and the “Immediate Action Steps Mothers and Others Can Take”.
The book closes with a final statement, acknowledgments, a handy glossary – ready to consult while reading the book – and a comprehensive references section.
Why recommend it?
I posed this question to Debbi Heffern, RD, IBCLC, and a La Leche League Leader, and I liked the description she gave of O’Reilly’s book.
“I found this to be an energizing book. There are many gaps in the support for breastfeeding families in America. Erin O’Reilly explores these gaps in a ‘telling it like it is’ way, telling the whole truth. She shows how these disservices build on each other to make it difficult for many people to reach their breastfeeding goals.
Rather than just throwing a light on the problems, though, Ms. O’Reilly makes concrete suggestions for changes that we could begin to implement as a nation so that — not just breastfeeding initiation, but rather — successful continuation of breastfeeding would become the norm.
If we each choose an aspect to work on, change can happen. The place to start is by getting involved with your local/state breastfeeding coalition. See what they’re doing and how you can help. Then offer your ideas, too.”
And it is exactly by expressing the same wish that O’Reilly concludes her book: “I hope some of my ideas and ‘ingredients’ get used in our national and communal ‘recipe’ for breastfeeding support in America!” 
Erin L. O’Reilly is a La Leche League Leader and Lactation Consultant who has worked in WIC and Breastfeeding Coalitions coaching parents through their tough work balancing the job of breastfeeding against an already delicate work/life balance. She has seen their struggles and heard their calls for support!
1. Erin L. O’Reilly. The Recipe For Breastfeeding Support In America, Healthy Nourishment, LLC: Sant Louis Missouri. 2020; 71.
2. Erin L. O’Reilly. The Recipe For Breastfeeding Support In America, Healthy Nourishment, LLC: Sant Louis Missouri. 2020; 108.