'Why do mothers fail to breastfeed their babies?' – so shouts the blurb on the reverse of the 'Alpha Parent's (aka Allison Dixley) recently published book 'Breast Intentions'.
This alone should be enough to let potential readers know that this is a book with an agenda, and let's just say if 'Breast Intentions' was a political party it would be somewhere to the right of... Well, let's not go there.
When this book was first published it was 'reviewed' by lots of people. The vast majority of them had never read it, they just wanted to slate it because they can't bear Dixley's 'Alpha Parent' blog. Frankly I think that is pretty pathetic and, as a believer in democracy (in a 'I may not like what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it' sort of way), I was keen to make up my own mind and actually read the thing.
I'll say this for her, Allison Dixley is a very smart and brave woman who really doesn't give a monkeys what anyone else thinks. She has the courage of her convictions and a lot to get off her chest! Obsessively referenced throughout and totally unforgiving, 'Breast Intentions' could have provided some really interesting insight into some of the internal and external struggles women go through in order to breastfeed - or not. Unfortunately in my opinion it fails to do this. The reason? The book wreaks of an ego which has gone completely unchecked and a writer with a total lack of empathy for anyone who has (in her words) 'failed' to breastfeed.
Dixley has delved deep into what she believes are the reasons why women don't breastfeed, and on a few occasions I could almost see where she was coming from. However I also found myself repeatedly wondering if Ms Dixley has ever actually supported anyone with breastfeeding problems in real life? I can't imagine she has - or at least I sincerely hope she hasn't - because I would hate to think of her grading their experiences out of ten the way she does in chapter three - entitled 'excuses'.
For Ms Dixley, it's clear no 'excuse' would ever be good enough.
For the sake of argument let's assume that the premise behind this book is accurate (it isn't, but let's assume it is..), that premise being that women don't try hard enough to breastfeed, they don't care enough about their babies and so choose short term relief over long term rewards, and so on... Even if those things were all true and women are just playing psychological games with themselves (and others) because they are too lazy to breastfeed, this book would still miss the mark. Why? Because if you lack compassion and alienate everyone around you, regardless of how many studies you cite you'll never bring people with you.
It's a straight #fail.
Dixley ends her book with an epilogue containing advice for people who want to breastfeed. It includes a (surprisingly unreferenced!) remark that a woman's breasts have as much chance of not working as she has of marrying a prince. I rather suspect that some of the other authors on Pinter & Martin's bookshelf will have a different opinion on that one and so I'll urge you to look to them instead for your breastfeeding advice.
Smart she most definitely is, funny too (sometimes, although the fart jokes did get a bit wearing if I'm honest). Dixley couldbe a powerful voice in progressing a cause she clearly cares a great deal about, but sadly I have to say that for me, her work embodies everything that is worst about 'lactivism'. Her passion and ability to write could inspire and educate, but instead it ridicules and shames.
Did no-one ever tell her you get more bees with honey?
I began 'Breast Intentions' with a feeling of trepidation and curiosity, and ended it with a feeling of relief. As I write the final paragraph of this review I feel I can finally let go of a cloud of negativity which has been hanging around me since my most recent baby was born. As a 'positive deviant' (the title Dixley gives to successful breastfeeders) I should, apparently, be smugly applauding myself for breastfeeding my baby. I'm not, I'm thinking about all those other women who wanted to do what I'm doing and for whatever reasons are not, and whose life-experiences Dixley has rubbished in this book. I'm also thankful that I know better than to believe everything other people say or write.