Book review: Biological Nurturing, by Suzanne Colson
On reading the second edition of Biological Nurturing, I am reminded of what a powerful influence the first edition has been on my work as a breastfeeding counsellor, both in terms of how I talk about positioning, skin to skin, and the transition from womb to world in antenatal sessions; and how I support mothers with breastfeeding after the birth.
Suzanne Colson has vast clinical experience and research experience of what is now widely known as her method: biological nurturing. Biological nurturing is far more than just laid-back breastfeeding; it is a deep understanding of the needs and abilities of the breastfeeding dyad, almost a philosophy of positioning. It is a mother-centred process, using gravity and both parties’ instinctive behaviour, to achieve comfortable and effective breastfeeding.
It could be argued that this is simply a rediscovery of ancient behaviour: the way women breastfed long before male experts took over all the thinking and management of it, to spare our pretty little heads. Colson describes some of the social and cultural movement away from instinctive breastfeeding, using her own science to show how wrong those 18th and 19th Century men of science were about what we do. As she tells us, “you cannot teach mothers to do this,” (p158) because it is instinctive behaviour, highly dependent on the hormonal environment. So the role of a breastfeeding supporter is to enable that environment to be right for the mother and the baby, and to have confidence that this innate behaviour works.
Colson has a great deal of research to support her work, presenting it here in detail, and yet with accessible language and even QR codes so that the reader can access video clips. She is critical of the deeply entrenched, prescriptive ways that some midwives manage early breastfeeding, and this might be a difficult – but essential – read for those who work in that way. It is a fascinating and useful book for anyone supporting breastfeeding, and for mothers who are interested in a much deeper level of knowledge than they will get from your average book on breastfeeding.
[Disclosure: I was sent a review copy of Biological Nurturing. You can obtain yours, with a 10% discount when you use the SPROGCAST code, from Pinter & Martin].