11 Jul

Book Review: Nurturing new families, by Naomi Kemeny

Naomi Kemeny is an experienced postnatal doula and has written Nurturing New Families for anyone supporting parents of newborn babies. It has useful chapters for grandparents and friends as well as for postnatal doulas, particularly those starting out. It gives a good background on why postnatal support is so important in 21st Century Britain, and a useful overview of the needs of mothers and babies in those challenging early weeks. There are also sections for special situations such as single mothers, twins and multiples, postnatal depression, families with pets, and other circumstances.

All of this is relevant in whatever capacity the reader is supporting new parents, but it is difficult to tell who would buy this book; new grandparents might find that there is too much advice for doulas, and vice versa. It might, however, be very useful for a grandparent to understand the value of a doula.

I was quite surprised that Murkoff et al’s What To Expect The First Year (described by Naomi Wolf with scathing accuracy as “the intellectual equivalent of an epidural” in her book Misconceptions) is Kemeny’s idea of “an excellent reference manual.” (p.33). I can think of about twenty books I would rather have to hand, and actually Nurturing New Families could be one of them.

There are some excellent guidelines on empathic listening, which is hard to do when you’re close to the person you’re supporting, so this of course is useful for grandmothers and friends, but essential for doulas. I strongly agree with Kemeny’s advice to take the opportunity to debrief one’s own breastfeeding experience before trying to support someone else with its particular challenges.

Some of the book is a little repetitive, for example the advice on page 68 for grandparents is repeated on page 136 for doulas, and some of the quotations are pulled from the stories at the back. The book is so full of useful stuff that it does not need this kind of padding, but I feel I am being picky. It’s a useful book, and I would have found it really handy in my early work as a postnatal doula. I would recommend it to someone at the beginning of their doula career, as it covers a good range of different situations and is full of sensible advice.

[Disclosure: I was given a free review copy of Nurturing New Families]