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Milk

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781474623216

Price: £18.99

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When Joanna Wolfarth was pregnant with her first child, she assumed she would breastfeed, as her mother had fed her. Yet she was unprepared for the startling realities of new motherhood. Then, just four weeks after the birth, she found herself back in hospital with an underweight baby, bewildered by inconsistent advice and overcome with feelings of guilt and isolation.

Months later, her cultural historian’s impulse led her to look to the past for guidance. What she discovered, neglected in the archives, amazed and reassured her. By piecing together cultural debris – from fragments of ancient baby bottles to eighteenth-century breast pumps, from the Palaeolithic Woman of Willendorf figurine to the poignantly inventive work of Louise Bourgeois and from mythical accounts of the creation of the Milky Way to advice found in Victorian medical manuals – Joanna began to understand how feeding our babies can be culturally, economically and physiologically determined as well as deeply personal and emotive.

Using the arc of her own experience, Joanna takes us on an intimate journey of discovery beyond mother and baby, asking how the world views caregivers, their bodies, their labour and their communal bonds. By bringing together art, social histories, philosophy, folk wisdom and contemporary interviews with women from across the world, Milk reveals how infant feeding has been represented and repressed, celebrated and censured. In doing so, Joanna charts previously unexplored territory and offers comfort and solace to anyone who has fed or will feed a child.

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Reviews

Sensitively drawn and full of insight, this is an intelligent and inventive new approach to a subject that should matter to all humans. Stunning
JENNIE AGG, author of LIFE, ALMOST
A feminist blend of memoir and history . . . Wolfarth takes us on an illuminating tour of shifting attitudes and practices . . . as a cultural historian she is excellent at detailing how motherhood changes her perspective of art . . . this is an important book: however personal each mother's "journey" may seem, there are always bigger forces at play
Francesca Angelini, THE SUNDAY TIMES
Erudite, intimate and compelling, Milk is a long-overdue history of humanity's first food
LEAH HAZARD, author of HARD PUSHED
The beauty of Wolfarth's storytelling is difficult to convey . . . [Milk] is a story for us all
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
Compassionate, compelling and beautifully told, Milk is a fascinating journey through the social, cultural and historical meanings of breastfeeding. Through her intricate, personal and tender research, Wolfarth deftly explores the human complexities of caring, nurturing and nourishing. A sublime book
ELINOR CLEGHORN, author of UNWELL WOMEN
I adored Milk. It is such an open-hearted, tender, gorgeous book; the way Wolfarth writes of mothers and milk so carefully crafted and so caring in equal measure. Art and bodies are interwoven so beautifully it becomes a dance; one that pays tribute to our ancestors and our experience, both individual and collective. We are asked in myriad ways what exactly it means to give sustenance, to nurture, to give ourselves over to a small stranger we are changed by forever; no matter how we fed them. An important, non-judgmental and truly healing book; I am most grateful for it indeed
Kerri ní Dochartaigh, author of THIN PLACES
Milk is a fascinating book, a rigorous and intimate study of something at once essential to life, and yet too often overlooked. Wolfarth uses breastfeeding as a lens through which to examine and critique the structures of motherhood, but it's also a text suffused with love and care, and I felt equal parts enlightened and comforted after reading it
MIRANDA WARD, author of ADRIFT