Book Review: The Food of Love

I was curled up on the couch with a cup of tea, happily reading an advance copy of The Food of Love: Your Formula for Successful Breastfeeding, the first mom’s breastfeeding how-to with detailed cartoons that I have ever read, when I came across a big star drawn at the bottom of a page and this message printed inside it: “Hey, you! If you’re reading this book and you’re not just about to have a baby then go and make dinner for someone who just has!”

So, I got myself off the couch and emailed my son’s classmate’s mom, who has just delivered her third child, that dinner was on me.

And then I got back to my reading, because even though I stopped breastfeeding two and a half years ago, I still remember how hard it was for me at the beginning. I’m glad that there’s a good book–a sharp, funny, manageably-sized one (handy for one-handed reading while breastfeeding!)– helping new moms navigate the often-complicated physical and emotional logistics of breastfeeding.

Open the cover and where normally you would find a blank page or maybe just a title page, you find a line drawing of a brand new baby, complete with hospital bracelet and umbilical clip. “Well done,” the text begins. “You have just undergone the most physically and emotionally exhausting process of your life. You have successfully subdivided. You have a baby. You can take it home with you. Unlike a library book, which you have to return after three weeks, this child is yours for years and years. But what do you do with it? What next?”

The next two hundred pages go on to detail “what next,” from “What are Breasts?” to “Stress and Depression” and finally, “When it’s time to wean” with detailed (and often quite funny) drawings, up-to-date medical information (including footnotes!) and a helpful index of topics from abscess (ew) to yogurt, and many stops in between, all written in the wry tone of an experienced and entertaining older sister or friend. A drawing of The Good Mother shows a woman lying on the couch, gazing at her nursing baby while laundry spills from the washing machine, toys litter the floor, and a toddler sits contentedly at her feet with a sandwich, watching tv; the corollary drawing of The Good Friend, who plays with the toddler, brings him a drink, and perhaps tosses the laundry into the dryer isn’t pictured, but strongly implied throughout the book.

The book ends similarly to how it opens: “Ignore this book” reads the header. It goes on to elaborate, “Guilt is the curse of parenthood. This book is meant as a funny, handy guide to helping you to enjoy your baby. Feel free to disagree with it. It’s not a prescription, and you know your baby better than I do…. Look at your baby. He’s perfect. Well done.”

Not nearly enough baby and childcare books take the time to offer this message, and not any I can think of do so with such excellent cartoons. The Food of Love is a breath of fresh air, and a book I’d add to any new mom gift bag.

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