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The One Best Way?

Breastfeeding History, Politics, and Policy in Canada

By Aleck Ostry & Tasnim Nathoo
Subjects Social Science, Women’s Studies, History, Canadian History, Child Studies, Medical, Public Health, History Of Medicine
Series Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554581474, 282 pages, July 2009
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554587582, 282 pages, April 2011

Table of contents

Table of Contents for The One Best Way? Breastfeeding History, Politics, and Policy in Canada by Tasnim Nathoo and Aleck Ostry
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Authors’ Notes
Introduction: The One Best Way
Part 1: Transitions, 1850–1920
1. Infant Mortality, Social Reform, and Milk, 1850–1910
2. Theory and Formulas: Scientific Medicine and Breastfeeding, 1900–1920
3. Nation, Race, and Motherhood: The Political Ideology of Breastfeeding 1910–20
Part 2: Decline, 1920–60
4. Professionals and Government, 1920–30
5. Marketing Infant Feeding, 1930–940
6. Old-Fashioned, Time-Consuming, and a Little Disgusting, 1940–60
Part 3: Resurgence, 1960–2000
7. The Return to Breastfeeding, 1960–80
8. Promoting Breastfeeding, 1980–90
9. Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting? 1990–2000
Part 4: At Equilibrium: Into the Twenty-first Century
10. Continuities and Change: Breastfeeding in Canada at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century
11. Using the Past to Look Forward: Breastfeeding Policy for the Twenty-first Century
Conclusion: The Politics of “Choice”
Appendix A: Timeline of Infant Feeding in Canada
Appendix B: Infant Mortality in Canada
Appendix C: The Canadian Mother’s Book
Appendix D: Percentage of Births Occurring in Hospital, 1926–1974
Appendix E: National Surveys of Breastfeeding Practices
Appendix F: Evolution of Canadian Infant Feeding Guidelines from 1923–2004


In recent years, breastfeeding has been prominently in the public eye in relation to debates on issues ranging from parental leave policies, work−family balance, public decency, the safety of our food supply, and public health concerns such as health care costs and the obesity “epidemic.”
Breastfeeding has officially been considered “the one best way” for feeding infants for the past 150 years of Canadian history. This book examines the history and evolution of breastfeeding policies and practices in Canada from the end of the nineteenth century to the turn of the twenty-first. The authors’ historical approach allows current debates to be situated within a broader social, political, cultural, and economic context.
Breastfeeding shifted from a private matter to a public concern at the end of the nineteenth century. Over the course of the next century, the “best” way to feed infants was often scientifically or politically determined, and guidelines for mothers shifted from one generation to the next. Drawing upon government reports, academic journals, archival sources, and interviews with policy-makers and breastfeeding advocates, the authors trace trends, patterns, ideologies, and policies of breastfeeding in Canada.


Although written for a Canadian audience, The One Best Way? has much to offer breastfeeding advocates and politicians worldwide. Consider buying a copy of this book for your deputy minister.

- Louise Dumas, ILCA (International Lactation Consultant Association) Print and Media Reviews, March 2010, 2010 March

The One Best Way? does an admirable job in synthesizing the many disparate works that touch on the history of breastfeeding.... [p]olicy-makers, analysts, and medical administrators, should they find their way to this book, will be interested in the historical lessons that the book has to offer. Hopefully they will pay attention to its central message of structual change as well as the need for education in all forms of infant feeding in order to give women a truly free choice.

- Heather Stanley, University of Saskatchewan, H-Net Review, December 2009, 2009 December

Nathoo and Ostry trace this pendulum swing from breastfeedng to bottle feeding and back again in an illuminating study which examines the scientific background to the development of manufactured baby milks, reviews the latest evidence for breastfeeding's advantages for the baby, and teases out the implications of breastfeeding on gender equality in the workplace. Their analysis of the changing advice given to particularly useful in demonstrating how conflicting and contradictory advice could undermine the confidence of the women it was intended to support.

- Linda Knowles, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 23.2, 2010 November