W&N to publish Wolfarth's breastfeeding exploration

W&N to publish Wolfarth's breastfeeding exploration

Weidenfeld & Nicolson has bought a "fascinating" book about the culture and history of breastfeeding by historian Joanna Wolfarth. 

Publisher Jenny Lord  acquired UK and Commonwealth rights at auction from Jo Unwin at JULA in MILK: An Intimate History of Breastfeeding. It will be published in hardback, audio and e-book in January 2023. 

The blurb reads: “As a breastfed baby herself, Joanna Wolfarth assumed it would come easily to her when she had her first child. Yet three weeks after the birth she was back in hospital with an underweight baby, bewildered by the inconsistent advice and myriad problems she was encountering. As a cultural historian, Joanna's impulse was to look to the past. What she discovered, neglected in the archives, amazed and reassured her. She found connection and solace in communities from the past.”  

“Using the arc of her own experience, MILK is an intimate cultural survey of infant-feeding that draws on artworks, philosophical treatise, historical medical devices, folk wisdom and contemporary interviews with women from across the world to reveal how infant-feeding has been represented and repressed, celebrated and censured. From fragments of ancient baby-bottles with traces of animal milk to 18th-century brass breast pumps, from lush Renaissance paintings of the Virgin nursing Jesus to sensual Hindu sculptures of voluptuous breastfeeding goddesses, MILK charts previously unexplored territory as the first major cultural history of breastfeeding. " 

Wolfarth is a cultural historian. She is a visiting lecturer in Southeast Asian art at The School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, and an associate lecturer at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. MILK is her first book.     

She said: “I’m delighted to be working with Jenny and the rest of the team at Weidenfeld & Nicolson on MILK. It’s such a joy to weave art, literature, social histories and myth to shine a light on the myriad ways breastfeeding and breast milk have been represented across cultures. It helps me make sense of my own experiences and hope it will do the same for anyone else who has ever fed a hungry baby.” 

Lord said: “MILK promises to be a highly original and fascinating investigation with a strong personal narrative at its heart. It is absurd to think that there is still so much misunderstanding, taboo and shame surrounding how we feed our babies, but we hope MILK will offer readers a way to connect to a long history they may not realise they belong to. We are thrilled to be publishing Joanna’s ground-breaking work here at W&N.”