Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is there a sensible breastfeeding book in the house?

I find myself in something of a quandary. I’d like to be able to recommend a “good book” on breastfeeding. But there’s a problem: I’d struggle to recommend any of the books I’m familiar with to a mother.

With many of these books of course, this is hardly a surprise. Given my feelings about the likes of Dr. Sears (pretty much summed up here), I didn’t pick up The Breastfeeding Book expecting to get a balanced and scientific view on the merits of breastfeeding. Nor did it surprise me that the La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding makes sour comments about women who work outside the home and hints that breastfeeding only “counts” if you do it for years on end. But I was surprised at So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide by Janet Tamaro, which another poster on an online forum recommended to me and which I cautiously flicked through in a bookstore. With its cutesy title, cartoon-character cover and oh-so-crazy font styles, you could be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of laid-back “girlfriend’s guide” of a book—you know, the kind that might tell you that sending the baby to the nursery for a while to get a break was okay. Wrong guess! Despite its determinedly “friendly” tone, the book was basically one long diatribe about the dire consequences of not breastfeeding, about how one—JUST ONE—bottle of formula was enough to strip your baby’s precious gut flora and cause your milk supply to dry up like dew on the desert sand. Oh, and compulsory attachment parenting lectures delivered by the spadeful (surprise, surprise). I think I almost prefer bloody Dr. Sears.

The problem with all the breastfeeding books that I’ve come across is that, well, they didn’t seem to be able to limit themselves to actually telling you how to breastfeed. Rather, they invariably devoted at least a third of their real estate to lecturing you about why you should breastfeed, and going on (and on, and on) about the consequences of not doing so. It really is about roping women in while they are pregnant and vulnerable—and if breastfeeding doesn’t work out and you’ve already spent months on end reading this drip-drip-drip of FORMULA WILL RUIN YOUR CHILD….well, what then?

All this bugged me to the extent that in the end, while pregnant I didn’t actually buy any books on breastfeeding. Because even if the logical part of your mind knows damn well that most of the “studies” and “some people believe”s and vague anecdotal evidence are pretty bogus…. these are still voices that you don’t want echoing through your mind when you are lying awake in the middle of the night and full of self-doubts. When I read stories like this and this and (oh my God) this, it made me feel strongly that the best course of action was to just not buy any damn breastfeeding books, period—like, why should I spend good money on something that might well end up sitting in my house making me feel crap about myself? And I felt quite annoyed about this—I mean, I wanted a book that would tell me about mastitis, and different types of hold, and care of the nipples and all that kind of thing. I’m a bookworm—when I want to do something, I like to have a book to tell me how.

So… are there any books out there that actually do, like, tell you about breastfeeding, without making formula sound like the Baby’s R Us equivalent of rat poison, and without making it sound like you can only breastfeed if you give birth without drugs and wear your child in a sling every second of the day (except when in the Family Bed, of course)? If there is, I want to know what it is, so I can read it, recommend it and generally promote the hell out of it.

Is there a sensible breastfeeding book in the house?


  1. Try Dr. Mariannne Neifert's books. I wrote about her older one here and she now has a new book on the subject out - here.

    Best of luck with the blog!


  2. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter has good basic information on breastfeeding, formula feeding as well as the transition to solids and feeding your preschooler. The breastfeeding information should be enough for most women, although likely not those with significant issues, who the book suggests should contact a lactation consultant.

  3. Nursing Mother's Companion. My step-mom was part of the Nursing Mother's Council-- sort of a woo-free LLL in california-- and this is the book they used. They actually mention things like supplementing and pumping at work and simply gaps that happen (naturally!) at growth spurts-- a practical guide rather than a religious tome.

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