Book Club Mom generously offered to write up a review of this wonderful, and important breastfeeding manual, The Womanly Art Of Breastfeeding, for Momaste. I don’t have much time or energy for reading these days, let alone writing book reviews, so this is a treat I hope you enjoy, whether you are a nursing mama looking for some advice, or you just want to remember your nursing days. Also check out her blog for advice and reviews of many other amazing tomes!
Nearly twenty years ago, pregnant with our first child, I entered a brand new phase of my life, and the first thing I understood about this phase was that no question of a pregnant woman was ever off-limits, no matter what the asker’s credentials. “How long did it take you?” “Do you know the sex of the baby?” “Do you plan to nurse?”
Well I knew the answers to the first two “that’s really none of your business” questions, but the next one made me pause. Do I plan to nurse? “I guess so” – that was my initial response and then I put it out of my mind. A nurse at the doctor’s office made a note in my file and that was that. “I’ll think about it later,” I told myself. After all, I was in the middle of growing a baby and my mind was full of all the important checkpoints, the ones we all immerse ourselves in and, especially with a first baby, naively cling to because we cannot imagine what it will be like at the end of nine months when we actually have to give birth.
At the end of the nine months, more than a week late, to be exact, and after approximately two days of labor, out came our beautiful son and he was screaming for something. Exhausted, I let the nurses clean him up and then, zip! They whisked him away. “I’m going to try nursing,” I told one of the nurses. “You rest now and we’ll bring him in when he wakes up,” she replied.
Sometime later, the nurse brought my screaming son to me. I had no idea what to do. I confessed this to the nurse and she helped me get started, but it was awkward, my baby son didn’t seem happy and it hurt! “Keep trying,” the nurse encouraged, “but if you change your mind, we can always give him a bottle.” A bottle like the one with sugar water he had already consumed down in the nursery. Hmmmm.
Back at home, my college friend Louise called to congratulate me. Already a mother, she knew what was what. “Are you nursing?” she asked. “Well, yes, but it’s not going very well,” I told her. “Call La Leche,” she said right away. “They can help. And I’m going to send you a book.” “Okay,” I told her. After a stressful feeding, I called La Leche and talked with an experienced nursing mother. It did help, but I knew my baby and I were in trouble. He wasn’t happy. My nipples were bleeding. My breasts hurt. We were miserable.
A couple days later, Louise’s package arrived: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding published by La Leche League International. I read the book, cover-to-cover and I quickly learned that this book was filling a hugely important void in my new-mother life. My doctor was taking care of me. My pediatrician was taking care of my son. But no one was taking care of us, as a nursing couple. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding became my go-to book. I had been woefully unprepared, but now I could catch up.
My version of this book was published in 1991, but La Leche’s newest publication is from 2010. This edition is modern and fully updated. It’s divided into four sections: New Beginnings; Ages and Stages; The Big Questions; and La Leche League Resources. In the early sections, important questions for nursing mothers are answered: “Will I Have Enough Milk?” and “None of This is Working! My Baby Isn’t Latching!” Later sections cover road blocks and milestones such as milk output, weight gain and sleep habits. Additional chapters address breast infections, returning to work, and pumping and storing breast milk. And what happens when your baby grows into a toddler and beyond? This book guides you and helps you decide what’s right for you and your child, from the first time you nurse all the way through the day you wean your child.
I gave myself six weeks to make it work with my baby son. And during that time we hung in there. I grit my teeth when it hurt. I nursed him whenever he wanted. I tried to keep my sanity! And like a miracle, things slowly started to turn, right at six weeks. So I gave myself another week, and another, and another. I did that until we were a happy nursing couple. I thank my friend Louise and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding for getting me through those early weeks.
I had three more babies, all boys, and was a nursing mom for seven years. It was a wonderful time of my life. I nursed in bed, at the table, standing up in the ladies room and the kitchen, cooking dinner, and sitting in my (parked!) van. I loved it all and each night when I fell into bed, I looked forward to hearing my baby wake so I could run into his room, snuggle him up and nurse him back to sleep!
On that first day, it wasn’t automatic. It wasn’t easy. It hurt and it didn’t seem worth it. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding helped me through all those stages and showed me what a great experience nursing a baby can be!
Thanks so much for this wonderful review, Book Club Mom! I had many of the same issues (and then some!) with nursing, which I documented (along with some of the fixes) in my post about Nipple Trauma and Healing.