The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

My daughter Hannah was born at 34 weeks gestation. It’s not easy to breastfeed a preterm infant, and we struggled in the beginning. On many occasions, I wasn’t sure if we would make it. But we did make it, for a whole lot of reasons. One of the biggest, looking back, was the help I found at La Leche League (LLL).

I stumbled into my first La Leche League meeting when Hannah was 8 weeks old, and we were still using nipple shields. I had been discharged from my midwives at 6 weeks, and when I asked them where to get breastfeeding support, they recommended LLL. I walked into my first meeting with trepidation, not sure what I would find. But I needed help, so I screwed up my courage and went.

What I found was community. Leaders and mothers sharing their stories, and showing me that I could do it. I returned, became a member, and eventually a leader*. I wanted to help others as I had been helped.

LLL’s cornerstone book is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The book encapsulates the organization’s philosophy and contains thorough, comprehensive and well-researched breastfeeding information. On July 13, 2010 its 8th edition was released, and I was lucky enough to nab a review copy. The new edition is a complete re-write, and is significantly different from the 7th edition. Although if you’ve read an earlier edition and enjoyed it, I suspect you will enjoy this one, too.

So, what did I think? Honestly, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I want to thank the book’s authors – Teresa Pitman, Diana West and Diane Wiessinger – for writing a book that I can recommend without reservation. As much as I love LLL, the 7th edition sometimes made me cringe. I think the update was much-needed, and I am so happy to read it.

Here are some of the things I love about this book:

  • There are tear sheets at the back that you can cut out and quickly reference, including information for new grandparents on how baby care recommendations have changed, milk storage guidelines and how to get breastfeeding started.
  • They suggest letting the baby self-latch. I did this with Jacob, and it was much better than the “rapid arm movement” they recommended when Hannah was born.
  • The photos of nursing mothers in this edition don’t make me think of my grade 3 teacher anymore. The 80s hair and glasses are GONE!
  • No longer are babies only “he”, and partners only “dad”. The language is much more inclusive.
  • The book covers breastfeeding at various ages, in chronological order, so you can skip right to the section that you need right now.
  • The section on mothering and working much more accurately reflects the realities that parents face, without passing judgment on those who do work. This was a major issue for many people with previous editions, including me.
  • Just like all LLL publications, the book is thoroughly researched and includes detailed references.

If I have any criticism of the book, it would be its size. I don’t get a lot of reading time, so it’s taken me more than two weeks to finish it. It can seem a little bit intimidating. I think it’s good to keep in mind that the book contains detailed discussion of a whole lot of scenarios you probably will never encounter. So skimming it, and not worrying about breastfeeding twins if you don’t have twins, is totally reasonable. Take what you need and leave the rest.

I am so glad to see this update to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I hope that other people enjoy it as much as I did, and that it helps make breastfeeding, and LLL, more accessible to all mothers.

* I don’t talk about my LLL leader status on this blog often, because I am not writing here in my capacity as a leader. For instance, LLL doesn’t necessarily share my views on Roch Voisine. They have to remain neutral, though how they can remain neutral in the face of such awesomeness, I have no idea.

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Comments

  1. Teresa Pitman says:

    Thank you for your review, Amber! In terms of the length – it's so hard to find the right balance between covering everything mothers might be looking for and still keeping the book a manageable size. We actually cut it by one-third at the end! We hope that having short sections and a good index will mean that parents can skip parts if they want to (or NEED to!).

  2. Amber Krause Strocel says:

    I totally understand, and there's no parts that I could see omitting. I was hoping that by addressing the length, I could maybe explain it a little bit.

  3. But really Amber, who DOESN”T love Roch Voisine…uhhh, wait…who is that again?

    😉

    Great review. If I ever find myself in that “OMG I have a baby, help” phase a la breastfeeding I’ll probably pop over and steal your copy
    Carrie’s last post … Now I lay me down to sleepMy Profile

  4. Caroline
    Twitter:
    says:

    I am glad they have done a re-write. I looked at this book in the store when I was pregnant, and put it down, feeling a little bit preached at, and felt it was out of date. I’ll have to go have a look at the new edition! Yay!

    I am a cheerleader when I talk to other breastfeeding moms, and I encourage it almost too much sometimes, perhaps. I tend to give out the (photocopied) pamphlets I got from Ottawa Health to new moms and encourage them to take a breastfeeding class (my high risk nurse was also the Breastfeeding instructor at the Civic, and she rocked). Breastfeeding is so intimidating to so many new moms, and speaking from experience, I know that a small half-day class and some information can go a long, long way to making a woman persevere and understand. it is not all soft music, butterflies and rainbows. A perfect latch and understanding nursing patterns and needs doesn’t just happen by nature alone, it takes practice, in my opinion.

    I tell new moms, when they confess their nursing worries, this:

    a) It will not be easy the first few weeks, and may hurt until you get your technique down, but that is normal and you are not stupid or incompetent. Don’t give up!
    b) You will cry, your baby will cry. This is ok. You are not a failure. Don’t give up!
    c) If you serious about breastfeeding, do not have formula in the house. Do not let your husband go get formula. Don’t get mad at him for suggesting it either. He is trying to help you. Don’t give up!
    d) Repeat after me “This too shall pass” and before long they will be drinking 2 litres of milk a day from the carton in the fridge before they ask for the keys to the car.
    e) Breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your newborn, bar none. Don’t give up!
    f) Call LLL. They can help you learn the best latch for you and baby, and give you lots of support.

    (All I need now are some breast-shaped pom-poms right? Yeah… I know…)

    A woman on our street recently told us she stopped breastfeeding at two months because it was hard. She just wasn’t enjoying it. I felt so sad… I didn’t know she was having troubles, and I wished I could have been her cheerleader and told her my list. I asked her if she had contacted LLL, and she didn’t even know who that was. Puzzled, since LLL typically is mentioned by the lactation consultant in hospital, I asked her if she had seen a consultant. She shook her head and said “should I have?”. I gave her some website addresses, in case she decides to have more kids (so far, her answer is no more). maybe I am a freaky person for having this compulsion to be uber-informed about any major event in my life, but her lack of knowledge was surprising to me.

    We have a store in Ottawa called MilkFace. it is a store devoted to breastfeeding, babywearing, and natural parenting. I love this place, and they do mail order. http://www.milkface.com/. Its a great resource, and the LLL does lots of seminars and such out of it. Do you have anything like that on the West Coast?

    Oh dear, my comment has become a book…. heh… *waves virtual breast shaped pom poms*

    • I’m not aware of any shops like MilkFace, to my eternal sadness. Although someone else just may be. I do like Tiny Fingers, Tiny Toes, but I don’t think they’re quite as big.

    • Kirsten says:

      I never wanted to leave Milkface, it was like a community centre of women trying on bras. Like Junior High, but supportive! (er, that wasn’t meant to be a pun…).

      I’m frequently dumbfounded at how little people inform themselves before they do most stuff. BUt it is how it is. I knew a first-time mom who really wanted to have a natural childbirth experience, but didn’t really want to “overthink” it. She took the *hospital tour* and came back saying, “I don’t think I need to take a course now, they told us so much stuff!” I asked “have you thought about how you’d like to handle third stage labour?” and she’s all “whut?” “What is the hospital’s c-section rate?” “Oh, I don’t know.” “Are they going to start pressuring you if you don’t progress a certain amount in a set amount of time? What time frame do they allow?” “I don’t know.” “Okay! Well good luck with that ‘natural birth’.” Dummyhead, I added in my mind…

      I never did find out how it went, but I’d be shocked if she didn’t get the pit-epi-vacuum whatever combo. I’m a little cynical on that score.

      I accost random pregnant women and let htem know that if they have any breastfeeding questions, they should call LLL, it’s free, volunteers are trained to help, they have better information and procedures than their doctor etc. etc. I fear I approach Crazy Lady territory sometimes…but I didn’t know and I struggled so hard with my first! So keep cheerleading, it’s a good thing you do.

  5. LLL have been very helpful to me too.

  6. i have a friend who is looking at breastfeeding for the first time and i think i’ll definitely be passing a copy of the new version on to her.

    i’m so sad that my local LLL only meets during the work day so working moms are unable to take part. i would love to go. working moms can breastfeed full-time too!

  7. i’m in giggles over the french guy-crush (never experienced this back in the UK, not sure who my gallic/foreign-type crush would have been tho’ i was impressed by Baryshnikov, accent, muscles and all!

    though Wee Guy and I didn’t have breastfeeding issues (there was too much else going on and luckily i had attended a few meetings pre-birth which really helped in the early post-birth days. our post-op post-C section nurse was also a breastfeeding nurse and she got us both latched successfully within 30 mins of delivery) i did find my local LLL chapter a great source of support. chatting with the other mums let me know what was normal in the world of newborns and for that, the wee guy and I are immensely grateful.
    pomomama aka ebbandflo’s last post … wordless wednesday- sadness bustersMy Profile

  8. Karen Edna Munro says:

    Neat! Cool that it's been updated for the modern world. Good to stay "abreast" (ha ha ha) of current trends…

  9. That’s great that after receiving help from LLL you decided to be a part of it to help others! Totally Awesome! Have a great weekend!
    Wendy Irene’s last post … Christmas in July – Leavenworth- WashingtonMy Profile

  10. Great review. I am familiar with LLL and it sounds like a really great resource!

    And oh, Roch Voisine! I love him. Hélène! Haven’t heard that in a looonnngg time! I actually went to see him in concert in Halifax with my (French) hubby about 13 years ago! God, I’m OLD! 😛
    ShannonL’s last post … Fading FriendshipsMy Profile

  11. I’m years out of breastfeeding, and I’m pretty sure it’s the one thing I never had a problem with — I was apprehensive, but my babies just got it, although they self-weaned earlier than I was totally happy with.. I have found LLL literature in the past to be a little preachy and judgemental, so I’m happy to hear about the update too. You must be a totally kick-ass leader, they probably wish they could clone you a hundred times.
    allison’s last post … Wordless Lazy-Ass Wednesday- Pardon Me- Youre Standing On My HeadMy Profile

  12. I also had a semi premature babe and it made my initial BF very hard! I couldn’t get over how hard it could be. considering I am a BF educator, I thought I would just be a ‘natural pro’. Nope. nada. I have a great resource of friends who are LC and asking for help was the best thing I did.
    I like the idea of pages for grandparents! Perfect! Some of my work annoyances are the over helpful grandma telling me I’m wrong. ‘ 34 years ago we gave all fresh newborns soothers. I think it is ridiculous that your hospital doesn’t supply newborns with soothers!’ Times have changed lady! We also don’t give premie babies evaporated milk (yeah, seriously).
    Mama in the City’s last post … Theatre Under The Stars- Vancouver Style and GiveawayMy Profile

  13. Amber, I love that you’re a LLL leader, that’s awesome! LLL helped me so much when we were first starting out too, and I’ve really grown to love the whole community that we have here in K/W with all the LLL mommies. I’m pretty sure that I’d like to be a leader too someday, although I think I might need to get a little more life experience before I could see that happening.

    I am glad to hear that the new art of bf’ing book is an improvement on the old one. I feel like I’m cheating on LLL every time I recommend JAck Newman’s book instead of theirs!

    And Caroline — all the advice you have listed is exactly what I would say!! “This too shall pass” is my mantra most days.

  14. Cori Smithen says:

    hi amber – do we have your permission to re-post this? i am a leader in saskatoon. very comprehensive review!

  15. Amber Krause Strocel says:

    Cori, you can re-post it as long as you credit me (Amber Strocel) and link back here: http://strocel.com/the-womanly-art-of-breastfeeding/

  16. I loved breastfeeding and wish that I could go back to that relationship again, just for a while. Sigh…

    Glad they’ve updated the book! Hope it helps many new moms!
    tracey’s last post … If you could see the carnage I came home to- you wouldnt judge a repostMy Profile

  17. Cori Smithen says:

    i'll post the link that you gave – thanks!

  18. Breastfeeding was hard for me at the beginning too – I think it took us a good six weeks before I stopped crying and felt like I didn’t need to climb the walls anymore. But, there is help out there for those who seek it. In Calgary I found they were very supportive in the hospital and are trying to be a WHO certified hospital which means they focus on breastfeeding. I was visited by lactation consultants and the student nurses were particularly helpful. And then we have the clinics where we are supposed to take our babies to to get weighed (and if you had a c-section like me, get your staples removed) that also had breastfeeding help and LC on staff. I’m hoping that it will be easier with this next baby now that I know more but at least I know where to go to get help. I did go to a couple LLL meetings before my first was born and, while I was intimidated by the preachy literature, the ladies there were great. The only reason I didn’t go back after was the distance: the LLL meetings were far, the clinic was close (and I couldn’t drive for at least a month after my c-section). But I’m really glad you reviewed this book – I’m reading Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Breastfeeding right now and I’m finding it really helpful. Maybe I can fit this book into my reading schedule too before the baby comes (in 4 weeks – yikes!)

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Trackbacks

  1. […] role models. She has written or co-authored 14 published books, including the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. She is a former Executive Director of La Leche League Canada and mother of four. 3. Alison from […]

  2. […] also the former executive director of LLL Canada, and co-author of the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. And for all of those reasons and more, she’s one of my role models. Someone that I look to […]

  3. […] a writer, the former chair of La Leche League Canada, and a co-author of the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. And I think that when I grow up I’d like to be a whole lot like her. Today, I’m […]

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