Monday, May 1, 2006

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International

If you're a first-time mother, then there are a lot of new issues that you have to deal with and a lot of choices that you have to make. Of course, you've been dealing with issues and making choices your whole life; only this time, the issues and choices affect not only you, but your newborn baby as well. One of the first choices you have to make involves how you wish to feed and nourish your baby. Do you want to breastfeed or do you want to give your baby formula?

Many women choose to breastfeed, and if you're one of those, then you might find yourself in need of advice. There are many books available on this particular subject, including one called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. This book is published by La Leche League International, which is an international organization whose mission is "To help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother."

When perusing the Table of Contents for The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, you get the idea that this book will be very helpful because it covers so many different topics. The book starts off with several chapters that give new mothers information about breastfeeding. This includes a list of some of the benefits of breastfeeding, how to prepare yourself for breastfeeding, and even what to wear when you're doing it. In addition, the book gives contact information for the La Leche League so that you can find out how to join a chapter in your area if you wish to attend meetings and get in-person support.

The next section of the book deals with bringing your baby home for the first time and the challenges many new mothers face when trying to begin breastfeeding. These chapters also talk about why the La Leche League thinks it's important for mothers not to give up on their breastfeeding efforts if things start to get a bit difficult. The book also talks about how many times you should feed your baby, how to tell when your baby has had enough, and how to go out with your baby and breastfeed away from home.

Other topics included in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding are: going back to work; breastfeeding for twins or multiples; what to do if you or your baby get sick; special-needs situations; nutritional advice; and also how to wean your baby once he or she is old enough to start solid foods.

The book is presented in a very easy-to-read format, which I felt was on of its biggest strengths. Many of the topics are addressed in a question and answer style, which serves to make the information seem more personal and relevant to "real" people. Some sections are even presented in a "case study" format. By this I mean that the authors describe a particularly problematic situation for a (presumably) real mother and child, and then give the reader advice about how to proceed if the same situation crops up in her own life.
If I had to tell you about the weaknesses of the book, I would say that it's the tone and content. While I was reading, I couldn't help but feel that La Leche League International published the book with the intent of pushing their own agenda, which of course, is to get as many women as possible to choose breastfeeding. Instead of doing it in a subtle way, however, or presenting breastfeeding vs. formula as a choice that every mother makes on her own, it seemed that the authors were doing everything they could to "guilt" me into breastfeeding.

In addition, I felt the book overstepped its bounds in numerous instances. For example, instead of sticking to the topic of breastfeeding, which is La Leche League's area of expertise, the authors delve into many other highly personal subjects -- including marital relations, going back to work, and bonding with your baby. Touching on these subjects might have been ok if the authors had dealt with them in an objective manner, but this wasn't the case at all. Instead, the authors again seemed to have a particular agenda to push. For instance, they made it seem as though any woman who would choose to go back to work rather than staying home full-time to raise her baby was somehow less of a mother than one who spends 24 hours per day with her infant. I thought this was very unfair, as many women are in a situation where they simply cannot afford to stay home full-time.

Overall, I have to say that The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is not a book that will appeal to a wide audience. It comes off as exceedingly preachy about many topics outside the sphere of breastfeeding, which will definitely turn a lot of women off to the book. Moreover, the book doesn't even contain that much useful advice as far as actual breastfeeding goes. After reading it, I did have some new pieces of information to draw on, but quite honestly, I felt that I could have gotten the same information from a quick chat with my pediatrician or from a friend who has gone through breastfeeding before.
The bottom line is that if you are absolutely committed to breastfeeding, I think you might enjoy this book. Otherwise, I would say spare yourself some frustration and simply ask a trusted, experienced advisor about any questions you may have,

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