Read an Excerpt
If you were living at some other time or in some other place, you might not need this book. You might even wonder about its purpose, since you would be getting much of the information of these pages from your mother, your aunts, your older sister, and your neighbors. They would share with you their breastfeeding experiences and those of their mothers before them. As you saw them suckling their infants, you would pick up the "tricks of the trade" without even realizing it. It would never occur to you that you would not nurse your baby, because every baby that you had ever seen would have been fed at his mother's breast - except in the extremely rare case when a mother was too ill to nurse.
The paragraph that you have just read appeared as the introduction to the original edition of this book, published in 1972. It is one of the very few paragraphs that were carried over to the second edition, published in 1987, and once again into this edition.
Much has changed in the twenty-six years since The Complete Book of Breastfeeding was first conceived. The year 1971 (when the first edition of this book was being researched and written) marked the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the history of this country: Only one in four women even bean to breastfeed their babies. By 1987, well over half of all American mothers were nursing their newborn infants, and among well-educated middle-class women, the incidence was even higher. There was a slight dip in the prevalence of breastfeeding in the early 1990s, but that reversal has been righted, and the rates of breastfeeding are climbing again.
Over these years we, the authors (a pediatrician who has cared for hundreds of breastfed babies and a medical writer who nursed her own three children), have been delighted to see an explosion of research into the properties of breast milk, the value of nursing for both mothers and babies, and the practices that enhance or hinder the course of breastfeeding.
We have applauded professional organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, which in its December 1997 policy statement on breastfeeding acknowledged its great importance and urged doctors to help mothers and babies follow practices to ensure healthy nursing experiences. The Canadian Pediatric Society and the World Health Organization have also issued strong statements urging mothers to nurse and urging medical professionals to help mothers breastfeed their babies.
We've been happy to note that today's physicians learn more about breastfeeding in medical school and are less likely to believe that formula is "just as good" as breast milk, and that more hospitals are instituting more policies that promote breastfeeding rather than interfere with it.
Today, then, if you have questions about breastfeeding, you're more likely to have sources to go to - the doctors, nurses, and midwives who help you in childbirth, the friends and neighbors who are nursing or have nursed their own children, and a wealth of published material. Still, depending on where you live and where you have your baby, the information to get may or may not be helpful.
In too many places you're still likely to hear outdated, incorrect advice. Some medical professionals have not kept up with new research findings about the nutritional and immunological advantages of human milk for infants. Some laypersons, especially those from a generation more familiar with bottle-fed babies, are still convinced of the myths and superstitions they heard in a less enlightened time.
Breastfeeding is easy; there is nothing complicated about it. And there is no single best way to do it. Still, it is a skill that you have to learn, and it is an activity whose success depends on the kind of information and support that you get. Nursing a baby may fulfill and instinctual drive, but both you and your baby need to learn the actual procedures for breastfeeding and need to be reassured while you're learning.
Some mothers intuitively know what to do, puzzled by no questions and troubled by no problems. Most new mothers, however, have questions about all aspects of infant care. Sometimes a lack of information about breastfeeding makes a woman hesitate to embark upon an adventure that seems strange and bewildering. Other times, women reluctantly switch to the bottle when, had their questions been answered and their problems solved, they would have much preferred to continue being part of a nursing couple.
To help you do what you want to do and to make the most of what may be among the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of your entire life, we have once again updated and revised this book. It is very exciting for us to realize that many of the women who are reading this edition of our book are the grown children of our first readers, now nursing their babies. It is always a thrill to have so many women - some of them grandmothers - come up to us at meeting and tell us, "Your book was my bible."
While we thought our book was quite complete when the first edition came out, it included much more in the second edition, and has even more in this third edition: the findings from the most up-to-date scientific research and the results of what so many nursing mothers have learned works well for them. It also addresses a number of lifestyle issues that are increasingly important to contemporary mothers.
Thus, you'll see more in this edition about diet and fitness, about breastfeeding for the working mother (including the best way to express or pump and store breast milk), about breastfeeding as a sexual passage in the life of the mother, about nursing in public and legal issues related to this and other aspects of breastfeeding, and about nursing in a variety of special situations.
Although there is, as we said, no one "best way" to breastfeed, there are certain practices that seem to make the course of nursing go more smoothly for most mothers and babies, and it's these practices that we describe and recommend in these pages. However, every baby is unique, every mother is unique, and every family situation is unique. You may find that you and your baby do better by changing some of our recommendations. If it works for you, do it - and more power to you!
We're really happy that you're beginning this journey, which may be among the most exhilarating of your life, and we hope that this book will help you navigate it smoothly.
The three essential tools for successful breastfeeding are (1) knowing what to do (2) feeling confident that you're doing the right thing for your baby and yourself, and (3) being determined to persist in the face of any minor setbacks that may come your way.
As authors who've learned much more about our subject since we wrote our first book - and then still more since the publication of its second edition - we hope that this newest edition will help you develop all three of these tools.
Excerpted from the Introduction of The Complete Book of Breastfeeding. Copyright (c) 1999 by Marvin S. Eiger, M.D. and Sally Wendkos Olds. Reprinted with permission by Workman Publishing.