The Complete Book of Breastfeeding

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With over one and a half million trade and mass-market paperback copies in print, The Complete Book Of Breastfeeding is one of the recognized classics in its field. Now it has been completely revised and updated, and dovetails perfectly with the recent major policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued nursing for at least one year and as long thereafter as mother and child desire. In addition to incorporating the new AAP ...
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With over one and a half million trade and mass-market paperback copies in print, The Complete Book Of Breastfeeding is one of the recognized classics in its field. Now it has been completely revised and updated, and dovetails perfectly with the recent major policy statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued nursing for at least one year and as long thereafter as mother and child desire. In addition to incorporating the new AAP guidelines throughout the book, the Third Edition draws on the very latest research from prominent scholars and practitioners in the field. It presents new information on how breastfeeding offers protection against various diseases for both child and mother; new discussion of the positive impact of breastfeeding on a child's cognitive development; a greatly expanded section on available support systems and their importance; guidelines to help a mother-to-be choose a hospital or birthing center with breastfeeding-positive policies; and a new section on signs of baby's adequate milk intake, with charts. Plus new and expanded sections on nutrition for lactating mothers, the mother's social life, the role of the father, the nursing working mother, how to express, store, and offer breast milk, and how to wean your child. This is the warm, accessible, and authoritative guide for every new mother. Marvin S. Eiger, M.D., is a pediatrician and leading authority on breastfeeding.

" of the most recognized classics in the field, completely revised and updated, incorporating new AAP guidelines throughout...with expanded sections on nutrition, the role of the father, working mothers, and more."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Breast may be best, but it doesn't always come naturally. Your odds for success can be significantly increased by the practical advice in, and warm support of, this valuable book."
—Arlene Eisenberg and Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff, authors of What to Expect When You're Expecting

"A skillful blend of professional expertise and practical advice."
—Betty L. Crase, IBCLC, former Director of the Center for Breastfeeding Information, La Leche League International

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780894801532
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/1986
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Wendkos Olds has written extensively about relationships, health, and personal growth. She has won national awards for her writing, including the Career Achievement Award of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, of which she is a member and a past president. Ms. Olds’ college textbooks on child and adult development, co-authored with psychologist Diane E. Papalia, Ph.D., have been read by more than two million students and are the leading texts in their fields. She is also the author of Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do with Your Grandkids, The Working Parents’ Survival Guide, and The Eternal Garden: Seasons of Our Sexuality, and the coauthor of Helping Your Child Find Values to Live By and Raising a Hyperactive Child.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ms. Olds is a member of La Leche League International, International Childbirth Education Association, the Authors Guild, and other professional and civic organizations. She nursed her three daughters and is the proud grandmother of five breastfed children. Visit her at her website:

Marvin S. Eiger, MD, coauthor of the first three editions of this book, is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University School of Medicine. He practiced pediatrics in New York City for thirty years and established the Comprehensive Lactation Program at New York’s Beth Israel Hospital, serving as its medical director until he retired from practice. He is the father of two children and grandfather of three.

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Read an Excerpt

Will You or Won't You?

The best times are when babies come.
--Melanie, in Gone With the Wind

Only in relatively recent times has there been any question at all as to whether or not a baby would be breastfed. In earlier days, if a mother was either unable or unwilling to nurse her baby herself, she had to find another woman to do it. Early in the twentieth century, however, the advent of dependable refrigeration and pasteurization and the development of ways to modify cow's milk for infant consumption meant that babies could be fed a specially formulated product that was both digestible and nutritious.

Today you have a choice in the way you feed your baby. You can decide whether you want to feed your baby with the milk produced by your own body the way mothers have done from time immemorial--or whether you want to provide your baby's nourishment in a bottle. Many factors will enter into your decision: the customs of your community; the attitudes of your doctor, your husband or life partner, your friends and family; your lifestyle, including your work commitments; your personality; your feelings about mothering; and how much emotional support you receive.

We hope that once you read this chapter and see all the benefits that breastfeeding holds for you, your baby, and the world you live in, you'll give nursing a try. You might look on it as a thirty-day money-back guarantee. You will most likely find it gratifying for both you and your baby and go on to nurse well beyond those initial thirty days.

But suppose you begin to nurse your baby and you feel that you must stop. You haven't lost anything; youhaven't invested in anything; you can always stop. The stores will always have those bottles, nipples, sterilizers, and formulas. You haven't made a lifelong commitment. You can easily change your mind.

Meanwhile, you have given your baby the wonderful substance of colostrum, which, as you'll see, is like giving your child an injection of antibodies at the most vulnerable time of his or her life, right after birth. And while exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months confers the most benefits on you and your child, some breastfeeding is better than no breastfeeding.

However, if you decide to bottle-feed right away, it's much harder, and sometimes impossible, to change your mind later on. Initiating breastfeeding after only a week has gone by requires a great deal of determination, persistence, and patience. It has been done by mothers who found that their babies needed breast milk to survive and by women who discovered that bottle-feeding has its own problems, but it is not easy.


For many years in the United States, the nursing mother was the nonconformist, a member of a minority group. By 1971, formula feeding had become the norm in this country, with only 25 percent of women (only one in four) nursing. Since then, however, the long-term trend away from breastfeeding has been reversed, so that today 60 percent of new mothers nurse their babies. (This book was first published in 1972, and we like to think that the advice and encouragement it offered helped to accelerate the trend toward the rediscovery of breastfeeding!)

You probably have heard many of the reasons why breastfeeding is good for babies, most of which we'll talk about in this chapter. You may not be as aware of all the benefits it can hold for you, which we'll also talk about in this chapter. One of the prime benefits for the mother is the all-around good feeling you're likely to derive from the experience.

In talking about their breastfeeding experiences, women often emphasize how good it feels (or felt)--emotionally, physically, and intellectually. One proof of the enjoyment many women get from this aspect of mothering can be seen in the fact that when a woman has breastfed one baby, she almost always nurses the next.

Women who have bottle-fed one baby and nursed another tend to feel closer to their nursing infants in the early months of life. One mother told us, "I never knew what I was missing by not nursing my first baby. I loved him and I enjoyed him, yes, but I never got so many of the 'extras' that I get from this one--that little hand that touches my skin as she's nursing, the way she'll pull away from the breast, smile at me, and go right back again, the happiness that I feel at being able to give her what she wants."

The "nursing pair"--mother and baby--forge an especially close and interdependent relationship. Your baby depends upon you for sustenance and comfort, and you look forward to feeding times to gain a pleasurable sense of closeness with your infant. If a feeding time is too long delayed, both of you become distressed--your baby because of hunger and you because of uncomfortably full breasts. Each of you needs the other, yearns for the other, is intimate with the other in a very special way. Because of this unique symbiotic relationship, many women consider the period of nursing among the most fulfilling times of their lives.

In addition, nursing can be an intensely pleasurable, sensuous activity. And finally, knowing all the health benefits that breastfeeding confers on both mother and baby affirms a woman's conviction that she is making the best possible decision for herself and her baby. Let's see what some of these benefits are.



Human breast milk is the ultimate health food for human infants. For at least the first six months, it is the only food most babies need. Even after other foods are introduced in the latter half of the first year, breast milk continues to supply such important nutrients as essential fatty acids, lactose (the predominant sugar in milk) for proper growth of brain cells, and the correct balance of proteins. (See Chapter 3 for more about this ideal food.)

In recent years nutritionists have voiced concern about overly high levels of protein in the American diet. Since cow's milk contains about twice as much protein as human milk, formula-fed babies usually receive more protein than they need (much of it in the form of the less digestible casein). The stools of formula-fed babies are so bulky because the babies cannot absorb so much protein, and excrete the excess in their stool, whereas breastfed babies absorb virtually 100 percent of the protein in human milk.

In the United States today, there's a new awareness of the serious problem of overnutrition and of the problems caused by overweight. Bottle-fed babies tend to be fatter than breastfed babies. One reason for this may stem from the fact that bottle-feeding mothers who see milk left in the bottle tend to encourage their babies to drain the last drop, while breastfeeding mothers usually assume that their babies know when they have had enough. When the baby stops suckling, the mother takes her off the breast.

Another way that nursing may discourage overfeeding lies in the difference between the high-protein milk produced at the beginning of a feeding (fore milk) and the high-fat milk produced at the end (hind milk). The richness of the hind milk may make the baby feel full and send a signal that mealtime is over.

Breastfed children like vegetables better than do formula-fed infants when they're first introduced to them, probably because breastfed babies become more familiar with the varied tastes and smells that come through the milk of their vegetable-eating mothers. Thus, by encouraging a diverse and healthy diet, breastfeeding can offer health protection later, when babies will be more receptive to new foods.

In fact, research has shown that even before birth your baby becomes familiar with different tastes and smells in the amniotic fluid; the variety of tastes and smells that then come through your milk accustoms your child to the foods of your particular culture. While your breast milk varies from day to day, depending on what you have eaten, commercial formula tastes and smells the same, day after unvarying day. Consequently, the formula-fed baby misses out on the rich and varied sensory experiences transmitted through a mother's milk.
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Table of Contents


Will You or Won't You?

Questions You May Have About Breastfeeding

The Miracle of Lactation

Before Your Baby Comes

Our Baby is Here

Breastfeeding Begins

Eating, Exercising, and Your Weight

How You Look, How You Feel

Drugs and the Nursing Mother

You Are a Nursing Family

Your Other Life

The Working Nursing Mother

Breastfeeding: A Sexual Passage

Especially for the Father

Preventing and Treating Nursing-Related Problems

Special Situations

Expressing and Storing Breast Milk

Weaning Your Child

Resource Appendix:

Helpful Organizations and Sources of Information

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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.

A Note About Language

Since babies come in two sexes, we write about them accordingly, alternating gender pronouns throughout the book. This seems to be the fairest solution to a problem that plagues most writers sensitive to the bias implicit in the English language.

We made another linguistic decision by alternating references to "your husband" "your partner," and "your baby's father." It's likely that most readers of this book are married, but that quite a few are not. You may be living with an adult who is neither your husband nor your baby's father. Or you may be raising your child alone; in this case, you may not be able to get the kind of help that a life partner can provide, and you may need to reach out for help to family members, friends, and members of your community. No matter what your personal situation may be, you can still breastfeed your baby and you can still benefit from most of the suggestions in these pages.

Excerpted from The Complete Book of Breastfeeding. Copyright (c) 1999. Reprinted with permission by Workman Publishing.

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