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The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

4.4 91
by La Leche League International Staff, Gwen Gotsch (Editor), Judy Torgus (Editor)

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A newly revised and updated version of a definitive bestselling book on breastfeeding.

One of the most influential child-care books ever published, the newest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding includes the latest scientific information about the health benefits of breastfeeding.

A wealth of helpful hints such as preparing for breasffeeding, returning to


A newly revised and updated version of a definitive bestselling book on breastfeeding.

One of the most influential child-care books ever published, the newest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding includes the latest scientific information about the health benefits of breastfeeding.

A wealth of helpful hints such as preparing for breasffeeding, returning to work, nutritional advice for mothers, and the weaning process is provided. General child-care tips on handling colicky babies, the father's role in the baby's life, and toddler discipline are also contained in this comprehensive book. This updated version adds new information on the effects of labor medications on newborns, exercising and losing weight safely while nursing, research that shows breastfed babies have higher IQs, and much more.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is written in a warm, encouraging and positive voice that better informs us about the important benefits offered to mother and child. It is filled with loads of expert advice from healthcare professionals, plus the real-life experiences of other breasffeeding women offering invaluable support and guidance no new mother can do without.

Product Details

La Leche League International
Publication date:
Edition description:
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6.08(w) x 8.96(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"When I was two, my mother came home from the hospital cradling two mysterious bundles wrapped in soft blue blankets. One was my new baby brother. She handed me the other. Underneath the folds of that soft blanket was a beautiful doll, which my mother explained would be my special baby. My father followed her with a red wooden rocking chair that he placed near my mother's rocking chair. I vividly recall watching my mother breastfeed my brother, and I followed her every move to be sure that I was feeding my own baby properly, even though my breasts looked nothing like hers. My mother and baby brother gazed at each other adoringly during the feeding. I looked down at my own doll, whose eyes closed when she lay on her back. I wanted that lifeless doll to be real. I told myself, "I can't WAIT to grow up so I can feed my own baby!"

"Twenty--five years later I gave birth to my first child. The day I came home, I sat in our wooden rocking chair, and as I held my son close and nursed him, he opened his eyes to gaze at me. At once, an overpowering recollection of that early childhood memory returned, and tears began to flow as I realized, "THIS is what I have waited my whole life to do!" --Cathy, remembering 1981

WELCOME TO OUR "La Leche League meeting in a book"! At a real meeting, you'd see a mix of pregnant women, mothers with new babies, and moms with older babies or children. You'd hear questions from women at different stages of motherhood. Some of it would sound right to you, some of it would answer questions you didn't know you had, and some of it you'd shrug and leave behind. We hope you'll do the same with this book.

The cornerstone of La Leche League (LLL) meetings is addressing questions. While a book can never match sitting around with other mothers, we can address some of the typical questions at different stages, and tell you what mothers often share from their experience, along with the research behind it all.

This first chapter of our "meeting in a book" begins with the questions pregnant mothers often have about breastfeeding. Even if you've already had your baby, the answers to these questions should make you feel good about what you're doing and tell you more about why breastfeeding is such a great thing to do.

"The newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of [his] mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three."

--Grantly Dick--Read, MD, from Childbirth Without Fear, 1955

Is Breastfeeding Right for Me?

The closer you are to meeting your new baby, the more you're probably thinking about what comes after birth. You're "nesting"--gathering the things your baby will need and making a place for him in your home. Those outfits are so cute! That changing table is precious! But while you're out shopping, your body is quietly preparing the real "nest" your baby will need--your breasts. They'll be all he really needs at first--his go--to place for warmth, security, comfort, love, and, yes, food. As cute as the outfits and decor are, what your baby will care most about is the way you and your body protect and nurture him.

Breastfeeding is far more than just a way to feed your baby. It's the way you're naturally designed to begin your mothering experience. So why doesn't it always come naturally? Some of your friends may have told you all about their tough experiences. Maybe your mother couldn't breastfeed and you wonder if you'll have trouble, too. The great news is that we've learned a lot since your mother tried. We've learned more about understanding and respecting the instincts that you and your baby both have. We've learned that the fewer interventions you have during birth, the easier these instincts will be to tap into. And La Leche League is always here to help you work through any issues that come up.

Maybe you want to breastfeed because you know it's best; science keeps finding new ways breastfeeding helps babies reach their potential and protect their mothers' health. Maybe you want to because it just feels right; every mother finds for herself all the little ways that breastfeeding brings her close to her children. Whether the urge comes from your head or your heart, breastfeeding is right for you. And it's definitely right for your baby.

How Important Is Breastfeeding, Really?

Extremely! There is almost nothing you can do for your child in his whole life that will affect him both emotionally and physically as profoundly as breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is also important to our own bodies. We can't think of an aspect of your baby's health that isn't affected by breastfeeding, and it affects a surprising number of your own health issues as well. This would be a much longer book if we described all the ways that breastfeeding is valuable for you, your baby, and your family, but here are a few highlights.

Your Milk Is Your Baby's Normal Food

There's no formula that comes even close to the milk your body creates. Your milk has every vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional element that your baby's body needs, including many that haven't been discovered or named yet, and it changes subtly through the meal, day, and year, to match subtle changes in his requirements. Living cells that are unique to your milk inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses in his still--maturing system. And it's more than just living cells. For instance, interferon and interleukins are powerful anti--infectives. If you could buy them, they'd cost the moon. Your milk throws them in, free of charge. A squirt of your milk can even treat eye infections and speed the healing of skin problems!

Without his normal food, a baby is at higher risk of ear infections, intestinal upsets, and respiratory problems. Allergies and dental problems are more common. Vision, nerves, and intestines don't develop fully. Because of all these differences (and many others not listed here), a formula--fed baby has a different metabolism and a different development, and gains weight differently during his first year. His kidneys and liver work harder to process the waste products from formula. He needs more of any medication to get the same effect. His immune system's response to vaccinations is less effective. The risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome or crib death) and infant death from many other causes is higher if a baby isn't breastfed.

As an older child or adult, he is at a greater risk of Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. He responds to stress more negatively and has higher blood pressure, both as an infant and in later life. There's a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis in later years. There are numerous IQ studies showing deficits in children who didn't breastfeed, or who didn't breastfeed for long.

Colostrum, the milk you produce in small amounts in the first couple of days after your baby is born (and which you started producing during your pregnancy), has concentrated immunological properties that are your baby's first protection against all the germs he is suddenly exposed to. This "first milk" contains high concentrations of secretory immunoglobulin A, or SIgA, an anti--infective agent that coats his intestines to protect against the passage of germs and foreign proteins that could create allergic sensitivities. Scientists have also recently discovered a new ingredient in human milk called pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (PSTI), which protects and repairs the infant intestine. It's present in all human milk, but it's seven times higher in colostrum, providing extra protection to that delicate and vulnerable newborn intestine. Think of colostrum as a complex paint designed to seal those brand--new intestinal walls (which were, of course, designed to receive it).

Colostrum has an acid level that encourages a baby's intestines to welcome just the right mix of beneficial bacteria. And colostrum is a laxative that gets his intestines up and running and helps clean out all the tar--like stool called meconium that built up in his system before birth.

Mature milk, which phases in during the first two weeks, has a still--unknown number of ingredients that contribute to lifelong health. Along with the interferon, interleukins, white blood cells, and SIgA, the breastfed baby gains an immune system nearly as sturdy as his mother's. Human growth factor continues to develop those intestines, bones, and other organs. Insulin for digestion, long--chain fatty acids for a healthy heart, lactose for brain development--it's all there. And just as important, it's there in forms that are available to a baby. Iron is added to formulas in forms that the baby can't readily use and which can actually be harmful since it increases the risk of intestinal infection, intestinal bleeding, and anemia.

The mechanics of breastfeeding are important, too. When your baby breastfeeds, the muscles in his jaws are exercised and massaged in a way that causes the bones in his face and jaw to develop more fully. The jaw that results from bottle--feeding and pacifiers is narrower, with a higher palate that's more likely to restrict nose breathing. Babies who use pacifiers, instead of soothing themselves at the breast, are more likely to need speech therapy later. The child who breastfeeds for less than a year is much more likely to need orthodontia later on. Snoring and related breathing problems are more common as well.

Your baby can design his own meal to suit his needs. If he's thirsty, he nurses for a shorter amount of time and gets a lower fat milk. Still thirsty? He asks to switch sides sooner and gets another thirstquencher from the other side. Extra hungry? He stays longer on the first side or nurses more vigorously, to pull down more highercalorie fat globules. Going through a growth spurt? If your baby takes more milk than usual, he'll have more milk available the very next time he nurses. If he drinks less than usual, your milk production scales back. Is he moving into toddlerhood and nursing less often? There will be more immune factors in your milk to keep him covered. Did he pick up some germs from the grocery cart handle? He communicates those germs to your breast at his next nursing, and it starts cranking out specialized antibodies. In a whole lot of different ways, your breast is Health Central for your baby.

Breastfeeding Helps Keep You Healthy, Too

Breastfeeding is the natural next step in the reproduction sequence: pregnancy ' birth ' lactation. When your newborn takes your breast soon after delivery, your uterus contracts and bleeding slows. Hemorrhage is a greater risk with formula--feeding, and your belly stays larger longer.

If you breastfeed exclusively (without giving water, solids, or formula) and your baby nurses often, including at least once during the night, then your periods most likely won't come back for at least six months. Your chances of getting pregnant again will be extremely low during that time, too (see Chapter 8 for details).

Breastfeeding helps many (not all) women lose weight readily. Nature gave you some of that pregnancy weight just for the purpose of making milk in the first few months. The natural design is for it to melt away by the time your baby is well started on solids.

Women who haven't breastfed are at greater risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that makes heart disease and diabetes more likely. If you already have insulin--dependent diabetes, you're likely to need less insulin while you're a nursing mother.

Breastfeeding is also an insurance policy against breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. (It may be that the lower estrogen level of lactation provides the protection; the longer you breastfeed, the stronger your insurance.) This doesn't mean it's impossible for you to get these cancers if you breastfeed, but you are less susceptible to them. Osteoporosis and fractures are also more common in women who didn't breastfeed.

A formula--feeding mother's blood pressure is likely to be higher, probably because her neurological and endocrine responses are more pronounced than those of a nursing mother. Her overall physical and mental health take a hit as well, and in later years she remains at an increased risk of developing such autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis.

"I didn't realize what immeasurable joy breastfeeding could give ME. I thought it was supposed to be about giving to the baby, not to the mother. Those hormones just poured into me and I was in a blissed--out, euphoric state when I was breastfeeding. And, I have to say, it gave this very un--confident mom something I could finally feel confident and proud of myself for." --Samantha

How Reliable Is Breastfeeding Research?

You've probably heard that breastfeeding reduces the risk of infection and a bunch of childhood and adult illnesses and diseases, that it reduces the risk of allergy, and that it even raises IQ. But (are you sitting down?) none of it is true!

Here's why: Let's say we're testing a new drug. We focus on the people who get the drug, with a group of ordinary people to compare them with. That's how we know what the drug did. It made things better or worse than normal. Accurate science focuses on the experiment, not the normal thing. Now think about most of the research on breastfeeding. Exactly--it's research on breastfeeding! And that means that virtually all our recent research was done backward, evaluating what's normal (breastfeeding) instead of evaluating the experiment (formula). It makes the high rates of formula--fed illness seem like normal baby health and breastfeeding seem like bonus points.

Breastfeeding doesn't reduce the risk of infection, illness, and disease. It doesn't add IQ points. Breastfeeding results in normal good health and normal IQ. When babies aren't breastfed--and this is using the same information from the same studies, just shifting the focus to the true experimental group--they are at increased risk for all those short--term and long--term illnesses and diseases.

Researchers have inadvertently hidden formula problems from us by focusing on the apparently fabulous "benefits" of human milk and breastfeeding, almost as if breastfeeding is a nice but unnecessary "extra." That's starting to change. More and more research articles are using the normal breastfed baby as the starting point, as good science requires, and are looking at what happens to babies when their normal system is altered. It can be a scary way for the public to look at infant feeding--to see a list of risks instead of a list of "benefits." But it's a more honest, accurate approach, and it's the one we've used.

Breastfeeding doesn't give you brownie points. It's simply the normal way to raise a baby.

"Breastfeeding is a 'safety net' against the worst effects of poverty..."

Meet the Author

Since 1955, when La Leche League started in the Chicago suburbs with seven women intent on spreading information about the benefits of breastfeeding, it has grown into the leading breastfeeding advocacy organization in the world. La Leche League International regularly holds seminars and workshops for health-care professionals and parents, and publishes more than twenty books on child care.

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Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would not recommend this book if you are looking specifically for information on breastfeeding techniques and problems you may have while breastfeeding. The bulk of the book is La Leche League's opinion on childbirth and childrearing--including having a completely natural birth, whether a mom should work, how to discipline without spanking, and nutrition for the whole family. The actual information on breastfeeding took up perhaps a quarter of the book. I found the small breastfeeding section in 'What to Expect the First Year' to be much more informative than this entire book. Buy this book only if you want to learn more about the La Leche League and want their view on childbirth and childrearing. I would strongly recommend a different book if you simply want specific information on breastfeeding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The problem with this book is that it spends a lot of time convincing you that breast feeding is best. But the whole reason to buy the book is because you want to breast feed but aren't sure how to do it. It was frustrating that so much of the book was committed to convincing you how great breast feeding is, when the questions I had were all about how to do it.
Meg77 More than 1 year ago
This was a gift when I was pregnant with my first child and has become my go-to-gift for all I know who are expecting. Even if you choose not to nurse, there are countless pieces of information in this book which helped me feel prepared for motherhood. Once the baby was here, it served as a quick and useful resource for numerous questions and was a gentle motivator and nerve-relaxer in some difficult moments. I love the calm tone of this book and the encouragement to feel the beauty of this special time and relationship.
LKMmom More than 1 year ago
This book, originally written several years ago and updated periodically with the latest information on breastfeeding is truly the only reference needed on the subject. It is informative as well as heartwarming. Although best read while still pregnant it becomes an essential source of information for the new mother. It is full of encouragement for nursing mothers. The stories of the original founders of LaLeche League an international organization of mothers helping mothers with facts and moral support is amazing. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is full of facts and advice on the subject. It encourages the mother to make her own decisions and supports the bonding of mother and baby. I recommend this book as a shower gift for the expectant mother or anyone interested in nursing their baby.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There's not a doubt in my mind that my wonderful, no-stress breastfeeding experience would not have been as wonderful without this book. The 'pre-birth' preparations are excellent and essential to a smooth beginning, even if you only nurse for a couple of weeks... and why those first couple of weeks are so important to your baby's health.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be fairly dissapointing. I could readily find what I was trying to look up in the book, but all it did was describe the problem and then had a lot of other womens' stories about going through the same thing. It's nice to know that other people are experiencing what you are, but what I really wanted was some advice on how to get through the troubles. I continually tried to find pertinent information in this book while nursing both my children. I felt like this book was about pushing people towards nursing and making them feel bad if they decided it wasn't for them or really just couldn't nurse. Overall I felt like I had wasted my money.
mmy4est More than 1 year ago
This is still the best breastfeeding reference book for new parents. There are chapters for when you are planning a family, for when the baby comes home and when there are problems. There are chapters for the new dad and for the grandparents, as well. The information is accurate and up-to-date.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
sj3 More than 1 year ago
This is an excelent book for anyone nursing or considerng nursing a baby and is an extremely valuable reference throughout the nursing experience as well. This book has been invaluable or me for 40 years as a nursing mom and mentor in the LLL!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MalOH More than 1 year ago
I first checked this book out of the library as prenatal reading, but soon decided to purchase it for my permanent library. With our first child due soon, I anticipate this book becoming a trusty companion as we establish breastfeeding. The directions and resolutions provided within are easy to understand, well documented, and illustrated well... An excellent companion for any first time mom or first time breastfeeder who wants a quick reference for the rough spots.
DLHenry More than 1 year ago
This is my only go-to guide for breastfeeding. I recently bought it for a friend who is a mom of twin girls. It has a great index so if you're looking for something specific, it's easy to find. It covers it all!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bought it for my pregnant daughter. What a great reference for a new mom. Very encouraging.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Very successful in guiding/teaching about the process of breastfeeding. A must for every mom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I borrowed a copy of this book when I was pregnant with my first child over 10 years ago and so enjoy it I purchased a copy of my own. I am now a mother of 5 and I have breastfeed everyone of my children for a minimum of 18 months. When I went back to work after my first child was born, the information of on milk storage was invalueable. The book shares guidance on how to have a successful first feeding and offers assurances that the mother and baby are both learning how things work - while building on their beautiful bond. It explains the engorgement that will occur and how best to remedy the situation. It provided answers for every question I had and was a valued reference again and again with each birth. I especially liked that there were sections for the father, offering support for him as well as the mother because he does not need to be left out of this experience. Best of all, reading this book reminds you that you are not alone, that others have been where you are, feeling the way you feel and asking the same questions. I came here today to buy yet another copy to give as a gift to my sister-in-law and my brother who are expecting their first baby in just a few weeks. This is by far my favorite baby shower gift. Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience and this book is the perfect handbook to get you started and to see you through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding has once again been updated to reflect the latest research and new information on topics like breastfeeding after reduction surgery and tandem nursing. In all of its editions, the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is unique as the one book that mothers use as both a reference and a collection of comforting stories. Reading the words of other women who have gone before you gives a new mom the encouragement to nurse her baby and parent following her instincts. For those days and nights when you can't get to a LLL meeting, grab a copy of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding for your dose of information and mother-to-mother support.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really useful. It is written by the only organization with over 40 years of breastfeeding experience! It is a great reference for just about any possible situation that can arise while you are breastfeeding. It addresses everything from sore nipples to a father's role. At a time when we all are aware of how important it is to breastfeed and there is so much misinformation out there, this book is a reliable source of really good guidance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To the person who wrote the above review, I wish to add that my wife had 2 repeat c-sections and declares The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding to be the BEST parenting and breastfeeding reference book EVER! We both go back and look up topics that we come across on our journey as new parents over the years and every time find affirmation, hope and a wealth of tested and true advice from thousands of mothers whose contributions make up this book. Perhaps you simply share different values more of the cultural norm in our society. Let's face it, breastfeeding is a counter-cultural, selfless, and cost-effective decision that our media and society does not encourage in comparison to the formula movement that is so prevalent. At any rate, I did want to add this note of support to La Leche League and to say, 'THANK YOU!' Without the help of LLL in the early days of our c-section delivered babies, we may have given up and turned to the lesser means of feeding and nurturing our babies by using formula. Love truly does turn the Sacrifice into JOY! Hang in there if you are struggling. You can do it!!!! Your baby is worth it ALL!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm thoroughly impressed with the 7th edition of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Every page I turned was informative, interesting, supportive and most of all HONEST! Birth and breastfeeding are such a mystery to parents nowadays. It's difficult to find resources that give you the REAL pros and cons of the options available. I can tell that LLLI has gone to great lengths to accomplish this. For example, it's important to know what birth choices/needs may cause a newborn to have some intial troubles with breastfeeding - how many moms quit before they and their baby really have a chance because they don't realize they need to give things a little extra effort to get past these challenges? There are so many things to learn about breastfeeding and this book covers it all. Any mom-to-be who reads this book will be the most informed mom a baby can have! The latest scientific research is impressive and each chapter cover essentials for new moms, new dads and HCPs staying up-to-date. Breastfeeding is a major health decision and having the facts - NOT opinions - is crucial. When we know better we do better!