Book Review: Mama Knows Breast

To The Parents of New York City: Please do not write your child's namein big black letters on the outside of his backpack so everyone who sees him knows his name. Writing his first name and your cell number on the inside of the backpack is sufficient. Thank you.

Today's post is a book review of the book Mama Knows Breast by Andi Silverman.

This book is cute. Really cute. The graphic design and packaging of the book are irresistible, and it's the perfect size to read one-handed. The writing is breezy and in list form, so you can read little chunks at a time when you get the chance, or sit and read the whole thing in an hour or two. The tone strikes a nice balance between confidential and factual, and she covers some situations other breastfeeding books haven't covered (the etiquette of nursing in different kinds of public places, for example, and "sex and relaxation").

But I think the subtitle of the book, "A Beginner's Guide to Breastfeeding," is kind of a stretch. It's got a lot of lists and helpful tips, but it doesn't really dig into the meat of what could go wrong, what you should do to help things not go wrong, or how to get back on track if things are going wrong. It doesn't cover the emotional aspects of breastfeeding, or what to do if you think you aren't producing enough milk, or your baby's cluster feeding, or all those extremely common things that can make women feel like big failures at feeding their children. Instead of a true guide, it seems to be an introduction to several topics in breastfeeding for women who know nothing about it and haven't had any friends who did it.

And that's fine. There's a huge segment of the population who gets pregnant without ever having taken care of a baby. In our culture not many of us grew up watching anyone nurse a baby. How many of us even knew that the milk comes out of a bunch of little holes in each nipple? There are all sorts of things we don't know that someone needs to tell us, without freaking us out or making us feel bad for not knowing it. And I think that's the strength of Mama Knows Breast. It's a funny, gentle, hip-looking introduction to some basic concepts of breastfeeding.

I do, of course, have a beef with one section, which is the part that says that "many babies can sleep through the night by the time they are three months old." Ha. Haha. Hahahahahahahahaha. See: yesterday's post. OK, yes, some babies can sleep through at three months, but "many"? I think that's a stretch, and by saying it she's going to make moms whose babies don't feel like freaks. Plus, even the hard-core CIO pushers don't want people to start sleep training until four months. I think that little section was a misfire, and I would have ignored it except that sleep is such a huge hot-button for our generation that I worry that one paragraph is going to make women feel bad. Which is clearly the opposite of the author's intention.

But otherwise I liked the book as a gentle intro to breastfeeding for someone who hasn't thought about it before, or who really isn't sure she's going to try it or not. It humanizes breastfeeding in a nice way that doesn't make you feel like an ogre for not being super-committed or knowledgeable about it. But it's not going to be enough for women who have anything but the simplest nursing experience. Most of us are going to need more resources, in book form (The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins is extremely factual and covers a zillion scenarios, while So That's What They're For by Janet Tamaro has a bunch of actual information but also humor and commiseration) and on the internet (kellymom.com) and in real life (an IBCLC lactation consultant, La Leche League meetings, breastfeeding support groups run by hospitals and women's centers, or even just another mom you see nursing at the bookstore).

I'd get this book for your friend who hasn't really thought about much past the delivery, because it's cute and inviting and a quick read, and will get her from zero knowledge to some knowledge fast. But it would be an even better gift if you'd look up the number of a IBCLC lactation consultant in her area and write it inside the cover of the book before you give it to her.