My daughter Hannah was born at 34 weeks gestation. It’s not easy to breastfeed a preterm infant, and we struggled in the beginning. On many occasions, I wasn’t sure if we would make it. But we did make it, for a whole lot of reasons. One of the biggest, looking back, was the help I found at La Leche League (LLL).
I stumbled into my first La Leche League meeting when Hannah was 8 weeks old, and we were still using nipple shields. I had been discharged from my midwives at 6 weeks, and when I asked them where to get breastfeeding support, they recommended LLL. I walked into my first meeting with trepidation, not sure what I would find. But I needed help, so I screwed up my courage and went.
What I found was community. Leaders and mothers sharing their stories, and showing me that I could do it. I returned, became a member, and eventually a leader*. I wanted to help others as I had been helped.
LLL’s cornerstone book is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. The book encapsulates the organization’s philosophy and contains thorough, comprehensive and well-researched breastfeeding information. On July 13, 2010 its 8th edition was released, and I was lucky enough to nab a review copy. The new edition is a complete re-write, and is significantly different from the 7th edition. Although if you’ve read an earlier edition and enjoyed it, I suspect you will enjoy this one, too.
So, what did I think? Honestly, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I want to thank the book’s authors – Teresa Pitman, Diana West and Diane Wiessinger – for writing a book that I can recommend without reservation. As much as I love LLL, the 7th edition sometimes made me cringe. I think the update was much-needed, and I am so happy to read it.
Here are some of the things I love about this book:
- There are tear sheets at the back that you can cut out and quickly reference, including information for new grandparents on how baby care recommendations have changed, milk storage guidelines and how to get breastfeeding started.
- They suggest letting the baby self-latch. I did this with Jacob, and it was much better than the “rapid arm movement” they recommended when Hannah was born.
- The photos of nursing mothers in this edition don’t make me think of my grade 3 teacher anymore. The 80s hair and glasses are GONE!
- No longer are babies only “he”, and partners only “dad”. The language is much more inclusive.
- The book covers breastfeeding at various ages, in chronological order, so you can skip right to the section that you need right now.
- The section on mothering and working much more accurately reflects the realities that parents face, without passing judgment on those who do work. This was a major issue for many people with previous editions, including me.
- Just like all LLL publications, the book is thoroughly researched and includes detailed references.
If I have any criticism of the book, it would be its size. I don’t get a lot of reading time, so it’s taken me more than two weeks to finish it. It can seem a little bit intimidating. I think it’s good to keep in mind that the book contains detailed discussion of a whole lot of scenarios you probably will never encounter. So skimming it, and not worrying about breastfeeding twins if you don’t have twins, is totally reasonable. Take what you need and leave the rest.
I am so glad to see this update to The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I hope that other people enjoy it as much as I did, and that it helps make breastfeeding, and LLL, more accessible to all mothers.
* I don’t talk about my LLL leader status on this blog often, because I am not writing here in my capacity as a leader. For instance, LLL doesn’t necessarily share my views on Roch Voisine. They have to remain neutral, though how they can remain neutral in the face of such awesomeness, I have no idea.