Book Review: Breastfeeding Made Simple

I recently finished reading Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers written by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.  The two primary things I love about this book are that it was written by IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and that it’s continually updated to reflect modern information. IBCLCs are the “boob whispers” (that’s what my IBCLC called herself – not trying to be crude or immature here) that we meet in the early hours of a hospital birth to assist in getting breastfeeding underway. Sometimes they bring us milk and graham crackers for our middle of the night baby feedings, tuck us back in, and we come to think of them as family. And then we go home. What then? IBCLCs can be hired independently and provide you with home visits or consultations via Skype and other virtual means.

Breastfeeding Made Simple is way of getting an IBCLC into your home in your own time to assist you in learning about your early challenges with breastfeeding and provides knowledge about the average amount to feed, when to feed, how to store pumped milk, and the varying means, temperatures, and durations for pumped milk. These are the things as breastfeeding mothers that we most want to know from a knowledge base – a printout or a magnet on the fridge to help us remember if the milk in the fridge that’s been there for six days is still good or not.

I love that the book is updated because as more studies are done some information becomes outdated, there is new evidence, or somebody learns a cool trick that provides ease, comfort, and relief in a whole new way. For instance, this newer Boppy Best Latch Breastfeeding Pillow brings baby  belly to belly with mom to aid in comfort and latch.

This book helps identify common challenges with positioning and latch, as well as the feedback you receive from your baby. Mothering and breastfeeding are instincts that we possess and come naturally, but we have this need to know that we’re doing things “right” and “enough”. This book helps you identify your schedule, your comfort, and your style and then makes gentle suggestions on what to do to optimize that for your family. As the book says, “When it comes to hardwiring, your baby has an advantage, because her intellect can’t get in her way.” You’ll have your concerns addressed as well as learning how to allow yourself to form a relationship with your baby that alleviates some of the “left-brained” thinking and caters a bond that is intuitive between you and your baby.

This book is very thorough in providing evidence based information, and all case studies are listed in parentheses to help you find them if you want to read the complete study. As a mom that breastfed for a time, taken breastfeeding education credits, and read a handful of breastfeeding books, there were still things I learned or came to understand better.

For example, the book talks about the importance of the first 40 days of breastfeeding because this helps you firmly establish your mature milk based on the frequency, duration, and needs of your baby’s milk intake. It mentions that “breastfed babies from one to six months take an average of 25-35oz a day”.  If you breastfeed on a regular basis or drain your breasts in response to the amount that your baby drinks , your milk production will keep up with demand and adjust to prepare your body for months 1-6 and onward. If you choose to supplement with formula, reduce the amount of times you breastfeed or pump, your milk will reduce production because it doesn’t have the demand it needs to keep up with the supply and your body responds to that. In a way, that’s really neat because when you and your baby want to wean, it will occur naturally based on reduced interest from your baby. If you want to increase production, feeding the baby until sated and then pumping the remaining milk (which helps in going back to work since you’ll have a supply ready in the freezer) helps keep up your production. The book states that a baby only drains about 67% of the milk in the breasts, which gives you 33% to pump and store. This varies from person to person based on milk storage capacity (which, believe it or not, has nothing to do with breast size) , but draining your milk helps you stay comfortable and helps alleviate engorged breasts, leaking, and the risk of mastitis.

I enjoyed the organization of this book and its way of using lists for some key points. As we adjust to a newborn and feeding, we don’t always have the time or energy to read an entire book. I like that it could serve as quick reference for families. It covers getting comfortable, how baby affects your milk production, the first week of breastfeeding, setting breastfeeding goals, and adjusting to your first, second, or even third year of breastfeeding.

The chapter on weaning is the most comprehensive literature I’ve seen. Infants always get to a point where they naturally wean themselves gradually, but if you’re ready this is a decision you can make for yourself. The chapter on weaning talks about infant age, your comfort, your schedule, the types of solid food baby is getting and how to go about weaning gradually so that your milk production reduces without causing you much (if any) pain, engorgement, or discomfort. Weaning is hard. It truly is. We form a serious bond with our babies through breastfeeding. We know that it helps them to feel secure, loved, and at peace. It also releases hormones for us that increase our feelings of natural love for our children. When we wean, we worry that we are hurting our children’s dependence on us or their emotional attachment. We want to comfort our children, and we do that a lot through breastfeeding. If we begin weaning, how are we going to show them the same love and comfort? This portion of the book will help you navigate weaning.

Breastfeeding Made Simple lists common challenges in both the mother and the baby and resources to help. It covers several areas including the mother’s mood, past trauma and whether there is a challenge that was created because of medical reasons such as cesarean birth or babies born with cleft palate or Down syndrome, as examples.  From the book, I learned about palatal obturators that provide a firm surface for the roof of the mouth for a baby with a cleft palate as well as a Haberman feeder that allows the baby to control the flow of milk with compression rather than suction. That’s gotta be the coolest thing since sliced bread.

One of the cool modern innovations that made me run to Google is Lilypadz which are reusable breast pads that apply subtle pressure to your nipple to prevent leaking. Leaking is completely normal, and I found that when I breastfed on one side, the let-down affected both sides before I could grab a cup or milk bag to collect that precious milk. 2009 could have been a completely different year if these had been around then.

I’d recommend this book to anyone that really values breastfeeding, has a goal of breastfeeding for around a year or longer, or is looking for more information to support easy adjustments for latch, position, or learning details surrounding breastfeeding. This book is very pro breastfeeding and has a focus on attachment parenting. It talks briefly about formula feeding. It recognizes that formula is a viable option for feeding a baby, but gives information that makes it seem like breastfeeding is the ideal. While breastfeeding is shown to be better for babies because the milk is catered to them in a whole different way than formula feeding and it helps build their immune system, I am aware and respect that breastfeeding is not for everyone. Nor is attachment parenting best for every family. Medical emergencies, postpartum mood disorders, or past sexual and physical trauma can affect the breastfeeding relationship and the choices a mother makes. Or she simply doesn’t want to breastfeed. The end. I respect that choice.

In the event that a mother is struggling with breastfeeding and is unsure how to proceed, I would help connect her to an IBCLC that does home visits. If the mother feels that breastfeeding is causing her undue harm or stress, worsening the symptoms of a mood disorder, or causing her to feel resentment toward her baby, I would not recommend this book as an initial resource since it may increase feelings of guilt, fear, or failure to see so many pro breastfeeding resources when you’re really not sure where to go next.

This book is a new fave for modern breastfeeding literature and it’s available in my lending library for all birth and postpartum clients.

My Faves for Breastfeeding:

Reusable cloth breastfeeding pads. Yes, please. There’s something that was so much more comfortable about cloth compared to disposable pads. The disposable pads had a very “synthetic” feel and the cloth made me feel like breastfeeding was a beautiful experience that could be comfortable for me. Where switching out reusable pads and throwing them away made breastfeeding seem like it was a gross thing that needed to be managed. Reusable pads are sold on the market in various forms. There’s home made, there’s  Bamboobies. There are brands that are organic and super soft. If you want a particular type or brand, there’s one out there for you.

A nursing pillow. I’m not going to lie, it’s pretty fun to change out the covers on your nursing pillows. Especially if you have to do it for reasons. Baby poop reasons. Sometimes we need a change of scenery, and the Boppy covers are a way to do that. The whole pillow can be thrown into the washer. I had one that held up for years. Those things are durable. And, I’m not going to lie, I totally took many postpartum naps with my head on the Boppy. Again, there are so many versions and brands available now. You can read reviews, have one delivered to your door, or walk around Babies R Us when your pre-nesting surge hits. It’s super fun to walk around baby stores when you’re expecting. (So maybe I walked two miles to a Babies R Us while six months pregnant in the Texas summer because I wanted something and my husband was away with the car.)

Nipple cream. Honestly, this for me was like a placebo affect. It was supposed to relieve chafing and irritation and help with wet healing and I believed it. I think it does provide relief or it wouldn’t be on the market. But there is seriously nothing better than someone bringing you a fresh tube of that stuff. I used primarily Lansinoh. (And I have boxes of samples sent to me by Lansinoh if that is your vibe and you dig that product and want to raid my stash). The ideal cream is one you don’t have to wash off before feeding your baby. Your breasts are self-cleansing so you don’t want to irritate them by washing or fear your baby picking up residue from a product.  Earth Baby Angel Mama makes a great buttery cream that is a real treat. Plus, the branding is pretty. They have a lot of awesome products on the site.

A supportive nursing bra. Even just a supportive bra is better than nothing. (Though we all know we have those moments in early motherhood where wearing a shirt and bra is just not going to happen).  You might want something that just gets the job done. Soft cotton. Easy hooks. Super comfortable. You want that thing to be your pajamas. Or you might want something really awesome and sexy that builds your confidence and makes you look like the badass breastfeeder you are. Hotmilk Maternity and Nursing is an awesome site for bras and gowns and the best part is that they can accommodate the extra cup size or two you earned through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

A breastfeeding station. Side-lying positions and laid back breastfeeding help make your bed a haven. Many women like to have a glider in a corner where they can rock and relax with their new little one. Make the space your own. Soft lighting, a cart with some snacks like granola bars and dried fruit, some bottled water, a good book, and a soft blanket.

Bonus points: an adorable baby, people that bring you snacks, an adoring partner, and the willingness to rock breastfeeding.

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